Category Archives for Writing Life

How do you Define Success?

I’m one of those people who constantly doubts myself. I make decisive actions and don’t regret my choices, but I do doubt my capabilities. Do you do that?

When I release a book (I’ve released around 42 now), I have to hurry and hit publish, then walk away. Because I’m not only an author, I’m also a reader and I’m human and I compare. I constantly compare myself to other authors and let me tell you. In my mind, I come up short.

Isn’t that crazy? That I come up short in MY OWN MIND. Me. The one person who should love me the bestest doubts me the mostest! (Yes, not the best words, and yet, I know you get it.)

When I have a pep talk with myself, it sounds like this:

Me: You’re doing great.

Me: No, I could do better.

Me: Stop. What more do you expect from yourself besides your best?

Me: Greatness.

And yet, who determines that? Who determines my success or failure?

Me. And I’m the worst judge there is.

I started this journey back in 2007. My first book was published in 2009. My second in 2011. Then I started down the indie road. And that has been the greatest adventure.

My reviews have been great. I love the positive and negative ones. I’ve had tremendous reviews from both ends of the spectrum and I’m grateful for all of them.

And my income has been satisfying – but not at first. Want to see some numbers? I’m very private, so this is really difficult for me to do. But I’ve had a lot of people say, well, you’re not making it unless you make it onto a List or you’re making $12,000 a month or more.

And I have to tell you that… I used to believe that. I used to believe that other people’s standards determined my happiness. Determined my success or failure scale. But I just saw a panel that was being offered in a pretty big class and the author stated that she was making 3 to 4,000 dollars a month – and that is success.

Um, hey, wait a minute! I make that on my low months. That’s my low month. I can’t believe I can type that. I didn’t start making more than $200 a month until May of LAST YEAR. 2014.

And contrary to what a person in my RWA group said, I started making this BEFORE Bookbub. Although, I did have tremendous success with my BB ad (and I continue to do so because it’s an amazing service). I want to make sure that is clear. (An aside, at the time, her comment really bummed me out. But now I can look back and say, that’s okay. I know she’s coming from a strictly traditional supporting POV and I’m a hybrid.)

Wow, I didn’t see any sort of incline in sales until I’d been writing 7 SEVEN years. We read all the time about authors that did it in one year or two years. Or whatever. I’ve been doing this seven or eight years now.

I’ve been doing this for so long. I’ve seen the “one hit wonders” pop up and I know secretly that they have worked their butts off and we’re just now hearing about them – they’re making $20k+ a month, or whatever – which is awesome.

Here’s where my pride takes a hit. Jealousy. It’s ugly. But where most people wanted the successful to fall, I didn’t want that. All I wanted was to be there, too. And the fact that I wasn’t, bummed me out. Big time. Cramping my productivity. Ever gotten like that? There were “so many big authors” that it made me feel like I was doing something wrong.

Why was I immediately assuming I was doing something wrong? How about, I was traveling my own path, learning at my own pace, becoming my own author, finding my own voice, being me?

But before, I used to focus on what they were making and how I wasn’t measuring up. Now, I compare myself to myself. Where I am now compared to last year and the year before and the year before and the year before – because I’ve been doing this a LONG TIME – and the year before is gradually getting better and better.

I’m growing as an author, a writer, a business woman, a teacher, a critique partner, a formatter, a “boss”, a mom, a wife, a “whatever hat I have on at the moment”.

That is true success. To me. My continued learning. My continued development. My SELF GROWTH. My level of gratitude.

Because I’m so grateful. It’s overflowing. It’s all-consuming. And I don’t say it enough.

You know what? I think my favorite part of this entire job is the people. I meet so many great people. I get to talk with my newsletter recipients (my Survivors) and we have some great discussions.

I get to meet so many people on FB. I’m working toward including Twitter in my relationship building, but I’m focusing mostly on Newsletter and FB because I understand them, the ideal and theory behind them. I can’t wait to start the conferences and meeting people that way.

I couldn’t do this without the readers. Or the people on my team. Or any of the support. Or any of the other voices in my head.

But to everyone who has a part in this crazy ride of mine, I want you to know you ARE APPRECIATED.

I’m grateful. So grateful.

Thank you. Such simple words which don’t even grasp or convey the depth of my feelings. My emotions that well inside me until I tear up. I’m so grateful.

I’m grateful for you.

