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There is Time

Authoring is hard. And those seventeen hour days finally caught up to me.

Here’s some truth: Being an author doesn’t only involve writing and editing. It involves answering emails and posting on social media and writing blogs and marketing. It involves updating your website and keeping track of trends in the market and thinking of innovative ways to sell your work. It involves reading and reading and reading some more, inside and outside of your genre.

And if you work a full time job (like so many of us), that means a lot of late nights and weekend hours. The reality of being an author is much less illustrious than the movies make it out to be. Over 77% of self-published authors make less than $1,000 a year from their writing. For traditional authors, that number is still 53.9% making less than $1,000 a year.

I don’t know about you, but $1,000 a year really isn’t going to pay my bills. Especially considering my rent is $1,200 a month, and I’m single. So I work a full-time job. A vast majority of authors work part-time or full-time or have another income to help out. And at the end of the day, the full-time job has to come before writing. Because I have to eat. And not live on the street.

So I work my 9-5:30 (or later), Monday through Friday, and I write/edit/market/blog/Twitter/Instagram/Facebook during the evenings/into the wee hours of the morning and on the weekends. But that kind of schedule catches up to you.

In my world, things started to pile up. My apartment was a mess. I was ordering out too much because I felt like I had too much to do to go to the grocery store or cook (which increased my expenses). My diet suffered. I drank too much caffeine. My dog got antsy and bored. My social life suffered. I hardly left my apartment. Sleep was something I daydreamed about.

So I promised myself that after I submitted to Pitch Wars I would take a break. Not just from writing, but from everything. From social media, from blogging, even from reading. I needed to recharge my batteries.

At first, the author anxiety almost destroyed my much needed authoring hiatus. For the first few days of said break, I found myself in the presence of my friends without engaging. Instead, I sat in a literal corner silently obsessing over what I had to do. I have a third book in a series to finish revising. I have continuing edits to The King’s Blade to hammer out, because regardless of how it does in Pitch Wars, I’ll be querying soon. I have an idea for a women’s fiction novel that’s itching at me. I have emails to answer. I have reading to do. I have to post on social media to keep my presence up. I have to write a blog. I have to do, do, do.

The “break” didn’t come easy. I had to force myself to take it. But after three or four days, I started to slide into it. There is time became my mantra. It’s okay not to write every day. It’s okay not to read two books a week. It’s okay to leave my phone on the charger. It’s okay to take a day or two to respond to an email. It’s okay to take some time to clean my apartment and go to the grocery store and catch up on Game of Thrones and sit outside with my friends for hours doing nothing but shooting the shit.

We only get one life. Writing is my passion. It’s what I love to do. But when it becomes a chore, I’ve lost something. And that something is the fire, and I need the fire to write.

So writers, as hard as it can be, go ahead and give yourself that break. You don’t need to write every day. There is time.

❤ Always,

Aimee

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The Wheel Mages is an Award Winner

I’m back! I apologize for the delay in blogging, but I’ve had a whirlwind end of July/beginning of August! I attended the Romance Writers of America Nationals where The Wheel Mages was up for an award through the Young Adult Romance Writers of America chapter (YARWA), and The King’s Blade, which you can read more about here, was submitted to Pitch Wars for consideration, so it’s been a busy few weeks!

But I have news!

The Wheel Mages, my debut high fantasy novel, won third place for YARWA’s Athena Award for Excellence in New Adult Fiction! I’m so humbled to have been part of the competition. And for any romance fans out there, I would definitely recommend the RWA’s Nationals! I didn’t get to stay for the full conference because I had Pitch Wars things to do and the budget didn’t really allow for it, but it looked like a heck of a good time if romance is your jam!

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So now that The King’s Blade has been submitted to Pitch Wars, I have three full weeks with no writing deadlines whatsoever, and I’m sort of at a loss of what to do with myself! Since this journey began in January of last year, I’ve always had something on my plate. My biggest goal is to use this time to relax, reboot, and refresh (and catch up on my ridiculously large TBR).

Anyone have any reads they’d recommend?

The Dreaded Bad Review

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile and have hesitated to write it. The thing is, this is a sensitive topic. It’s sensitive because there’s a line that should exist between authors and reviewers. Reviewers should never feel intimidated or bullied or pressured into giving anything except their honest opinion of a book. As an author, when you ask for an honest review, you should understand that’s what you’re going to get. And it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Some people aren’t going to like your book. It’s simply the way of things. Welcome to authorhood, you’ve arrived.

That said, I strive to speak openly here about the emotional experience of this whole writing journey, and I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t speak on the extremely emotional experience of receiving a bad review. Before we begin, however, I want to emphasize this isn’t a “sub-blog post” or something of the sort. This isn’t a direct response to any particular bad review I’ve received and “bad” is pretty subjective anyway. I think we can universally acknowledge that a one-star review is bad, but I’ve seen authors who also struggle with four-star reviews. Authors, as a breed, tend to be perfectionists, and anything less than perfect can sting.

Your Book Isn’t Going to be for Everyone

The best thing about art is that it’s completely subjective. The worst thing about art is that it’s completely subjective. Some people are going to be on the same wave length as you. They’re going to “get” your work and love it. Others aren’t. That’s okay. It just means humanity is diverse and beautiful and lovely and we all have different likes and dislikes. It’s what makes us interesting. And messy. And glorious. It’s important to try and keep that in mind when the inevitable bad review comes knocking.

