A lot has happened in 2016! I published Moonburner and Burning Fate, edited Sunburner, and finished the first draft of a new book, The Confectioner’s Guild! I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time, produced an audiobook, teamed up with some amazing YA authors to publish That Moment When Anthology of short stories, and brought you some great giveaways too. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing books.
Sometimes I get a little envious of authors who write for their day job, marveling at how many books they publish each year. But when I think of what I’ve managed to do while working as a lawyer, I feel pretty good about how far I’ve come (and realize why I was felt stressed for a lot of the year)!
I’m looking forward to 2017 being even better. Overall, I want to keep learning, keep enjoying the process of writing and editing, while connecting with more authors and fans, and selling more books. Oh is that all? It’s important for me to find balance–making forward progress while still not driving myself insane with ALL the things I could be doing, because there is basically an endless amount of work that could be done.
Some specific goals for next year (because if you write them down AND share them, they’ll be much harder to ignore!)
- Consistently get up early to do my author work before I head to work
- Finish revising Sunburner and publish it, with a goal of a June 2017 launch
- Start a street team to help with the Sunburner launch
- Finish editing The Confectioner’s Guild and submit to literary agents (and hopefully get an agent!)
- Write the first draft of the sequel to The Confectioner’s Guild in November and December
- Work on connecting with local schools and bookstores to do some in person events
- Connect with more writers and authors in person, though attending the PNWA Conference and PNWA and SCWBI events
- Grow my email list to 10,000, my Facebook following to 2,000 and my Twitter following to 5,000
- Lastly: keep learning & keep reading!
I think that will be plenty to keep me busy throughout next year.
Thanks for following and reading!
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There are a ton of free books out there! So if you love a deal or just can’t wait to get until your library holds come in, this list is for you.
- Bookbub and Book-bub wannabes
There are a ton of websites out there that specialize in delivering free or reduced priced e-books right to your inbox. Readers love it, because they can pick up great books for cheap or free, and authors love it because they get new readers for their discount books or later books in their series (if they are giving away a first book for free). Bookbub is the biggest player in the market, but there are a ton of other options, too!
Netgalley is a website that allows you to sign up for Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of upcoming releases, in exchange for providing a review of the book. Pretty much every major and minor publisher uses this site to distribute their ARCs. You ask publishers to provide you an ARC, and the publisher can accept or reject your request. This website is tailored for professional reviewers down to hobby bloggers, but publishers will be more likely to send you an ARC if you have some sort of website. But, saying you’ll post your review on Goodreads and Amazon is likely good enough for some publishers!
3. Library Thing
If Goodreads and Netgalley had a baby, it would be this website. This site allows you to post reviews and share book recommendations, but also has two features that give away books: the Early Reviewers option and Member Giveaways. The Early Reviewers option is like Netgalley in that authors and publishers give away ARCs in exchange for a review, while the Member Giveaway feature is just authors giving away copies. Both are pretty easy to get books through, even if you don’t have a blog or website.
4. Shelf Awareness & Publisher’s Weekly
Shelf Awareness & Publisher’s Weekly are both publishing industry publications that have email newsletters. If you sign up for both (select the pro version of Shelf Awareness), you end up with a fair amount of information about the industry in your inbox (which I happen to find interesting), but also opportunities to request or enter to win ARC copies of new books. These are the real deal, paperbacks delivered right to your mailbox! I enjoy getting free physical books more than ebooks, so when one of these arrives, it is extra exciting.
Goodreads provides authors with an easy way to give away print or e-copies of their books. When you give away a copy, people add your book to their “To Be Read” stack, so these giveaways help authors gain visibility. If you have a book in your To Be Read stack, you will get email updates about a new giveaway for that book. Or, you can peruse the giveaway section of the website to find books that look interesting to you!
Goodreads also has groups where you can sign up to beta read, or get free copies of books in exchange for reviews. Authors post blurbs of their stories and you can offer to read the ones that seem interesting to you! You can ever get audiobooks for free in these group sometimes!
6. Author Email Lists
Sign-up page for one of my fav authors, Leigh Bardugo!
Authors these days, especially self-published authors, are connecting with readers through their e-mail lists. Email lists are a great way for authors to give you up to date info about new releases, but they are constantly wanting to share fresh and relevant content with readers to keep them engaged. By signing up for the email list of your favorite authors, you will gain the inside scoop for new releases, which often includes an opportunity to beta read for the author or read ARC copies. Authors will also share when their books go on sale, when they have a giveaway, or when their authors friends are having discounts or giveaways.
