I’ve started a new Throwback Thursday segment on Facebook, one where I plan to give a little background behind each one of my books. Last Thursday, I focused on Tangled Web and I wanted to say a little more here, first because there are probably a few of you who didn’t get a chance to read it and also because I feel like expanding on my thoughts. And let’s face it. Facebook doesn’t keep anything forever…but my website does!
In December 2010, I had written my tenth-ish novel. I’m not sure; I lost count. Yes, folks, I’ve always been a writer! Anyway, I had quit smoking a couple years earlier using Chantix, and while that drug made it easy to quit, it also threw me into a severe depression. It permanently altered my brain. I’m not telling you that to make you feel sorry for me; I’m just “setting the stage.” I was having a hard time doing anything other than what I had to, which was working two jobs (one was teaching college classes and the other was as a supervisor for an underpaid government job) and taking my kids to and from school. Oh, and fulfilling the requirements of two part-time writing gigs I had on the side. Oh, and a contract job. I always forget about that one because the hours were limited—just an hour here and there, about ten a week, give or take.
But on with the story. I was inspired to write another novel. Let me do a little more stage setting here: I have always been an avid reader, but I mostly read nonfiction, literary fiction (my job as an English prof demanded it at the time), and what I read for fun (other than nonfiction) included books by John Grisham, Stephen King, and Toni Morrison. I’d heard of ebooks but hadn’t familiarized myself with the Kindle or Nook…
Anyway, I was inspired to write another book—to add to my collection, I suppose, because even though I’d been published, I hadn’t yet had a novel picked up by a publisher. But the call to write is strong—a compulsion, actually—and I sat down at the computer and wrote the first book I had written in four years.
Writing that damn book pulled me out of my depression. Suddenly I was writing again. Really writing. Sure, I’d been writing articles for websites (and the subject matter varied widely, but often it was about grammar!) and the occasional poem or short story…but I found my big writing mojo again. That was huge, folks. It wasn’t difficult for me to bang out an article or a poem or even a flash fiction story, but a novel? Yeah, that felt great. Once more, I had the passion burning a fire in my belly so hot that I had to write. I can’t tell you how good that felt. But I also felt rusty. Writing that book was hard. Getting it from brain to computer took more effort than writing usually did for me. It didn’t matter, though. The story had to be told and I was doing it.
Right about that time, I was beta reading for another author friend, Stacy Gail (she has a book in the Inked anthology). She had just been picked up by a publisher!!! Stacy is one of those authors who has written hundreds of books and has continually honed and polished her writing. She never stopped. I was so excited and happy for her and I started thinking again about the big prize. See, friends, I had been published in every other way possible (under another name, so don’t even try Googling it)—poetry (scads), short stories, articles (hundreds)—but getting a novel picked up had eluded me time and time again. I would query publishers and often got “nice” rejections (personal ones, so you know they liked your work—it just wasn’t for them for whatever reason) but they were still rejections nonetheless. Same with agents.
Well, Ms. Stacy happened to tell me about indie publishing phenom Amanda Hocking. That young lady just so happened to get recognition and earn a substantial income thanks to this thing called indie publishing. Hmm…so I started researching.
Let me interrupt here. It’s not that I think I’m not good enough to be published traditionally.
Nope, that’s not it at all. But any of you who have tried to go the traditional route know what a pain in the ass it is. If you’ve ever written a detailed synopsis of your book (one where you have to tell every little thing that happens but condensed enough that a publisher/agent can read through it in five minutes or less and know every plot point of your book) or agonized for days over a query letter (I wish I was kidding), then you know what I’m going to say next.
I want to write fiction…not a sales pitch. And, essentially, that’s what you’re doing when you’re looking for a publisher or agent. Add to that one rejection after another (nice or not)…and you feel somewhat discouraged.
So when I read about Hocking’s success, I decided to go for it, because I just wanted what most writers want: to be read. I might have been foolish enough at the time to think that most people would love my writing (I now know that’s not the case!), but how could anyone love it if they hadn’t read it? And they couldn’t read it if I kept getting stymied by publishers.
Indie publishing, though…that was a way around it.
