The Wheel Mages – Free All Week

Let’s not beat around the bush, y’all! My debut, young adult, high fantasy novel The Wheel Mages is FREE all week.

Why this week, you ask?

Well, the answer is simple. It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and as The Wheel Mages is dedicated to teachers and in particular, the teacher of my heart, my best friend, Jen, the book is now available for digital download absolutely, 100% free all week (May 8-14).

Wheel Mages dedication

If you download it, I ask only one thing in return: Thank a teacher!

So without further ado, CLICK HERE.

And if you like The Wheel Mages and want to see what’s coming in The Blood Mage, sign up for my newsletter here and get a sneak peek of the new book as well!

The Last Birthday

Today, I turn 29. I’m joking it’s the last birthday I’ll ever celebrate. I’m almost not a twenty-something anymore, and it feels a bit like losing a shield. But in all seriousness, it’s really just another day.

That said, it’s another day where I shall go ahead and do some self promotion. Because it’s MY day (also George Washington’s, any other Pisces in the house?)

I’m going to share with you all some of my favorite reviews of The Wheel Mages and hope to convince you that if you haven’t jumped into the world of the Sanctum yet, now’s the time (looking at you Maas fans, we have until May until her next book is released).

So… without further ado, here we go! Read to the end – there’s also NEWS. And sign up for my newsletter! I’m getting it all in today, y’all.

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News! My trilogy is no longer a trilogy. I know, I know, I had reservations about this as well which I plan to completely outline in a post later this week or next week, but I promise the decision was not taken lightly and it was very thoroughly discussed and debated with my team of trusted beta readers as well as my editor. In the end, expanding the series was the best choice for the characters.

Have a great day everyone!

❤ Aimee

Second Month Sales

Okay, so I said I was going to do it and here we are.

Things didn’t go well this month, people. I sold only 12 books. That’s NOT exactly going to pay the bills. And with a 130,000 word manuscript currently sitting in the editor’s hands, I’m not feeling super pumped right now.

But, I suppose this is a marathon and not a sprint, right? And things have been a wee bit crazy around the world this January, so I’m wondering if timing might have something to do with it too. It feels a bit frivolous to be marketing my book when social media feeds are dominated with much more pressing concerns, so I didn’t push as hard as I might have otherwise done. I’m preoccupied too. I get it.

Good news is this run-down will be short.

Sales Period: December 30 through January 29, 2016

Vendor: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle)

Copies sold: 4

Territories sold: United States (3) and UK (1)

Royalties: 8.22 USD, 1.85 GBP

Vendor: CreateSpace (Paperback)

Copies sold: 4

Territories sold: United States (4)

Royalties: 4.64 USD

Vendor: Personal Sales (Paperback)

Copies sold: 4

Territories sold: United States (4)

Royalties: 20.64 USD

Total Copies sold in the second month: 12

Territories sold: United States (11) and UK (1)

Royalties: 33.50 USD, 1.85 GBP

Total combined copies (since launch): 70

Territories sold: United States (68), Denmark (1), UK (1)

Total Royalties: 170.31 USD, 2.18 EUR, 1.85 GBP

So… I have almost paid off the cover art for the first book, and I even received my first check from Amazon and CreateSpace, so that’s pretty cool (fun fact, if you go with the direct deposit option, they’ll send you royalties every month so long as you’ve made more than $10, if you ask for a check, they won’t send you anything until you’ve made $100, also good to note that applies to every currency, so I won’t see any royalties from sales in the UK or Europe until I’ve sold more there).

I still haven’t broken into that 100 copies territory, but I have hope (some days). More important than anything, however, this month I had readers really connect with the book and that to me is worth more than royalties. Royalties would still be cool though.

Here’s to fighting the good fight!

❤ Aimee

Paperback is here!

The paperback of The Wheel Mages showed up and it looks beautiful! I’m so happy I went with the matte, by the way. All the formatting headaches appear to have been worth it! And, crazy news, print copies are about to surpass digital copies in sales!

If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, get it here.

In other news, I signed my very first “autograph” today–to my dad, my biggest fan, who made a dad joke about my investment in this book I will now share.

Me: I have almost $4,000 in this book. I really hope it does well.

Dad: Four thousand? That’s nothing.

Me: It is, dad. It’s a huge amount. It’s a big chunk of my nest egg.

Dad: Well, I have $120,000 invested in this book, so get back to me when you’re there. (In reference to my education).

Touche, dad. Touche.

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Dad, Remember the little girl who always said she’d ben an author? She made it. Love you always and forever, Aim

Happy weekend, everyone!

❤ Aimee

The First 100 Books

There is a ton of advice out there about how to sell the first 1,000 copies of your debut novel. So much advice that 1,000 copies became kind of a mantra of mine. If there’s all this advice, people must be doing it, right? If they can, I can.

