New Year Resolutions And A Look at 2018

So it’s 2019 and I see my peers declare their resolutions for the coming year on the forums I frequent. I’m tempted to do that but since I never got around to take a look back at the year that was, I figured I might as well do that first.

This gif pretty much sums up 2018 for me:

 

WTF just happened, 2018?

That’s because I failed to hit 80% of my resolutions from last year that I listed here.

But that’s okay. After all, it’s done. The year is over and there’s no point beating myself up over forgetting every single one of those resolutions, to begin with, including the one about being grateful for five things each day. Reading it again now, I thought, wow, I wrote that?

Instead, I’m going to focus on what I accomplished in 2018.

First, I published three books under Liz: Breaking the Rules, The Replacement Fiance, and Friends with Benefits.

And that’s pretty much it.

After finding myself having a great year in 2017, I spent most of 2018 mired in self-doubt. It didn’t help that 2018 would prove to be a tough year for my author business when sales dipped below 50% starting May and I’d spend the next few months thinking maybe if I put more money in ads, it would help. Unfortunately, what used to work for me before didn’t work for me anymore, and the only thing that helped me get my sales back up again was publishing new books in the last quarter.

Still, the whole thing left me in a depression for most of the year. I was never happy because I wasn’t hitting the same numbers my author friends were hitting, whether it was the number of Facebook or Instagram followers, mailing list followers or earnings.

Fortunately, one of the good things that happened in 2018 was discovering Seth Godin’s This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See. While I’d been taught in the past year to put out minimum viable products (i.e. books that may not exactly be perfect out of the gate but are good enough) and iterate (fix them) as you go, Godin basically says do work you’re proud of. Care enough to give your readers the best product you can possibly make and earn their trust that way.

Instead of publishing minimum viable books once a month so readers don’t forget you or the Amazon algorithm starts working in your favor, produce your best work for that minimum viable audience, i.e. the minimum number of people who will buy what you make and tell their friends about it, the same people who’ll miss you if you don’t show up for some time. These are the people who found your work, loved it and want to see more of it. People who trust that you’ll give them only your best work.

Discovering This is Marketing quieted the monkey mind that kept telling me I should have been making the same five figures a month my peers were making or publishing the 12 books (one book a month) they were pushing out. Instead, it made me look at the three books I’d published under Liz and go, you know, these are three books I am very proud of… and I want to produce more work like that in 2019.

If you’re a knitter, you’re probably familiar with the scarf. It’s called the Hitchhiker scarf by Martina Behm and I need to make myself another one soon because I miss creating things I can actually use. Turns out, a book doesn’t keep you warm but a scarf sure does.

I also want to read more books in 2019. I’ve started with Poldark (Book 1 with Ross) by Winston Graham and the audiobook is amazing. No, I haven’t seen the TV series and have no plans to until after I finish listening to this book. The writing is just impeccable. Another book I just started reading is True Places by Sonja Yoerg and her writing is just luminous. Sometimes I find myself rereading passages because every line is so rich with meaning.

I’ve also started using bullet journals this month. That means writing down stuff and checking them off as I go. The digital versions just don’t do it for me. Writing something by hand just works on my brain differently and more effectively than typing it on my phone or tablet and checking it off.

I do have a full publishing calendar for 2019, including a plan to publish ten steamy shorts under certain holidays. Valentine’s is the first one up which means I have to come up with a story very soon.

This also means I need to limit my time on social media. Easier said than done but I have to do it if I want to write those 10 novellas this year AND three novels for my three series. Hopefully, that’s where keeping a bullet journal will come in handy. I’ve had to write up a Things to Do Daily just to keep track. Once each one is checked off, then it’s time to write.

Come to think of it, thanks to my bullet journal, I just paid two tickets today, one was a street sweeping ticket ($60 ouch!) when the Lil Dude was home sick and it completely slipped my mind to move my car into the driveway and the second is a Metro ticket ($25) for driving in the HOV lane without a permit. I blame that on Siri directing me to the HOV lane on our way to the California Science Museum and by the time I realized what was happening, it was too late.