It’s really interesting to me to see the responses I’ve received on The Wheel Mages. Some people think my world building is great, the best part about my writing. Others think it’s confusing. Some people think my style is unique and refreshing. Others think it’s stilted. Some think my characters are well-developed and believable. Some people think they’re one-dimensional and unnatural feeling. Some people think I defy conventions. Others think I play into tropes. If I take a step back and look at it all laid out before me, the differences can be a beautiful thing. They prove what I already knew: that humans are marvelously complex beings with diverse interests and tastes.

Developing a Thick Skin is a Real Thing

So if you’re involved in the writing community at all you’re going to hear that you need a thick skin. I’m sure I’ve said it about a billion times. It’s true. Very, very, very true. This industry is not necessarily the kindest one that ever was. But then again, life doesn’t happen to be particularly kind, at least not 100% of the time. Developing a thick skin is important, but so is simply being able to build yourself boundaries.

For example, some authors don’t read reviews at all. I don’t have enough self control for this, but I’m a new author. Maybe after I’ve been through this half a dozen times I’ll be able to ignore reviews too. For now, I can’t. If you can, awesome. If you can’t (like me), be prepared. Remember to build yourself boundaries. It’s okay to not check every day for new reviews. It’s okay to know you’re in a bad place and couldn’t handle it if you got a bad one. Heck, it’s okay to have someone pre-screen them for you (if you have someone that generous). Taking care of yourself is important. You’re important, and you are more than your words. Just because someone didn’t like your book doesn’t mean they don’t like you (they don’t know you, likely). Even if your main character is a self-insert character and people say they hate her, it’s still not personal. <– This may have been for myself. Regardless, you are more than your words.

Let it Sting

This is the hardest part for me, and it’s the hardest advice to give. Because it does hurt. The first time I received a bad review of my published work (which is infinitely worse than receiving criticism of something you can fix, so unpublished writers, sorry to tell you, it doesn’t get better), I crawled into bed and didn’t emerge for 29 hours. I didn’t cry because that’s not a thing I do much, but I did run my failings as an author over and over in my mind. I felt terrible about so many things: about inflicting this scourge of a book on the rest of humanity; about being insulted on the internet; about potentially hurting someone’s feelings or at the very least wasting their time; about how angry I was and how ungrateful and selfish and stupid and unworthy. I felt like I should never write again. I felt like my voice didn’t matter and then felt selfish and vain for ever thinking it should matter in the first place. What a narcissist I am, thinking someone should care what I have to say. What an arrogant, egocentric asshole I was for then being angry when someone didn’t “get me.” Every nasty thing I could say to myself was said. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t move, I just played this grotesque game with myself. It. was. awful. So telling you to accept that is hard, because I know what it feels like and it’s not pleasant.

What I really wish I could say is for you to just brush it off, mutter to yourself that person doesn’t know what the hell he/she/they is talking about and move on with your life. But I can’t tell you that for several reasons.

First, the reviewer probably does know what he/she/they is talking about. They are reading tons and tons of books, and they know what they like and don’t like. They also probably know a little bit about what a book should have. They know what world building is and pacing and plot and such. A lot of reviewers are writers themselves. That’s part of the reason it hurts so much to receive a bad review. I think for me, most of the sting of a bad review comes from being able to recognize that something in that review was true, at least for that individual, and that hurts because I feel like I’ve failed as a writer. Failure sucks.

Second, reviews can actually help your writing if you’re open to them. Don’t get me wrong, you’re probably not going to be open to them right away. But after the initial sting has worn off, a bad review can help you improve future books, so simply brushing it off isn’t always the wisest approach. This is especially true if the reviewer is in your target audience.

Third, if you’ve been hurt by a review, you’re probably not going to be able to simply move on. Period. You might be able to mask some of the pain (guilty), and if you have to do that for a little, do that. But eventually, you should confront it. Storing pain isn’t a great decision (trust me, I’ve got years of it I’m dealing with).

It’s okay to let it sting, to take a few days off, to recenter yourself. But get back up. It’s like falling off a bicycle (or horse, in my case). Confront the pain, but don’t let fear of falling stop you from doing something you love. You’re going to fall. Again and again and again. Learn to tuck and roll and protect yourself as best you can. When you fall hard, heal, then go right back out. Life is too short to let the voices in your head control you. And at the end of the day, those voices are yours. The review or the reviewer didn’t put them there. You did. Your experience, your self-doubt, your insecurities, those are what did that. Battle them. Valiantly. You deserve no less.

Do Not Engage the Reviewer

Seriously. Don’t do this. It’s an extremely bad look. Especially if you asked for the review. In my view, there is little more distasteful than an author coming for a reviewer. And if your reviewer is a teenager because you write YA or MG or what have you, please remember you are the adult in this situation and act accordingly. You’re a professional. Be professional. No matter how hurt you are.

I know it’s hard. Trust me, there have been reviews I’ve received where I’ve wanted to ask questions. To try and explain myself. To tell the reviewer if they’d just read a little bit more they’d see I was about to twist that trope or that wasn’t quite the way they thought it was or or or… Don’t do it. You had the words to make your point and for that person, you didn’t. There is nothing to discuss and it’s only going to turn out badly for you. There will be other reviewers and other reviews. Some of them will likely laud the very things that particular reviewer didn’t like. It will be confusing and annoying and frustrating. But it’s not your place to make a case or state a claim. And it’s not the place of your friends or fans, either. Of course you can’t control the actions of others, but if someone approaches you asking if they should/could come to your defense, the most professional response is to tell them you’re okay, thank them for their support, but explain it’s unnecessary. It’s part of being an author. This isn’t a courtroom. This is Goodreads.