Wattpad is a social networking site that allows people to post and read stories and books for free. There are a lot of amateur writers getting their feet wet on Wattpad (which is great!) but there are also a lot of professional writers who share their stories on the site to connect with new readers. Wattpad allows you to read chapter by chapter in your browser or on your phone, and then like or comment on each chapter. You can interact directly with the author, which is pretty cool. With 45 million members, there are more stories and books on this site than you will EVER have time for.
So there you have it. More free books than you will ever have time to read! Two caveats. If you get a book for free in exchange for a review…write the review. It should absolutely be an honest review, and if you hated the book and quit 20 pages in, write that review too. We call those Do Not Finish (DNF) reviews, and that’s ok. Try to be objective (and not cruel) in explaining why the book wasn’t for you…if it might be in someone else’s wheelhouse though, say that!
Lastly, free books are great. Everyone loves a deal, and it gets people introduced to new authors all the time. But authors work really, really hard to write those books. And the average e-book costs $2-5. That’s less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and I know you don’t think twice about indulging in one of those every once and a while (or every day). So if you loved that first book in the series, buy the next one!
It has been a whirlwind of a week since Moonburner launched last Tuesday and I have been seriously overwhelmed and touched by the support of my friends, family, and colleagues!
Writing has been a largely solitary endeavor for me. For the first year or so only my close friends and family knew that I was even trying to write a novel. Since then, I have connected with a few other writers online, and I worked with an editor through my publisher, but for the most part, it’s just been me. On the one hand, I feel proud of having manhandled a novel into being through sheer force of my own will. On the other hand, it can be a tad lonely.
So, it felt a little new and strange last week to be talking to everyone and their mom about Moonburner! I had a launch party at work on Thursday (uh, yeah, I work at a seriously awesome law firm with seriously awesome co-workers that threw me a book launch party), and then a party with friends and family on Saturday. I was blown away by how supportive everyone was, by people lined up to buy the book and get it signed, by how genuinely curious everyone was about the book and the process. The launch has been so much more rewarding than I ever imagined it would be. *Tear.* Seriously. I love you guys.
Here are a few pics from the party, special thanks to my girl Tara at Tara Brown Photography for bringing her camera along with her!
Me and the #1 fan hubby
Me and my sister
Grinning like a fool (still not used to signing autographs yet!)
I had to share this Uh-Maz-ing Infographic put together by the folks over at Bookish! Having a tough time picking your next YA fantasy or sci-fi read? Never fear! This infographic is here!
According to the flow chart, I should read Death Sworn, by Leah Cypess, next!
Link to the zoom-able version here!
I was pretty stressed last week. My workload at the office went from a nice moderate pace to drinking from a firehose about 10 days ago. Plus, I am stressing myself out over all of the things I have to do to ready my book for launch on June 14. Update my website; set up author pages on Goodreads and Amazon; plan my book launch party; order bookmarks and business cards; arrange a blog tour; find reviewers; and on and on. And then there is the novella I am trying to edit before Moonburner launches, and then there is Sunburner, my sequel novel, that has been sitting in a half-edited Frankenstein state since January. So yeah. I’m feeling stressed.
So, it wasn’t great timing that last weekend was totally booked with our first annual women attorney glamping trip out to the Washington coast. I knew that I would enjoy myself if I could just get my brain to stop reminding me of all the things I should be doing instead. Even as we made the four-hour drive out to La Push, Washington, my colleague and I joked that maybe next year we should pick a spot closer to town.
But as soon as the trees gave way to the brilliant blue sky and the haystack rocks of the Washington coast, we knew we would be coming back here. Every. Single. Year. It was as if the majesty of the ocean just melted the stress away. It was impossible to be consumed with the minutiae of my to-do list in the face of such astounding beauty. (The great company and free-flowing wine didn’t hurt either!)
The end of First Beach, Quileute Oceanside Resort, La Push
Sunday morning I took my coffee and walked alone along the beach, sitting for a while on a piece of driftwood, just looking out at the waves. The peace of that moment is something that I can’t duplicate or manufacture no matter how hard I try–it only comes from being in a natural setting. In moments like that I remember that nature is my therapy.
There are plenty of studies out there demonstrating the benefits of spending time outside, like those summarized in this article from the Huffington Post, This is Your Brain on Nature. Being outside has a measurable impact on your brain chemistry, from decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, to increased focus and creativity. I get more benefits from a morning spent killing time outside than 12 hours diligently checking items off my to-do list.
