Learning to Be an Author Entrepreneur

This afternoon my son and I went for a walk in the freezing cold spring sunshine. We looked at the amazing houses in our neighbourhood and discussed what our dream house would look like. He said his room would have a pool. I said cleaning his room would then also involve cleaning the pool. (This room is probably too girly for him.)

c30b30d98a3568ffe0fc4b89c612e268

As we passed this one incredible looking place with a trampoline in the garden, he asked me when I would make enough money from my book to let us live in a place like that.

I think my response was a cross between a ‘heh’ and an ‘um.’

Houses like that go for around the equivalent of $1,000,000.

Minimum.

I think we’re a long way off that.

But at least I can definitely say that I’ve made more money from my book in the last five months than I have in the previous two years.

And it’s all down to five things.

All things I wish I’d known when I started trying to be an author entrepreneur.

All things it took me a long time to learn.

All things I’m going to start sharing.

I hope that someone will benefit from my experience and won’t have to wait two years to see people read their book. Because there really is nothing like seeing that people are reading your book.

I’ll get back to working on that. After I check my Amazon stats again.

When Outlander Was Cross Stitch

Many years ago my mother bought a book in an airport. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I seem to recall it being one of those times when a flight was delayed for three hours.

For years, she tried to get me interested in reading this book. It was called Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon. But the premise of a time-travelling love affair didn’t quite grab the teenage me. I’m not entirely sure why, probably some form of teen rebellion because my mother loved it so much. Real little trouble maker, me.

I remember trying to read it at one point, but I was never really able to get into it. If I change my mind, I know where it is. It’s always on her bedside table.

Now it’s on Netflix as Outlander. Ever since it came out she’s talked about it and I’ve promised to watch it. Finally, this weekend, she forced me to sit down with her and pay attention.

I did enjoy it. I’ve kept watching it.

But it got me thinking about readers. About how some books can stay with a reader for years. About how a reader can envision the characters you create and bring them to life in their imagination. About how attached we can become to the books we treasure. We keep them with us through the bad times and the good. They offer familiarity and comfort. They inspire us, move us, make us laugh, make us cry.

The books we truly love become a part of who we are.

That’s what we dream of as writers. That one day one of our books will mean that much to someone that they always know where it is. That it will become a book they turn to for comfort, inspiration.

I know I’ll never write that book for my mother, because in everything I write she immediately sees me.

But I’d love to write that special book for someone else.

Writing Lessons I Learned From Gardening Part II

This afternoon, before the rain came back, I spent a couple of hours pulling up dead flowers. At least I think they were flowers. I remember doing the same thing last year, but I can’t remember exactly what they looked like when they bloomed.

Well, whatever they were, lots of bending down, pulling up and generally making sure that things were less wild looking by the time I finished.

Sometimes your story takes off in a strange direction. Into the wild. For a while you think it all makes perfect sense and adds to the beauty of the whole. But then you go back to it and realise that everything you thought was so fantastic is now just so many dead twigs.

Not weeds, but not something that you want in your story at this point.

Perhaps they belong in another story entirely. Somewhere they can bloom beautifully.

It seems like such a thankless task to have to pull them all up again. Would it really be so bad to leave them in there?

The trouble with weeds/invasive flowers/strange things that crop up in your garden is that they spread.

Leave them in there and everything else that you’ve worked so hard on becomes overshadowed by them.

They have to go.

Year after year, story after story, until you have things the way you want them.

Until your garden blooms again.

Thankless but worth it.

IMG_0525

Writing Lessons I Learned From Gardening Part I

When I was a kid I hated gardening.

Gardening = pulling weeds = chores = BOOOOOOORING!

But now that I have a garden, I find I love spending time in it. Although not pulling weeds, that part still equals boring.

Yesterday afternoon I was raking leaves, cutting the grass, getting everything ready for summer.

I filled my first bag of leaves.

IMG_2203

Because my son was telling me about an idea he has for a novel, I started thinking about first drafts.

That’s what this bag of leaves is.

A first draft.

It looks finished. It looks as though this bag is now perfectly filled and nothing more can possible be put into it. After all, I have to  be able to close it or I might just as well shovel the leaves directly into the car and drive to the dump.

It’s done and I’m ready to go!

But no.

It’s a first draft.

Which means that so much of it is nothing but air and fluff. So I push down on the bag to press all the air out of it.

IMG_2204Which means that what I am now left with is half the size, but much more compact.

Tighter.

More controlled.

So I pile more leaves into the bag and do it again.

And again.

Which means I end up with three full bags instead of seven.

And a lot less cakes in Chocolates in the Ocean.

 

My Mother, My Son, My YA Novel

My toughest critic in life is without a doubt my mother. Ladies, you know what I mean.

That lipstick makes you look 40 (said when I was 20 and when I look at the pictures now, she was right)

That dress is too trampy (nailed it again, mum)

etc. etc.