Build Your Community

This is another biggie you’ll see on refrain in the writing community, and it’s also extremely true. Having a community of other writers to vent to is crucial in this business. Because it’s a hard business and when you do receive the dreaded bad review, you’re going to want to have someone (or several someones) to talk/scream/weep to. Fellow writers are great for this because they understand the sting in the way perhaps even your friends and family don’t. They understand it on a visceral, personal level, and good writing friends will be able to act as a crutch or talk you off the ledge or commiserate with you on the level you need. Having these people around will help you get what you need off your chest without doing anything rash (like… uh… coming at the reviewer). Writing pals are a Godsend. Make lots of them.

You’re not a Failure

You might feel like one. But you’re not. If you need it, take a few days off from whatever you’re working on to absorb the hurt, and then expel it however you do. I know that when I receive a bad review, then try to work on something immediately thereafter, it affects everything. I received, for example (again, not calling anyone out, just an observation), a review about my style once. Specifically, that it was stilted and this reviewer didn’t like that. I went to edit the same day, thinking my armor was well enough intact to get what I needed to get done, done. But nope. Everything I read that day felt fake and awkward and didn’t flow and was terrible and gross. My brain was doing a weird brain thing where it was absorbing my insecurities and bringing them to life.

Good news is I was able to recognize what was happening and put the pen down before I destroyed everything I’d written by trying to be a writer I wasn’t. It’s true that certain aspects of my style are stilted. I was trained to write postmodern literary fiction. It’s not necessarily a flowing style (as much as postmodernism can be defined as anything), and it does sometimes find itself out of place in the YA/NA fantasy world. Some people find this refreshing, some people find it off-putting. But it’s how I write. It’s what makes me unique. Was the reviewer who critiqued my style correct? Yep, absolutely. Does that mean I should change? Not today, it doesn’t.

Who knows, though, what tomorrow will bring. The only thing to do is to make sure there is tomorrow.

Keep writing.

❤ Always,

Aimee

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Next week on the blog: I’m going to the RWA Day of YA in Orlando! And I’ll hopefully talk about it! The Wheel Mages is up for an award, too, so I’ll be revealing the results of that 😛 Don’t want to miss it? Don’t forget to follow!

Launch Day! The Blood Mage

Well… it’s here! Today, my second book, The Blood Mage goes out into the big wide world for your consumption. This book has a really special place in my heart. They’re all different: the books, that is. They all occupy different spaces in my heart, but this one is the book I felt like I needed to write. So I’m excited (and nervous) to share it with you.

Anyhoo, before I get too reflective, there are some special people I want to thank for making this book (and all the books in this series) possible. You can find the following in the Acknowledgement section of The Blood Mage, but I wanted to share it here as well. These people can’t get enough props in my mind. So without further ado, here are my thank yous to those who helped me put the book of my heart into the hands of others.

Acknowledgments:

Self-published authors often find themselves labeled as “go-it-alone” types. In my experience, this isn’t true. I’m fortunate enough to find myself surrounded by people who have all helped make me who I am and who have helped make this book, and this series, what it is.

First, I want to thank my little brother, Tyler, who has given me not only encouragement, but hope. His unrelenting optimism and shameless promotion of this series has brought me so much joy. TJ, I’m honored to call you brother.

To the rest of my small but mighty family—thank you. Always and forever, thank you.

I also want to thank the entire town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who seriously showed up for the first book. Punxsy brought me my first reviewer, my first signing, and the first time I ever sold out of copies of The Wheel Mages. Y’all are fantastic (or should I say y’uns?).

To my best friend, Jen, I will never be able to say enough how grateful I am to have you in my life.

To my beta readers, especially Emily and Kelly, thank you. And a special shout out to Emily who was the hand behind getting my first book into its very first library, who has been an ardent supporter, who has pushed me to always keep challenging myself, and who has been a shoulder to cry on—your friendship has meant the world to me.

Always to my editor, Katie, but most definitely this time. This book has seen more revisions than I thought possible, and you never once faltered. When I was sure the problem was insurmountable, you made me readjust my vision and see a molehill instead of a mountain. I honestly don’t know how I could have done it without you.

To Nikki, my copy editor, who probably doesn’t get as much credit as she deserves because copy editing is too often overlooked—you’re awesome, and I appreciate everything you do. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t send this Acknowledgement section to you for copy edits, but I wanted to surprise you. Sorry if there’s something in here that’s making your eye twitch (and I’m sure there is).

Big shout out and continuous thanks to my cover artist, Fiona, whose cover design inspired the words, “I want to marry that cover.” Indeed. I don’t know how you do it, but you are a rock star. Also new to the team, I want to thank Tamara, my formatter, who saved me lots of time and cursing and made this print book much lovelier than its predecessor. I’m so excited to have you on board and to not ever have to format a book myself again.

Book bloggers, reviewers, bookstagrammers, and booktubers, y’all are incredible. I appreciate you so, so much. Thank you for supporting not only me, but indie authors in general, and promoting our work. Special thanks to those of you who have given me not only your time, but also your friendship.

Thank you to my coworkers at my 9-5 who have been amazingly supportive of my moonlight career as an author and have purchased, read, reviewed, and plugged my work. You guys are seriously like a family to me, and I’m so overwhelmed by your constant support and kindness.

Finally, to my readers, I want you all to know you mean the world to me. Even if we’ve never met, even if I’ve never said a word to you, even if we have met and I’ve been incredibly awkward about the whole thing, I care about you all so much. Every day, you’re the ones who make my dreams come true, and there is no amount of praise or thanks I could ever truly assign to that.

