20Booksto50k Conference in Vegas - I Found My Tribe
Before I jetted off to Vegas, I tried to go through the lists of classes/seminars offered at 20Books. It was amazing, and overwhelming, and I was struggling with the question.
What question? Well, the one that Craig Martelle, the main man in organizing the conference, had posed to the group.
What do you want to get from this conference?
Once I landed in Vegas, the answer was basically, "I want to meet people like me."
Well, Chiquita Banana, I was in luck! There were, what, nearly 2,000 people just like me there.
Word nerds. Dreamers. Doers. People who have characters show up, sit down, and start talking to them. Sometimes even in their dreams.
We didn't write the same genres. Not by a long shot. I met authors who dabbled (or ran full throttle) in every genre imaginable - sci-fi, erotica, fantasy, women's fiction, cozy mystery, military sci-fi, urban fantasy, thrillers, horror, romance, and so much more.
Don't get me wrong, the seminars were great too. But honestly? It was seeing real, live humans who do what I do, WRITE, that really made my day. And they were all levels - folks still working on their first book, seasoned professionals hoping to take it to the next level, and everyone in between.
It lit a fire under my butt and got all those pesky synapses a'firing in my head.
This TED Talk about talking to strangers resonated especially with me. As an introvert, stepping outside of my comfort zone, going to a strange city and sitting with strangers was a challenge, but I pushed it even further. I decided I would talk to whoever I sat next to, that I would boldly seek out new connections, even invite strangers to dinner (something I found even more effective than meeting others in the same-genre meetups).
It worked out well. So well that a friend posted on Facebook and said I had lost my introvert status and just had to admit I had changed sides. I haven't, but it made me smile.
When Covid hit, I joked that I was living my best life. Suddenly, it was perfectly acceptable to stay inside and never see people. Never leave my home? Sounds wonderful! And I did manage to publish four books in a 12-month period once I put my mind to it.
So, yes, I'm still an introvert, albeit a high-functioning one with extraverted abilities for a short period of time. There were daily "Oh God, I need to go to my hotel room and take a break for a while" moments. I accepted them, indulged in self-care, and then jumped back into it. In the end, on the last day, I was conflicted as I flew away. In some ways, I wish I could spend every day with my fellow writers, and in others, I missed my family and some degree of solitude.
I was also deliciously reassured by the look in others' eyes - that half-panicked look of "What the hell am I doing here and how do I cope with so many other people around me?" I have a theory that writers are around 90% introverts. And believe me, it showed. It was an awkwardness in the very air - one I was determined to not let deter me.
I hope to return next year and perhaps the year after that I'll have progressed enough to be one of the presenters. I would love to present a seminar on cross-genre success. A girl can dream!
Mountains to Climb
I returned from the writer's conference with my head spinning and full of ideas. Two especially have come to the forefront.
I received feedback on my website that helped... a lot. I also talked with a couple of industry professionals and quickly realized a chunk of my disposable income would be gobbled up if I outsourced a website. The ideas and concepts my fellow word nerds and the website developers shared with me were excellent, though.
"The color scheme doesn't match your books and none of your books match each other, so..."
"I couldn't find an author photo when I pulled up your website."
"Not all of your books are listed, and some go to the wrong links."
"For cross-genre authors like yourself, I suggest using a plainer website, one that keeps the focus on the books themselves."
A good friend had handled the design a year ago and I was pleased with the results, but I quickly realized from the feedback at the conference that I needed to make some changes. So I've spent most of the past weekend cobbling together something that resembles the websites I was seeing. One that a potential reader will hopefully find easy to navigate and purchase from - either directly from me using Payhip or clicking on a link that sends them to Amazon.
Check it out. Tell me if there is any weirdness. I'm still working on a couple of pieces of it, and I'm hoping to roll out my short stories again as well, so there is more coming soon! Hopefully, this will work for me until such time as I have the funds for a full professional build.
Marketing, and more specifically, running ads, are my least favorite part of being an Indie author. That said, I'll be diving in again.
The Dollars Out vs. the Dollars In
Last year at around this time, I committed to a year's worth of expenses - some $4,500 - which included covers, editing, the writer's conference, software, and education. All in the service of becoming a better, and more prolific writer.
So far in 2021, I've spent: $3,928 and I've earned $1,164.94 for a let loss of $2,761.14 (and that's not counting two months of income. Obviously, I need to turn loss into gain - otherwise, this whole writing gig is nothing more than a lovely hobby.
That said, I also need to invest in some ads and hopefully see my sales grow. Folks can't buy books if they don't know they are there. I've committed $4,500 of 2022 additional funds to my already $1,100 in total expected sales for 2021 and I'm determined to take on one ads project at a time, starting with the War's End series. Different genres need different sets of attention. Here's hoping that I can figure it out this time!
What Comes Next
My plans for 2022 include:
Getting over/pushing through my panic over recording my own audiobooks
Outpacing expenses with income - a positive balance instead of a negative one!
At least four more books written and published by the end of the year. Five, if you include Winter's Child
And if at all possible, taking my income to a level where I can easily outsource all of the Airbnb cleanings, fund the renovations of Cottage East (without having to do it myself) and focus only on writing and marketing.
