Author Newsletter


Happy…Tuesday, dearies. (I had to double-check that it was, indeed, Tuesday before I typed that.)

This is just a quick post to announce my new author newsletter. It has been on my mind to start one for some time, but I guess it took a pandemic for me to actually do it…

I’ll be moving most of my book announcements to the newsletter and also plan to share exclusive excerpts and such from works-in-progress. Sign up below so you don’t miss anything! As always, we will only use your information to send you book-related updates and marketing via the newsletter, and we won’t share your information with others.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And happy reading. ❤

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2020 Vision


Hello, dearies.

Preparing to write a decade in review post, I’ve been looking over some of my past blog posts. I started this blog on June 16, 2012. 2012! So, it’s not quite ten years old, yet…but getting up there. These past few years, I haven’t put as much energy into this blog as I used to. It has become more of a place for readers to stop and get some additional info about the Reborn series and ongoing projects, rather than a blog I update regularly. Still, eight years ago, I started The Urge to Write to get back into something I loved: writing.

Thinking about the head space I was in when I started this blog eight years ago compared to the one I’m in now, I have to laugh at myself. I was only in my early 20s, worrying that I hadn’t done/accomplished anything. Worried that I’d picked the wrong thing in graduate school and having (justified or not) a quarter life crisis. I didn’t really understand then that life, careers, dreams…they’re all a marathon, not a sprint.

I started off the decade graduating from college with a chemistry degree. And, although my education and other experiences as an undergrad were certainly valuable, I knew I didn’t want to work as a chemist in a lab forever. We were also in the midst of a huge recession, so I decided to stay in school and work on a master’s degree in a field I hoped would open more doors. Soon after graduating, my college sweetheart and I also broke up, which was very hard on me (in retrospect, both of us). But, while working on my master’s, I found a research adviser I really enjoyed working with and decided to stay and do a PhD in the same department.

Then, came the first plot twist of the 2010s: my adviser accepted a faculty position at a different university. Which was absolutely the best decision for her, as her new department would be a much better fit for her research niche. So, no hard feelings there. She even offered that I come with her, but I would have had to apply to that department’s program, and, although I enjoyed the research I was doing, I didn’t want my degree in that concentration. (My master’s and PhD are in environmental health.) I was still finishing required coursework and hadn’t picked a dissertation topic yet, so it’s not like I had to start completely over or anything. But I did feel a bit adrift. Almost no one else in our department did the type of work I’d been doing (a lot of them were doing more toxicology-related work in wet labs, and I was doing epidemiology/stats), and a lot of people didn’t have funding.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I started this blog. Thankfully, a few faculty members did take me under their wing, and I found a great group/adviser to work with. It wasn’t always perfect, but, especially looking back, it was exactly the place I needed to be. And, knowing people who had *much* worse things happen to them in grad school, I’m able to contextualize it now.

Still, at the time I had this persistent worry that I had “picked the wrong the thing” and that somehow my entire life/career was now committed to this one “wrong thing”. Because what happened, to, you know, following your dreams? Your passion? I’ve always loved books, loved to write. “Shouldn’t I be doing that, then?” entitled twenty-something me would ponder. (Because, as I also now recognize, following your dreams is a privilege a lot of people don’t have. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it or make a change in your life when something isn’t what you want – if you have the means, you absolutely should! But just to recognize it.)

Thus, Reborn was…born. It went through a few title changes before it became Reborn. I posted the original draft to this blog. I since deleted it after I self-published it, so I can’t verify this, but I’m sure it was bad. Really bad. It was written in Mountain Dew Code Red-fueled bursts of creativity after work and on the weekends, usually late at night, because I somehow used to function on an insane and unhealthy sleep schedule. Later, I revised it, paying more attention to, you know, actual story structure, character arcs, and fleshing out the mythology/world. The first edition was published in November of 2013. This November, Reborn will be seven years old!

It is too easy for me to look back and say, why the heck couldn’t I have finished the last book *before* 2020 hit? But, self-publishing the final book (about Siobhan, at least) is my next goal. I’m not going to look back with regret. Because you know what? In these past seven years, I wrote three books and two novellas in the Reborn series. To those who don’t like writing or writers who haven’t published yet, that might seem like a lot. To writers that are more prolific, that might seem like nothing. But for me, it was a huge accomplishment.

For better or worse, I have a hard time feeling satisfied, at least as far as work or career-related things go. (Maybe this is, overall, not a good thing, although it can be a good motivator in a lot of ways…) But in these, my five book babies, I’m giving myself a huge pat on the back. I love this world, these characters, and I don’t regret the sleepless nights/procrastinating other obligations/periods of time of being basically a hermit that allowed me to share them with all of you.

But life is, of course, more than these types of accomplishments. We are more than our jobs, our careers, even our dreams. I’m not saying that these aren’t or can’t be good things – only that one thing doesn’t define who we are. And if it does, maybe it shouldn’t. I didn’t “pick the wrong thing” in grad school. Maybe some people do, but in hindsight, I don’t think I did. I think I’m a scientist who also likes to write. And when I look back at graduate school, I don’t (always) think about the slog that comes before you defend your dissertation (and, yes, it can feel like a slog). I think about the dear colleagues and friends I made a long the way – I still collaborate and am friends with many of them.