With every bit of love in my heart, thank you,

Aimee

#PitchWars #PimpMyBio

*Waves shyly* Hi #PitchWars peeps and regular readers. Regular readers, I interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post to bring you a #PitchWars special! For those who don’t know what #PitchWars is go ahead and read this. And for those who are interested in what this whole #PimpMyBio thing is all about I offer this.

So I guess the cat is out of the bag… I’m doing #PitchWars y’all! And I’m here to talk about my favorite thing (my current WIP) and my least favorite thing (myself) because this hybrid author hopeful is all about blending these days! Without further ado, let’s cut to it.

THE KING’S BLADE (aka the #DeepSeaWIP)

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or has been around this blog for a little knows I’ve been hinting at this top secret #DeepSeaWIP. Well, today’s the day I’m finally going to reveal it all.

THE KING’S BLADE, a dark and twisted retelling of The Little Mermaid, is (shocker) a young adult, high fantasy.

Thyra Skovgaard, First Assassin to the Deep Sea, has never met a mark she can’t handle. That is, until Valdemar Sørensen, her king and mate, assigns his First Assassin the task of taking the life of the Farrish prince. To do so, Thyra will have to relinquish her beloved tail to assume human form and go ashore. What she finds there will change her, and the Deep Sea, forever.

THE KING’S BLADE started as a sort of a joke between one of my most trusted betas and me. We were discussing the trends of our favorite genre (YA fantasy) and retellings in general. I mentioned that retellings looked to be falling out and lamented they would do so, yet again, without a gritty, twisted Little Mermaid retelling. During this conversation, we also discussed the assassin trend in YA fantasy, and one of us (I honestly don’t remember who) might have made a flippant comment about how the two (the retelling and assassins) should be blended. My beta, an oceanographer, loved this idea, as did I, but I brushed it off. I had other books to work on and I thought people might think an assassin mermaid was a bit… well… silly.

The idea, as these little buggers tend to do, wouldn’t leave me alone, though. I started to put my feelers out to other readers in my circle. Assassin mermaid, anyone? To my surprise, the response was positive. The idea dug its heels in. A few weeks later, I sent my beta a message: “I may have started the assassin mermaid book.” She was delighted.

But if I was going to do this, I wanted to make sure I did it right. The sea is not a kind place, mermaids are not people, and assassins aren’t warm and fuzzy. If I did this, I wanted it to be accurate. For it to be accurate, I would need to do a ton of research. So, for the next several months, I immersed myself in sea science. Fortunately, I know an oceanographer. Before I knew it, we were having long talks about swim bladders, how heavy metal dumping impacts apex predators, bizarre shark mating rituals, red tides, and the mysterious deep sea. My scientifically accurate and brutal Deep Sea folk were born.

Now, months later, I’m hoping to bring them from the depths and find them a home in the traditional publishing world. Here we go!

ABOUT ME

For those new here, I’m Aimee! I’m a 29-year-old Pisces who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with my German shepherd service dog, Gabriela (“Gabi”) and two cats, Apollo and Maia. I’m a self-published author of two books, The Wheel Mages, which debuted last November, and The Blood Mage which comes out on July 18th! I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I majored in English literature and minored in creative writing and dreamed of going to the University of Iowa for an MFA but got sidetracked by some mental health complications.

Speaking of which… I have complex post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and am severely touch averse. Though I don’t like to be defined by my mental illness, it is something that affects my writing, and if you stick around for any length of time, you’ll see I talk about it a lot. It’s part of the reason I chose to self-publish my other series, the second book of which is very much a self-insert piece exploring the complications that come with post traumatic stress disorder.

That said, I’m looking forward to starting a new journey with THE KING’S BLADE and am hopeful to make some new friends along the way! I can’t wait to meet you!

❤ Aimee

Always his blade never his queen

 

 

 

My Characters Aren’t Pretty

Note: This post is a little jumbled because my thoughts are a little jumbled. This is one of those topics I’d like to revisit when I have a better handle on what’s going on inside my head, but I figured it might be worth sharing as a discussion topic.

Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth

~ Albert Camus

When I was in college learning how to be a better writer, I was also a teenager struggling to learn how to be a better person. Both are struggles that continue to this day and will hopefully continue for the rest of my life.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes along the way but that’s one of the things that intrigues me about writing fiction. Humanity is messy and that messiness lends itself to literature as a mirror for life. The quote I started with is a reflection of that idea not only because of what it says but also because of whom it was said by. Albert Camus was an absurdist, a philosophy centering the individual and his/her/their inability to find value or meaning in life.

Authors are also interested in exploring both the individual and the Truth and that exploration can be found in spades in young adult literature. Maybe it’s because young adults have so much to explore, as they’re trying to find their own way, or maybe it’s simply because young adult readers see through a different lens. Whatever the reason, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

Often, in discussions of the differences between young adult and adult fantasy, in addition to the age of the main character, characterization versus world building is addressed. Young adult fantasies tend to be character-driven stories whereas adult fantasies tend to be world-driven stories. Obviously there are exceptions, as there always are, but this difference fascinates me.

Absurdism, as Camus saw it, was a rejection of nihilism, a philosophy centering the thought that life is meaningless. Camus, although he believed the individual would never be able to grasp the meaning of life, believed he/she/they should still seek it. The difference between the two philosophies is interesting in that nihilism seems to take a more world-driven approach. Life (as a big, abstract concept) is meaningless. Whereas absurdism seems to take a more character-driven approach. We humans cannot understand the meaning of life.

