What is a Patreon, and Why Do I have One?

Last month, I had lunch with a good friend who is an author, too–she lives in New England, so we don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like. She was just returning from the San Francisco Uncon, and she had a lot to share with me.

One of the suggestions she had for me, personally, was to consider starting a Patreon page. Since I didn’t know much about it, I did some investigation. You might know that centuries ago, in Venice and Rome and other settings of classical art and literature, rich patrons would sponsor artists who otherwise might not have been able to survive on what they were earning through their art. This was a wonderful way for the patrons to be part of the creative process, even if they themselves weren’t gifted to create in a particular way.

Patreon operates under the same principle. For those of us who struggle to make ends meet on the money earned by our art, it’s a constant battle between creating and worry. Patreon allows us to offer incentives to supporters who will agree to pledge a certain monthly amount.

And so . . . I have a Patreon page. It’s brand new, having just launched on April 1st. I hope you’ll check it out; I’m pretty excited about the concept. My hope is that I can garner enough support to give me a little breathing room during those months when sales flounder or when I need to beef up my advertisement a bit (read: advertise at ALL).

I didn’t do this lightly. Newsflash: I HATE asking people for money. Hate it. Truth to tell, if I could live without food, a home and internet, I’d write my books and give them away. But I can’t live without those things, nor can my family. So I’m swallowing a shit-load of pride and asking people who CAN afford it to consider supporting the arts and the artist.

I am fully aware that artists are not the only people who struggle with a month that is longer than our paychecks or bank accounts allow. So I don’t expect everyone to jump onto this bandwagon. But I would love it if people who can’t support could SHARE so that perhaps others might consider joining.

I’ve modeled the levels of support on the basis of romance, so there’s First Love ($3), Going Steady ($5), Time for a Ring ($25), Wedding Bells ($50), Golden Anniversary ($100), Always and Forever ($500). Each level has its own set of rewards.

Please DO jump over there and look at the page . . . and consider supporting and/or sharing. Both are appreciated.

Support the Arts Here!

 

Author On The Edge: Why the publishing business can be tough on your mental health

As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. It was my first ambition, and I wrote my first book in grade school, submitted it to Harper & Row and received my first rejection postcard. I wasn’t deterred, though. I knew, with the sort of certainty only an eleven-year-old can muster, that I was destined for authorhood.

Life got in the way of that dream, replacing it with other equally as dear and important dreams. I went through school, got married and became a mother. I used my passion for writing in other areas of life, like editing my kids’ school papers, my husband’s work and our churches’ newsletters. I wrote homeschooling curriculum during the years we homeschooled our kids.

When the universe finally worked things out that I had the time and attention to give to fiction again, I was forty-one years old. The same year I finished my first novel was a pivotal year in the publishing industry, because Amazon had released the Kindle in 2007, and KDP had joined Smashwords and other smaller outlets that made publishing a book on your own possible. However, indie publishing wasn’t mainstream yet. I didn’t even consider going my own way until I’d tried everything I could on the traditional side of publishing.

But in December of 2011, I took the plunge and became part of the indie publishing wave. I have no regrets about making that choice. It has allowed me freedom and control and the ability to shape my career in a way that works for me. I wouldn’t change that path to go the traditional route for anything in the world.

And yet . . .

The last six and a half years have contained some of my highest high points–the proudest moments of my life aside from marrying my husband and delivering my four children. I’ve seen my books climb charts. I’ve seen stories that started as a momentary bit of fantasy in my brain morph into words on a page, both paper and electric. I’ve interacted with readers who told me that my stories helped them or cheered them or helped bring them closure. I’ve met readers who have become friends. I’ve met authors who have become friends.

But these years have also contained some of my lowest lows, days of doubts and fears and so much anguish that I wasn’t sure I could go on. There have been so many weeks when I was sure I wasn’t good enough and never would be. There have been months when I’ve felt like the biggest failure as not only an author and businesswoman, but also as a mother and wife, because I’ve dedicated so much time to my work that I have missed out on things with my family.

One of the great things about indie publishing is the community, and I have been blessed to sit at the virtual feet of some of the authors I have admired for a long time. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for all of it. At the same time, though, one thing I’ve learned is that everyone is on her own path, and so when I ask for advice, it might not be exactly what I need. It might not work for me. It might–but there’s just as good a chance that it won’t.

I’ve increased how often I release . . . only to be told that real success comes from making readers eager and anxious for the next story by releasing less frequently. So I’ve slowed releases.

I’ve increased prices to show that I value my work . . . only to be told that free or 99 cents is a better way to go.

I’ve tried different genres of romance when one didn’t work well, only to be told that I need to stick with one so as not to dilute my branding.