Sheesh. I really miss old-fashioned Thomas Guides…

Not the prettiest but if it gets the job done, then it’s fine with me!

“Make It Better.”

Seriously, if you’re going to read one marketing book this year or next year, it’s gotta be Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing. It’s amazing is all I can say and as an author or businessperson who needs to market your service or product, it’s probably the only one you’ll ever need.

A very condensed version of what his book is about can be found in this video although it’s just the wrapping, really.

This is actually the first time I’ve ever read any of Godin’s stuff although I’ve seen his name a lot. Where? I don’t know. Maybe a Ted talk somewhere but last week, I finally decided that it was time I check out his books and I’m so glad I started with his latest release This Is Marketing.

According to Godin, we need to find our smallest viable audience, that small group of people who are happy to hear from us and will readily open our email when it arrives, buy our latest product, and tell their friends about us. But to find our smallest viable audience (or market), we need to be “caring enough to have the grit to say we’re gonna make good stuff, not lousy stuff.” (from the video above)

That line really resonated with me because for the past year, I’ve been wondering if I should start writing about alien abduction romance or reverse harem stories just to keep up with everyone else. But then, that’s the key thing: “everyone else.” Why am I so busy focusing on what everyone else is writing (ie. write to market) when I have my own style of writing, my own set of stories that’s uniquely my own… my own brand?

In the video, he mentions authors like me in that predicament, too.

“They’re not keeping track of what got them started; they’re using other people’s metrics to do their work. That’s as bad as having a boss. It’s worse.”

“What you need to do is to be clear about who’s it for and what’s it for. And make it better.”

Should be easy, right?

But seriously, if you want to learn about marketing your work (as an author), check out his book. He doesn’t teach ‘tactics.’ He teaches way more than that. It’s going back to the basics of why we do what we do. Why we really do what we do.

 

My Thoughts on the FOSTA/SESTA Act

A few days ago, the US Senate passed the FOSTA/SESTA bill. SESTA stands for the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act while FOSTA stands for the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act.

Because of the bill, Craigslist immediately took down their Personals section, Reddit shut down darknetmarkets, Google has apparently deleted porn from Drive, and Amazon removed the Erotica bestseller rankings from its store.
Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 12.51.51 PM
You may be wondering, wait, what does Erotica have to do with an online sex trafficking bill?

I don’t know but because Amazon ends up being an online platform and the bill will make it possible to penalize online providers that enable sex trafficking to occur, that’s why Amazon is doing what it’s doing…? Or is it just one big coincidence?

amazon-reply

This new change has had authors scrambling, and not just erotica writers, but those who write romance because it seems that a few who don’t write erotica or have erotic content in their books have been affected, too. Not having a store ranking means it’s no longer visible in the overall store but readers looking for erotica content can still search for it—unlike a book that’s been “dungeoned” where you can’t even find it in search results. Yep, Amazon has a dungeon where certain books are sent to die!

Does Amazon’s new system mean that erotica is dead?

Considering that my post about writing erotica is the most popular on my blog, well, I’d like to think not (yet — just kidding). Erotica books are still selling on Amazon, only now their listing has been removed from the main store pages much like Walmart moving Cosmopolitan magazines away from the checkout racks and putting them into the magazine aisle.

What does this mean for my naughty pen name? Is it worth it to keep it?

I don’t know the answer to that yet but I do love writing under my naughty pen. It’s more liberating and I wish I could share it here but I can’t. But because it’s now grown from the original 8k word erotica short to a 50k word erotic novel that has yet to be continued until it’s happily ever after, I have the option of migrating it to my main name after I “clean it up” a bit or keep it under the naughty pen’s stable and leave it as raunchy as it is.

I do like the second option better.