I don’t think either approach to writing (or life) is wrong. I don’t think there really is such a thing as “wrong” when it comes to writing. Art is art and expression is expression. There are no hard and fast rules and exceptions are abundant. But I do prefer to read and write character-driven stories.

My characters aren’t pretty, though. And I don’t mean that in a physical beauty sort of way, I mean it in a they are morally gray kind of way. Their flaws are what make them interesting and, quite honestly, what make them human.

One of the reasons my Sanctum series is written in first person is because I like the idea of a one-sided story. I like getting into the head of a character and putting her on display, warts and all. In some ways, when you write from the first person POV, you’re always dealing with an unreliable narrator of sorts. A reader can never reach the Truth of your world, because he/she/they only ever see it through one set of eyes. It’s absurd and it’s exploratory and I think it’s part of the reason why first person POV is so prevalent in YA.

The world we live in is increasingly divisive, however. Sides are chosen and swords are drawn. The vehemence of our individual beliefs is put on full display via social media. It’s fascinating and, if I’m honest, a little bit frightening.

See, my core belief system is hinged on the concepts of compromise and understanding. I don’t like confrontation and my opinions are constantly in flux. I’m a listener, a watcher, a mediator. I like the middle because so much of my life has been chaotic. I find humanity to be violent and messy and glorious and caring and beautiful. I’m a dark, serious person but I’m also endlessly optimistic about humanity. I think at our core, humans want to be “good.” But “good” is such a loaded term, especially these days. What is “good” and what is “bad?” The meanings of these words shift depending on your side, on your belief system, on your experience. This is that heavy stuff the absurdists were talking about, the meaning of life that we should strive for but will never be able to fully grasp. The Truth that the lie of fiction tries to bring to the surface.

When I was in college, my work was often critiqued for being “too preachy.” People are smart and readers are some of the smartest people there are so I was taught to let them come to their own conclusions, not try to impose my belief system through my writing. “You’re not writing fables, Aimee,” was a familiar refrain. “You can guide but don’t shove. It’s sloppy writing, too heavy handed. The author’s touch should be so light it is unnoticeable. Create characters that someone can imagine leaping off the page and you’ll create discussion.” Discussion is the beating heart of a free society. It is a sacred thing and as a writer, I take it very seriously.

One of these same writing professors was obsessed with Anton Chekhov. I despised him (Chekhov, not my professor, I loved her). Anton Chekhov has written some of the most despicable characters I’ve ever read. They are misogynistic, sex-crazed, unfaithful, wife-batterers and I don’t like them. I don’t feel sympathy for them. I don’t want them to win (in fact, I’m happy that they usually don’t). I have never in my life cheered for a Chekhov character. His women are vapid and flippant and ridiculous. His men are arrogant narcissists. Cheating is rampant. Domestic abuse is thrown onto the page without a care. It bothered me. And as I’m writing this, I realize it still bothers me.

Here’s the thing though–his characters make me feel. His characters make me yell. For those who don’t know me in real life, yelling is not a thing I do often. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I don’t like conflict. If I’m pushed to yelling, something has gone terribly wrong. I like to see both (or all ten) sides before making a decision. I like to evaluate and weigh and usually, I come out somewhere in the middle. With Chekhov, I am never in the middle. His writing forced me, someone who rarely chooses “sides,” to take one and it stimulated discussion. Discussion I had to bolster with lines in the text. Discussion that made me a more analytical reader and, I will grudgingly admit, a better writer.

Chekhov is not preachy. His characters are morally gray (bending toward bad) and they spark a response in me most characters don’t. In college, I didn’t entirely understand that concept but now that I’m a published author myself, I read Chekhov with a different lens and a deeper appreciation. Please don’t mistake appreciation for “enjoyment.” Reading Chekhov still feels like a hate read and I still want to punch all of his characters in the face. But feeling is a writing win, even if the feeling stimulated isn’t always pleasant.

A reader recently told me she wanted to “strangle Alena sometimes,” and I had to chuckle. “Why?” I asked innocently. She rolled her eyes. “Because she makes stupid decisions.” I smiled softly and nodded. “Don’t we all, though?”

Something to think about.

Now accepting discussion but not argument in the comments.

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Next week on the blog: Unveiling the #DeepSeaWIP and my participation in this year’s #PitchWars. Don’t want to miss it? Don’t forget to follow!

Some Thoughts: Kindle Unlimited

Okay, so last week, I wrote about how I recently enrolled The Wheel Mages in Amazon’s KDP Select program. With that enrollment, my book was automatically placed in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited library. As an aside, I don’t think that’s optional. I’m pretty sure if you’re KDP Select you have to be part of Kindle Unlimited. If any other authors out there want to correct me on that one, please do.

What is Kindle Unlimited, you ask?

Well, it’s basically like Netflix for books. For $9.99 a month, a reader gets unlimited digital downloads of anything in the Kindle Unlimited library. Keep in mind that as far as I’m aware, none of the Big Five offers its books exclusively through Amazon and as a consequence are not part of Kindle Select or Kindle Unlimited, so this library is entirely indie and small press titles. Simple, right?

For the reader, sure. For the author… not so much.

Figuring out how the royalties for Kindle Unlimited are calculated was a headache. I wanted to be a part of KDP Select for promotion purposes, and as far as I know, that means I get saddled with Kindle Unlimited too. But you only have to be a part of KDP Select for 90 days before you can decide to keep it or toss it, so I figured, why not? One of the nice things about being an indie author is this ability to experiment, so that’s what I’m doing.