In the latter half of this decade, I moved to New England, then back to Pittsburgh for several years, then, quite recently, back to New England. Time flies, time motivates us, and time also heals. Time changes and shapes us. If we’re lucky, we can still find a way back to the people we care about, no matter how much time or how many miles separate us. Time healed all wounds from that break up at the beginning of the decade. Gradually, we became friends again; we opened our hearts again. And (plot twist?) in August of 2019, we got married. 🙂

I don’t know what the next decade will bring. I’m sure there will be ups and downs, highs and lows. I could talk about career goals, writing goals, family goals – and, yes, I have all of those. But, through it all, I want to find joy and gratitude in the small things, the everyday things. I frequently fall into the trap of “I’ll be happy when…” “Things will be different/better when…” My only new year’s resolution is to work toward these things while finding happiness in what I have now, not in far-off, unpredictable future land. I think the best any of us can do, in large or small ways, is to try to leave the world a better place than how we found it.

Okay, that last thought is from A Court of Wings and Ruin, which I just finished last night. (Some things don’t change, like my love for a good YA fantasy.) But I liked it, and it’s also true.

So, here’s to 2020! To love, laughter, dancing like no one is watching and all the cliches. Reading all the books, doing all the things. Probably somewhere in there we should stop climate change. Okay, I’m done – for now. 😉

Antici…..


funnyJust checking in on this rather rainy, blah Saturday. The sun seems to be playing hide-and-seek today…

I’ve had a busy past couple of weeks, and although I won’t burden you with the details, I recently decided to make some changes and moved for the second time in a year. During packing and the move, I of course put all side projects on hold, but I’m planning to dive back into them asap.

I’m still taking my good old time with the edits to Reclaim. I am sorry about that–now, when it does come out, it will be about two years since I published Relapse–but it will be done when it’s done, lol. I’m not putting something out there I’m not 100% happy with. But, the good news is, the last time I was seriously editing it (a few weeks ago) I was about 75% of the way through. So no worries–progress is being made. 😉

In the meantime, I’m leaving up the GoFundMe campaign for a little extra help with book projects while I’m on the job hunt. Once I get halfway to my goal ($50 away…), I’ll post the first half of Chapter 1 of Reclaim on this blog, and the second half once I reach my goal!

For now, happy weekend, and happy reading!

Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions Post


I realized my last post was two months ago, and a New Year’s resolutions post seemed like the perfect excuse to give you guys an update. I had a relaxing and fun Christmas and New Year’s and cleared my head of any sort of day job or writing-related work. It was a much needed break, and now I’m feeling refreshed and ready to get back into various projects. And I had more time for reading–I finished the second Vampire Academy book, Frostbite, by Richelle Mead, and started reading a non-fiction book that’s pretty interesting: Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough (I highly recommend for all of you education/social sciences/public health nerds out there). Since I completely failed to achieve my Goodreads goal of reading 25 books this past year (I read 15…oops), I kept the same goal for 2016, so we’ll see how that goes. I read a lot, I just haven’t made time for as much pleasure reading or reviewing lately.

Now, the part you’ve been waiting for (maybe): my writing/publishing goals for 2016. If you follow this blog or my Facebook page, you are probably already somewhat aware of these, but I figure if I put them in writing it will be additional motivation for me. First, I want to publish Revenge as an e-book novella–aiming for this summer. (You can read the first draft of it on my blog for free here.) Before I’m happy enough to publish it, it’s going to need some editing/re-working, and I have some ideas to beef it up so that I can actually call it a novella, which I think run from about 17-40K (at least according to Wikipedia). It’s a little over 11,000 words now, and my goal is to get it up to about 20K. I just really haven’t felt like editing lately, which is weird for me because I usually enjoy it.

Actually (and sorry in advance that I’m about to go on a tangent), I’ve been feeling really frustrated for the past few months regarding my writing projects. Mostly because of the editing thing. Ugh. At the beginning of fall I had a nice rhythm going for writing the third book in the Reborn series, and got about 38K written. Then I realized it was dragging/boring, that there were parts I wanted to cut completely, and that’s when I lost my rhythm, even though I still had the rest of the book mapped out in my head. So I decided to revise the beginning before writing the rest of it, but that just made me more frustrated. Looking back at it now, I feel like I didn’t even change that much of it, although I did rearrange chunks of it and added some more action earlier on. But there are still parts I’m going to take out entirely, and then I’ll have to fill in the gaps…and I just don’t wanna right now, lol.

I’m pretty sure I had this phase with the first two books, too, and every time I feel like I’m never going to get over it and the book is never going to get finished. But then I do get over it, and it does get finished. So really I have nothing to worry about (and neither do you!).

Instead of continuing to slog through the edits to Part One, I’ve decided to just plunge ahead and finish the entire first draft this January/February. I just want to write–get the word vomit out first–without thinking too much about it. Then I’ll worry about the specific parts that need more help/attention later. Right now the word count is about 48K. My goal is to write at least 500-1000 words every day in January. That way, if I have a particularly busy day or just a bad writing day, I can at least get 500 words out and then be done with it for that day. On a better day, I’ll exceed the 1000-word goal, and at this pace I’ll be able to finish it this winter.

Except sometimes I think about all of the things that are still going to happen in the book. And then I get discouraged again.

Whine whine whine.

I know I’ve been keeping a lot of the details of Book Three under wraps. It has a title now, but I’m not ready to reveal it. I don’t think it will change, but it might. I’m itching to share a rough excerpt or two, but I’m also resisting that because I’m still changing stuff. I know all of this sounds super discouraging (lol), but I still think I can get it out this fall. I’m in the same place I was with Relapse back in 2014, and I was still able to get that out at the beginning of December the same year. But if you’re getting really impatient with me, feel free to let me know, haha. That will “light the fire” under me. Otherwise it’s not like I have a publisher breathing down my neck about deadlines, which for the most part I like…but then again, sometimes it’s nice to have the extra push.

That’s all for now. Until next time, here’s a picture of a unicorn.

The M Word


….Marketing. (Why, what were you thinking?)

