Friday, April 29, 2022

Top 5 Ways to Be a Happy Writer

I not at all comfortable pretending I know what it takes to be a success as an author. So instead, I think we'll chat a little about what makes me happy as a writer. A subtle shift, maybe, but an important one, I think.

In no particular order, I present Marcella's top 5 ways to be a happy writer.

1.  Writer know thyself.

Know what works for you. Know your process. Know your style, your voice, your genre. Know how your particular weird, creative brain works. If you don't know any of those things, find out. How? By trying all kinds of tools and methods and story types. You find out whether you're a plotter or a pantser by trying to plot a book or by through out your carefully laid out outline and seeing how it goes. You'll figure that one out pretty quickly. 

What's in it for you to know thyself: Trust. You learn to trust yourself and your process. You're harder to derail when a new workshop comes along and tries to tell you that you've been doing it wrong.

2. Create community.

Writing, by necessity, happens in solitude. Writers tend to be just normal enough that few people are willing to off you that 'oh, they're an *artist*' pass, yet writers are categorically odd enough to *need* that pass. Don't believe me? Go visit your browser search history and get back to me.  The best people suited to understand and commiserate with us are other writers. Not our families. Gods. Not our poor, beleaguered families. Your community need not be huge. A few other writers you can talk with about story arcs, business strategies, and writer drama will be enough to keep you from feeling like you've been chained up in an ivory tower.

3. Create accountability.

Use your community to help one another, if that works for you. If a little competition gets your writing blood going, set up a sprint room where other writers can join and you can compare word counts between sprints. Or set up a regular meeting time to write with another writer who wants the comfort of knowing someone else out there is writing, too, but without the pressure of comparing numbers. Meet at a coffee shop to sit together and mutually ignore one another while you write and drink your preferred beverages. While it helps to not always be alone, it really helps to know that someone else in the world is counting on you at the same time you're counting on them. It's common to find we'll do for someone else what we won't for ourselves.

4. Make space.

Make space in your day to day for writing. Make space inside you for deep work - which is a function of focus - which is attained with training. Make space inside your head for learning more, whether from classes or from other writers, or from reading other people's stories. Make physical space for writing, too. Whether it's a specific seat in the house, or a table, or a room, or a local dive bar. You need a place you can rely on where you can go and put the rest of the world on a shelf while you attend to creating your worlds. 

5. Be unapologetically you.

Write what sets your imagination alight. Never forget there's someone in the world making incredible bank writing about sexy, space-going dinosaurs. There's no reason you can't create something completely implausible and weird. In fact, I'll argue that you should. The moment you begin censoring yourself or pulling back out of fear over what you want to say, you begin to die as a writer and as a person. Listen. Just because you write something, it doesn't mean you have to share it with anybody. Allow. No limits. Not while you're writing. Those are second thoughts are for later. When you're editing and deciding what content will and will not be seen by other eyes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Jeffe's Five Effective Work Habits for Writing Productivity

My series rebrand of the six-book epic romantic fantasy saga, Sorcerous Moons, is complete! Book One, LONEN'S WAR, releases Friday in Kindle Unlimited (KU), with each subsequent book releasing one/day for the following week. 

This is my first (and possibly last!) real test of whether my books can be successful in KU. I've run A/B tests before and I've always made 2-3x as much money in sales on Amazon alone than via page reads in KU. But we shall see! Tell your KU-loving friends. :D 

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is The Write Stuff: What five effective work habits make a professional writer the most successful? I can only tell you mine and that's defining "success" as being productive. The other kind of success - fame, money, adulation, awards - depends hugely on timing and serendipity. But we're focusing on work habits, so here are mine:

1. Consistency

You don't have to write every day, at the same time every day - though I do extoll that as THE single most effective method for building a consistent writing habit - but consistency is key. I build my schedule around protecting my writing time and that habit carries me through all sorts of difficulties.

2. Persistence

The other piece of building a writing habit is keeping it going. So many writers give up without finishing a book - or finishing multiple books! - or they give up after a few books. Or, when attempting to write consistently, they take time off, change their minds, prioritize something else. Persistence is what gets words on the page.

