aliciareneekline.com

Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

A Year Goes By

It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up on the one year anniversary of the release of Silenced.  I joked that after writing The Intoxicated Books, I didn’t plan on writing another series for quite some time, claiming a serious series hangover.

In all honesty, it was more of an author hangover.

I’ve never been a mainstream author, shirking most of the popular conventions of the self-publishing industry and more or less doing whatever the hell I want.  I’m good with the fact that I’ll never win any popularity contests, and I’ve embraced that.  You may have noticed that by taking a quick peek at my cover art, which lacks the usual hallmarks of almost kissing lovers or bare chested specimens of hotness.  Or you flipped to the first page and realized that each book in the series began with a poem – never again on that one, because my poetry days are over.

With that in mind, I didn’t pay for advertising for the release of my fifth book.  I quietly distributed it to some trusted friends and blogger types, and sat back and sort of disappeared.  My work was done, and I had lots of other things to attend to.

The past year of my life has been largely spent living in a sort of dream world.  Sure, there were some difficulties along the way, but by and large everything has changed for the better.  Since I’ve been away, I’ve relocated to beautiful North Carolina, where we had the windows open in January.  My husband and I built the house I had admired online from six hundred miles away, and now I get to live in it.  And I also scored on the working from home front simply by becoming a trailing spouse.  Life is good.

I’ve largely been an observer in the writing community for the past twelve months, and what I’ve seen doesn’t exactly fill my heart with joy.  There’s a lot of negativity and anger on both sides of the equation.  Readers are complaining about pricing, cliffhangers, series being too long or too short, you name it.  Authors are upset about exposure, sales, reviews, whatever.  The foul smell that has risen from the depths of social media in general has permeated what used to be my happy place, and I don’t like it.

While both sides have some valid points, every time I open up Facebook or Twitter, it seems like all the content I see is depressing instead of uplifting.  True, life isn’t ever going to be perfect, but it seems like by and large we are forgetting what brought us to this party to begin with.  Books.  Characters.  Stories that keep you reading way past your bedtime.  Plots that stick with you long after the last page has been read.

Readers love to consume them.  Authors love to create them.  Right?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I am extremely blessed that I don’t have to do this for a living.  I have a fabulous job that pays the bills.  Writing is fun for me.  While I take it way too seriously to consider it my hobby, it’s not responsible for paying my mortgage, or my electric bill, or for my groceries.  If I don’t feel like writing for a weekend, or a month, or a year, I just don’t.

Case in point:  Chasing Echo was started over a year ago, so a preview could be included at the end of Silenced.  I’d originally planned to release it in December of last year, but that didn’t happen.  I’ve tinkered with it off and on over the past few months, but it’s really only about halfway done.  So I pushed the release date back to September 2017, because I can.  No big deal.  No pressure.

I realize that I’m lucky to be able to do that.  I know there’s plenty of other authors out there who have a strict release schedule, and a decision like that just wouldn’t fly.  I’ve seen apologies posted on Facebook for books being delayed a couple of weeks – like writers are afraid that they’ll lose their fan bases if they don’t deliver on what was probably an unrealistic goal in the first place.

Nobody said a damn word when I changed the release date for Chasing Echo, even though it was already up for preorder at most retailers.  Of course, since I didn’t publicize that purchase links were live, no one probably knew.  I didn’t receive any hate mail, or lose any followers, or have anyone give me any grief.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like for me if my income depended on my writing.  If by not making my original release date, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for Christmas presents, or put gas in my car, or so many other things.  I’m so glad I never have to find that out.

Realistically, even though by some people’s accounts, I’m successful at this writing gig, I know for me it’s never going to be something that I can do full time.  I’ve grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle that is in part supported by my 9-6.  I would have to consistently sell tens of thousands of books annually in order to replace that income, and that’s never, ever, going to happen.  I don’t see myself selling tens of thousands of books total before I die, and I’m only thirty-eight.  I hope I have a lot of time left to keep writing and keep selling.

So my take away from all this as I re-enter the fold is to keep doing this thing that I love.  To keep creating on whatever timeline feels right, and not worry about what impact it has on the bottom line.  For me, there is no bottom line, and there won’t ever be.

I began writing when I was young, much like the cliched story that most of us author types tell.  It took me until 2012 to have the guts to actually do it for others to potentially read.  But ultimately, I do this for myself.  Somehow, I’m fortunate enough to have amassed a readership, however small, because of it.

So my promise to you is that I’ll keep doing it my way.  The positive way.  The way that my stories and my characters deserve.  And I can assure you, what you’ll get will be something worth waiting for.

Sandbagging

It’s a new year, and with that comes a myriad of goal setting.  I’m not too big on the whole resolution making bandwagon, but this year I did decide to set a goal on Goodreads for their annual Reading Challenge.

I wasn’t as involved with Goodreads at the beginning of 2014, pretty much being there in name only.  As last year progressed, I forced myself into a new habit of reviewing every fiction book that I read.  By the time I phased into that mode, it was really too late to set a reading goal for the year.  So I didn’t.