I am slowly but surely trying to get back into the swing of writing and blog updating. Just last week I successfully defended my PhD dissertation (hooray!!!), and now my hunt for a “real job” resumes. Since I can’t seem to stick to one field, I’m also thinking ahead to my plans for the rest of the Reborn series, and I’ll update the good ol’ blog about that soon. (It feels good to get back to story writing.) But, like I said, today’s post is about something many writers perhaps view as a necessary evil: marketing and promotion.

I’ve talked about marketing strategies and what’s worked (and hasn’t worked) so far for me before on this blog. Since I’m still trying new and different approaches to see what works–it’s definitely a learning process–I thought I’d touch on this subject again. I know that some of us as writers detest marketing and promotion out of principle–we want our stories to stand on their own and attract an audience because they’re great stories, not because we’re shoving them down our potential audience’s throats. Although I get that, I’ve never really been averse to the mere concept of promotion. No matter how good your book actually is, no one is going to pick it up (or download it onto their Kindle) and read it unless they know it exists/where to find it. Nevertheless, as I’ve come to accept myself, there are definitely other factors–many of them beyond your control–that will affect your sales. So, here is an updated post about what I’ve tried as far as marketing goes, what’s worked for me (and continues to work), and some other factors to consider.

1. Free Promotions

I’m listing this one first because it’s worked the best for me (I can’t speak for all authors), although, as with any strategy, there are upsides and downsides. Clearly one of the disadvantages is you’re giving your book away for free and not making even the 35% royalty from your $0.99 book (or whatever rate/price combo you’ve chosen). But, if you’re just starting out and primarily concerned with building an audience (like I am), it might be something you want to consider more seriously. If you’re new to self-publishing, a little bit of background about Amazon Kindle: At least in the beginning, you will probably sell most of your ebooks on Amazon’s platform. It really does seem to dominate the e-book market. When you enroll your book in the KDP Select program, you are able to take advantage of Amazon’s free promotion tool or something called the “Kindle Countdown Deal” (a note about that in a moment). One possible drawback, depending on your view, is that the electronic version of your book has to be exclusive to Kindle for the three-month enrollment period. So you can offer a paperback version through Createspace (spellcheck wanted to change that to meatspace…), but no Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc, at least until the enrollment period ends.

Advantages: You will likely “sell” lots and lots of books using Amazon’s free promotion tool because readers like to stuff their Kindle Cloud with free books. (There are downsides to this–see next.) My debut novel Reborn sold exceptionally well during the first few months of its release using this tool–and still does the few times I’ve tried it since then–and usually hits the Kindle Free bestsellers list in its genre. Obviously if some people are merely downloading as many free ebooks as possible, like I said, not everyone is going to get around to reading it right away…but even if a handful of people do, that’s a handful more than you may have had otherwise. Some Facebook and Twitter pages are on the lookout for free/$0.99 books, so it helps get the word out about your book without you having to do too much (except put it on sale).

I’ve also noticed that, after the free promotion, my sales remain pretty steady for a time after the book goes back to its original price. Something similar happened when I decided to make Reborn free on Smashwords (which links to a network of other major e-book platforms–again, B&N, Apple, etc.). I had never really tried it using Smashwords before until recently, and I haven’t really sold many books through these other platforms. (Unlike Amazon, your book doesn’t have to be exclusive to these other sites to make it free–you just change the price on Smashwords, and it updates all related sites.) Well, it certainly boosted sales, particularly to B&N, including after Reborn went back to its original price. I picked up a few more readers this way who are excited for Relapse to release to these other platforms this summer. Further, with Amazon’s price match option, Amazon takes the liberty of adjusting the price of your book to better compete with other retailers. (This is a neat trick to circumvent  KDP Select…shhhh, don’t tell Amazon…)

Disadvantages: Since readers are stuffing their Kindle or whatever with free books, don’t expect this to necessarily correlate with more reviews on Amazon/B&N/Goodreads or an influx of followers on your preferred social media sites. With every promotion, a few more reviews, followers, or additions to someone’s TBR list trickle in. So it’s up to you how much time you really want to pump into these types of promotions. Yes, it seems to help–but you also seem to have to do it pretty consistently to start seeing some real results, and it can get frustrating. You also have to put aside your ego a bit since you’re giving away your months and months of hard work for free (or at least very cheap). The jury is still out on how this tactic will work for me in the long run.

A note about the Kindle Countdown Deal (KCD): I wasn’t very happy with the results when I tried this. For the KCD, you reduce the price (but it can’t be free) for a number of days you specify. For example, I set a sale price of $0.99 for my ebook that’s usually $2.99, and on Amazon there’s a little timer that counts down to the day the deal will end. You can also raise the price back up in increments ($0.99 to $1.99 to $2.00, so on and so forth). I created a two-day promotion for Relapse on Amazon.com and sold maybe like seven ebooks in about the first 12 hours of the deal…so, ok, but not great. When I next tried it on Amazon.co.uk (and made the sale period longer), I sold a big fat zero. Unfortunately, you can only run one KCD per market (US or UK) per enrollment period, which is pretty long (three months). Maybe it would have helped to make the sale period longer in the US (where I live), but I’m not re-enrolling Relapse in KDP select, so that might be a future experiment. However, other authors have been pleased with their KCD results.

2. Social Media (subtitle: Popular! You’re gonna be popular!)

Clearly, this encompasses a variety of platforms–Wordpress, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and a lot of newfangled apps that I’m too old/stubborn to try. I’m going to touch on the ones I use here, with some advantages/disadvantages and dos/donts. Obviously, I use WordPress to host my blog. Maybe one day I’ll be willing to shell out cash for a real web site (when I get my real job), but for now my blog works just fine. I use it for the same things and have tried to confine it in recent months to just writing and book-related posts.