What is it about audiobooks and recording, editing and publishing my own that has me in such a dither? I'm not sure, but the fear is there and very strong. I need to get over it, because honestly, I can't afford to keep hiring it out to freelancers. So pushing past the fear of failure, of screwing up, of not knowing what I can't know without actually, you know, doing the deed - it's essential.
I want to bring my income into the black, and I think that, with a little bit of luck and good positioning, I can do it. I'm treating each of my books/series as if they were my one and only since they are, in fact, different genres. So first I'll work on War's End, then move to the Benton Security Services series after I have a third book out, and G581 will be in the mix as well.
Four, possibly five books by the end of next year. I need to finish Winter's Child, then turn my attention to the 3rd book in the Benton Security Services series (I have at least 14 planned), and then wrap up my Gliese 581 series with G581: Zarmina's World. After that, I've got some options turning around in my mind - a couple of non-fiction projects, a 4th book in the Benton Security Services series, or possibly the first book in my New Adult Portal Fantasy series that I've written about 2/3 of.
I sat down and examined my income from the short-term rentals and realized that I'll likely surpass $13,000 just in cleaning fees for 2021. I would love to outsource this, and focus wholly on writing, but to do that, I need to earn at least $2-$3k per month net in writing income for it to make sense. So that's kind of my expanded financial goal for my writing this year. You know, take it from $1,200 gross earned for an entire year to $24-36k net. No biggie! So, realistically, this will likely take longer than all of 2022 to accomplish, but I'm setting the dream down here for now.
Let's face it, folks, I've put a pretty nice setup in place. I have to walk all of 100 feet to get to work each day. And it rarely takes me more than an hour to finish cleaning both the Airstream and Cottage West. It isn't a ton of work, but it does lock me in to being here, seven days a week, from 11am-1pm.
I've also returned to the idea of creating a sound studio in the attic of Cottage West, so once that is done (hopefully before the end of the year) and the little one starts daycare full-time in January, I will be able to begin experimenting and quickly learn the ropes and record those audiobooks. Considering that the five audiobooks I have out bring in over 28% of my income for 2021, it will be well worth it to get the other five recorded as soon as possible. And add the audiobook format along with the ebook, paperback and hardcover as I go forward.
Yes, Another Soup Recipe!
All this soup? You can blame it on my mom. I brought her some of the Middle-East-inspired lentil soup and she couldn't stop talking about how good it was. And that inspired me to make soup today. Combine that with the pound of hamburger in the fridge that definitely needed to be used, a birthday party scheduled for Saturday (where there will be adults who definitely need something better than ice cream and cake), and my natural laziness of not wanting to have to figure out what to do with 1/2 pounds of hamburger and pork sausage - and I decided to make a DOUBLE recipe of Italian Wedding soup.
Which means I'm going to be eating soup until the cows come home. This soup tastes so doggone good, though, I can't see the downside at all. Make the soup and I'm sure you will agree. While I did double it, I'm giving you the UN-doubled recipe below. Believe me, that's more than enough soup for anyone unless you are trying to feed an army. I'm pretty sure I will be freezing some of this soup.
Note: I shop at Aldi's for 95% of my groceries and there certainly wasn't any acini de pepe pasta there. I bought a six pack of boxes (basically 1 box = 2 batches of soup) on Amazon. Or you can hunt down orzo and use that as well.
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 carrots, sliced
1 diced onion
2 ribs of celery sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced (1 1/2 Tbsp)
10 cups chicken broth
1 cup acini de pepe or orzo pasta, uncooked
6 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
Shredded parmesan, for serving
Mix all meatball ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Mix by hand until well combined.
Shape into small meatballs, no more than 3/4 - 1 inch in size.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add half of the meatballs, cook until browned, turning occasionally, for about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Meatballs won't be completely cooked, but they will continue to cook through in the soup. Repeat until all meatballs have been browned. Set meatballs aside.
Chop/mince onions, garlic, celery, and carrots and saute in the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat for around 6-8 minutes.
Add broth, pasta, and meatballs and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook for ten minutes or until pasta is tender. Add chopped spinach, mix in and remove from heat.
Serve with a touch of shredded parmesan on top.
I am reading a book I picked up in Dollar Tree of all places. Freeks by Amanda Hocking. It's billed as paranormal YA, but I'm enjoying it immensely. A lot of the Young Adult and New Adult fiction out there remains interesting, even though those days have long passed.
Here is the blurb...
Mara has become used to the extraordinary. Roaming from place to place with Gideon Davorin's Traveling Carnival, she longs for an ordinary life where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future.
She gets her chance when the struggling sideshow sets up camp in the small town of Caudry, and she meets a gorgeous local guy named Gabe. But before long, Mara realizes there's a dark presence lurking in the town that's threatening the lives of her friends. She has seven days to take control of a power she didn't know she had in order to save everyone she cares about—and change the future forever.
Every time the little one needs feeding or cuddling, I curl up on the sofa and pick up the book. What are you reading? Let me know in the comments below!
That's all the news that's fit to print, folks. Have a fantastic Turkey Day!
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