What an Author’s Life is Really Like

I saw an article from a celebrity who was talking about what being a celebrity is really like, and it inspired me to write this post.

1. Most people don’t recognize an author in real life.

No one in my town knows that I write until they ask me what I do for a living and I tell them. They’ve never heard my name. They haven’t seen me on social media. They haven’t seen me on online book retailers even though some are avid romance readers. Authors don’t have to worry about being approached in public to have someone autograph their book. I mean, it would be fun if this happened, but so far it’s never happened to me. And I’ve sat at tables at events where I have my books on display and most people aren’t interested in my autograph then, either. I can even offer a paperback for $5 (which costs me $12.99 to buy) or offer a “buy one get one free” option. For anyone wondering, I did originally set the price at $12.99. I wasn’t looking to make a profit off of those books. I was looking to get more exposure in the local community. It was a total wash. Very few people (even romance readers) show any interest. This is why I no longer waste my time at these events. If you’re not a well-known name like Stephen King or Nora Roberts, most people don’t care about you.

The best place to engage with people is online because those people are more likely to give the average run-of-the-mill author a try. Most authors aren’t household names. Most fall into the land of obscurity. Even authors who make a “six-figure income” are largely unknown since even I had no idea they existed until another person brought them to my attention. It’s just the nature of the business. With the amount of books available, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. That’s both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because you are given privacy, but it’s bad because it’s harder to find an audience.

2. Most authors aren’t making a “six-figure income”.

This is the myth that annoys me the most because it’s the one touted the most in the author community. Authors have a tendency to act like if you’re not bringing in six figures, your advice isn’t worth listening to. A lot of people out there don’t make six figures at their jobs, but they aren’t shamed the same way authors in the indie author community are. Can you imagine us telling teachers that their views on education is not important because they aren’t making a “six-figure income”? Or would you tell a mechanic he has no right to give you auto advice if he makes anything less than “six figures”? But we do this to authors all the time.

Not everyone needs to make six figures in order to be happy or to make a living. If you don’t have debt, if you can live below your means, and if you are in an inexpensive area, you can easily make it on less than six figures. It’s all about maintaining a modest lifestyle. You do need to mindful of taxes, of course. (I didn’t realize this early on and had to sell a truck to pay my taxes. To this day, I still miss that truck.) An average rule of thumb I go with is about half of your income should be set aside for taxes, but it’s not really that high. You have to talk with a qualified accountant to get an idea of the exact percentage you need to pay. This percentage will change based on new tax policies that are implemented in any given year. But once you factor in your taxes and if you keep your expenses low, you can make it on five figures.

Also, you don’t need to be a New York Times or USA Today bestselling author to “make it”. Is it a nice perk? Sure. Any achievement is nice. I’m just saying that hitting a bestselling list isn’t a requirement to make a living with your writing. I’ve never made either list, and I’ve been making a living writing since 2012. There were a couple of people who said that they would never buy my books unless I did hit one of those lists, but fortunately, most people don’t think this way. So if you’re afraid you need to hit the list in order to be seen as a “real” author, don’t be. Writing a book people want to read is the most important thing you can do.

3. Authors aren’t always as confident in their books as they appear to be.

Around 2008, traditionally published authors in my romance group said, “You’re only as good as your next book.” In other words, all it takes is for one bad book to ruin the enthusiasm people have for your work. I think most people will forgive one dud, but if you continue to write “meh” books, you’re going to end up losing readers.

This is why every book comes with a great deal of pressure. It’s also why I end up thinking of the market even though I strive to write for passion. With every book I write, I end up asking myself, “How will people perceive this scene? Will people like this character? Should I go back and change something? Maybe I should go in an alternate direction with this story.” It’s hard to stick with passion. Like really hard.

Every author wants everyone who reads their book to enjoy it. We know it’s not a realistic expectation, but there’s a part of us that still tries. When the book is published, there’s often that sense of dread that says this is going to be the book that completely tanks the writing career. This is why reviews can hit us so hard when they point out a book’s flaws. The only way I can think of to combat this is to keep reviews and emails on hand from people who said positive things about our books. Go to those as often as you need to.