So when I gave her my manuscript three years ago I knew she was going to be honest. Brutally honest.

tenor
What did she come back with …
I loved it. But I think there are too many cakes. 
That was the first moment I knew that I had written something others would want to read. Not just trying my friends trying to work out who each character is based on. (Author’s disclaimer: this is a work of fiction. Any relation to characters living or dead is purely coincidental.)
Two nights ago my son was using my Mac to finish off something for school. Then suddenly he was standing in the doorway saying something about church, emotional and can’t believe you wrote that.
Oh damn, I thought, he’s been reading my manuscript for the sequel, Chocolates on My Pillow.
But no, he’d finished his assignment and had started reading Chocolates in the Ocean. He’d got to the point where Anne realises that not only is the guy who strung her along for 13 years marrying someone else, but he’s doing the deed in the church opposite her apartment! So the can’t-believe-you-wrote-that was a reference to some of the expletives that she used in that scene. He is only 10, after all.
So the first person who read the early manuscript was my mother. The first person to start reading the paperback was my son.
When I arrived at my summerhouse last night, I saw that my mother had left some old clothes she’d found on my bed. Just like she’d promised. But she’d also found the manuscript for the YA novel I wrote in my early twenties.
IMG_2195
It lay there staring up at me. The only version that still exists. Written pre-cloud in the days when we were still storing all our important info on CDs and floppy disks. My son grabbed it and started reading it. And quickly decided it wasn’t for him. (Which is good, he doesn’t need to know just how much time students spend drinking and how little time they spend doing any work.)
Then I started reading it. And I remembered why I loved it. And I missed the three amazing friends I spent all my time with my final year at university.
I don’t believe the author’s disclaimer can ever be 100% accurate. Not when we write what we know. We know different types of people. We’ve lived different experiences. Somewhere inside, every feeling, every dream, every frustrated desire, every heartache, comes together to produce a manuscript we send out into the world.
Each manuscript we write is a little piece of ourselves. Broken off and scattered down through the years like breadcrumbs in a forest, we go back and remember the people we were. How we changed as people, how we grew as writers.
That’s something I’ll be thinking about today while I push the lawnmower up and down the garden.

The Mystery of the Missing Milk Steamer

It’s a cliché to say that every author sits up later, knocking back strong coffee beneath a swirling ceiling of cigarette smoke.

I quit smoking fourteen years ago and I’m more of a latte than an espresso person. Maybe someone else can knock back a latte, but I can’t.

My morning latte is quite a ritual for me. Especially in the summer when I take it outside with a book. Yesterday I could not find the little magnetic thingy (I’m sure it has a proper name but don’t ask me what it is) that goes into the milk steamer on my Nespresso machine and somehow makes everything wonderful.

I looked everywhere. In every cupboard. Under every cupboard. In every drawer. On the window sill. In every glass, cup, mug and pot plant there was. I even went through the rubbish again. That was disgusting.

But no milk steamer thingy.

While I was out doing the day job, I was still AMSing. In the end I was so frustrated with the whole thing, I even wrote to Amazon to see if something was wrong. The only thing they suggested was increasing my CPC (cost per click).

So I thought about that while I fought my way through the usual afternoon traffic. Perhaps it just the strangest of coincidences, but the day my adds stopped showing was the day a webinar ran on “How to do Amazon ads for authors.” So a hundred other people are now out there, doing what I’ve been doing and driving up the price.

That was frustrating. I’ll be honest.

You can spend so long struggling to achieve something, and just when you think you have it worked out it slips away. A traffic jam is a great place to feel frustrated.

But in the grand scheme of things, as the non-existent smoke swirls up towards the ceiling, how much is $0.05 more per click? Not really that much. Especially if it results in more sales.

I took a deep breath and decided that maybe I was not quite ready to give up on Amazon just yet.

I drove home.

Resumed my search for the milk steamer thingy with a clear head.

And there it was, in a place I had already looked twice.

I need some coffee.

48 Flights of Stairs Later

Today I did something I haven’t done since I was 10 and dressed up as a witch practising the Danish equivalent of trick-of-treat (rasler for Fastelavn) : I went door-to-door asking people for money.

This morning people all over Denmark got up, gathered together at various schools and kindergartens, picked up pamphlets and collection boxes, and went out to raise money for cancer research and counselling.

For the first time, I was one of them.

I started in the rain and when I had finished my route the sun was shinning. I walked up what Apple Health told me was the equivalent of 48 flights of stairs. Up and down so many 5 story buildings, I lost track and left my umbrella in one of them. (It was my golf umbrella, so I went back for it.)

People thanked me for taking the time. People gave what they had. People told me they had nothing to give right now, but wanted information on how they could give later.

I’ve can’t remember the last time I was so physically exhausted, but it was worth every moment.

Worth it to collect what I could. To help fund more research. To help fund helplines, so no one struggles alone.

For all those people cancer has taken from us.

For the ones it is trying to take.

The ones where we’ll be damned if we let them go without a fight.

suicide-squad-margot-robbie-harley-quinn