3. Focus

Shut out the world, ignore the new shinies and frolicking plot bunnies. Close the office door, put in the noise-cancelling ear buds, disconnect the internet and silence the phone. Focus on the writing and only on the writing for the time that you're doing it. Think about the story and only that. All other considerations come later.

4. Integrity

Write what you believe in and write it your way. Don't chase trends or try to make your stories a clone of someone else's. This may not seem like an effective work habit, but it is! Keeping to the integrity of the story YOU are telling allows you to focus on that and not the market, or whatever the loud voices are currently shouting about.

5. Flexibility

The previous four have all been about ritual and drawing firm lines, but with those come a need for flexibility. Be ready to change up what you're doing if you have to. Reinvent yourself regularly. Try rebranding series and putting it in Kindle Unlimited. (See what I did there?) The world changes, sometimes rapidly, and we have to be ready to change with it. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Top 5: Habits of a Professional Writer

The Write Stuff: What five effective work habits make a professional writer the most successful?

My Top 5 Habits are all about Getting One's Head in the Right Mental Space for...

  1. Putting the words on the pages: Preferably in some semblance of logical order. Even better if that order conveys a plot, character growth, and a setting. James's post from yesterday goes into the WRITE, Damnit habits of successful authors. 
  2. Professional and peer accolades and criticisms: Critique partners, development and line editors, copyeditors, and beta readers are recommended resources for authors. Regardless of how pro writers publish, their peer and professional networks are going to have suggestions that should improve the book. Pros know the difference between personal attacks and creative guidance; they also know when to insist on their version and when to accept changes.  
  3. Public accolades and criticisms: Once that book is released, pros Sure, many read reviews but professionals never respond to the reviews (because reviews are not written for the author, they're written for other readers...even if the person leaving the review doesn't understand that). 
  4. Maturely handling pride, envy, success, and failure: Human nature is what it is, and denying emotions doesn't mean they don't happen. Professional writers know how to manage their own personality quirks so that whatever they privately feel doesn't become public. Whether it's the achievements of friends/strangers that simultaneously delight and disappoint, that negative voice no one else can hear, or the arrogance of attainment, professionals grok the path to success isn't through public tantrums or demeaning anyone.
  5. Don't Be A Dick: While drafting works is an isolated individual affair, what comes after that requires responsible collaboration. Long-term success means being the sort of professional with whom others want to partner. There is a wide, wide space between being a pushover and an asshole; successful professionals set boundaries and expectations so they can be firm but pleasant. When it comes to interacting with readers, DBD is the guiding principle (admittedly, the art of dealing with aggressive or manipulative fans requires an advanced skill set so as not to come across as a douchenozzle).

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Write Stuff: What five effective work habits make a professional writer the most successful?

 This  one is easy:

1) Sit your butt down and write. Have a plan and stick to it when possible. If necessary, turn off the distractions, like the internet and the radio and your phone if feasible.

2) schedule a regular time for writing. It's your JOB, treat it like one. Even if it's not your job yet, respect the process and treat it like the job you want to have.

3) Accept that sometimes life gets in the way. Make it the exception and not the rule. By that I mean if you lose a day for whatever reason, then you move on, you don't beat yourself up for it.

4) Set goals. They don't have to be realistic. Go nuts, aim for 10 pages or 4,000 words a day. even if you never achieve it, strive for it like a marathon runner strives for distance It's a goal. You keep trying. As I have said before, when I'm on a roll I can still knock out 5,000 words in a day. My best day was 11,700 words written and edited twice in 8 hours. It hurt, but i did it.

5) read every day, preferably from a plethora of genres and even, gasp, non-fiction. You need to see the work to understand and learn from the work. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

On My Mind: Treating the Writer Gently

 Yesterday, Jeffe shared a blog post from the SFWA blog with me.  Treading on Embers talks about the challenges of existing - much less writing and performing as a public-facing author - while managing chronic disability. In this case, it's invisible disability: chronic migraine disorder. It speaks to any chronic pain disability, though, and brings me to What's On My Mind this week.

