You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Become an Author

I’ve mentioned before that I would not be the author I am without my (virtual) village of fellow authors. I owe a lot of my growth to one Facebook group in particular: Clean Indie Reads. Recently, I polled the members of CIR to ask them an important question: At what age did you publish your first book? Below is a snapshot of the results, which really surprised me!

As I suspected, the majority of the members published for the first time in their 30s; I did as well when I was 38. But I was blown away to discover many people were in their 50s and 60s when they first published! Whoa baby. 😀 How cool is that?

The results of this poll prove it’s never too late to pursue your dream of becoming an author.

Hubby and I were just talking about this the other day. He remarked,” Writing is one job where your age doesn’t matter.” There are plenty of other professions where youth is a desired trait and what usually accompanies it—beauty, strength and energy—are requirements of the job. Being a writer, however, only requires that you have a mind to think and imagine and some way to get your thoughts down on paper. Readers don’t mind how old an author is, as long as their stories touch them.

One is also never too young to become an author. One of my munchkins’ teachers is an awesome out-of-the-box thinker and he calls his class the 4th Grade Dreamers. He assigns “dreamwork” to the kids every week, homework that encourages them to think about their dreams and find tangible ways to pursue them. The dream of one of my munchkins (the one who has requested to never be mentioned on social media again, ahem) is to become an author. The mom part of me hopes he’ll also find a day job, but the author part of me is pleased to see him follow in my footsteps. 😉 It was really neat to see him working on his dreamwork this week, creating a story to share with his classmates. He enjoyed the process so much, he even laughed out loud as he wrote … which made me laugh. It was such a joy for me to see him take pleasure in something that took me almost four decades to embrace. I wish I had someone who encouraged me to pursue my dream of being an author when I was ten. Fortunately, I was still able to start—and continue—dreaming as an adult. Because age doesn’t matter. You’re never too young or too old to become an author.

So, whether you’ve always wanted to write a book or you have a manuscript hidden away somewhere that you want to publish, here’s my tip for you: Just do it! 🙂

If you don’t know where to start and have a million questions, feel free to ask me! Or you can join Clean Indie Reads, the most awesome authors group on Facebook and learn from the best.

Clean Indie Reads’ Facebook group

Clean Indie Reads’ Website

What dreams do you want to pursue?

It Takes a Village (of Authors)

When I started this writing journey, I was one little person typing her thoughts and feelings away on a blog from the comfort of her home. That was back in 2011 and I had no idea—not even a small clue—of where I would be at six years later. Well, I’m still typing away in the safe bubble of my house (with a never-ending supply of tea!), but I’m no longer alone. I have a whole village of people surrounding me, all of whom I’ve never even met face-to-face, but that I communicate with on a regular basis. How is this possible? It’s called the internet!

And because of the amazing, talented, and supportive authors I’ve been able to meet online, I’ve been able to learn and grow and evolve into the writer I am today. I owe a LOT to these people. I digest their blogs and books, pick their brains for advice on anything from commas to marketing strategies, and lean on their support in sharing my work.

I’ve always been a solitary type of gal (I was an only child until age 10 and an introvert, still am!), but I’m starting to see the benefits of being part of a village. Regardless of what we do on a daily basis—whether it’s teaching, researching, programming, counseling, raising kids or writing—we need others. We need others who understand the challenges we go through and don’t fault us for having a bad day when (fill in the blank). We need folks who know just the right thing to say that will encourage and push us to do better. Most of all, we need to know we’re not on this journey alone, that we have people cheering us on every day.

I was so fortunate to find an online author village with Clean Indie Reads (if you want to join our Facebook group, let me know!). Last year, I was able to meet another group of wonderful authors when we collaborated together on a boxed set (insert shameless plug: Click HERE to get 7 stories for only 99 cents!). 🙂 And more recently, God graciously opened the doors for me to be part of an author cooperative, Sweet Romance Reads! I am beyond excited (and a bit starstruck to be among such accomplished authors!) and am looking forward to working with them to introduce you to more warm-fuzzy stories. I now feel more equipped and supported than ever as an author and ready to tackle this year.

Yay for finding my village! Have you found yours? Comment below and let me know!

Here’s a great song about supporting one another, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”, covered here by Jai McDowell & KHS.

When You Can’t Take Things Too Personally as a Parent

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We artistic types can be a little sensitive. Here’s a visual of what that looks like (and a throwback to one of my favorite shows from my twenties, haha). 😉

Meme courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/Dawson-Crying

This is the first meme I ever made! (Meme courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/Dawson-Crying)

I think there’s a logical explanation for this. Creative people—whether they be artists, writers, actors, singers or dancers—feel a lot and what they feel comes out in their various forms of art. That’s why when we hear a catchy song, watch a moving performance, or read a beautiful piece of writing, it touches something within us and makes us feel, too. And to make someone feel something you feel takes a bit of talent and hard work, of course, but most of all it requires a sensitive soul.