In the end, I did figure out how royalties on Kindle Unlimited work… I think. And from what I can gather, there are a few things to be aware of.

The KDP Global Fund

The KDP Global Fund is basically a big pot of money where all those $9.99 subscriptions end up. Every month, Amazon calculates the total fund and pays authors who have had their books downloaded from the library out of that pot. In January of 2017, it was $17.6 million. 

Amazon’s Calculation of Pages

Amazon pays from the Global Fund based on pages read, not based on books downloaded. So an author only gets paid when a reader downloads their book and reads some of it. I have feelings about this I’ll discuss later.

But Amazon doesn’t use the page total of the book as formatted by the author. Apparently, to avoid authors trying to scam them by making the font super big or leaving blank spaces or something, Amazon uses its own algorithm or page counter of sorts. Why someone would risk losing readers by formatting his/her/their book in an ugly way just to get a few extra tenths of a cent is beyond me, but I suppose that’s for another time. Anyway, as this article points out, it all boils down to Amazon basically calculating a “page” as 187 words. For me, this actually turns out to be a good thing. My book is 334 pages on the Kindle, but for Kindle Unlimited royalty payout purposes, Amazon calculates it as approximately 556 pages, so score there.

The Royalties

Now we get to the part people are actually interested in, I’d wager: the calculation of royalties. Okay, so how this works is every month, Amazon calculates the amount of money in the Global Fund and takes a chunk of it as author payouts. How big that chunk is seems somewhat unclear. I’d hope it was something like the 70% an author gets in royalties when a book is sold, but who knows. Anyway, after they pull out this chunk, they divide it by the number of pages read and distribute it based on a price per page. From what I’ve read, it seems like this normally comes out to be about $0.004-$0.005 per page. So half a cent per page or thereabout. Meaning that if someone reads my 556 (Amazon) page book, I see between $2.22 and $2.78 in royalties. My $3.99 book garners me $2.79 in royalties when someone buys it outright, so for me, the payout is somewhat equivalent. But with Kindle Unlimited, I only get paid if the book is read.

My Feelings

As with everything indie, my feelings on Kindle Unlimited are mixed, and I’m sure they’ll evolve as I see how the program affects (or doesn’t) my earnings. Right now, though, they are as follows:

The Good:

I like that the book is essentially free for some users (including in limited circumstances to Amazon Prime users) because, as I said last week, people like free stuff. If someone can get my book for free, and I still get paid for it (if they read it), I think that’s a win-win for the author and the reader.

The Mixed:

I sort of like the fact that an author is paid by page read. In some ways, this function acts a bit like a gatekeeper, because you only get rewarded if your book is actually read. I think this serves as a partial remedy to the indie image problem of poorly edited and formatted books and might help get indie authors to up their game a bit by encouraging proper editing and formatting.

I also don’t like that authors are paid by page read because a reader may DNF a book for reasons relating to taste or personal preference. I very rarely DNF a book, but I’m also not incredibly picky when it comes to what I read. I know there are plenty of readers out there who are and who might only read 10 pages before tossing the book aside, especially if they have access to unlimited downloads. Does this mean that you really have to make sure your book is excellent? Yeah, absolutely, which is a good thing. But it also punishes an author for something out of his/her/their control–reader taste preferences, which isn’t something that happens on other platforms. I’ve read plenty of books I was “meh” about or DNF but spent $10 or $20 on and never thought about returning it to Barnes & Noble. I suppose there’s something to be said about learning how to deal with changing platforms and media in this, but as an author, it’s kind of rough.

There’s also this graph that I want to talk about.

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Okay so that’s the graph that tells you how many pages of your book have been read. If you can’t see it because it’s too small, the X axis shows the date and the Y axis shows the number of pages read. This is mostly blank because until the other weekend The Wheel Mages wasn’t available in the Kindle Unlimited library and also because it was given away for free for everyone (free downloads are different from borrowing a book from the Kindle Unlimited library).

What looks like happened is someone borrowed it from the Kindle Unlimited library on maybe Friday. So Saturday, I get up, and I see this graph. And it shows me only 10 pages have been read. As an artist and someone with anxiety, this made me kind of sick. I just kept thinking, “Oh my God, someone borrowed my book from the library and only read 10 (Amazon) pages. Which is about 1,800 words, which is almost exactly the prologue and first chapter. Then… nothing. They must have hated it. I’m a failure. I should never write again.”

All day Saturday, I obsessively checked that damn chart. Nothing, nothing, nothing. And I know this is totally irrational, but that really kind of broke my spirit. That chart just would not leave me alone.

But then, Sunday, I get up and I see the chart looking like this. It now sits at about 550 pages read. Meaning, I think, that probably whoever borrowed the book read it from start to finish. This had me on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of despair, now I was elated. Someone read my book in a weekend! THE WHOLE THING! I went from 10 pages read to someone finishing it! WOOHOO! I’m awesome.

In the end, though, I could honestly do without the chart. I am simply someone who takes things way too personally and way too hard and having that chart staring me in the face as a constant mirror of my self-worth or something is just a bit… much.

I should also note this chart doesn’t reflect pages read for any books downloaded for purchase, only books “borrowed” from the Kindle Unlimited library. So I have no idea how many pages were read or weren’t read from the hundreds of downloads I had during my free weekend. And you know what? I’m much happier not knowing.