Thank you. And I hope you feel a little bit better wherever you are in the journey you’re on, in whatever industry or path you’re following.

Because you’re doing awesome. You’re amazing. And we can’t run someone else’s race. We can only run our own. Alongside each other.

Won’t you run with me and share your story?

What do you define as success and have you shared your gratitude today?

The Blurb Queen – A Review

This post is a tad on the embarrassing side. 

Why? Well, I can write my blurbs – sure. No problem. Seriously, it’s not hard.

What is hard, is an amazing blurb.

Okay, the why’s are getting annoying. Just kidding. A lot of authors feel this way. We’re too close to the story. We just put hours, days, weeks, months, years into writing down this story in 20,000 to 150,000 words (or MORE!). How the heck are we supposed to sum all that up in 300 or less?

Should be simple – pick the most important parts and that’s what you focus on. Right?

Wrong. All the words are important to me! All the plot points and characters are important to me! 

Sigh. 

Authors with particular skill sets have been offering their services to other authors. A friend of mine opened up a company offering blurb help.

I’m always leery of hiring people, even my friends. I have no idea why. I think it stems from coming from a family that is more about DIY than most people I know. I think I can save myself money because I can do that, or learn to do that. 

But I’ll tell you what. I know blurbs are my kryptonite. I’m not stupid. And when I need help with something, I acknowledge it. I don’t have time not to.

So my friend opened up The Blurb Queen and I asked her to redo a blurb to see how she would do.

The Blurb Queen Review

Here is the blurb I had for Broken Trails, Book #1 of the Montana Trails series, Clearwater County Collection. 

How broken does a cowboy have to be to accept the healing bands of love?
Nathan Rourke has lost almost everything he holds dear. What he has left, he’ll do anything to keep.
Emma Benson’s health is a burden on her loved ones and reins in her independence. She desperately wants to prove she’s more than her sickness, even if she loses her family.
Almost dying, Emma turns to Nate – even though she desperately doesn’t want to rely on anyone again. Can Nate love Emma enough to give up everything he’s ever needed? Will Emma let him?

Now, stroke my ego just a little bit. It’s not HORRIBLE, right?

Well, here is The Blurb Queen‘s redo:

A lonely cowboy … a woman searching for hope. Can love bring enough healing to carry them through?
Nathan Rourke lost almost everything he holds dear. What he still has, he’ll do anything to keep. His Montana ranch is not just a place, it’s his home and what’s left of his family.  He’s holding his own, making it work.
But then high-school sweetheart Emma reappears … and suddenly this cowboy’s life is as rough as a ride on an untamed bronc.
Emma Benson left high school without a word to Nate, rather than admit she was too ill to go on. Now she’s desperate to prove that she’s more than the disease that keeps her dependent on her family and friends. And she craves just one more chance at love.
Nate embodies the promise of a life free from the confines of her small world. But will loving her mean he must give up his own freedom?
No matter which path they choose, this young couple will be battling the odds.
Saddle up for a ride along Montana trails you’ll never forget—lasso your copy of Broken Trails today!

Um, yeah. I don’t think I need to say anymore than to add – I sent her over the Lonely Lace series blurbs which she redid amazingly and next will be the Worth of Souls series and then the Redemption series. 

Yeah. I can’t afford NOT to use her. 

She has great prices, too.

Here’s her contact info!

The Blurb Queen

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How to Reach Your “Can” Potential

We’re each capable of so much.

Our potential far exceeds our own understanding.

 I tried explaining this to my children yesterday when they got in trouble for something. I can see their potential – or at least a small piece of it.
I don’t think I, as their mother, can even see their true capabilities.
I don’t think anyone can.

But when they say to me, “Mom, I can’t do this or that or I just can’t.”

I want to throw my hands in the air and scream.

When you say you can’t do something, guess what?

You can’t.

You will never be able to.

You’ve already made up your mind and nothing is more powerful than your mind on what you’re going to do.

But if you say, I’ll try? Or I can learn? Anything that opens up your ladder to reaching your potential?

Watch the heights you CAN reach.

I explained to them yesterday that the best way to meet their potential is to

say Can.

Or Try.

Or believe that they’re amazing.

Because my babies are amazing.

People are amazing.
 

We have so much potential.

 

You have so much potential.

 

Don’t limit it with Can’t.

 

Let it impress you with Can.

 

Because you’re more amazing than even you know.