I’ve joined groups where authors with quantified success tell others how to translate what they did into similar success. I’ve read the books everyone says we should read. I’ve listened to the podcasts and gone to the conferences and taken advice.

I’ve tried Facebook ads, BookBub ads, AMS ads, only to be told that advertising is pointless. I’ve spent what is to me a lot of money, and I’ve seen almost no results, because, I’m told, I need to spend more to see more.

I’m not someone who has to be led, who needs someone to tell me what to do. I’m strong-minded. I’ve raised three strong daughters and one strong son, and I’ve run a household, I’ve handled my parents’ very complex estates, I’ve been an Army wife who can organize a move, a dinner party and emergency care for disasters.

But this is breaking me.

I’ve had down times in the past. But nothing has been as bad as the past few months. You see, until last January, while my book income was definitely helpful, it wasn’t crucial. Now it IS. Now, we live and eat and pay all our bills on that book income. And that income isn’t growing with each new release–in fact, despite the fact that I work an average of nearly 20 hours a day 6-7 days a week, that income is dropping steadily. It’s the way the business is trending. There are too many authors, too many books and too much noise. Some of us are still doing well, but some of us are not.

Talk about pressure . . .

Am I whining? Maybe. Am I complaining when I shouldn’t? Maybe. Do others have it much worse? Oh, without a doubt. No question. I know this.

But this is my reality and my struggle. My path. I also know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to authors who are feeling the same, authors who are wondering if they can make it.

Brutal honesty time: I have been questioning, over the last few weeks, if this is worth it. I wonder if it’s time to give up on the dream, stop subjecting myself to the constant rollercoaster ride that is releases and promotions and sales numbers. I’ve been closer to complete despair in the last month than I have been in over two decades.

I’ve been writing this post for a while. I’ve almost deleted it more than once. If I do share it, the only reason will be so that another author who is out there struggling as I am will know she is not alone.

Today, I’m not giving up. Today, I’ll write some more words, and I’ll do something for my next release (my 59th release, which is this coming Saturday, on my 51st birthday). Today, I’ll chat with my reader friends and I’ll hope something I say makes a difference. I’ll reach out to other authors and try to help.

For one more day, I’ll believe that something, somewhere, is finally going to work, not only for me, but for all the dreamers who keep on working and hoping.

Riding the Changing Tides

The one constant in life is change.

It’s a saying just odd enough to be true, and it is. The only thing we can rely on happening in our lives, no matter our age, our wealth or lack thereof, where we live or how we live, it won’t stay the same. Oh, elements of it might; the big things might not shift today, or maybe they will. Or the small details might remain static for a time. But trust me, the time will come when change will come to you, whether from an outside force or from deep within your being.

I was going to say that 2017 has been a year of change for our family, and it has been. But then again, so was 2014, and to some extent, 2015. The difference was that those were smaller, less-perceptible shifts. This year, we had two types of change: one that took us by surprise (mostly) and required adjustment after the fact. The other type we could see from a distance and prepare for its arrival.

Sort of.

My husband’s parting from the church wasn’t a shock, but it was a surprise, and what happened in the aftermath put all of us through an emotional wringer. The departure of our youngest daughter, Cate, for college in Maine was neither a shock nor a surprise. We’d known since she began her career at Seminole State College that she’d be transferring somewhere for her last two years of school. There was a possibility that it might have been in-state, at University of Florida, but once she won the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, that choice dropped down the list. Her number one pick was Unity College in Maine, and that is where she’s going.

If you haven’t looked at a map in a while, Maine is just about as far as you can get from Florida and still stay on the Eastern seaboard. It’s a 21+ hour drive. Cate won’t be popping home for quick weekend visits. I won’t be driving up there to have lunch with her mid-week when she’s struggling with a class or a situation. Once we drive away next Sunday–a week from tomorrow–I probably won’t see her until Thanksgiving.

Now, this isn’t the first time she’s gone away. After graduating from homeschool a year early, she took a gap year and spent it with a family in Gettysburg, where she worked and learned and grew. She was gone from February through August that year. But somehow, that was different. That year, I saw her in March and in May and in July. I can get to Gettysburg in a one-day drive; I’ve done it. Plus, she was living with the Youngs, who quickly became her second family, in an area that was familiar, only about two hours from our South Jersey family.  That was different than sending her to a place where she knows not a soul, will be living in a dorm situation for the first time ever and will be mostly on her own.

Cate is the youngest girl in our family, so this isn’t the first time we’ve experienced change. Our oldest daughter has been married six years, and that was an adjustment, but she and her husband live about 30 minutes away, and we are blessed that we see them about every week. Our other two are still at home, and we are very cognizant how lucky we are to still have them here. We won’t be empty-nesters for a while.