How do you treat your writer gently?

Most of us in the writing trenches understand that 80 to 90 percent of the time, discipline is the answer to just about all of our writing woes. But there are days or weeks or months or (gods forbid) years where discipline is crumpled up like a used tissue and cast aside by Life Events (TM). It could be chronic illness that a writer has to contend with and which no amount of discipline will overcome. It could be a crushing and terrible diagnosis and subsequent treatment. It could be the deep pain of sitting in the hospital room with your slowly dying child. Or it could be a tornado of activity, instability, uncertainty, and circumstance changes crushing you into burnout.

Of course taking a break and allowing yourself to rest and heal is the first, obvious answer. But that's physical and mental recovery. There's also a subtler recovery required - more than emotional. I'm thinking about creative recovery.

Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way lays out a 12 week path to creative recovery. The program is laid out as a 12-step program because it was the way Julia Cameron charted her course for creative recovery after managing alcoholism. It is useful and it can be powerful. The current issue with the program for me is that it demands going out in public once a week. For me, that's a dicey commitment both with a pandemic that hasn't resolved in our favor and a chronic pain issue. It isn't that I don't *want* to go on Artist's Dates - it's that working a day job means there are no spoons left at 5pm to do anything but take a pain pill and collapse. That doesn't negate the rest of the program, granted. 

I'm just interested in how other people recognize their need for creative recovery and then what they do (or don't) in order to treat that writerly part of themselves with compassion and care - tempering discipline with a bit of nurturing. 

If you've considered how to treat your writer gently, what are you favorite ways of doing that? How do you approach creative recovery if it's ever been necessary for you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

On My Mind: eBook Retailers

 Barnes & Noble is running a pre-order sale for the next couple of days - apparently on any book up for pre-order - though the only book I have up for pre-order right now is THE STORM PRINCESS AND THE RAVEN KING (out May 31!). So, if you're a Nook reader, you can pre-order THE STORM PRINCESS AND THE RAVEN KING for 25% off from April 20-22 with the code PREORDER25. Order other books, too! Have a Nook party that goes on forever, because the presents will keep arriving for a long time!

A bunch of us who self-publish - this could be true of trad-pub sales, too, but we can't see which retailer sales come from on those numbers - have noticed that our sales on B&N have gone way down. I don't have any exact metrics, but even with new releases, I can see that my payments from B&N are much lower. Several other authors have mentioned it, too, along with a few readers who use Nook saying that it's super hard to find books on their device. It's really too bad. Everyone bitches about Amazon's dominance over the book-buying marketplace, but then the sites that could be providing competition - like B&N, Apple Books, Google Books - seem to be phoning in the effort. The only retailer that seems to be really working at competing with Amazon, and doing a creditable job of it, is Kobo. With the recent merger/acquisition (I'm not sure which it is) of Smashwords and D2D, maybe they'll up their efforts. We can hope!

And, apparently, that's what's on MY mind this week :-) 

Monday, April 18, 2022

The high cost of living.

 Well, I'm moving again. Not by choice. The landlord has decided to sell the place where I'm living and for the next ten or so days I'm scrambling to find a place to live, to move into the new place, and, of course, I'm trying to afford the first month, last month and deposit. 


The subject for this week is "What's on your mind?" That pretty much sums it up, I'm afraid. It is all-consuming. I hate moving. I hate the uncertainty. I am grateful I made the latest novel deadline, but that's really all I've got.

I need a home. again. this is four times in the last seven years I've had a landlord pull this sort of thing on me. I get it, you sell when the market is good, but seriously, they're all dying in my books. It's the only catharsis I'm getting out of this. 

If you have a spae good thought or prayer to shoot this way, they are appreciated.