4. Most of the conflict an author will encounter comes from the writing community.

When I got started with publishing my books, I had this naive belief that all authors would support each other. I thought that our love of writing would trump everything else. I thought the biggest obstacle would be readers not liking our books. I expected the negative emails and negative reviews. I figured that was par for the course. What I didn’t realize was how much negativity would come from other authors. My biggest critics are writers. My biggest supporters are readers. Writers read to find errors. Readers read to enjoy the book. Every time a writer says they’re going to read one of my books, I want to run and hide.

Probably the biggest source of conflict, however, comes from writing groups. I love being in writing groups because I learn about the publishing world and get marketing ideas from them. So the writing community can be resourceful. But some of the groups are hotbeds for arguments. The problem comes in when you decide to engage in debates within the author community. Stuff like writing to market vs writing for passion or KU vs wide can spark an argument that will go on for days. Some writers end up resorting to putting down others they don’t agree with. There are also smaller things that can cause surprising arguments, like “white or cream” paper for one’s paperback or uploading books to individual retailers vs letting a distributor like Smashwords or D2D take care of that for you. Then there’s the hypocrisy I’ve noticed. For example, if a relatively unknown author in the indie community does something wrong, it gets blasted all over the place, and that author is heavily criticized. However, if a well-known author in that community does the exact same thing, most authors will run to defend the action. So the authors making the most money can get away with anything simply because they’re “more important” in the community.

My advice is to tread lightly when arguments pop up. Some writing groups I once enjoyed descended into an atmosphere of toxicity. I had to end up leaving them. There’s enough negativity already going on in the world. I don’t need to taint my enjoyment of writing along with everything else. That’s why I ignore the drama unless it’s something that poses a threat to the future of indie publishing, such as if an author tries to trademark a commonly used word or if an author is stealing other people’s work. Stuff like that should be addressed in order to keep things fair for all authors. But getting caught in things that ultimately don’t matter aren’t worth it. Sometimes it’s best to let things pass through.

5. An author’s family and friends are not always their biggest fans.

For the most part, my family and friends never read my books. I had a father-in-law and uncle-in-law who read some of my books, but they’re dead now. My family and real life friends have no interest in romance. Now, I did acquire some real life friends who like my books, but I met them after they became interested in my books.

So this idea that an author’s family and friends are buying their books, leaving lots of glowing reviews about those books on Amazon, and are sneaking into reader groups to promote those books isn’t true. I see this myth getting circulated quite a bit. I have yet to come across an author whose family and friends are their most ardent supporters. The authors I know are in the same position I’m in.

The truth is, we have to slowly develop a readership. We can run ads, but we have no idea who sees the ads or who buys our books because of them. We can set up websites, blogs, and social media accounts to develop on online presence, but we have no way of knowing who is seeing any of it. Ultimately, the best form of marketing is word-of-mouth by people who love our books, and that’s something we have no control over. We depend on the kindness of strangers.

6. To get books out on a consistent basis, authors have to write even when they don’t feel like it.

This idea that authors get to wait around for their muse to inspire them before they write is a myth. This is a challenging job. It’s not easy to put words down when your mind just isn’t in it that day. I don’t put out as many books as some, but I do have a routine that I adhere to as much as possible. This isn’t easy when unexpected things pop up or when a spouse/kid wants your attention. A lot of people seem to think that when you’re at the computer, you’re just playing around. Unfortunately, for every interruption I get, it takes 5-15 minutes to get back into the story I’m working on, and no matter how many times I explain this to my family, they don’t care.

The biggest challenge in an author’s life is getting the book done. I’m in the mood to write about 50% of the time. On the other days, I trudge through it. Usually, when I get past the first 500 words, things get easier, but there are those days when every single sentence is like pulling teeth. There are days when I want to walk away and never write again. To better your chances of making a living with your writing income, you have to be consistent. I aim to get a book out every other month. I’ve seen too many authors take a year off only to realize they can’t pick up where they left off. They were once making a living, but they don’t anymore. There seems to be something that happens in extended breaks that ruins their career. Maybe readers got impatient and stopped following them. Maybe retailers shifted algorithms in a way that made them a lot harder to discover. I know a new book gets more attention at a retailer than an old book does. There are authors who get one book out a year and manage fine, but they’re doing other things to bring money in, such as offering courses, making You Tube videos, or running a lot of ads. They have other venues of making money. For authors like me, who don’t have other venues, the next book is extremely important, and you can’t go too long between book releases.