Last night, we went down to Disney World to see the fireworks and meet with the some friends so Cate could say good-bye to them. I stood there at the Polynesian, watching the display of lights, and I thought back ten years, to the summer we moved to Florida. I’ve written about that time before. My parents had both just died, within a year of each other. In the two weeks following my mother’s passing, our oldest daughter graduated from high school, we moved both our home and my mother’s to our new house in Florida. We said good-bye to the place that my husband and I had both called home from childhood, and where we’d lived for thirteen years.

Talk about change!

I used to say that the first year after we’d move was all about healing, and it was. But looking back now, I think actually the past ten years have been about healing . . . and growing. Ten years ago, I hadn’t written a book. I’d never been anything but a stay-at-home homeschooling mom and a wife. Ten years ago, Clint worked for a paint company and dreamed of going to seminary. Ten years ago, our kids were 18, 15, 11 and 6.

In many ways, an outsider might assume that our lives won’t be changed too much by Cate leaving for college. All of the bedrooms in our small house will still be occupied. We’ll still have four around the dinner table. We’ll probably stick to a similar routine and lifestyle.

But it’s in the small, precious parts of life that her absence will be most keenly felt. Often, Cate and I are the first two awake, and we’ve had deep, heart-wrenching, laughter-provoking, tear-laden, hysterical conversations around the breakfast table, over coffee. I know the house will be quieter, because Cate sings all the time, and never at a low volume. I know I’ll miss her quick drive-by hugs, her “I love you, Mama”s dropped into my lap at unexpected moments. I’ll miss her insights into what she’s reading, something she heard, something she learned . . . I’ll even miss her yelling at the cats.

In many ways, Cate is the daughter I’ve had the most combat with–when she was sixteen, she struggled with friend issues, with the need for freedom and with finding herself. She had the hardest adjustment when we moved from New Jersey to Florida. But those times of frustration for both of us somehow only made us closer. She’s the daughter who cries with me when I miss my parents. She’s the one who calls me on it when I’m being unreasonable or outright wrong. Cate speaks the truth to the best of her ability, and while it isn’t always what I want to hear, it always makes me think.

I’m so freaking proud of her. I know she is going to completely rock the rest of her college career. I know she is going adjust to life in Maine and love it. Her passion and drive may very well change the world. I want to encourage her with everything I have, and I will.

But I won’t say I won’t be sad. I won’t say the change won’t take some adjusting. Watching the fireworks last night, thinking over the last ten years and looking ahead to the next, I wondered what they might bring: weddings? Grandchildren? More farewells, both expected and otherwise? Probably yes, to all of the above.

I think the best way to cope with change that I’ve found is with gratitude. I can’t control what happens, but I can be appreciative of my blessings. I am so glad Cate was home these past two years for the start of her college career. It was wonderful to be part of that time. I’m grateful that my children not only love each other but truly like each other, and that they are all dreading this time of parting. If they didn’t mind it, it would be even sadder. I’m grateful that I made the decision to slow down at the start of the summer. The time I had with all of the family is something I’d never want to miss. I’m grateful for our week at the beach, for the laughter, the walks on the beach, the swimming, the movies, the food . . . I’m grateful that even when our lives and futures feel tenuous, we can rely on each other.

I have to go back to Supernatural for a quotation that says it best:

Other things may change us. But we start and end with family. 

The glamorous life of an author . . .

I’ve begun to write this about five times, and each time, I’ve quit. It didn’t feel right. But today, an odd juxtaposition of events made me think that maybe it’s time.

This is brutal honesty here, folks. This isn’t woe-is-me angst, nor is it a complaint or whining or begging for sales. It’s simply a state of the union post–the union between author and readers, and the union between all of us in this world.

I’m an author. I’ve been published for five and a half years. I have over fifty books in my backlist. I work hard. This is my only paid job, and I take it seriously.

I release between 6-8 books each year, sometimes more, sometimes less. This year, I’ve released eleven already, with at least three more new material-books planned as well as several additional box sets.

I love my readers. Oh, you have no idea! I adore them. They make me laugh, make me cry with happiness; they boost me up when I’m at the end of my rope, and they come see me when I travel. I couldn’t do this without them.

Like many other authors, I’ve been experiencing a trouble drop in sales over the past seven or eight months. Now, don’t get me wrong. I never was among the top-list six-figures-a-year earners, but I used to do all right. More recently, the harder I work, the less I earn.

It’s okay, because I love what I do. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone . . . but I’d do it for free.

I just don’t think I should have to do it for free.

Out there in the larger world, there are apparently a few misconceptions about how much most authors earn and the so-called glamour of our lifestyle. Over the last few weeks, I realized just how widespread that misunderstanding is.