Keep smilin,


Friday, April 15, 2022

Writing for a Living

 Full time writer? Used to be. Not anymore. These days, out of necessity, there's a day job gumming up the works. I used to nurse a fantasy about being able to write swiftly enough and well enough that I'd be able to out earn my day job with books. It might still be possible and I'm still working on building a system to support that effort. Writing full time was a great privilege. But it also wasn't writing full time. It was writing half time. So maybe I've never really been a full time writer. Or maybe I'm more of one now that I'm a technical writer getting paid for what I write on a consistent basis. That's a little soul crushing though, because I don't even want to read what I write in those documents. Too few explosions, honestly. No romance at all, so what's the point?

The writing half time crack comes out of the fact that I had to make a deal in order to give the whole writing full time thing a go when I first embarked on it. I had to promise to take care of everything that supported day to day life. The house. The cooking. The cleaning. The finances. The errands big and small. ALL THE THINGS. It worked for many a long year. I enjoyed it all very much. Getting to write for several hours a day. Taking care of my family. But life changes. Breadwinners lose jobs. Loved ones die. You lose your home. It doesn't matter what the story is. Stuff just happens. And then you recover from it. Recovery meant me returning to the workforce. If you think THAT was a simple thing after fifteen years of not working for someone - dang. I have a great job with a great team that's full of other authors and aspiring authors. We do Nanowrimo each November (no one ever 'wins' because work) but we do try to support one another.

But. I always have my eye on what tweak can I make in my life to steal a little more writing time? Another block of space that would let me write.

I had the writer-without-a-day-job gig. I want it back.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Writing Timeline

audiobook cover for The Mars Strain with Recorded Books red bands at top and bottom and an image of the Red Planet behind the title

Back in 2015, when I was writing The Mars Strain, my dream was to retire from my lab job and become a full-time writer after I had ten books in my backlist. Fast-forward a few years and, faced with a high-stress job and a chronic disease, I made the choice to retire from the corporate world—without a single published book to my name! 

What about my dream to write full-time? It was still there and even though the circumstances weren’t what I’d planned, I held on to it tight. 

James and KAK both shared about the insane healthcare costs in the US. It’s a fact that weighs heavily on me as I easily take up about 20% of my husband’s income. I’m incredibly blessed to have a partner who whole heartedly believes in our vows: for richer—for poorer, in sickness and in health. Without his support I wouldn’t be writing and without his full-time job with benes…well, let’s just say the stress may have taken me. 

Like Jeffe said yesterday: plan and budget…and then add a few years to that timeline. Being a full-time writer can be one of the most rewarding choices! But, as with anything, don’t go into it blind. If you’ve decided to become a writer, no matter how much time you’re able to devote to it, I hope it brings you joy and that you quickly learn what took me so long to figure out: your worth is not tied to what you create. 

Letting go of the guilt and ties of self-worth to my writing has been freeing. Writing once again brings me happiness and is actually therapeutic. I believe writing came to me at a time I needed it, not when I planned for it, but I'm learning to embrace things as they come. 

Do you have a full or part time job along with your writing? Do you have a 10 year plan?  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Three Things I Did to Sustain a Full-time Writing Career

The audiobook of BRIGHT FAMILIAR is now available! And GREY MAGIC in audio will be out very soon!! 

This week at the SFF Seven our topic is: Being a full-time writer – is it your dream? How do you pay for life and write, too?

In this instance we're defining "full-time writer" as someone who doesn't have a day job or other paying occupation that competes with writing. Most of us - unless we marry money or inherit a trust fund - continue to work jobs even after our first books are published. Sometimes for a LONG time after that. For myself, I continued to have essentially two careers for just over twenty years after my first publication. 

I worked in environmental consulting while all the while carving out time and energy to write. I kept waiting for my writing income to match my day-job salary - even not figuring in benefits! - and it never got there. Eventually life made the decision for me: my primary project got axed, our team dissolved, and I was laid off with decent severance. 

And, as it was absolutely my dream and my goal, I made the decision to try to have only one career at that point. 