Facebook: This may come as some surprise, but, even after all of Facebook’s changes, it still seems to work the best for me, personally. I have both my Facebook page (S.L. Stacy), and I created a separate profile (from my personal account) to network with reviewers, readers, and fellow authors and writers. (Be my friend! LOL) When I first started out with just my blog, I had about 20 or so followers (mostly my friends and family), and now I’m up to 319…more than some, measly compared to others, but it’s still helping me expand my readership. With Facebook’s new restrictions, there has been a decline in the number of people that see my posts, but some of them still do well considering I don’t pay for ads. And I’m on Facebook more than I’m willing to admit, so I update it fairly regularly.

By the way, has anyone else taken out an ad on your Facebook page to extend your reach? I tried it once (for only $5), and it definitely helped boost the number of people on Facebook who saw the post and increased interaction a bit (as far as likes and shares go). It definitely did not boost book sales, though. I’m really cynical about social media ads because I can’t remember the last time I actually clicked on one and bought something (never).

Twitter: Oh, Twitter. Although I see the possible utility of Twitter and I do use it from time to time, I get super annoyed with it. This is one social media platform that I think authors need to be very careful with. I’ve noticed a lot of writers who just constantly blast tweet after tweet about their books every single day, and I don’t see how that could possibly work. Even though you have your profile description and little picture/avatar, you are still (hopefully) an actual person behind it, so show your followers that and tweet about other things besides your book. Not that you shouldn’t tweet about your book(s) at all-I tend to do it a lot when the book first releases and during any sales, but that’s it. I also HATE getting direct messages from other accounts asking me to buy their book or follow their Facebook page. I don’t see how that works, either (If it’s worked for you, feel free to let me know in the comments. I’m interested in your experiences, too.)

Although, just like the next platform I’m going to touch on, there can be a lot of hate/negativity on Twitter. I’m just philosophically opposed to the whole let’s-gang-up-on-this-artist-and-tweet-mean-things-to-them-because-rage thing that seems to happen on Twitter. You probably wouldn’t do that in real life, so why is it ok to do it on social media because you get to hide behind your computer? (WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?!!!!) The whole idea of it just makes me sad for humanity, even when I don’t necessarily disagree with why people are angry/annoyed.

I do somehow have over 900 Twitter followers now. Again, I don’t really know what that means, but it makes me feel kind of awesome even though it’s not uncommon on Twitter these days with all the follow-back etiquette.

Goodreads: I’m on Goodreads, and, yes, it’s just another way to reach potential readers–and that’s awesome. But beware of trolls. Also, don’t stalk your reviews. (I’m still guilty of that. Do as I say, not as I do.)

Tumblr: I have a Tumblr, but I don’t really use it that much anymore. Honestly, I’m pretty sure most of its users are in high school-early 20s, and it just makes me feel kind of old. As far as book promotions go, it hasn’t really helped or hurt me when I used it more frequently.

3. Brand/Genre

Branding is a fun one, and another thing some may be wary of. It’s supposed to be about the art, not the brand, right? Although often branding seems to take over, diminishing the value of the art itself (this seems to happen a lot with the “music” industry, or is at least talked about a lot), establishing some sort of basic brand/persona isn’t a bad thing. It lets readers know what you and your books are about, what they might expect from them, if your work might mesh with their usual tastes in reading material, etc. Well-designed blog and/or Facebook banners can help convey a sense of this. (Hire a graphic designer if you’re not good at creating banners and book covers. It’s probably one of the best investments you can make as a budding author. I love the work that Heidi, who has designed my banners and both of my book covers, has done for myself and others. I find it’s better to establish a relationship with a graphic designer rather than using those pre-made book covers you can buy on certain sites, but that could just be me.) Your presence on social media and topics you like to cover on your blog(s) also helps establish your brand.

Genre is probably an obvious one. Is your book primarily a mystery? A romance? Sci fi? Literary fiction? Thriller? Horror? Your book might merge elements from multiple genres, but pick a few that you think describe it best.

Although this seems straightforward (and maybe it is, for a lot of people), I’ve found that trying to categorizing one’s book can be a bit tricky, especially when you’re writing “romance.” Apparently, what this genre term means to me and what it means to other readers differs in some aspects. To me, “romance” has always been an umbrella term or euphemism for…lady smut? Haha! I’ve dubbed my series a paranormal romance because it definitely has overwhelmingly paranormal elements, and one of the primary themes (although there are a lot of other plot threads) is an intensely erotic relationship between my two main characters (that is not always romantic, although they have their moments). But, apparently when some people see that PR or romance tag, they want the formula, HEA or HFN ending. Yeah, sorry guys. you’re not going to find that here (or at least not for another few books. (You learn very quickly when you put your work out there that you aren’t going to please everyone, so don’t expect to or even try.) For me, I’ve found the best description for my work seems to be “PR/urban fantasy” or “urban fantasy with strong elements of romance.” (Because urbanfantasciencefictionmance is not a genre.)

This is a little off-topic, but we had a lively little discussion on one of the Facebook groups I belong to, the Indie Author Review Exchange, about genre–more specifically, what constitutes “women’s fiction” and whether or not we should even call it women’s fiction or use designations like “chick lit,” etc. As far as marketing strategies go, it will help you to know who you’re writing for, who you think will want to buy your book. (Are you writing for young adults? 20-somethings? Men? Women? Do you think your work has broader appeal and could be enjoyed by just about anyone?) It’s not a bad thing to want to read a book with a main character who will resonate with you, who you can relate to because you share a certain characteristic with them. And, on the one hand, I’m proud to be a female writer writing for what I expect will be a primarily, 18+ female audience.