But with Amazon’s latest move and Google’s deletion of porn content from Drive, this has got me thinking about personal blogs.

  • Will WordPress, Blogger and similar online providers police content, too?
  • Will they create a separate category like Amazon has done?
  • Will they shut down what they consider pornographic?
  • And who considers what to be pornographic? A bot? A human behind a terminal going through all the blogs (highly unlikely)?

The questions are endless and I guess time will tell. What do you think?

1521644290441-driveporn
Screenshot courtesy Melody Kush (from Motherboard.vice.com)

Edited to ADD the image below from Radish Fiction, an app that delivers serials and charges per chapter.

radish-removal

At this point, I don’t think online erotic content will last long 😦

Gish Jen: Why We Write

“When I’m writing I’m unaware of myself. I’m in my characters, in the story. I know the writing is going well when I look at my watch and see that it’s ten p.m., and the last time I looked it was noon.

My writing has always been very intuitive. When I start a piece I don’t have a plan; I’m not looking ahead.  I’m looking only at what I’m doing, and then I look up and realize, Here I am at the other shore of the lake, so I guess I must have been swimming.”

Pat Conroy: Why I Write

“I do not record the word exactly as it comes to me but transform it by making it pass through a prism of fabulous stories I have collected along the way.  I gather stories the way a lepidopterist hoards his chloroformed specimens of rare moths, or a sunburned entomologist admires his well-ordered bottles of Costa Rican beetles.  Stories are the vessels I use to interpret the world to myself. I am often called ‘a storyteller’ by flippant and unadmiring critics.  I revel in the title.  I bathe in the lotions and unguents of that sweet word.”

-Pat Conroy, Why I Write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction

Shame

“I was in a car full of writers once, being driven to some event, and everyone in the backseat was talking about our failures and disappointments.  The driver turned around and burst out, “You’re all so talented!  Why should you feel so much shame?” We had to laugh at ourselves.  We knew we were describing a feeling that a lot of writers have.” 

-Meg Wolitzer

If I Were To Do It All Over Again

If I were to do it all over again, I’d write the best book I could ever write, have it workshopped, critiqued, and edited. Don’t give anyone a reason to say, “this was terribly plotted, characters are lame, the hero effeminate. I’m giving it one star just because I’m generous.”

If I were to do it all over again, I’d write to market— but not the way you think. I’d read Chris Fox’s Write to Market, so I can still write the things that won’t make my creativity sink. They’ll still be the same stories that I love to write, but this time they’d be made to fit subcategories that’ll help my rankings spike. It’s not crazy science; the thing actually works. I just need to find that sweet spot and enjoy the long-lasting perks.

If I were to do it all over again, I’d learn how to get my first 10K readers, master the skill of drafting autoresponders, and know better than launch a book without loyal subscribers. Because reviews are everything, especially on book launch week when you need the visibility, and it’s the social proof everyone seeks that your book is all that and so much more; there’s no dissing your work for you’ve got what the readers are looking for.

If I were to do it all over again, I’d go to the experts for my book covers. No sense in learning Photoshop or Pixelmator when you can spend all that time writing your bestsellers.  Do your research and learn what catches that potential reader’s eye. Tighten that typography, layout, design. Believe me when I tell you, tropes, even on book covers, do not lie.

If I were to do it all over again, I’d learn all I can about Facebook ads. And right now, Mark Dawson knows all that stuff. Get in line, sign up, and get your ads up to snuff. Stick to what works, replace the ones that don’t convert. But watch your ad spend, there’s no need to lose your shirt. Target the right audience, let them know about the book they can’t wait to read. They just don’t know it yet, but soon they will.

If I were to do it all over again, I’d hold off publishing until those ducks are all in a row—a damn good book no one can diss, and a good marketing plan that shows you’ve got a head for the biz. For you’re not just a writer now, even if that’s all you insist you want to be. You need to be more than that these days: the author, the books, the message. You’re now a brand, you see.