It hasn't been easy! KAK's post from yesterday about being exacting with a budget is super important. This is especially true if, like her, you have only yourself to count on for income. Or if, like me, you are the primary breadwinner for your family. When authors give advice on managing finances as a full-time writer, it behooves you to pay attention to what other financial help they have. It might not be a trust fund, but having a spouse with a steady salary (and benefits!) goes a long way. Other authors live on retirement income or other, similar sources. 

So, how have I done it? 

1) Meticulous budgeting. 

As much as I can, I budget a quarter at a time. Writing income is volatile and, unless you're making buckets of it, you can't count on being able to pay the bills with income from a single month as you can with a regular paycheck. As KAK mentions, you can't figure your disposable income by simply subtracting your expenses from that month's income. You may need that "leftover" money for next month, or the month after. The financial gymnastics require creativity and flexibility.

2) Tracking sales

Data is everything! You can't afford to be only a dreamy creative. You have to wear your business hat and crunch the data from your royalty reports. You have to be ready to be stern with yourself and pay attention to which efforts generate income and which don't. You may find you can't afford those passion projects if your writing is what puts food on the table. OR, that you can afford them only if other projects are paying the bills.

3) Self-Publishing

If writing income is volatile, then income from traditional publishing has the lowest evaporation temperature. It comes, it goes - often on an annual or semi-annual basis. Quarterly is likely the most frequently you'll get paid, and every royalty check is a surprise! Again, unless they're cutting you BIG checks, it likely won't be enough to live on. This is why so many trad-pubbed authors also teach or have other side gigs. Self-publishing provides monthly income. Yes, it fluctuates, but you can also track sales and predict how much money will arrive in two months. Taking the surprise out of the equation helps immensely! You're also not subject to the whims of traditional publishing on a number of levels.

Those are three practices that have helped me manage a career as a full-time writing with essentially no other income. The other, quite obvious step, would be to make buckets of money and never have to think about budgeting again. 

Maybe someday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Wanna Be A Full-Time Writer? How Good Are You With a Budget?

Being a full-time writer: Is it my dream? How do/will I pay for "life" and write too?

vigorously rubs face

Well, I am a full-time writer, which sometimes translates to living at or below poverty depending on sales.  Shocked? Don't be. Like most creative professions, less than 1% achieve the success that's portrayed in popular entertainment. 

Look--I say this from experience--anyone who is going to walk away from a steady paycheck that affords a middle-class existence (or better) has to accept strict budgeting and lifestyle-reduction changes. This is not an avocado toast soapbox; that's a wholly different discussion. I'm talking about living within seasons of feast and famine. I'm talking about going from having a percent of monthly income being "disposable" after paying essential bills and investments to cutting out things that aren't utilities, rent/mortgage, groceries, car payments, and health insurance. It's a hell of a shock to the system to shift from stability to insecurity. Monthly mani-pedis? Gone. Thursday drinks with the gang? Not every week you don't. That vacation to the Con you attend every year? Eh...maybe. That's now a business cost, so maybe, but you've got to generate enough annual revenue in order to be able to take that as a tax write-off. 

As James mentioned yesterday, US health insurance is an obscene cost of living to which you then have to add actual health care costs--ya know, the list of stuff insurance requires you to pay on top of your premium and deductible and the even longer list of stuff insurance simply doesn't cover. Yes, health insurance costs more than my mortgage. Yes, for the moment, I'm a relatively healthy person. However, health insurance is an inescapable cost at my age, and it's not like I can get a roommate to help share the costs of health insurance (adding a person to the policy would triple the costs!). And predicting the annual increase in premiums? Fugetaboutit, which makes it a bitch to budget. Alas, I can't control the capitalist death-panels that are the US health industry, so I do things like drive a 20yr old car that's paid off and live in a state that doesn't charge an annual property tax on vehicles. Some months are ramen months, and others are chicken thighs. I take the savings where I can when I can. 