BUT. But. On the other hand, I’m starting to see the downsides to gender-targeted advertising of any kind. It would probably be ok if it felt like it was an even playing field–maybe men tend to like this set of things, and women tend to like this set of things, and it’s all good because it’s all worthwhile entertainment. Well, first off, we know that not all men like the same things…ditto with women. We’re all different.

Secondly, it usually isn’t treated like the above. When you’re a woman, it usually feels like: Men like this set of things, which are awesome and worthwhile and manly, and women, being inherently silly, like this other set of silly, terrible things that are unrealistic and a complete waste of time. (By the way, I’m not saying that only men or all men feel this way. Women put down each other all the time for the things they like. Everyone has done it at some point, myself included. I’m consciously trying to stop and catch myself when I do it.) Yes, some of our female audience-targeted entertainment may indeed be silly, even stupid. I’ve come to accept that I like a lot of “silly” things. But, men–as much as I love you–a lot of the things you like are silly (and unrealistic), too. 😉

I’ve grown in my opinion of this topic of genre and gender since I’ve entered the indie writing world. I’ve come to realize that a lot of the assumptions we make about our intended audience–even though it’s a useful marketing tool–are restrictive and kind of sexist. As a romance writer, I didn’t realize how many male romance writers were out there (besides Nicholas Sparks…). Men write romance and read romance–some because they want to support fellow writers (male or female) in the genre, even if it’s not their favorite, and others simply because they like it. I’ve been able to reach a lot of different kinds of readers with Reborn, which–even if most of my audience will, in the end, be composed of my target, 18+ female readers–is pretty cool.

4. Other Variables

Despite everything I’ve said, about sales/promotions, social media, and branding, I’m beginning to realize that there’s a few major variables in the self-pub equation that are pretty much out of your control. Namely, time and luck. Ok, time you do have control over, as far as just keep on writing–don’t give up, and as you build your brand and your body of work, the readers will come. It just takes time. A lot of time. Patience is not one of my virtues, but I’m working on that. You also have control over how you budget your time between writing, networking, promoting, reading, and doing other life things. But luck? Waiting for the right reader to come along and download your ebook and love it so much they tell their vast social network about you and your book? Yeah, you have no control over that. I hope it happens for you (and for me, too).

But in the meantime, experiment with a few marketing strategies and see what works the best for you. Have a presence on your select social media platforms without becoming one of the “BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!” automatons. The most important thing you can probably do, though, is to start on your next project–write, write, write. Remind yourself why you’re doing this: Because you love it, you love writing, you love your imaginary world, you love your characters and you want so share that passion with others. There will be many ups and downs on this journey, and sometimes you will need to be your own biggest cheerleader.

Speaking of writing…..

*****

Here are some other blog posts that I’ve found helpful (albeit cynical) and that motivated my own evolving attitudes on marketing and promotion:

Marketing, Social Media & Book Signings: Why NONE of These Directly Impact Book Sales

Please Shut Up: Why Self-Promotion as an Author Doesn’t Work

The Journey So Far


I’m trying to write at least a post per week leading up to release day. This post is in part a reflection of my self-publishing journey so far; I’ll also share some things that I’ve learned along the way and offer what I hope will be helpful advice. I’m not an expert, but I can tell you what worked for me, and what didn’t. I hope some of my tips will work for you, too. 🙂

I started this blog in the summer of 2012…looking back at my old posts, it was June 6, 2012, to be exact. I wanted to get back into creative writing, and a blog seemed as good a way as any to do so. I had tried blogging once before, in undergrad–I created a Blogspot blog, where I posted a young adult sci-fi book I had written (and had been rewriting since high school) chapter by chapter. I don’t think anyone ever read it, lol. I didn’t know how to direct traffic to it. I’ve found WordPress to be a lot more straightforward as far as networking with other bloggers goes, but that’s just me. Anyway, I started out on this blog, The Urge to Write, by posting random excerpts from stories I had written, book reviews, and pretty much anything else I felt like. Eventually I made a little blog schedule…which I have since abandoned…but it worked pretty well at the time. I accumulated some WordPress followers and started a Facebook page so my friends and family could follow along, too, if they wanted (and, for some reason, many of them did, and I feel so blessed!).

cover for rebornfinalI also posted the earliest draft of Reborn, a chapter per week. At the time, it was called The Fallen. (I’m glad I changed the title, because, among other reasons, there’s a pretty popular YA series out right now called Fallen.) I can’t say publishing it on my blog was the best decision ever–but I don’t really regret it, either. On the one hand, it was a really, really, really rough draft and wasn’t ready to see the light of day. I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. I didn’t even have all of the mythology ironed out yet. (The Eros and Psyche back story–which obviously turned out to be kinda important to the book–was something I went back and added later.) On the other hand, a few people read it and liked it, and it forced me to write every week.

Eventually, I took it down from the blog, but continued to work on it and refine it. My goal was to do something with it, whether that was going the more traditional route or self-publishing it. After a half-hearted attempted  at trying to get an agent by sending out a handful of pretty terrible query letters, I decided to do the self-publishing thing. I realized there was, unfortunately, stigma attached to it, but I thought, if I did it right, it would help me build a readership base. I didn’t know what to expect. Well…that’s not entirely true. What I expected was that Reborn would languish on Amazon and sell two copies or so after months and months and months.