That’s why I have learned strategies to write while feeling exhausted, to push through times when the story isn’t coming easily, and to finish my current book when I’m itching to start the next. I think people assume writers are always typing away with a lot of enthusiasm, but the truth is, we’re often fighting the urge to hop online to do something else. Discipline is key. The routine is not easy to stick with. But it’s like exercise. You don’t get in shape by waiting to feel like working out. You get in shape because you work out even when you’d rather stay in bed. Routine is extremely important.

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That’s all I can think of for what an author’s life is really like. Are there any authors out there that have something to add that I missed?

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Updates on What I’m Doing

Lord Edon pulled it off! I won’t spoil how he did it, but he managed to keep his membership at White’s and get even more respect from the other gentlemen. I honestly didn’t think it would go the way it did. I thought this would have to go into the next book in the series, but as it turns out, he said a couple of sentences that got him out of trouble. As Lord Clement told him, I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off.

As for Charles Duff, he is convinced that a certain side character is going to murder Algernon (our hero). I was chuckling through the scene today as Charles was telling Eris his plans to rescue Algernon. She had the good sense to insist he includes her brother (Byron who is a Runner) in his plan. That will minimize the “trouble” Charles will cause. 😛

Meanwhile, things are going well for our hero and heroine for the time being. That’s going to change in a bit, but in the end, we’ll get to our happy ending

It turns out as soon as Katie decided she’s going to marry Jeremiah, he never had a chance. It’s just a matter of time before he gives in. She’s subtle about it. He has no idea she’s already picked him. Today, Katie told one of the older children at the orphanage she’s going to marry Jeremiah. She made the child promise not to tell anyone, and this particular child won’t.

As a side note, the child is Pearl. Does anyone remember the baby Jeremiah found in The Rancher’s Bride as he was searching for Abby? This is the same Pearl. 😀 I thought it would be fun to show how things turned out for her.

Erin is finally coming around to falling in love with our hero. She just doesn’t realize it yet. 😛 Alex realized that following her all over the place like a lovesick puppy wasn’t working in his favor. As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Thankfully, he figured out he had to change tactics, and it’s been working in his favor. I like Alex. It’s hard not to root for him. The book is turning into a cute romantic comedy.

I don’t think Erin is going to come out and admit her feelings. I think she’s going to have to be forced into a marriage somehow. But I could be wrong. I’ll just have to keep writing to figure this one out.

In case anyone wants to put this on pre-order, I have it up across all retailers. It’s due out September 25, and, as usual, I’ll announce this book’s release on the day it comes out.

This finishes up the Nebraska Prairie Series.

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This is the book about the widower with two children who is in a wheelchair. I didn’t go heavily into this for the bulk of the book, but the hero doesn’t feel like a complete man so there is a little difficulty he has when it comes to the bedroom. The heroine’s first husband died, but he blamed her for their bad marriage since she was barren. I’d say of all the books I’ve done so far, this one has a tone similar to Eye of the Beholder, except both the hero and heroine are dealing with insecurities.

Here are the links if you’re interested in it:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Apple

Google Play

Smashwords

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I Will Never Have a Single Book in KU

I’m in a bad mood at the moment, so this is a rant I need to do in order to get something off of my chest.

This morning, I decided to put one of my books at free across multiple retailers because, as the author and publisher of my books, I have the right to do that. One thing that I love about Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Google Play, Payhip, and Smashwords is that if I want to do something with my book, they never ever give me any grief about it. They are so easy to work with.

Amazon, on the other hand, is a nightmare. I hate Amazon. Amazon is great if you’re a customer, but if you’re an author, it totally sucks.

I can’t help it if Amazon won’t let authors who aren’t in KU price their books to free. The lowest I can put the books at is $0.99. It’s up to Amazon to price match. That, in itself, is a source of frustration since it hinders my rights as author and publisher to effectively price my own books.