That’s why artists can be a little too sensitive sometimes for their own good. Take for example the author who got hung up over the fact that during her last free book promotion, she discovered not one, but TWO people had returned her book, even though it had been free. FREE, I tell you! Who returns something they got for free?! Either someone who accidentally downloaded it twice (totally wishful thinking here) or someone who disliked the story THAT much. (Insert Dawson’s crying face here! :P)

Well, I’ve had a few days to have my #authorpityparty and commiserate with other authors who had the same thing happen to them. (I’m sooo glad it’s not just me!) And the one thing I’ve learned? You just can’t take things too personally sometimes, even if you’re an artist.

But this applies even more when you’re a parent.

Have you heard of the saying, “Your child is not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time“? Take a minute and let that soak in because they’re some wise words every parent needs to remember all the time. If I could rewind back to when my first munchkin was born, I’d print that statement out in big, bold letters and post it in every room of the house. And the car. And maybe even on my kids’ shirts, so that every time they did something that made me want to pull my hair out and cry, I would’ve remembered to not take it so personally. Because honestly, so much about parenting has to do with them and not us.

When they have a meltdown in the middle of the store, it’s not because they want to make you look and feel like a bad parent, it’s more likely because they’re tired or hungry or bored. When they huff and puff and storm off to their room and slam the door, it’s not because they want to undermine your authority (okay, maybe a little?), it’s because they’re frustrated and angry and overwhelmed by their emotions. In short, they’re having a hard time, not trying to give you a hard time.

During my kids’ hard times, I often have to remind myself to step outside of the situation and see things from their perspective. I find that I parent better when I don’t take their behavior personally. When I try to figure out what they’re having a hard time with, I respond with less anger and yelling and more patience and understanding. It’s no longer a case of me versus them, it’s me with them. And when you’re on the same side as your child, it’s easier to listen and love them.

Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t have your #parentpityparty afterwards. Parents have feelings, too, and we need to take care of ourselves, especially when we’ve been investing our energy into little people. So what can you do with all the emotions you have? Hmm. Maybe try something artsy? Just be forewarned … us artistic types can be a little sensitive. 😉

I’m loving this group I discovered on YouTube recently, the Gardiner Sisters. Take a listen to their lovely cover of Dan + Shay’s song, “Lately”.

How do you not take things too personally in your personal or professional lives?

The Dark Side of Self-Publishing (AKA Marketing)

Before I became a self-published author, I had no clue what going indie would involve. What I’ve learned is this: if writing books is one side of the coin of being an author, marketing is the other side. And to be honest, the amount of time it takes to share your books with the world takes about as much (if not more) time as it does to write these books.

Eeks. Welcome to the dark side of self-publishing. 😉

Since I currently have marketing on my mind, I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned over the years for what works and what doesn’t work when trying to sell books.

For starters, imagine you’re floating along in a big, vast ocean, and everywhere you look there are other people floating along, too. This is what being an author is like. You’re just one itty, bitty voice in a sea of voices. About 800,000 voices to be exact, according to the Google search I just did for “how many books are on Amazon”. So, yup, you need to market your books if you want anyone besides your mom to read them. 😉 Even toilet paper companies advertise their products and everyone I know uses TP several times a day, every day. Imagine how much harder you need to work to sell something that not everyone needs on a daily basis.

Hehehe! I thought this was a cute pic.

Hehehe! Even frogs use TP?!

So, what works?

  1. Paid ads. Specifically on websites that have thousands of subscribers who—you guessed it—love to read. 🙂 These ads can range from $5 to $500, depending on the site, but they are worth it. The bottom line is this: You need to spend some money to make money.
  2. Free ads. Of course there are ways to advertise your books for free. There are tons of Facebook groups for people who love to read and you can usually write a post about your book once a day. I heard that a person needs to see an ad 5x before they’ll consider buying the product, so this is a good way to get some long-term exposure for free (vs. a paid ad that is only for one day).
  3. Sale books. Putting your books on sale for a few days is a great way to reach readers because who doesn’t love a good sale? Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program allows you to do a “countdown deal” where you can temporarily lower your book’s price. You’ll have to advertise the sale on your own (see points 1 & 2 above), but you’re bound to sell more books at a sale price than at regular price. And any sale is better than no sale.
  4. Free books. It seems counterintuitive to give your book away for free in order to sell books, but strangely enough, it works. The point once again is to get your name and book(s) out there. To be that one person in the sea that gets a spotlight shone on him/her for a few hours or days. Amazon also has a program where you can set your book’s price to $0.00 for a set time. Once again, you’ll need to advertise your freebie (see above). The key to giving your book away for free is that you should have other books published, too (preferably in the same series), so that readers who love your writing enough will buy your other books. That’s how you make sales by giving away a book for free.