Finally, there's the actual business costs. As an indie author, my costs of publishing are incurred upfront (editing, art, marketing, etc.). So if I want to release a book, I have to budget for that. Then I have to estimate when I'll recoup my costs and start generating a profit. Sometimes release dates get pushed because I don't have that couple of grand on hand. There's a reason many authors turn to Kickstarter or the like to fund their indie books. Writing is a constant hustle. You've got to keep producing to keep a market presence. If you lose market presence, you've got to start over to rebuild it, which means recouping your investment is going to take longer. The upshot of being a novelist, however, is that our backlists continue to generate income (assuming we own the rights). The theory is the bigger your backlist, the bigger the financial cushion, the bigger the breath you can take because you can actually pay your bills...and maybe pay to replace that busted water heater.  Warm showers are a wonderful thing, after all. 

None of this is to say you can't have fun and hang with friends while being a full-time writer, but the lifestyle of financial instability does require tradeoffs and often saying "no" to invitations you simply can't afford anymore. For someone who had success in the corporate world, it can be a bitter pill to feel like you're starting over on the bottom rung of life again, even though you're changing careers to something you love. If you're not honest with yourself about everything the change entails, you're going to be in for a world of hurt and embarrassment. Don't pull the "I quit" switch until you've got a plan, a budget, and a slew of reasonable expectations for the next 10 years. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

On Being A Full-Time Writer...

 The subject of the week is Being a Full-Time writer: is it your dream? How do you pay for it?

I AM a full-time writer. I also work a full-time job and have since I started writing. In the very beginning, I worked at a restaurant five to six nights a  week, took a bus from the place were y wife worked in the daytime and she would pick me up around 11 PM every night that I worked. It wasn't exactly fun, but it mostly paid the bills.

That's the catch, you see, paying the bills. When I started as a writer I did a lot of work for hire. Just in case you don't understand that concept yet (I most certainly didn't when I started out) that's when you write for somebody else's intellectual property. The first thing I ever wrote that got published was an eight-page story for Clive Barker's Hellraiser comic. The second thing I got paid for was an Iron Man story that never did see print. Number three was a comic book based on a video game. The fourth was Clive barker's Nightbreed comic, and then I started doing work for roleplaying game companies. All of that was work where they paid me but got to keep the copyright for what I wrote. 

for the record, I'm okay with that. It took me about seven seconds to understand the concept. My work. Their money. They keep my work. How much is it worth to me? That varied a lot. Let's leave it at this: I was making damned decent scratch and some of those works allowed me to pay y bills when the actual day job didn't. Why was that? Because my wife had health issues and paying for insurance took as much money as paying the monthly rent. 

We always make choices Thanks to the preposterously stupid health costs in this country, I required two jobs (along with my wife's employment) to cover the rising costs of health insurance and medications. for the record, I still wound up declaring bankruptcy because of medical bilks at one point. Do I sound bitter? It's only because I am.

My point is, that I have always been a fulltime writer. From day one. Long before I sold anything, I wrote from four to six hours a day. Once I started selling it became longer hours, and coffee became my best friend for YEARS. I also used to put out roughly 5,000 words on an average day, with my best day ever being 11,700 words in one eight-hour stint. If I got the novel finished by the end of that particular month there was a one thousand dollar bonus. Dance monkey, dance!

I have also, with very rare exceptions, worked at least a part-time job ever since The exceptions were all medically related, by the way. Three months off for knee surgery and recovery, and then a little over a year off for cancer and the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, plus recovery time. 

I still write every day. I still work at least four days a week. I still like having medical insurance and sometimes that's damned hard to afford.

You want to be a writer? You write. You want to pay the bills? Well, I didn't marry rich, so I work. This isn't something that bothers me at all I knew the price of admission when I started on this ride, and I've never had a problem with it.  Writing is my passion, and writing never seems like work to me.

My point is simple: We do what we must. I'm hardly the only one, believe me. 

I have over 40 novel-length works to y name. I'm working on three more novels right now, as well as several short stories, collaborative efforts, and two novellas. I have referred to myself as the modern equivalent of a pulp writer more than once because compared to a lot of writers, I have a rather epic word count, 

If you're curious you can see most of my publications listed right here.  

