It’s that time of year again! Many don’t know this but about ten years ago, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month. It’s what got me started writing 99 Bottles. While that’s been off in the world for awhile now, I’ve rarely skipped a November of the frenzy that is Nanowrimo since. For me, Nano was the first safe writing place where I really felt pushed to get the words on the page. I haven’t looked back since but will never forget where my writing roots are planted. I’ve love to find some writing buddies to participate with this year! You can find me at: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/author-erin-lee Please do send a friend request! For now, I’m beginning research on my novel for this year – Pretty Bones. Check out the working synopsis: Pretty Bones A Contemporary Coming of Age YA Novel It’s complicated. Marlow has always been fascinated with bones. To her, they’re no big thing and everything. Bones are things that everybody has – even the dead. Yet, they’re responsible for most of her problems. The daughter of a mortician, Marlow has spent enough time with the cold bodies in the funeral home to be comfortable with the dead. In fact, the stiffs in the viewing room downstairs are some of her awkwardly-mute best friends. She certainly doesn’t have many of those at school. Not with her condition. But things are about to change. Tired of the daily scene at Kennedy High School, Marlow looks forward to her next bone density test where she’ll finally get answers about her condition. There, she hopes to learn more about idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis and the strand of it she has. With the right answers, she just knows the dead can help her. They have to. It’s not like they can object. It’s simple. Marlow has a plan. What happens when the living and the dead collide? Will the pretty bones be enough to change a life?
I have no intention of completing this novel in a month. This one is more like a six month project but I’m excited to get 50,000 words in this year. Who else is planning on writing? Have you participated before? I’d love to hear about it. For those curious, check out www.nanowrimo.org. Happy writing all! -E
I think it was BeBe Harlow who requested the day in the life of an indie author/publisher. The easiest way I could think to do this was to literally write down tasks as I check them off hour by hour. Here’s a look at an ordinary Monday where I wasn’t working a day job and full focus was on book world. Notice how little of the time is spent writing and how much of it is on marketing/promo/other. Buckle up!
7 am – 1,000 word movie review of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” for Mean Machine, checking and responding to emails and private messages 8 am – Formatting a box set, tweaking two listing categories on three titles 9 am – Uploading three books for audio audition, ordering three covers, editing two blurbs, proofing a paperback proof and making adjustments – reloading proof for approval 10 am – 1,000 words on Blenders – Book Six of Circus Freak Series, editing vamp review and submitting to Mean Machine 11 am – break 11:15 – promo for Moonstruck release, review reminders, bloggers, newsletter, scheduled release day posts Noon – 1,000 more words – Blenders, book format, laying out a submission for upcoming anthology 1 pm – category/rank research, review of two submissions, created Mobi ARC for Art Inspires Words – Book One, formatting paperback Art Inspires 2 pm – break/lunch 2:30 – Bloody Bonkers format, story lay out for edits, post scheduling for VAC events 3 pm – Post scheduling for VAC, swag and promo orders for Wanderlust 4 pm – Swag 5 pm – Subscription box research 6 pm – filing for vendor status 7 pm – Submission box research 8 pm – Sept newsletter prep during dinner 9 pm – Audio book listings/audition approvals/chasing down titles to transfer/audio graphics order 10 pm – Instagram graphics order 11 pm – 1,000 words – Blenders (total of 3583 for the day – which is light), Moonstruck milestone events, pimps and release day last minutes, proofing changes to Art Inspires Words – Book One, listing changes to Art Inspires Words including metadata wide change Midnight – graphic orders, blurb edits sent/replaced, Moonstruck release 1 am – research for It Could Be Worse WIP 1:45 – tomorrow’s plan for release day promo/newsletter – blogger emails 2 am – bedtime! And tomorrow, we do it all over again!
So, Bebe – I hope this answer’s your question? Welcome to my CRAZY life!
I cannot express enough how important it is to hire a PA. Not just any PA – the right PA. While I know money is tight for indie authors, I also know this is worth it. I would rather save money in other areas than lose my PA. I’ve always felt that way and have spent only about three months of my writing career without one. Think about it: Readers are naturally going to be more inclined to invest in your work if you do. #JustSayin.
That said, at least once a week I get asked for PA recommendations. But there is no one answer. While I’m blessed to have found the perfect fit for me in Kimberly Lee, it takes time to find a PA that will both understand you goals and push you to do and be more. There are a few things you want to think about. Allow me to blurb… These are the things that were important to me:
Trust. This is the most important thing. The indie community gets bumpy. You need someone you know you can talk to openly about both your highs and lows who will celebrate with you and be an ear when things aren’t going well.