But what really grinds my gears is that Amazon consistently sends me the “prove you’re the copyright holder of your own book” email even though the book has been over in that KDP dashboards for years. For YEARS. Some books they’ve made me prove ownership of copyright have gone as far back as a whole decade.

So anyway, this morning I got an email from Amazon, and in this email, they threatened to remove the book I just priced to $0.99 (since I put it free everywhere else). Why? Because they noticed similar content already out there on the internet.

Well, duh. It’s NOT a KU book. This is a book that is wide. That means I can take the book and publish it wherever I want. I don’t have to be beholden to the Amazon gods who have the right to demand exclusivity.

I get that this is an automated email I received. Something flagged the book in the system. So no human actually looked at this thing. The email came to me within an hour of changing the price.

But really, how difficult would it be to have someone over at Amazon to look through this stuff BEFORE sending an email demanding proof of copyright? I mean, Amazon’s had record profits over the past year. They’re getting bigger, not smaller. They have the money to pay people to check things over before threatening an author over something.

I am sick and tired of being harassed by Amazon. These types of emails where they demand I prove copyright pop up 1-2 times a year. Meanwhile, the same company is so lenient when it comes to allowing so much theft to flourish over there. Between ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks, I’ve had to battle thieves about 5 or 6 times now. This is why I spend money to register my copyright with the US Copyright Office. About twice a year, I’m having to pull out the copyright letter to give them my registration number in order to get the thief’s book removed or to prove I have the right to change the price or description or even the content of my own work.

The book they’re currently demanding that I prove that I own the rights to has been out for three years. In the email, they demanded to know the publication date, along with other proof. All someone at Amazon has to do is look in my dashboard to see when the book was uploaded. Since I do pre-orders, the dashboard shows when I uploaded it for pre-order. It was before the book was released. Who but the actual copyright holder would have the entire book uploaded before the book was released? Then they can also check the actual file to see if it’s the same book that is on other retailers out there.

In the email I just sent them, I was professional. I answered their questions and presented my copyright registration number. But I was tempted to get really snarky with them because I’m tired of being branded as a criminal when I’ve done nothing wrong. And I’ve been targeted multiple times. I guess someone could argue they target me since I’ve reported theft several times in the past. But before they jump the gun, they could at least check my dashboard to see if there’s a valid reason to threaten to remove my book from their site.

I don’t care how much money I’m leaving on the table by not being in KU. Being exclusive with this company is not worth any amount of money. I’ve lost $100K a year in Amazon income by staying wide, but it’s been worth it. Some things are more important than money, and freedom and peace of mind are two of them. I’ve been steadily working over the years to put myself in a financial position where I don’t have to give a flip about how much Amazon brings in for me. I never want to be dependent on Amazon for anything.

That is why staying wide this entire time has paid off. When Amazon launched their exclusive KDP Select program back in 2012, I didn’t go in. I stayed wide. When Amazon launched KU, I stayed wide. In my gut, I had this feeling that I would be glad I stuck it out. That feeling paid off today. I am so glad I learned to be content with making less money with my books. I’m living proof you don’t need a “six figure income” to be happy.

When that email came in this morning, I wasn’t scared they might remove the book. I wasn’t scared because my financial security doesn’t depend on Amazon. I will stop writing before I let Amazon have any power over my writing career. Thank God for places like Smashwords and D2D that make it easy to distribute books wide. (Retailers like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple allow authors to publish books directly to their site, and I do use Kobo and Google Play for this, but it’s been easier for me to use Smashwords and D2D for most of it.) I am grateful to Mark Coker at Smashwords for leading the way in true author independence. I think Smashwords launched in 2008, but I didn’t publish anything over there until 2009. Smashwords is what opened the door to being on sites like Barnes & Noble and Apple without having a traditional publisher. They paved the way for authors like me to be on multiple retailers, so we’re not all dependent on Amazon.

If you’re an author who wants to be in KU, that’s fine with me. All I’m saying is that it’ll be a cold day in hell before I go into that program. If people don’t want to read my books because they aren’t in KU, that’s their right. If you’re a reader who is hoping I’ll eventually go into the program so you can read my books, then you should find authors who are in there because I’ll never be there. I can’t stomach Amazon. They make me want to vomit. I’m staying wide with every single one of my books forever.

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