A few weeks ago, I received a flurry of emails from people who had signed up for my newsletter. I have in place an automation system, as do many authors; readers who subscribe are offered four of my first-in-series books free, as a thank you. Now of course, I hope they will want to read the rest of the books in those series! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

The emails I received, though, were from readers who were unhappy with this situation. Several told me that they were displeased with the provider I use for the freebies. Others wanted the other books free. A couple told me they’d already read one of the freebies and demanded that they receive another book in its place.

When I responded to one, explaining that there wasn’t much I could do if the freebie provider didn’t work for her, the answer floored me. She said berated me for being a selfish author, saying, “It’s just an ebook. It didn’t cost you anything to write it. With what you’re charging, you can afford to give these away.”

Huh.

Of course, there’s a lot wrong with what she said. It did cost me something to write that book. It took me many hours of my own time. Factor in proofreading, formatting and cover art, and an ebook isn’t exactly free. Consider things like promotion and publicity.  Now, I’m fortunate that I can swap for some of those services and that my formatter is amazing and kind, but still . . . the effort that goes into any book isn’t free.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time that I’ve received messages or emails like this. But this time, I got a bunch, and then . . .

All of that was on my mind when something else happened. In fact, it happened more than once in a relatively short span of time. My husband is in ministry, and just now, he is without paid employment after the church where he’d been a priest eliminated his position in January of this year. (That’s a longer story, and if you want to know about it, check out the faith blog I’m part of, A Pen and A Prayer.)

We’ve been tremendously blessed by so many during this difficult time. I am filled with gratitude. But within the last few weeks, I realized that some people had a misconception about how we’re doing. Those who are close to us know the score, but some a little farther removed reacted with surprise when my husband confessed that we’re struggling financially. Apparently, they assumed that as an author, I was raking in the big bucks. They figured that with my job, it was okay that Father Clint wasn’t earning anything. Maybe they’ve read about the big advances authors used to receive, or maybe they have no idea what it means to be an indie author. Maybe they figured all authors are millionaires.

Um . . . no.

I’ve spoken about this situation with friends in other professions. Clearly it is not a misconception limited to the arts–and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it, too.

Not all doctors are rolling in the dough.

Not all attorneys are filthy rich.

Not all athletes are pulling in seven figures.

And not all authors are leading the glamorous life. <cue Sheila E.>

So what’s the point of this rambling post?  I guess it’s multi-pointed.

First, please don’t de-value any artists’ work by asking that it be given to you free. If it is offered that way, great! Take it with thanks. I love to share books with the loyal readers who support me and enjoy my work. I have no problem doing that. But never assume that an artist can afford to give it away, and please don’t belittle us for expecting some kind of compensation for our chosen profession.

Second, never assume that you know anyone’s situation. The author signing books at your favorite event may be eating ramen noodles for a month to afford the table at that signing. The family next door whom you assume is just fine might be barely scraping by in reality. More people than we know are a missed paycheck away from serious problems. Maybe you’re one of us, too. That doesn’t give either of us the right to make assumptions about others. Let’s agree we won’t do that.

Instead, let’s go around each day, relating to each other while holding onto to the premise that no one’s life is perfect, that we’re all dealing with crap on one level or another, and that by offering understanding instead of judgement, we just might make this world a nicer place.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Announcing the #MeetCute Books!

 

Boy meets girl. It’s the way romances usually begin . . . and while we all love a happy ending, it’s the #MeetCute that wins our hearts.
How did you two meet?
The #MeetCute Books each have a unique answer to that query. Some might make you swoon, others might make you giggle . . . and some may make you blush.
Twelve authors. Twelve stand-alone contemporary romance novels. Twelve stories that will make your heart beat a little faster.
Because it’s all about the #MeetCute.
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We are excited to announce the #MeetCute Books!
Starting on June 27th, we’ll release one #MeetCute Book a month for a year. The release months and featured authors (and titles if available) are below. Please visit all the authors and get to know them, if you’re not already a fan–this is a treasure trove of romance talent right here!
July: Rene Folsom BY CHOICE (A Playing Games Spin-Off Novel)
September: K.S. Thomas
November: Sylvie Fox WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
December: Lyssa Layne DEUCE OF HEARTS
January: Anne Conley KISS OF FORTUNE
February: Lisa Hughey
May: JK Rivers  IT HAPPENED ON A TUESDAY
Visit our website to find out about the latest releases, cover reveals and more! Like our Facebook page to keep up.  And sign up for our #MeetCute Books Breaking News  so that you never miss a release or update–or a special prize!
The first release under the #MeetCute Books logo is FIFTY FROGS by Tawdra Kandle. More information about this book will be on our website and newsletter on May 2nd . . . and the awesome cover will be revealed on May 16th.
(But psssst . . . it’s already up for preorder on iBooks. You can read the blurb there!)
Until then . . . keep it #cute!
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