So, fire ignited once more, I sent my manuscript out to beta-reading friends. Some of those folks had read my writing before; others hadn’t. Others had but hadn’t read my, uh, steamy stuff, so they were in for a treat. I got the FULL STEAM AHEAD message and continued my research. I had to create a cover (and I could already see it in my mind…so here’s a little trivia for ya—the guitar and, yes, the bra on the cover of Tangled Web belong to me). I couldn’t get the picture to look exactly the way I wanted, so hubby came to the rescue. Okay, cover done.
Formatting…I played around with. I started with Amazon. I had no idea what the f*ck a mobi file was at the time. I was quite naïve. I had no idea how my document would look on a Kindle. But I learned. Oh, God, I learned. Once exposed to ebooks, I began researching via the one-click method…and I learned that way too. I looked at how other authors formatted their books and then made my own way. I had no idea at the time that there were folks out there who made covers, who did formatting…none of that. I didn’t know there were bloggers out there regularly reading and reviewing books. Hell, I didn’t figure that one out entirely until the success of Bullet exposed me to that world. No…
This is one you’ve heard from me time and time again—all I knew was that I now had an opportunity to put my baby out there and get it seen. And I developed the philosophy that if I wrote it, readers would find it. Eventually. I had to believe in that, particularly when days were bleak…and, man, were they ever.
So how did it fare out in the land of Amazon? Well, after clicking Publish, I set up my Facebook page and Twitter account. I started a blog (not this one—I moved here several months later). I continued researching and tweaking my book to make it look better. I started researching other venues and discovered Barnes & Noble and then Smashwords (which I no longer use, although I’ve left several of my books published there). I kept my eye on the prize, so to speak, because otherwise I might have wanted to hang it all up.
No, that’s not true, because I didn’t know any better. All I knew was that a couple of people were buying my book. How many? Well, check this out…
I published on April 17 but it went live on Amazon on April 18, 2011. In April, I sold FIVE copies (oh, and ONE in the UK!)…six copies in all, less than one a day. But those were six people who had never heard of me. They were folks willing to spend a buck on an unknown author with no reviews but someone who grabbed their attention. You six people—THANK YOU!!! I am grateful for you!
May 2011…eight copies, US sales only. Yep, after one and a half months, I’d sold fourteen copies total. But guess what? I know I’m a good writer, and I knew my audience simply had to find me. I didn’t (and, arguably, still don’t) know sh*t about marketing, so I had to believe that they would find me. It wasn’t until June that I began publishing on other venues, but I had no idea that Amazon truly ruled the roost when it comes to ebook sales. That’s okay, though, because I wanted to expand to potentially be seen by other readers who wouldn’t find me on Amazon!
Sure, 14 copies in six weeks might seem discouraging…and it was, but I was working on other projects and still researching the hell out of indie publishing and learning more and applying that knowledge every damn day.
Anyway, Tangled Web was the book that started it all. And it got a little boost a few months later when a big blogger (not mentioning names, because I’m pretty sure she doesn’t like my writing) read it and gave it an okay review. I sold 600 copies of Tangled Web in August and September, thanks to her attention. Found a few haters (you can read the nasty reviews on Goodreads if you like), but my audience—the ones who did like my writing—was slowly finding me.
I’d like to say the rest is history, but I’m still writing it. Thank you, friends, for following me on this amazing journey. Clicking that damn Publish button is not a decision I regret!
If you have never read my first baby, it’s one of my 99 cent reads. I can hook you up here. Just pick your poison:
Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/mmr4yv7
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/lurnglo
What an inspiration, that you started out selling a few and it grew… I usually sell one or two a month but I haven’t given up. I know I have these stories to tell and the few reviews I do have are for the most part very positive. So, I keep writing and hoping I catch the eye of that one blogger who will start the ball rolling. Book number three is set to be released in October and I am hoping to sell just a few more copies as I work on the next.
Love your books! I haven’t gotten to all of your older books as of yet but I will. Keep writing and I will keep reading!
I <3 you, L.A.!!! I know exactly how you feel, and I'll share a secret with you (something I didn't know when I started). If you do a blog tour, that's one way to get (some) bloggers to read and review your story--and to get it seen by more people. It might be worth a shot. And definitely DON'T stop writing!!!