Why Pricing is NOT Subjective… and How it Can Harm the Author…

I’ve had quite a few readers and future readers as well as readers of other authors ask me through email, Facebook, Twitter, contact sheets, Google+, etc. some pretty intriguing questions. These questions all circle the same topic, so I thought I’d approach it from my blog where there is room to cover my answer.

First of all, I read the reviews of other authors’ when I’m searching for my next read.

Yes, I too read books

(Indie and Trad) – in fact, if you’re an author, you better be reading. 

When I’m looking at the reviews, I can usually tell who is full of crap and who gave an honest review.

I started noticing a trend in what is called a LOSS-LEADER* book’s review. Mine are no exception. I started taking a tally. And I’m appalled at my findings.

sacrificing himself

*A Loss-Leader is a first in a series or collection of similar books that is priced beyond cheap and/or free. Most of the Loss-Leaders in this study were FREE, however a few of them were priced at $0.99.

Also, in this study, all of the books were indie-pubbed – meaning the author was in control of the pricing and strategy.

Here is a list of my study’s comparisons as well as conclusions.

  • Loss-leaders were across genres – romance, sci-fi, thriller, action, YA.
  • Subgenres were not separated out.
  • The Loss-Leaders were what is called perma-free – meaning they had been price-matched by Amazon to match another retailer’s lower price of the book.
    • This means that the author altered the pricing elsewhere and reported the heck out of the book’s new price as well as solicited help in doing so.
  • This was a lot of work.

We’ll get into why this makes a difference in a little bit.

  • The reviews were into 3-digits – so these books had been read by many – or at least reviewed/rated by many.
  • Each one lead a trilogy or longer but EACH SERIES WAS COMPLETED.
  • Not one series that I studied was incomplete.
  • All covers were professional and from the free downloads, the editing was, on average, at least average.
  • More than half were defined in some reviews as “cliffhanger endings”. Hmmm.
    • A series is a collection of books with endings that leave you wanting more.
    • A standalone series is a collection of books with something in common but do not hinge on the other books to complete the story.
    • Hunger Games, Twilight, Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries (the original 3), Divergent, Trylle, and I could keep going – all have cliffhanger endings. This isn’t debatable. Some things are resolved but not everything is. That’s a SERIES.
  • Comments have centered around asking or pointing out a rather important point.
  • Some reviews stated that the reader liked the book but would not fall into the “greedy” trap that authors keep putting out there by having the audacity to actually charge money for the followup books in their series.

*insert arched eyebrow* because the first book free – which is usually the hardest to write – isn’t enough? That book was essentially indentured work – no pay off but lots of investment in the cover, editing, proofreading, tracking down people to help make it free, etc. in the HOPES that the reader would WANT to continue reading, would gladly pay for the next books, excited they got to read the first one free.

  • Some reviews did not like the book and would not suggest that anyone read the story only because of its cliffhanger ending. Everything was roses until that point, but not when they found out they had to read more.
  • One commentor on a VERY popular series got in an argument with another reviewer about the free status.
    • One stated that she/he was going to return the book because she’d enjoyed the book but didn’t want to pay for it – where a different commentor pointed out that the first reader didn’t have to pay for a FREE book.
    • The first commentor then argued with “I’m going to buy the next three and return them after I read them, because $2.99 a book is ridiculous.”.

 

This comment is RIDICULOUS and RUDE and OH-MY-WORD-MADE-ME-WANT-TO-VOMIT.

That is like going to your work for a month and at the end of the month having your boss say, “Oh, man, you know, I really liked your work, BUT I’m not in the mood to pay your rate that I was willing to pay when I wrote your check. I cancelled your paycheck. Sorry.”

That would reek and stink and suck, and would be ILLEGAL. So why is returning a book not illegal?

Sick, just sick.

At least if it’s been read by 20%? or so, right?

How much of this is ridiculous to you?

I price the way I price because Amazon has the royalty split set up to corner me into a more controlled pricing arrangement. It makes sense. It’s set up to avoid the crazy prices – like $0.99 for a full length novel.

$0.99 to $2.98 prices on ebooks earn the author 35%. That’s it.

That’s BEFORE the download fees get subtracted or any returns. So for every dollar they make about 35 pennies.

$2.99 to $9.99 prices will net an author 70% or so not taking into account the extra fees, etc. So, on that book that gave hours and hours of entertainment, $2.99 is just too high? (and it took HOURS and DAYS for that author to write – if not MONTHS).