OK–here comes the bragging part. Somehow, miraculously, that’s not what happened. Well, maybe it isn’t so much a miracle as partially the result of the various marketing strategies I experimented with (see below). Most of it’s probably due to Heidi’s awesome cover art, which is the first thing people see. And I think I wrote a pretty intriguing book summary. The rest of it’s due to taking advantage of Amazon’s free promotional tool. Reborn hit Amazon’s free bestsellers list; it peaked at #15 in New Adult and College Romance and #16 in Paranormal & Urban Fantasy. That was unexpected and super cool. (Of course, it also makes me really nervous. I mean, even if Relapse didn’t do as well, it would be fine, but still…..) Including the free copies, I’ve sold over 4000 copies of Reborn, and over 1000 paid copies. Considering I had really low expectations, it’s been really overwhelming.

Now, here comes the what I’ve learned/advice part (in no particular order):

1. It’s not going to be easy. It’s like the saying goes: Anything worth doing isn’t going to be easy. I’m an impatient person, so accepting that this wasn’t going to be an easy undertaking (if done right) was a big step for me. There was a point when I was tempted to just throw the original version of Reborn up on Amazon because it seemed so easy. Obviously, I’m glad I didn’t…when I reread it I realized how much work it needed, and I got some valuable input from beta readers and such that I was able to incorporate. I’m just saying: The temptation to put up an unfinished product will be there, but you must resist! I appreciate all that Amazon’s done to make self-publishing easier for independent authors, but I don’t like that they overemphasize the “easy” aspect in all of their marketing materials. Yes, maybe getting your book up there is relatively easy, but you have to realize and accept that there’s going to be a lot of work leading up to that moment. (On a side note, it’s not as simple as Amazon makes it out to be. You have to strictly adhere to their formatting guidelines and then check the previews to make sure it’s going to look good on someone’s Kindle screen. No, it’s not rocket science, but it takes up a little bit of time.)

In my opinion, if you think any of this is “easy,” you’re doing something wrong.

2. Tell people about it. “It” being your book, of course. This is probably the hardest step for most writers. Many writers are introverts and may not feel comfortable with marketing their work, putting themselves out there. I’d say I’m an introvert because I like doing intellectual or creative solo activities and I sort of live in my head a lot. I definitely have hermit tendencies, lol! But I’m not the type of person who’s afraid to put themselves out there or talk about my work–or talk in front of people, for that matter. So maybe I’m not a true introvert. In any case, you may have to dig up some courage to market your book(s) because, otherwise, people simply won’t know about it or how/where to find it. This advice goes for any author,not just self-published. I’ve heard that a lot of the promotional responsibilities fall to authors just starting out, even when they have a publisher. Maybe you think your book should just be able to stand on its own–and, if it’s a good book, people will find it and read it. That’s a nice thought, but, if potential readers don’t even know your book exists or where to find it, they’re not going to read it.

As far as social media goes, Facebook and this blog have worked the best for me. This blog was a great way to connect with fellow authors and book reviewers, and it’s also how I found my incredible graphic designer! My Facebook page enabled me to update my family and friends about this blog and, later, Reborn, and I’ve managed to build up a small following on there–mostly by following other Facebook book club pages and pimping my page there. Twitter has worked out ok, I guess. I have over 700 followers on there, but except for a handful of people, I’m not sure it’s very meaningful–at least not yet. There are a lot of spam profiles on Twitter. Twitter seems best for, again, networking with authors and book reviewers. (By the way, when you’re first starting out, a lot of the people who are going to read your book are also writers.) Fellow authors: I’d like to know which social media platforms have worked for you, so please share in the comments!

Goodreads is another platform you can use, although don’t stalk your ratings/reviews on there unless you have a thick skin. Then again, if you’re going to do this and put your work out there, you’re going to have to

3. Grow a pair. Haha, I’m just being blunt. But, seriously, you’re going to have to. Because, even though I’ve interacted with a lot of nice, supportive authors, bloggers, and reviewers out there, there are a lot of @$$holes on the Internet, too relapsecover(as you may be aware of from reading any comments section to basically any article on the Internet, ever). You might think you’ll be able to handle it well–that first time someone criticizes your work–and, hey, maybe you will. But I don’t think most people (writers) are like that. Now, I have noticed that, in the indie author world, people don’t seem like they think anyone should ever criticize their work, ever (I’m talking about helpful criticism here that might actually help you develop as a writer). I mean, no matter what you do in life, no matter what you choose to pursue, someone out there is going to disagree with it/criticize it/have something to say about it. Or maybe because I’m in grad school I just go into everything now expecting to get shot down. To be honest, this is why sometimes I find the atmosphere of the indie world to be a little thin-skinned.

That being said, the first time you get a bad review , it probably won’t be from a fellow author or a book reviewer, and it’s most likely not going to be the helpful kind of criticism that helps you improve your craft. It’s going to be someone venting about how your heroine is a slut and that, ugh, there are cheerleaders and sorority girls in this book! 😉 Yep…I can’t help you there. The book is simply not for you. And you have two hands and a keyboard and can vent about whatever you like on Goodreads, Tumblr, whatever. The anonymity of the Internet gives everyone the urge to vent.

Then again, knowing/accepting this isn’t going to make handling bad reviews any easier. You’ve dedicated precious time between work/school/your family/whatever to perfecting your novel, and in two minutes someone finds a way to shoot it down. I’m not sure I have a great advice on how to handle it, except to be ready for it…and maybe don’t stalk your reviews (especially on Goodreads, which has a lot of trolls). It’s hard to resist, though…I don’t do a very good job of it. The best way I’ve found to deal with it is to vent to my family and friends…and also to incorporate it into my book somehow, lol. Yes, I got a few people who, in so many words, called Siobhan a slut…and so several side characters in Relapse make snide comments about Siobhan’s love life/how many boyfriends she has. (I don’t cast these people in the best light…let’s stop calling women sluts, ‘k?) I’m not saying my approach is going to change any minds–and I’m not trying to–I’m just putting it to creative use rather than continuing to mope about it.