In Conclusion

The jury is still out. I’m not 100% sure if I’m #TeamKindleUnlimited or #TeamFreeIndieAuthors on this one yet (I totally made those hashtags up, btw), but I’ll be sure to let you know in 90 days.

Any indie authors want to chime in? Love Kindle Unlimited? Hate it? Meh about it? Sound off in the comments.

And, as always, take care of yourselves.

❤ Aimee

Next week on the blog: My Characters Aren’t Pretty: Thoughts on morally gray characters in a time of black and white. Don’t want to miss it? Make sure to follow.

Impromptu Blog: The Blood Mage

The Blood Mage came back from copy edits last night, and before I dive into final edits (!), I wanted to take a minute to share some thoughts.

First, I’ve decided to change the dedication to this book. I’ve written about this particular dedication before and how important it is to me. These sentiments remain true, and the current dedication for The Blood Mage will find a new home in a later book in the series. Because the series has now been expanded, some of the text that belongs with this dedication has been moved to later books, so I thought it appropriate to move the dedication as well.

The new dedication, which you can see in the published copy on July 18th, was inspired by some notes from my copy editor. She wrote: “Alena’s pain and anger over the previous events in The Wheel Mages is profound and realistic. She doesn’t simply bounce back like a superhero; she needs to work out her demons…”

Reading this brought tears to my eyes. My developmental editor and I worked hard to convey this message because, as I’ve written, it was essentially the whole point. But when you’re working on something over and over again, sometimes you lose the forest for the trees, so knowing my copy editor saw this was a really important moment for me. This story is about struggle and despair and hope. It’s for those who couldn’t find themselves in the heroes who bounce back. It’s for those who battle their demons, who win and lose with unequal measure. So the dedication now reflects that.

Second, to anyone who hasn’t started this whole editing process or who is struggling with it, I want you to know it gets easier.

Seriously, the first time one of my manuscripts came back from an edit (developmental at that point), I threw a fit. The first time something came back from copy edits, and I saw all the red washed across the screen, I thought I might crawl into bed and never get up again.

Now, I’m excited to receive critique from my editors. I can’t wait to see what they have to say, to dig in and fix things, to make the story better. When my manuscript came back last night, I was so excited to open it up and see all the changes. Because each one represents a change that will make the story more sound, more solid, more real. The red-line is making it shiny and polished and beautiful. This process has gone from dreaded to beloved.

Don’t get me wrong, editing is still hard. It’s an emotional labor, but it’s one I now relish, because I know what the end looks like and the end is awesome. So if you’re stressing out about edits or working with editors, or you’re dreading an edit coming back, it does get easier. Like most things, practice makes perfect.

Speaking of practice–my third and final thought for today: Indie authors, you need an editor. All the writing advice in the world won’t get you far enough away from your work to edit it with the same eye a professional editor can. I’ve said before (multiple times) what a difference my developmental editor makes and how she helps me solve problems with an ease and an eye that I don’t possess because I’m too close, but right now, I want to spend a minute extolling the copy editing process.

I’ve written on this blog about common crutch words like “just” “very” “really” “so” “and” and adverbs. I’ve railed about them on Twitter. I’ve been (I thought) meticulous about killing them in my drafts. The parenthesized comment in the aforementioned sentence is important because, ahem:

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This comment from my copy editor can be found on page 4 of my manuscript. Page. Four. I’ll note she says “throughout.” I thought I came for these words in my many drafts (there are 11 drafts, by the way), and I might have done, but I didn’t catch them all. Not even close. This is one of the many reasons why editors are crucial to creating a polished product. Good editors are expensive, but they’re worth their weight in gold. I really cannot say that enough. Especially for us indie authors. We have stigma to contend with already, and if you’re publishing in a popular, saturated genre like I am, you’re competing with the Big Five presses, so I encourage you to do everything you can to prove that stigma wrong. Good editors will help you.

So, thank you to my incredible editors, Katie and Nikki. I can’t wait to share the shiny with the world.

And to all my blog readers/aspiring authors/writers, keep your heads up, keep writing, keep dreaming. The end is a beautiful thing.

❤ Aimee

TheBloodMagePromo
Coming July 18, 2017

This impromptu blog brought to you by procrastination. Check back next week for the regularly scheduled blog which is about my thoughts on Kindle Unlimited. Don’t want to miss it? Make sure to follow!

KDP Select & Free Books

Last week, I pulled The Wheel Mages from iBooks and Smashwords (the places it was available other than Amazon) to enroll it in Amazon’s KDP Select Program. For those who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, KDP Select is a program offered to authors who distribute their ebooks exclusively through Amazon. Read more here.

The benefits of KDP Select are that the author is able to offer promotions through Amazon where he/she/they can give the book away for free for a limited period or at a reduced cost also for a limited period. It also enrolls the book in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program where a reader can purchase unlimited digital downloads of books in the Kindle Unlimited Library for $9.99 a month (think Netflix for books).

First order of business for me was to run one of these promotions I’d heard so much about. So I did a giveaway blitz this weekend, impromptu (which probably doesn’t come so highly recommended, I think planning is usually better but this was a test run of sorts), and I learned some things! Which I will now share, along with the results of said promotion.

People like free stuff.