But this year is different.  One of the first things that I did when I logged into Goodreads come January was to set my goal.  Which is?  A measly 50 books.  In comparison with some of my friends on the site, this goal makes  me look almost illiterate.  I have a friend who – no joke – has set her goal this year for 175 books. Knowing her, I trust that she can do it.

In all honesty, 50 books is a lowball number for me.  I was thinking about going with 52, just to make it one book a week.  That is very easily doable for me, but I cringed at having a silly random number up there for public view.  And I certainly didn’t want to set some pie in the sky number and have others watch my epic fail.  So 50 it is.  We’ll see how quickly I reach that, and how much further I go past it this calendar year.

As it stands right now (January 4th), I’ve already read 2 books towards this goal and have ceremoniously started the third.  What this entails is scrolling through my massive collection of unread books and deciding what is up next, then committing to it.  This means that I’m already 4% of the way there.

It’s not uncommon for me to read three books a week when I’m on a roll.  Sometimes the book gods smile down on me and grace me with a streak of pageturners and I’m in the zone.

In the same vein, it’s also not unusual for me to fall into a book slump.  Since I hate leaving things unfinished, I’ll muddle through to the bitter end of something that’s not a good fit for me.  Undoubtedly, these books take me longer to complete and sometimes require a cooling off period before starting something else.

And let’s not forget that I’m still going to be creating some masterpieces of my own. The release date has been set for Book 4, so I’ll be working on perfecting and marketing that, as well as writing the final installment of the series (sniff!).    Couple that with life in general:  family time, our annual summer vacation, my 9-6, and it’s frankly mind-blowing that I have enough hours in the day to sleep, let alone read for enjoyment.

But somehow I do manage.  And while I’m sure my tally come December will surpass the 50 book mark, I’m just as certain that I won’t reach 175.

Have you set a goal on Goodreads for your Reading Challenge?  Is it conservative, optimistic, or just plain crazy?  I’d love to hear how others decide what number they post for all to see…

One Size Fits All

Self-publishing is not a one size fits all endeavor.  Yet there are quite a few out there who seem to think that those that venture on this path should follow the same basic guidelines.  No, I’m not talking about formatting practices (use Times New Roman, add this copyright terminology, don’t indent your paragraphs if you’re going to separate them with spacing, etc.).  I’m referring to those that boldly state “If you haven’t done this, that and the other, then you are NOT READY to publish!”

Okay, I added the exclamation point for emphasis.  And the capital letters.  Because to me, it feels like some of these individuals are screaming at the masses in order to get their point across.  In other words, if you’re not doing it the way they are, then you don’t deserve to be playing the game.

I’m all for those who have walked the path of self-publishing to share their experiences and their wisdom with those who ask for it.  For the most part, there is a strong sense of community between indie authors.  I know I’ve learned a lot from some of the people that I’ve “met”, and I’ve heard a time or two from others that I’ve helped them as well.  That’s great – it’s how this is supposed to work.

But time and again, I run across postings or tweets from people whose advice seems not helpful in nature, but condescending.  And it sort of sours my outlook on things for a moment.  After all, self-publishing is supposed to be as involved as you want it to be.  Which by default means that it’s perfectly acceptable to upload something with minimal – if any – polishing work done.

I’m ready for the hate from the diehards in the community that proclaim anything that hasn’t been run by a professional editor is a load of excrement.  I can hear it now.   Wait – you didn’t have anyone other than your best friend and your sister beta read for you?  Into the slush pile with you!  Your book automatically sucks!  You did your cover art yourself?  Shame on you!

Truth be told, not everyone who self-publishes does this as a second career.  There is a very large contingent of people who do see this as a hobby and nothing more.   Hard to believe, I know, but they exist just the same.  Instead of slapping them with wet noodles, they should be embraced as well.

Me, I’m somewhere in between.  I spend way too much time on this writing gig for it to be a hobby.  I file a Schedule C.  I claimed a business loss.  I stress over character development and marketing.  I look at the statistics on my website almost every day, counting hits and seeing which posts draw the most views.  I’m a sales report stalker.

At the same time, I’m not about to mortgage my house to write a book.  The money that I lost was money that I could afford to spend.  I’m also not going to ask people I barely know to fund my dreams.  It’s all on me and I’m good with that.  For that reason, I’m never going to shell out thousands of dollars on a novel that will likely never see enough sales to break even on that expense.  Throwing money at the wall doesn’t make sales appear.  A good book does.  Word of mouth does.  A bit of luck helps, too.

We don’t need self-proclaimed indie gatekeepers telling us what to do.  I’m happy to share retail space with the guy who charges $10.99 for his short story.  And the lady who wrote a book that includes ten typos in the first chapter – she doesn’t bother me either.  We all have the right to be here.  Readers will vote with their pocketbooks and their downloads.  The world will be a better place.

Success is a subjective thing.  Maybe if we were focused on what that meant to us personally and we weren’t so worried about what the writer next to us was doing, we might find a little bit more of it.