Dependability. If your PA goes missing, end the contract. Start over and find a new one. Communication is key. If you can’t depend on them to be around when they say they will or for events and release days, they are hurting you and your work – simple as that.
Availability. I’ve had PA’s who work other full time jobs. It doesn’t work for me. I need a PA who is around a lot and available when I can’t be. This is just something to consider. With that said, the same thing goes for how many authors they have. A PA who is overbooked won’t serve you as well as one with less authors.
Enthusiasm. Do they love what they do? This is something easy to spot. It’s in the extra emojis or how quickly they respond to a cover or GR TRB drop. Watch for fans and readers who stalk you. They may just be your next best friend in the indie community in more ways than you think (happened to me twice).
Eagar to learn. Authors hire PA’s because we need the help and can’t be everywhere. You want someone who will learn it on their own and isn’t afraid to reach out to more experienced marketing people to learn. This is so important!
Friendship. For some, this doesn’t matter. For me, it matters a ton. I enjoy real life chat with my PA’s and find that as I get to know them (and visa versa) it’s easier to learn how each other works. Soon, with the right relationship, you will find that you can anticipate each other’s next move – a true time saver.
Understanding of your goals, brand, and work. Many authors have street teams or groups. They rely on PA’s to keep those active. Make sure the person you select understands who you are and what your work is about.
Someone who believes in your work and is willing to push you to do more. This one speaks for itself.
How to find this epic person and what to do when you think you have?
Watch. Who buys and reviews your books? Who offers to lend a hand? Who attends your events? That may be your next PA even if they have no experience.
Ask around. Talk to authors about your potential new PA. What is their relationship like? How much do they pay? Find these things out first.
Approach. Reach out to people. What can it hurt? The worst they can say is no.
Trial period. Start with a three month trial period. Some PA’s will even do this for free. DO NOT EXPECT A FREE PA FOREVER – eventually you need to put your money behind your words and work. It’s only fair. These guys work hard and should be compensated.
Negotiate clear expectations. How much will it cost? What will they do? When will things be due? How will you communicate? When will you pay them? Iron those things out ahead of time.
Howdy, Crazies! Since becoming an indie author and now a publisher, I’ve gotten a lot of flak about being multi genre. Frankly, it makes me laugh. There are those who say that multi genre can’t work and that, in their experience, readers don’t like it. I’ve had the opposite experience. I’m not sure if it’s that my brand is built around my crazy desire to try anything once or if my readers are as eclectic and gutsy as I am, but I know what works for me and what’s been working for Crazy Ink. One of our slogans is that it takes all kinds. I believe it. While we all have our favorite genres, I think those who limit themselves to one genre in fear they will upset their readers are missing out. I like to give my readers more credit than that. People are not one dimensional. Some days, we are in the mood for something dark. But other days, we are looking for different. Just like moods, reading tastes can change from time to time and, for me, I have found that most of my readers are willing to follow me on my crazy ride. I didn’t set out to be multi genre. I did set out to write books that touched people. When I write fiction or step outside my favorite genres, it’s because I’m either in the mood to try something different or want a challenge. One of my favorite things to do is to let readers pick what book I’m writing next and/or use them as sparks to shape a story. By getting readers involved, I’ve found they feel more vested in the work and are happy to help promote and share. But that’s me. And the rumor is that I’m crazy. I’ve tried all genres. There are some I’m just not good at. Others come naturally. I don’t let that stop me. Instead, I pick up a book in the genres that are more challenging and try to figure out what authors are doing to make that genre work. Overall, I believe this stretches my writing and helps me improve. At the same time, they say you should write what you know. I agree. Stories based on real-life clients are easiest for me. They practically write themselves and I’ve been told my passion for the work I do translates to the page. I don’t get that kind of feedback in genres I have to work harder at. However, in taking risks and playing with new genres, I’m also finding that I have new favorites. My readers are experiencing this too. I believe writing is art. It gets messy and it’s all subjective. One day, I might be attracted to something abstract and another day something more realistic. I don’t think there are really any wrong answers. Part of life is trying new things and going where the moment takes you. From a publishing point of view, by taking submissions in all genres, I’m creating a bigger pool of readers to draw from. One author’s readers will soon become another’s. Because of the support and networking our authors do, they tend to share readers. I’ve watched horror authors pick up paranormal readers and visa versa through readers being brave enough to try something new. I think this is a beautiful thing. So for those who think multi genre can’t work, well, I disagree and would encourage you to stretch your wings. Give readers and yourself more credit than that. No one I know lives their life in one mood all day every day. Don’t be afraid to play with the words on the page. Like paint on a canvas, you might be surprised what comes up if you just let your imagination run and throw THE CRITIC away… Happy writing guys. Stay crazy and try new things!