My colleague surfing in the morning
I am filled with gratitude to live in the Pacific Northwest, with a myriad of outdoor options at my fingertips. Our best weekends are those where we pack the dogs into the car, head out to the Cascades and hit the trail by 7, summit by 10, back home by 1. The whole weekend unfolds before us and we are buzzing with joy and endorphins.
And so, I will sign off this post to ride my bike down to the shores of Lake Washington to sit in the sun. Because you see, it’s an 80 degree day, and I’ve remembered that the secret to getting it all done is to let some of it go.
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” I love that quote by Kurt Vonnegut, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was a writer. To set out to write a novel for the first time is a cliff-jump. Anytime you set out to try something you’ve never done before it’s like jumping off a cliff. With no parachute and no wings. Except the ones you grow on the way down.
When I talk to friends and acquaintances about the fact that I’ve written a book and that it’s getting published, most of them seem impressed or astonished that I’ve been able to make it this far. And don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the time and effort I’ve put into my writing career, but I also don’t see it as that extraordinary. I decided what I wanted to do, and I did it. Is that so unusual?
But…I guess…it is. All of us have dreams that end up ditched in the gutter. Why? Why don’t we even try to achieve them? Sometimes circumstances outside of our control get in the way: financial hardship, health issues, obligations. But more often, we get in our own way. We are afraid. Afraid to take the leap of faith, to trust in ourselves, to risk failure or vulnerability. It’s safer to stay in our comfort zone where we know that we can handle what comes our way.
What else gets in the way? Self-doubt. Feeling we aren’t good enough/smart enough/rich enough/productive enough/etc. to accomplish our dreams. That we don’t measure up to the people around us, or worse, to who we want to be. That we can’t start working on our dreams until we are _________ enough.
Right now, I am close to publication. Close to the point where my work will be out there for the world to see, to judge as a success or failure, to love or hate, to debate, critique, and pick apart. And so I feel those things—fear and self-doubt. They are there and ever present. But they also aren’t crippling me. And it makes me wonder why. Why was I able to overcome them?
First, perhaps, it was a gut thing. A feeling, a passion, that I could do this. I was recently listening to a podcast interview with Joanna Penn, who is a wildly successful fiction and non-fiction author. She was joking about how new authors come with what she called a “heavy dose of over-confidence.” It’s true. I have it. You have to have it to dare to dream.
But more importantly, I think it was because though my goals were measurable in an external way my main goal was an internal one: don’t be satisfied with the status quo if it isn’t fulfilling. Inside me was desire to set aside fear and self-doubt and try to develop a life that makes me more happy and more fulfilled. Perhaps try and fail, but perhaps try and succeed. Without the try, there only ever could be failure. (Sorry Yoda, but I think you sold the try a little short). Isn’t the chance to achieve your dream worth the risk of failure? For me, it was. And even though I’m just on the path, and who knows where it will take me, it feels damn good. It feels like a win.
I also think I’ve been able to overcome fear and self-doubt because my external goals were generally things that I had control over. They weren’t totally dependent on what other people think or other people’s acceptance.
First, what was my short term goal? To sell a million copies? Nope. To write and publish a book. I could accomplish that even if I self-published and never sold a copy. I will hold it in my hands knowing I created it. Selling more than 10 copies to my immediate family will be just icing on the cake. Do I want to sell a million copies? Of course. Will part of me be disappointed if I don’t? Yup. But it’s made better by the fact that I’ve already accomplished my goal.
Second, I have a long-term perspective. I’m not chasing instant gratification; I’m playing the long game. It takes the pressure off tremendously. If I could write and publish a book every year, by the time I retire from lawyering, I will have thirty books! That’s pretty awesome. Even if they weren’t all runaway hits, if I’m doing things right and improving my craft as I go along, I should have some sales to show for my efforts. And how cool to have a legacy of writing as a part of my life. To leave that behind. So even if my first book doesn’t find much success, maybe my second will. Or my seventh. Or twelfth. You get the picture.
And so there is is. I love being on this journey. Even if I’m like Edison who takes a thousand tries to figure out how to build a light bulb, it’s ok. I’m still gonna try.
You can reach for it too. Your dream. You know what it is. What you really wish you could be doing when you are typing away in your office, or rushing out of the house, or stuck in traffic. It feels so good to step through fear and self-doubt and walk on a path you create for yourself. Even if it’s just the first step, try.