Okay, so maybe this doesn’t actually have to be said, but there are some lessons to be learned here. Let me start by saying I am one of those indie authors who really balks at the idea of giving my book away for free. I’ve done it before through Instafreebie with much, much less success, but it’s still not my favorite thing. I spent close to $5,000 on The Wheel Mages. I already think it’s worth more than its $3.99 sticker price, and I do genuinely wonder if authors (especially indie authors) hurt themselves by offering their books for free so frequently. There’s this thing in the creative professions where people often feel they have to do a lot of free work for “the exposure”. I wrinkle my nose when I hear that term. What other industries require you to do free labor “for the exposure”? My 9-5 is in the law, right? One of the many things I’ve learned in this field is that a lawyer doesn’t learn how to practice law at law school. Just like most other professionals, lawyers learn how to practice by training under a seasoned lawyer. But you don’t ask someone to go to law school, put in all that time, money, and effort, and then require them to work for a firm for free for awhile “for the exposure.” They need exposure, true, but they’re paid while they do it. So this free work for the exposure idea has never really sat well with me. It seems intrinsically devaluing to my labor and education.

Still, my artistic purity or sense of fairness or whatever was not helping me sell books. Exposure (I’m still cringing, y’all) helps sell books. For the record, I don’t actually think this “for the exposure” problem is soley an indie author problem. I think it’s abundant in all the arts and in traditional publishing as well. Traditional authors give their books away for free or reduced rates all the time too. Art just doesn’t have the value I feel it should. But I’m digressing again.

So, back to the things I learned. People like free stuff. A lot. Since The Wheel Mages came out in November, I’ve sold something like 104 copies across all platforms (digital and paperback combined). I surpassed that in digital downloads in less than hour of the book being listed as free on Amazon. An. Hour. With essentially no marketing, just a quick post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

What does that tell me?

Well, it tells me people are, in fact, interested in reading the book. Which is good news. It means my cover and blurb are probably working, because even if the book is free, people aren’t going to download it unless they’re interested in maybe at some point reading it. I hope, anyway. So, as much as it pains me to know I’m giving away all these free copies, this was valuable information to gather and it did give me some sense of validation.

My target market is American.

Also might have gone without saying, but there are a lot of international book bloggers, Goodreads reviewers, and bookstagrammers out there, so I was curious about this.

Okay, so now seems like a good time for some data. Everyone likes data, right?

All total, I gave away 397 copies of The Wheel Mages. 311 of them were downloaded in the United States (78.3%). The next highest market for me was, unsurprisingly, Great Britain, where 36 copies were downloaded (9.1%). Mexico came in third with 18 copies (4.5%) and the only other country to come in with some decent numbers was Denmark (10 copies at 2.5%). I’m confused about where Canada and Australia (other large, English-speaking countries) are at, but whatever. Shoutout to Mexico and Denmark, y’all are awesome.

Anyway, what this tells me is that my audience is largely American and British, which isn’t surprising since Amazon is based in the U.S. and the United States has traditionally controlled this market. This information also mirrors ebook sales trends overall where the United States dominates the English-speaking market at 77% of total ebook sales with the UK right behind at 15%. Good news. I’m standard. This information also tells me where I should focus my marketing efforts and helps me determine which reviewers to target. Although I still love international reviewers, so if you’re one of those, don’t despair, I see you.

The first day of the promo goes better. Or maybe Saturdays are just better. Unclear.

More data. Saturday’s downloads (though I sold to less countries, interestingly) were higher. There were 224 downloads on Saturday (56.4% of total downloads) as compared to 173 on Sunday (43.6%). I’m sure a lot of factors go into this. I marketed a little bit more Saturday (I posted twice on Twitter on Saturday and twice on Facebook and on Sunday I didn’t post on Instagram at all). By Sunday maybe the novelty had worn off, or maybe Saturday is just a better day to download because you have the whole weekend in front of you. The jury is still out on this one, but I think if I do this again (I probably will), I’ll try a one-day download window maybe on a Friday or a Saturday. Now I’m honestly just curious. I like statistics, though I was never particularly good at it.

It doesn’t take that much to get your book to rise in Amazon’s bestsellers ranks. Which is good because visibility.

When you publish in an age group and genre as saturated as mine and one that’s mostly dominated by the powerhouses of traditional publishing, it’s hard to get anywhere in Amazon’s sales ranks. This means you’re basically relegated to the back pages of searches which isn’t at all all that helpful.

Giving the book away for free helped bump me up by stimulating lots of downloads over a short period of time. I’m not going to lie, this was a little bit exciting until I remembered I wasn’t actually making any money off these “sales” nor was I actually doing much of anything except letting my book float out there, but I think it’s worth mentioning because visibility is still important. And really, brain, can you let me have this one thing?

At one point, I reached #15 in YA fantasy coming of age books and #16 in epic fantasy which sounds niche but isn’t really. Anyway, I might have gone higher but this was as high as I caught it. Check it.

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For comparison purposes, I’m now #859 in Coming of Age and apparently so low in Epic Fantasy it’s not even worth Amazon mentioning it. So yeah, for a glorious moment, my book got to be on the very first page if someone searched “epic fantasy”. Which is actually kind of exciting to my nerd senses.

If you have a series, free books are helpful.

Okay, final point here because this is getting long. If you’re an author with a series, running a free book promo on the first book is helpful. Probably the most encouraging thing of the whole promotion is the effect it had on my preorders for The Blood Mage. They have doubled already. Okay, that may sound more dramatic than it is, because honestly, I had 3 preorders before the promo and I have 7 now, but seriously, that’s awesome. I’m not discrediting that. It means people downloaded the book, read the book, and liked the book enough to want to BUY the second one. That’s fantastic news, and as I’ve said before, every sale matters.

Have a great week everyone!

❤ Aimee

Next week on the blog: My feelings about Kindle Unlimited. Don’t want to miss it? Make sure to follow.

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