And, whatever you do, don’t do the reverse catfishing thing that one author did to the person that gave her a bad review. I’m not even linking to the author’s article on here because she went way too far and mentioned way too many personal details about the true identity of the reviewer (even if she didn’t mention any specific names).

4. Become Amazon’s bitch (at least at first). I’m borrowing the phrase Amazon’s bitch from Mr. Tom Benson. (I hope you don’t mind, Tom.) You can read about his self-publishing experiences on Amazon here and here. Besides everything else I’ve talked about so far, utilizing Amazon’s free promotion deal, which gives you up to 5 days of offering your book for free for Kindle (assuming that number hasn’t changed since I used it), enabled readers to take a chance on a new author (me) with no strings attached. There are also a lot of Twitter accounts, blogs, Facebook pages, etc. that scour Amazon for free books and promote them without you having to do anything (except make your book free). The only downside is, in order to use Amazon’s countdown deals or free promotion, the electronic version of your book has to be exclusive to Amazon for three months (hence, you are “Amazon’s bitch,” lol). Which might sound like a bad thing, except, as a self-published author, most of your sales are going to come from Amazon, anyway. Reborn was exclusive to Amazon for the first three months or so, then I uploaded it to Smashwords, which in turn makes it available to Barnes and Noble (Nook), the iTunes book store, Scribd, etc. I’ve made a little under $5 from all of these other sites combined.

Do whatever works best for you, but I would seriously consider being exclusive to Amazon for the first few months, especially if you’re just starting out.

5. Edit, edit, edit. I also get the sense sometimes that some indie authors place less importance on the editing part than the writing part. And get offended when a reviewer mentions it. Polishing your story for spelling/grammatical errors/typos is just as important as any other aspect of the process. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when I’m reading something. I don’t bother to mention it in my own reviews of fellow indie author’s work–because I notice a lot of avoidable errors in all of them. Yes, I’m reading critically, but there are usually a lot more in self-published books than traditionally published ones. This is a tough area, too, because, let’s face it, a lot of writers don’t have the money to hire an editor at first, or even a copy editor. And I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using Amazon’s editing service, although I don’t speak from experience–it just seems like a bad idea to send your precious book off to some faceless editor you haven’t built a relationship with.

But at least have more than yourself read over it, even friends and family that are sticklers for picking out these kinds of mistakes. Make it as polished as possible. Your book is, essentially, a product–don’t sell someone a bad product. Don’t sell something for $4.99 that isn’t finished and still has a bunch of spelling and grammar mistakes.

(As another aside, even when multiple people read over your book, a few mistakes are of course going to slip through the cracks. Poor editing is one of my biggest pet peeves, and yet I noticed the other day, when I was looking something up in Reborn, there’s a typo in chapter one–it says “titled” instead of “tilted.” It made me cringe. I’ll go back and fix it, at some point…..)

6. Be patient. I said this before, and I’ll say it again. Building up an audience is going to take time. Just have patience and keep on writing. It’s great to have people to write for, but remember to still write for yourself–because it’s something you love to do.

And, last but not least:

7. Don’t give up! 🙂 Even if your first book sells two copies in two years…even if it has a one star average on Goodreads…don’t give up. Just keep learning, keep improving your craft, keep writing!!!

*****

I hope some of this, at least, was helpful! If you’ve gotten to this point, thanks for “listening” to me babble. And get excited, because Relapse releases December 2, 2014! You can read the prologue here.

Relapse Playlist


Just for fun, here’s a playlist of the songs I was listening to while I was writing Relapse. Links take you to YouTube.

I guess I really like Placebo…

1. “My Sweet Prince” by Placebo

2. “G.U.Y.” by Lady Gaga

3. “Oh! You Pretty Things” by David Bowie

4. “Cars” by Gary Numan

5. “Bad” by U2

6. “Shout” by Tears for Fears

7. “In the Cold Light of Morning” by Placebo

8. “Shady” by Adam Lambert

9. “Meds” by Placebo

10. “Goodness Gracious” by Ellie Goulding

11. “Blind” by Placebo

12. “Pretty When You Cry” by VAST

13. “Devil Inside” by INXS

Character Profile: Apate


You may remember Apate as Eric’s other “teaching assistant”/minion of darkness in Reborn. She’s the goddess of trickery/deceit and has a much bigger presence in Relapse. Now that Jasper’s gone for good (…), Apate is next on Gamma Lambda Phi’s list of asses to kick back to Olympus. She also antagonizes Siobhan like it’s her raison d’etre. I’ve been having a blast writing her character, so thought I’d share!

Species: Olympian

Age: In Olympian years, a young adult

Physical Description: Petite; obsidian hair; creamy complexion; wine red lips; cat-like green eyes; often wears black; smells like iron and roses

Relationships: In Relapse, she sets her sights on Jimmy to be her “new toy” (poor Jimmy).

But her most important relationship is with her twin brother, Dolos, who Eric is holding captive to get Apate to do his bidding. Dolos is really the only person Apate would do anything for.

Goal: To free her brother

Obstacles: Being a spirit of deceit, she has trouble getting people to trust her. She also has a hard time trusting other people.

Strengths: Beautiful, confident, independent, doesn’t (usually) care what people think of her, loving (at least when it comes to her family)


Weaknesses: 
Jealous, suspicious, mischievous

Power: Apate and her brother can produce complex illusions, making others see/hear/taste/feel/smell whatever they want them to.