Hey crazies, People who know me well are aware that organization is not exactly my best trait. While I’m generally organized enough to find things eventually, it’s my least favorite thing to do. I tend to thrive in busy-chaos mode and generally find myself running to my godsend of PA and CI Marketing Director Kimberly Lee when I need something in a hurry. For that reason, figuring out how to arrange this blog was a challenge. Then, like it always does at 3 am, it clicked. So here’s my plan: I will keep a blog document on my desktop all week and jot down topics as they come up. This way, many of the themes I cover here are relatively fresh and likely more relevant than a basic (yawn) how-to of self-publishing, publishing with an indie pub, etc. Likewise, I’ll check for comments weekly and if people have topics they want me to talk about, I can add those in too. With that said, the first thing I have to say is that I am humbled by your comments on my first post. I wasn’t sure many would even read it, let alone have such kind things to say. It feels great to know I have helped some of you along the way before you hit the doors of CI. But that wasn’t all me. This is a team effort. You had the guts to jump through the rabbit hole into Crazy Town. Your comments only inspire me to do more and better to help many talented authors who have trusted me with their words. Thank you! Anyway, back to business, because time’s a-ticking… Today, I’m going to talk about marketing yourself and confidence in your work because I continue to see this over and over again with new authors. Many of you struggle with marketing yourselves. While you may have the tools to do it and even know how, you just feel strange about asking people to buy your book. I get that. For a year, I was in the same boat. At the time, Ebony McMillan, my first PA, used to pep talk me about confidence and that my words were even worth reading. It took two full years before I even had the nerve to create an author group. That ‘thing’ that is preventing you from saying “hey, world, check my book out” is entirely normal. So *adjusts shrink hat* let’s try to think about this another way… Let’s start with naming that ‘thing.’ That ‘thing’ is now a character no different than one in your books. We’ll call it THE BLOCK. THE BLOCK is not your friend. Why? Well, this dude is BLOCKING you from your dream. THE BLOCK is no different than THE CRITIC. These ‘things’ are telling you your words aren’t worth someone’s time and that your story isn’t of value. Do you really believe that? I doubt it. Because, as an author? Well, there’s something bigger and stronger inside of you too. That’s called THE VOICE. THE VOICE, your unique voice, is a huge part of why you write. No one else could write the stories inside of you. Fiction or not, we all write from our experiences in one way or another. Whether it’s a book about what we might hope another world would be like or actual real life events altered in a way to shape a new story, authors are story tellers and most of us are just trying to make sense of this crazy ride called life. So that’s adorable, Erin. What good does naming these things do? In naming a ‘thing,’ you have the power to define it. You, like the author you are, can give your ‘thing’ power or you can take it away. You, and only you, are the one in charge of not only your stories and words but these ‘things’ that are preventing you from or begging you to get your words out into the world. Two years ago my BLOCK was a huge concrete wall. Now, that ‘thing’ is a tiny chip no bigger than the head of a pin. Yes, there are very rare days when spamming the internet with “another new release” and hearing complaints of “flooding the market” as mentioned in my previous blog bother me. There are days when I’m quite sure my high school friends or even relatives really wish I’d get a pen name or unfriend them. Oh well. The funny thing about tiny chips is that you can flick them right off. When that chip rears its head, I call in THE VOICE and ask myself why I’m doing this in the first place: Why did I write this story? What good will it do in the world? Who will benefit from it? Why is it important? Could I stop if I wanted to? #HellNo Asking myself these things always gives me the confidence to truck right along. I write because I don’t know how to stop. I have been writing since I was six years old. I write to understand myself and the world around me. I hope that I am able to touch someone, even with giving them a few hours of escape from what can often be a pretty ugly reality. It’s always important. To me and to my readers. Whether ten people read my book or a thousand, it’s important that a story that was inside me be told and that someone, somewhere, heard it. Why do you write? Fantastic, Erin, you say, rolling your eyes. I’m still not doing it. If you can’t bring yourself to it (I couldn’t) here are your options: Hire a PA, and a good one. (If you need suggestions, I have lists). A PA can do for you what you might not be confident enough to do for yourself. If I had not hired Ebony, I would not have ever written (published anyway) past book three. Ebony forced me to get out there. With every tag, I winced. Every time she had an idea like “let’s make a group,” I put her off. But slowly, she pulled me out of my shell. Don’t believe me? People? How often do I go live? I’m telling you the truth. As bold and brave as I may come across, I struggle with these things too. Find other authors who will support you. Can’t do it for yourself? Make friends with other authors and switch it up. They promote you, you promote them. Simple. But tag each other. Eventually, you will become immune and when you realize that it’s not so bad, it gets easier faster than you would think. 