A full BIBLIOGRAPHY is available too.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Fierce Hearts and Adamant Spirits: Charity Anthologies for Ukraine

Hey all! I wanted to use this week's space to share about a project that Jeffe Kennedy and I are involved in. The Romantic Fantasy Shelf put together two amazing anthologies recently that released on March 31st. All proceeds go to the International Rescue Committee which is donating all raised funds to Ukrainian refugees. Receipts will be posted publicly by the Romantic Fantasy Shelf.

Jeffe and I have work in Fierce Hearts, an anthology filled with romantic fantasy and fantasy romance short stories, novelettes, novellas, novels, and chapter samplers for anticipated novels. Adamant Spirits is of the paranormal/sci-fi/urban fantasy romance variety. Over 40+ authors contributed to each book, totaling over 1.1 million donated words. 

We would love your support! It's for such a good cause. As of 4/5/22, 3266+ copies had been sold, for a total of $11,879 raised. That's amazing, and I cannot wait to see how much we raise over the next few months. 

If you'd like to check out these anthologies, I've included the universal links to Fierce Hearts and Adamant Spirits. Paperbacks will be available soon!

Thank you!

~ Charissa

Friday, April 8, 2022

Bloom Where Planted

 I took a walk through the neighborhood this morning, specifically through the parts of the development that are under construction. Lots of houses in various stages of construction. A ton of empty lots awaiting their turn. On those lots were wild flowers. 

Morning glory and patches of Large Flower Mexican Clover. (The little pale pink bell flowers.) There were Mexican Blanket flowers volunteering all over the vacant lots, as well as a little orange fire cracker-looking flower called Hairy Indigo. 

What does any of this have to do with marketing 'shoulds'? Just this: These flowers are growing in disturbed soil - soil that used to be a forest that was bulldozed to make way for houses. Tragic for the forest and everything that lived in it, yet from the wasteland of bare earth and weeds left behind, beauty arises.

Marketing is the wasteland. Hey. That's just how it feels to me. No hate if it's your happy place. It isn't mine. Not yet. It's foreign soil and my roots aren't buried very deep in it. But. I've found a few folks who've managed to break marketing down into bits and pieces that I can usually manage. And from there, I can do my best to connect with readers. 

Connecting with readers. That's the whole point, isn't it?ha

So marketing, to me, is about blooming where you're planted. To the extent that you can bloom. And make that public. One friend runs a marketing class that focuses only on how to engage on social media - no. Not necessarily authentically. You're playing a part - the part of the author who wrote that thing someone loved. So in no way should you be entirely yourself or let it all hang out. You're fishing for engagement. Likes. Interaction. Comments. On FB, for example, these interactions get your author page served to more and more people. Not all of your content on your author page has to be about books or the genre in which you write. The class posits a formula for personal shares versus genre or book related memes and posts - about 5 to 1. For every 5 bookish, genre, or related content you post seeking engagement, you can post a pet photo and encourage followers to post their pets in comments AND THEN GO LIKE AND COMMENT ON EVERY SINGLE ONE. 

Oh look. It's a lot like work. Work that I could be doing on a book. Dang. Still. If you want to grow an audience, engaging that audience is The Way (TM). See what the SFR author did there with the Madalorian nod? Yeah. 

Find a bare patch of marketing earth. Dig your roots in. See if you can't lure readers into responding to your posts, tweets, videos, or what have you. Bloom.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Marketing Ya Ought To: Post Regularly

Marketing: One "thing" I do (or ought to do) to expand my reader reach/awareness...

As part of team #YaOoughtTo, one thing I know I ought to do and spectacularly fail to do is to post to my socials with regularity. It's not that I don't check Twitter and FB multiple times a day, it's that I'm a lurker extraordinaire. 

However, if I want to build engagement, I need to ...engage. Funny how that works, eh? If I can create a reader expectation that new "content" will be available every Tues & Thurs, then slowly but surely those interested will know to check for said new content and their awareness of my existence doesn't fade away between book releases. 