Who would play her in a movie: Phoebe Tonkin, of The Secret Circle/The Vampire Diaries/The Originals fame

Theme Song: Kesha’s “Cannibal”

 

“I’m impulsive. I do things for my own amusement, not really thinking through how it affects other people. Sometimes not really caring.”

 

 

WIP Wednesday: June 18, 2014


I haven’t done an update post in a while, but I’m sick and bored today, so here we go! First off, Reborn is now available on Smashwords and a few other places! Yay! If you’ve read it and would like to leave a review, you can find it on Smashwords here and Barnes and Noble here.

As you might remember, the purpose of Work-In-Progress (WIP) Wednesdays is so I can set personal writing goals. It also serves as a way to let you all know what I’m working on. I hope you’ll join me and link back to your own or share in the comments!

To play, just fill in the following:

1. What are you currently writing?

2. Inspirations:

3. Plan for the upcoming week:

***

1. What are you currently writing?

I’m still slowly but surely writing Relapse, the sequel to Reborn. Although I’ve made a lot of progress on it, I never seem to get as far with it as I think I will. I thought I’d have a complete draft done by the end of May, but that totally didn’t happen, haha. I think I keep misjudging because I’m learning as I go along, and it takes a long time to write a book. Also, this one is turning out to be longer than the first one, so there’s that.

That all being said…when I checked it out a few days ago, I realized (happily) that I had made a lot more progress on it than I thought! Right now it sits at about 61K! Which is awesome especially compared to the progress I’ve made on my dissertation! So hopefully I’ll have a complete draft for betas to look at soon, because I’m definitely getting to that point where I’m just like…I need someone besides me to read this…

2. Inspirations:

I discovered a new/old(?) group! And I really like this song, although it’s really sinister sounding (but I think that’s why I like it). Also, another warning, the video is kind of creepy…

3. Plan for the upcoming week:

I don’t really have a concrete plan except to just continue chugging along. I do have some book reviews I need to get caught up. I recently re-read The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith and wanted to write a little bit about that, but I also have some books I need to read/review for fellow authors that I just haven’t gotten around to yet. 😦 So, sorry for being slow, but I’ll get caught up with that!

Excerpt for Valentine’s Day: Eros and Psyche’s Wedding


I wanted to post a special romantic excerpt for Valentine’s Day, so here’s one from my current WIP Relapse. (Keep in mind this is from the first draft, and I don’t know if it will even end up in the final version.) It’s a flashback Siobhan has of Psyche’s/her wedding day. I hope to do some more research into actual Greek wedding customs, haha. But anyway it’s cute, and I hope you enjoy it! 

****

I study myself in a full-length, gold framed mirror. I’ve grown used to the face staring back at me in these memories—Psyche’s face. The large, deep violet eyes are the same, but she has higher cheekbones and a slightly upturned nose. Hair falls like a white-blonde waterfall down her back. She smooths out pretend wrinkles in her one shoulder, white silk dress and adjusts the gold cord tied at the waist beneath her breasts. Her wings emerge through slits in the back of the dress. The bronze wings of a butterfly-shaped necklace spread across the delicate, pale skin of her chest.

imagerymajestic
Copyright imagerymajestic

In the mirror, I see an auburn head peek around the door behind me. Nike comes in, a white tunic draped over her tall, thin frame. Her hair is long and plaited into a thick braid down her back.

“You look beautiful,” she says, giving me a quick hug. “It is time to go down.”

Nodding, I follow her out into the corridor, our white slippers whispering over the marble floor.

The next thing I remember is standing on the pale sands of the beach, just out of reach from where the ocean waves slither up the coast. My fingers are curled around a bouquet of unfamiliar white flowers. Nike and, to my surprise, Aphrodite stand on either side of me. Aphrodite, like always, is willowy and golden, her beauty almost as painful to look at as the blinding sun above us.

People stand on either side of a strip of sand leading to my soon-to-be husband. I have a vague memory of what Psyche’s parents looked like, but I don’t see them among the onlookers. Two women with braided blonde hair and hooked noses lurk toward the back of the crowd, scowling at me: Psyche’s biological sisters. Sunlight glints off of Hephaestus’s smooth head somewhere closer to the front. I don’t see Ares.

Aphrodite and Nike walk with me up the aisle. I see a few more faces that look familiar, but I can’t think of their names. One is a tall woman with copper skin, an athletic build and a proud demeanor. Her almond-shaped eyes are as dark as the shiny black hair flowing freely to her waist. As I pass her, she smiles warmly. On the other side of the path is a short but sinewy man with curly dark hair. His pupils are black slits rimmed with reddish irises. Gold wings decorate the backs of his sandals. Beside him stands a girl with bouncing brown curls and watery blue eyes. Her small, pale hands clap excitedly as I walk by. When our eyes meet, her lips pull back into something between a smile and a grimace as she fights to hold back more tears. I return it with a hesitant smile of my own. I look away from the crowd and realize I’m almost at the end. Leaving Aphrodite and Nike behind me, I pick up the skirt of my dress and run the last few feet.

Almost immediately, Eros takes my free hand into his. A breeze ruffles his dark hair away from his golden face. His lips twitch upwards only slightly, but his body is tensed with barely contained excitement. He’s not wearing much except for what looks like a sheet wrapped around his waist, tied with a yellow cord. I resist the sudden urge to run my fingers up and down the rippling muscles of his chest and abdomen.

I hand the bouquet off to Nike and step closer into Eros’s arms, his wings enveloping us in a feathery white curtain. He slides a ring made of an iridescent white metal onto my finger.

“With this ring, I am bound to you, always and forever,” he recites, his breath fresh and sweet against my face.

I slide a similar ring onto his finger and repeat, “With this ring, I am bound to you, always and forever.”