3.FIND YOUR VOICE. Remember that voice? The one that is stronger than THE BLOCK and THE CRITIC? Find him or her. Every person is unique. There is something special and interesting about everyone. What makes you different than most people? Take that, use that, and capitalize on that. For me, I had the crazy angle. For one, and I don’t understand this, I have often been called intimidating or “scary.” That description makes me laugh. In my real life, I wear long hippie dresses and spend my days trying to make people smile like a cartoon character. But somehow, I’m often told I’m seen as unapproachable. At first, I fought against that. Then, I tried to become that. (Mistake). Finally, I made peace with it and decided to do something with it. I took the work I do, the rumors of “this chick must be crazy to release once a month” and my own personality quirks and ran with it. I stopped trying to be someone different than I am in my real life and just started being myself. It didn’t take long before I realized that like-minded authors and readers and I naturally gravitated toward each other. This is how I built what I now fondly call my tribe. I was myself and I stopped trying to hide it and it was pretty darn scary. But it was worth it too. It afforded me freedom from THE BLOCK and THE CRITIC and helped me to slowly emerge from my shell in a pretty intimidating indie world that I knew very little about. That said, tribes come and go. People change and/or move on. That’s okay. Our voices as authors evolve too. But you will find that the people you have in your corner now may still be there three or four years down the road. I have been fortunate in this way and believe that by being yourself you can be too. I missed out on a lot in indie world by trying to be “cool” or chase ranks, readers and reviews. I’ve quickly learned that the best way to begin building a readership is to be yourself. Rank is not the end all. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient, take the time to build relationships and give yourself a break. If one person loved your story, your words were not wasted. Building a tribe works both ways. I know a lot about my most dedicated readers. I can tell you their birthdays faster than most family members. I know how many kids they have, their favorite colors, their hopes and dreams. I’ve found this part of the indie experience to be a lot of fun. Some of my closest friends now are readers I took the time to get to know. Practice in safe places. Sign up for takeovers and other events. If you are too anxious about live posting, confirm that you can schedule your posts and be there at your slot to interact with readers live. Remember, readers are there for YOU. They aren’t as scary as they may seem. True indie community readers WANT new authors to succeed. Pimp. Join a pimp group or street team for an author you admire. By practicing promoting someone you admire, you will quickly grow more confident. For me, being a beta reader and helping promote authors I admired taught me a lot. Most seasoned authors—the kind ones anyway—will be more than willing to take the time to get you up to speed and are extremely encouraging. Don’t hesitate to ask an indie author you admire for pointers or to be added to their groups. You’d be surprised how quickly they will remember being in your shoes and on the exact same road not so long ago. Remember: The only difference between an author with 100 books and an author with one is that one has been on the road longer. Most of us have the same goals, hopes, dreams and insecurities. When in doubt? Ask yourself: What would it be like if THE BLOCK and THE CRITIC took a hike? Write that down. Ask it again. Eventually, it might just be worth listening to your voice. I know I want to hear it. Readers do too. #BeLoud, #StayCrazy Until next time! Happy writing all! You can do this and the world wants your words. ;-)
If I had one word to describe the world of indie publishing, it would be crazy. Ironically, and because I believe everything really does happen for a reason, I’m fortunate enough to have a background and brand behind me that allow me to define ‘crazy’ a little differently than most. To me, crazy is not a bad word. Instead, it symbolizes creativity, chaos, and a little bit of spunk. I wouldn’t want it—or my journey—to be any different. I’ve decided to start this blog to offer new writers and potential publishers a glimpse into a very real and transparent road I’ve traveled through indie publishing. While I haven’t come close to seeing it all, as a multi-genre, hybrid author and now publisher, I have had my share of experiences. I have made many mistakes along my messy path to bringing my words to readers. At the same time, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great successes under my belt too. My point? I’m no different than you. And this journey really IS crazy. In my author group for Crazy Ink authors, I am happy to post rejection letters and share my mistakes as well as celebrate my successes. Like the company I run, I believe it takes learning from those mistakes to succeed. I will attempt to do the same here – to share with you the lessons I am learning along the way in an effort to make your journey a little smoother. I’d love to hear about your experiences and adventures too. Before I get into my epic list of mistakes (upcoming blog) let me tell you a little about myself. This is the abbreviated version of my crazy life and the roads