Consistency, it's the same theory behind publishing monthly newsletters. It's all about creating reader expectations and delivering on them. (Yeah, I don't do monthly newsletters either, just new release newsletters.#YaOughtTo) 

Monday, April 4, 2022

In a Perfect World

 The notion this week is what's the one thing you do or should do to reach more readers.

I'd like to have an advertising budget. I mean a real one. Not even a big one, just, you know, enough to get seen in magazines occasionally, or even enough to ensure that my smalaler titles get Advanced Readers Copies out there. 

I've done it a few times, especially when I was just beginning. I had one publisher lament that he could not afford to do ARCS of my book because the budget wasn't there. After some small consideration of my finances (At the time I had a full-time job that paid decently well and was getting regular and rather lucrative work-for-hire gigs) I decided to take 1/2 my advance and get ARCs made for the book.

The reviews were excellent and the sales were solid enough to lead to SERENITY FALLS being picked up by one of the big five, as a trilogy. I made my money back several times over. 

I'd like to be able t budget for more of that. Meanwhile, my landlord is selling my rental house, I have to move in less than a month and I need to scrape up the first month's rent, last month's rent, security deposit and the cost for movers in the next 25 days. So, yeah, there goes that pipe dream. 

There are always things I'd LIKE to do. and then there's reality.

 Mostly I make mention of upcoming releases on Facebook

and Twitter.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Reaching Readers: Hashtag Your Heart Out

Hi all! This week's topic at the SFF Seven is Marketing: What's one thing you do (or know you should do) to expand your reach/reader awareness?

I feel like I could list so many things, but after some thought, I settled on one: Hashtags. 

As a visual person, Instagram quickly became my social media of choice for reaching readers. Also though, as a romantic fantasy author, that's where many of my readers and potential readers spend their social media time. Bookstagram is still a very active community.

One of the biggest things I've done to find potential readers on Instagram is incorporate hashtags. With regular posting, I've met book lovers who only found my account because they follow a hashtag I happened to use. Often, they tell me that they saw one of my posts, checked out my account, and went on to read my work. 

Another part of Instagram where hashtags can be used is in stories. I see so many authors using stories without connecting to a different audience other than their followers. Once I began incorporating a bookish hashtag in each story, my views went from roughly 24-40 per story to 150-250.

I also learned to do my best to maintain an active story stream with at least five hashtagged stories at any given time. This keeps authors and their work in their readers' minds. Given how many things authors compete with when it comes to vying for reader attention, stories are equivalent to free advertising. They also seem to reach different Instagrammers since some viewers are more likely to scroll through stories than the main feed. It's like a having a second demographic in which to market.

No matter which platform you prefer, I highly recommend learning where your community is, studying how to get your book and name in front of them, and then testing the method. With Insta, hashtags are the way to go because they're such an easy adjustment to make. It might take a bit of research to learn which ones are the most active and grant the most visibility, but it can be done. And trust me! You never know what tag might lead someone to your work, so don't be scared to hashtag everything you share!

So that's my tip! Now come find me on Insta and let's chat about books!

~ Charissa

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Friday, April 1, 2022

Smash All the Things

I don't know that I've ever consciously set out to smash patriarchy in my fiction. I'd rather smash everything I can reach - the definition of family. The definition of worthy and even of human. For that reason, most of  my focus has instead been on what I wish the world could be. Now don't get me wrong. I am no fan of the patriarchy and if I thought I could do it lasting, meaningful damage, I'd sign right up. But I'd rather write about a world where gender or lack thereof matters not in the least. Your limits are your own - not imposed by external forces. 

If there's any patriarchy smashing going on it's in the fact that so many women and nonbinary people of all colors are writing. We may be mocked and our stories made fun of, but we're encroaching on what used to be the purview of white guys and white guys only. Think it's old news? How long ago was it that science fiction was rocked by a bunch of cranky dudes complaining that we'd 'ruined' the genre (I think they said *their* genre) by bringing our perspectives and stories to it? When the women and nonbinary people of all colors started winning awards, the cranky dudes' tiny minds exploded. THAT'S real patriarchy smashing, right there. And I am utterly delighted by it.