Personally, I’m on an entertainment budget. I refuse to spend more than $4.99 on an ebook when I can buy a paperback for $5. Which really sucks sometimes because, like right now, I’ve been eyeballing this book being released by a trad pub and the ebook looks AWESOME.

Seriously, right up my alley.

But it’s priced at $7.68. For the ebook. The print is $7.69. This is hurting the author at that price.

Authors don’t get that high of a royalty off the print – I don’t care who you ask.

To go even further with that point, I think it’s important to state that sale prices are damaging sales…

Many readers get used to expecting the lower prices just around the corner.

trainothers-2

In a set of comments on multiple loss-leaders in my study, many readers indicated that they would be waiting for the next book in the series to go on sale or become free because they didn’t want to spend the money.

One even went so far as to say, “I read this author often and I always wait until after the first month because her prices always drop. If you’re looking at reading this book, just wait a little while. She’ll lower the price and it won’t go back up.”

SERIOUSLY?

Shopyou

Your readers shop you like I shop Wal-Mart. Why buy those snow pants at full price this year when at the beginning of spring, I can buy them for almost 75% off?

 

I’m not kidding.

Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July – all these things go on ridiculous sales after the fact – I stock up for the next year because I know I’ll see another holiday exactly like that one.

You’re being played because you’re setting yourself up for it (sorry, I slipped into second person narrative there… when I’m flabbergasted, I do that.)

It’s predictable and makes it hard to get excited for any actual release dates.

Think of it this way. If you wanted to see a movie – in a theater – and it was releasing on day X for $10 a person to see, but you knew in extremely similar theaters in just Y amount of days, you could see the same movie for $3 a person – wouldn’t you wait?

Today? With prices like they are, you bet your butt you will. Up where I live? Most do.

The loss-leaders in my study spanned a variety of release dates – some as old as two years. This was encouraging for indie authors, simply because their long tail could grow exponentially.

In fact, on some of them, I did a side study that looked for groupings of similar dates to see if there was some kind of a trend – like a promo or something that occurred.

In 64.3% of them, they had groupings in a month’s time to indicate there had been promo of some kind in that time period. That’s terrific.

While my study was conducted with a biased eye toward looking for similarities, the control that I utilized included –

  • free books on lists,
  • Amazon reviews only,
  • all ratings ( 1 to 5 stars),
  • as well as only including the ratings that clearly came after the loss-leader status was indicated – many reviewers will say “glad it was free” or something to indicate that point.

With all of the above, I have come to the

conclusion

that the low pricing/loss leaders are being taken for granted.

Many posts lately from other authors and industry professionals have bemoaned the lowering of the value of the book and I’ve witnessed it myself as well as just reported on an aspect of it above.

My pricing strategy is simple and predictable.

If I do a preorder, that preorder price will be the sale price it will be on – most of my preorders include something special specific to the PREORDER ONLY. Meaning, the short story you receive or whatever it happens to be will not be available again.

This means a lot to my readers who follow the stories of my characters.

This adds value to the preorder.

However, if I do NOT do a preorder, I will have a lower price available for release day/week for my review team and to reward my loyal readers and then

it will go up

and

not go back down.

For AT LEAST 6 months – IF EVER (caveat – I do loss leaders on most of my series but my loyal readers know this and most don’t wait. This seems counterintuitive – especially based on my above findings, however, I’m a firm believer in the effectiveness of Loss Leaders, I just don’t believe they need to be thrown around willy nilly when this trains readers to expect them. Have a firm plan and know what you’re training your readers to do).

*Yes, I did say willy nilly. Hmmm.

I don’t generally do $0.99 sales. In fact, Amazon has one of my books lowered to match the price of one of my books on a pirate site and I can’t get it returned to its normal price.

At the beginning, I didn’t realize what I was doing – I would release it for regular price and then lower it a month later to a sale price.

My readers felt screwed – and when I realized what I was doing – I felt like I’d screwed them.

That wasn’t how I wanted to treat my readers.

So I devised the pricing plan.

I’m predictable in my pricing – NOT MY PLOTS – and this is comforting to the readers and to me.

Having read the above, do you have any thoughts on the current trend in ebook pricing? Should it stay low? Should it go higher? Why?

Keep up-to-date on Surviving with Bonnie and sign up for my newsletter on the right side of the screen. I look forward to hearing from you!

Stay Alive!