that led me to indie publishing. I come from a background that has led well to the path I’m currently on. In my first career, I worked as a journalist. This experience gave me the ability to write quickly and keep to tight deadlines. For this reason, I am able to release books often. At the same time, authors in the indie community have accused me of “flooding the market” because of how frequently I release. To me? Well, there is no such thing. I want my and my authors’ books out there. I want the brand seen and known. I am slowly learning that you can’t please everyone and life really does, like the Crazy Ink slogan reads, “take all kinds.” For me, the more quality material I am able to feed to readers, the better. Why wouldn’t I capitalize on an asset? It only seems logical to make the most of my ability to write quickly. My and my authors’ readers are hungry and I see no need to hold back the words and stories or tease them when they are what keeps the pens moving across the page. Obviously, journalism was not where it ended. That was only my beginning. My second career was as a marketing director in a mental health agency. There, I learned about a different kind of “crazy.” It bothered me. There was stigma to the word and what surrounded it and I didn’t think it was fair. I wanted to remove the shame from the word. I wanted to do something important. I just didn’t fully know it yet. While I had enjoyed my work as a journalist, I was raising kids at the time and needed more stable hours than work at a daily newspaper as a beat reporter would afford. So, making the best of career two, I got to know the consumers who used the nonprofit agency as a resource to help them manage a variety of pretty severe pathologies. In listening to their stories and getting close-up perspectives on the struggles they faced in their daily lives, I became both fascinated and inspired. While I was gaining marketing skills I had no idea would one day lead to my starting my own crazy company, I wanted to do more than write brochures on suicide prevention. Instead, I found myself lingering in waiting rooms, getting to know clients and doing my best to offer pretty much unsolicited advice. It was the moments where a client would smile or laugh or thank me for listening that made me plan my next course of action. In 2011, I enrolled in graduate school. Because I’ve always loved children and believe any mental illness impacts family units, I decided to specialize in family therapy. During my grad school interview, I was asked what the one client population I would not be able to work with would be. I said I could not work with sex offenders. Well? Everything happens for a reason. Now, as a home-based therapist specializing in at risk families, I work with families and kids from all walks of life who are generally court-appointed. About forty percent of my cases involve allegations of sexual abuse. These families are in crisis and risk being torn apart due to neglect, abuse, and other charges. It’s my job to “fix” the situation and place kids in safe homes. I can tell you, there is never any real fix. What I’ve learned from this experience is that you can only do your best: Something I apply to my publishing work now. Another lesson for the future I didn’t see coming. Life’s crazy like that. These days, as a member of Crazy Ink Publishing, LLC, I am striving to take the skills I’ve learned in my former and current careers to celebrate life’s crazy ride. While I often write about real life cases and clients under the pen name EL George, I also enjoy escaping into fictional worlds where things aren’t so heavy. Frankly, it’s fun to take a bearded lady and turn her into a werewolf. #CircusFreakSeries. But in all honesty, my current passion is behind building the Crazy brand so that I can help both authors, mental health charities, and readers alike. To have a solid business, you need a strong plan. But you need more than that. While it is my goal to treat every author’s book like it is my own and continue that pesky old “flooding the market” gig, I also have a bigger dream. As the company grows, I intend to donate part of its proceeds to mental health advocacy. While I miss my days as a beat reporter and many of the challenging client groups I have served, I have no intention of steering away from my roots of service no matter how quickly Crazy continues to grow. I know no other way than to be curious, to ask questions, and to try to help out where I can. Crazy and chaotic or not, it is just who I am and will continue to drive the decisions I make around CIP. It is my hope that Crazy Ink will be a supportive, bully-free place where authors lift each other up and form a community where they can depend on one another. I can’t be everywhere at all times but do try to be available. I also can’t do the free therapy authors and readers alike often request of me, but I can be a listening ear. I truly believe that, together, we can do something crazy fantastic and take our readers with us on this wild ride we call publishing! So there’s a little about crazy old me and how I got here. Blurb: I’ll try anything once and generally don’t live with a lot of regret. I believe in the community we are slowly beginning to form and am honored that authors have trusted me with their dreams, passion and words. I’d love suggestions for ways you’d like me to use this blog, topics you’d like to see, and any questions you may have. I will post frequently about pitfalls and successes along the way and wish you the best in your lives, reading and writing. Thanks for hopping aboard the Crazy Train. Buckle up!