I’m currently running a free promotion on the first novella in my Taking Chances series (get it HERE for free through Oct. 23!). It’s funny, but I was super excited yesterday to find out that I’d given away 2,089 books. The downside is that I don’t make money from any of those “sales”, but I did sell 5 copies of my other books and had 630 pages read from the Kindle Unlimited program. At half a cent per page, that almost pays for a cup of boba tea. 😉 But I did get one new review for the free book and am hopeful I’ll have more pages read and some more sales over the next few days.

So, what doesn’t work? Sitting on your behind and not doing anything to market your books. This is what I did for over a year and my sales (or lack thereof) reflected my stubbornness and frugality. 😛 I only started paying for ads back in May of this year, but I haven’t stopped since.

I hope my experiences can help another indie author out there! Let me know what you’ve tried and what’s worked for you and if you have any questions. I’ll be more than happy to help answer them if I can. 🙂

I’ll leave you with a sweet cover of K-Ci and Jo Jo’s “All My Life” by Kina Grannis, something I’ve been listening to while I work on my current book. Anyone else love ’90s music? 🙂

4 Ways to Console Yourself After Being Dumped (By a Reader)

I ventured out with my sis and 4 girlfriends to my first concert in over a decade. We braved 3 hours of (round trip) traffic and 5 hours on our feet to see Pentatonix live. (Note to self: Even when the tickets have seat numbers, if it says General Admission Standing, it means NO SEATS!) But boy, was it worth it! 🙂

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The only downside was that their part of the concert was way too short because there were three other artists who performed before them. I didn’t mind seeing the other artists since I had heard their songs before and liked most of them. But several of my girlfriends hadn’t, along with many of the other attendees. As soon as the first act came on stage, I heard the gal behind me ask her friend, “Do you know who he is?”

Aw, poor guy. I felt so bad for him, although I probably shouldn’t have considering he’s currently #1 on the charts in the U.K. and, as he gleefully pointed out, ahead of Ed Sheeran (who signed him onto his record label). But here in the U.S., he’s a newbie and still opening for other people. (BTW, his name is Jamie Lawson and you should check out his song, “Wasn’t Expecting That”.)

As a newbie author, I totally understand what it’s like to be in that guy’s shoes, to be unknown. I’m the gal behind the computer screen who desperately wants to get my books into the hands of readers. I love what I do and hope others do, too. But it’s a big humongous ocean we authors are swimming in, and it’s hard to get noticed. The chances of someone discovering your book among the hundreds of thousands on Amazon.com is about as easy as finding the car rental keys your hubby may have dropped in the Pacific while on vacation (#truestory). But with prayer and patience and perseverance, you can witness the miracle of a sale (and find those keys!). 🙂

I am always so thankful when someone buys my books. I’m even more thankful when they leave a nice detailed review. Of course positive reviews are preferred, but I also welcome ones with constructive criticism. What I dread however is the 2 star rating with no explanation of why. Especially when the reviewer just created an account on Goodreads last month and the only book she has listed there is mine. It kinda makes me wonder if she got an account just to diss my book! (How’s that for thinking the world revolves around me, haha!) It’s not my first 2 star rating, but it’s the first one for what I believe is my best work so far. With no explanation of why. 🙁

So, here I am in the aftermath of being dumped by a reader, and learning four ways to console myself. 😉

1. Commiserate and cry. Misery loves company, right? Especially the company of other down and out writers. After getting the review, I immediately went to my Facebook writers group to share my frustrations, and was so encouraged by their comments. I heard from one gal who had the exact same situation (though with a 1 star rating) happen to her. How awesome is that? Not that we were in the same boat, but the fact that I knew I wasn’t alone.

2. Compare (in a good way). One of the group members told me whenever she gets a negative review she’ll go read the negative reviews of her favorite authors. Huh … now why didn’t I think of that?! I admit I got kind of excited that a bestselling, successful author could have something in common with lil ‘ole me. And amazingly enough, one of my favorite authors (Francine Rivers) who has the most poetically beautiful writing style has gotten some 1 and 2 star reviews.

3. Count my blessings. I took a walk around the neighborhood and listened to some soothing instrumental music. Once I got out of my head, I was able to calm down and count my blessings instead. And there are a lot of them, thank God. 🙂 Like the 5 star review I just got yesterday for the same book!

4. Cut loose! Lastly, I just gotta remember that there will always be people who like and dislike my work, and that’s life. So whenever I cross paths with the latter, I’m gonna face it, accept it and move on. As T-Swift says, “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate; Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake; Shake it off!”

And that’s the song we’ll end with today. 🙂

How do you console yourself after a rejection?