1,000 copies became a magic number for me. At first, it sounds like a ton but when you think about the population of the United States (320 million or so) that’s only .0003%. Statisticians wouldn’t even look at a number like that as being relevant except in lottery chances.

It can’t be that hard, right?

Well… as it turns out—it is. According to my editor, 90% of self-published books will sell less than 100 copies. After I heard that, the way I looked at my book changed. It was no longer about selling the first 1,000 copies. It was about selling the first 100 copies. It was about breaking into that elite 10% of self-published authors.

This means selling one book at a time.

In some ways, this shift in mentality is extremely disheartening. I’ve spent close to $4,000 on my debut novel. To recoup that investment, I have to sell over 1,400 copies of my e-book (you see now another reason the 1,000 copies was a magic number for me). For the record, I don’t regret my investment at all because that’s precisely how I see it—an investment. Investments don’t typically return money overnight. They take time to mature, which is what I hope my novel will do. As I said in a previous post, I write because I have to. I publish to make money, but I realize that takes time. The old adage that “you have to spend money to make money” rings true. Additionally, I can’t imagine my book without my team. I didn’t simply invest in my book, I invested in talent and that’s something I’m extremely proud to have been a part of (and will continue to be a part of).

In other ways, however, thinking about selling my first 100 books is refreshing. Every single book I sell feels like a victory. Every review on Amazon brings a fresh spark to my veins. I get excited about the process all over again. It gives me the fuel to keep going. I have a feeling it won’t always be this way, so I’m trying to focus on the little things and hold this moment close. One book at a time.

When I started this blog, I promised myself I would be completely transparent with my readers. In the name of transparency, I’ll tell you it has been 3(ish) days since my book launched and I’ve sold 20 copies. All 20 have been on Amazon. Most of the 20 were to people I know, but there are a couple I can’t account for. The mystery readers are especially exciting.

I am one-fifth of the way there!

Of course, this journey is only beginning, but I want to use this blog as a place to keep track of my thoughts while they’re happening in the hopes that one day I can look back on it and smile to myself about how far I’ve come and think about how silly I was. I also hope one day others can read about this journey for what it was. I’ve had tons of people send me encouraging messages about how many times J.K. Rowling was rejected and how she struggled, but I think it would be an interesting experiment to watch the struggle in real time with a real life person who probably won’t ever be J.K. Rowling-famous. Maybe one day, if I ever make it, aspiring writers can look at this blog and know they’re not alone. Maybe even if I don’t make it, I can help one person feel less alone.

So… here are some brief thoughts for the first 20 copies of my book:

1. Facebook ads will attract “likes” but not necessarily sales. This is really bizarre to me, by the way. I posted an ad on launch day with a link to my book on Amazon and I had 24 people “like” or “love” it (95% of whom I didn’t know) and as far as I can tell, not a single sale. I’m confused who would like an ad without buying the product, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there. I haven’t completely given up on Facebook ads because well… it’s only day four, and I’ve heard they can be successful, but the early results are not convincing me.

2. The internet loves cats more than dogs. Okay, I don’t actually know how true this is, but I tweeted a picture of my dog Gabi and a picture of my cat Maia and Maia won the mini-Twitter war. This doesn’t have much to do with book sales, but I did want to mention it in the event you were considering putting an animal of some sort on your cover—pro tip: pick a cat.

3. There are people who literally Instagram pictures of books. This was something I didn’t know but is really fascinating to me. One of my friends told me I should send copies of my print version book to some IGers and see if they’d post. I was thoroughly confused. When I looked into it… my mind was blown. These photos are incredibly beautiful and strangely calming to look at, but I had no idea this was a thing.

4. People who say they’re going to buy your book probably won’t. If you’re relying on people who hear you’re writing a book and say, “I’ll definitely buy it”—don’t. Some of them will (especially friends, family and coworkers who are forced to see you every day and know you will shame them if they don’t support your work) but most of them won’t. I really thought that first 100 books would be no problem because I had at least that many Facebook friends tell me they’d buy it. All right, that’s not being entirely honest, I had maybe 40 Facebook friends tell me they’d buy it, but whatever. Not that many did. That’s okay, though. They’re mostly not my target audience anyway, and I’m building a business here as much as a book. I want readers who are in my target audience who will continue to come back for more.

5. It’s okay to be sad. Yesterday was a rough day for me. I was disheartened. I’m normally a pretty logical person but yesterday my emotions got the best of me. I knew I wouldn’t wake up on Tuesday and have sold 10,000 copies. I knew it would involve a lot of work. Everyone tells you it’s going to be tons of work—your editors, designers, other indie authors, they tell you. I told myself, over and over, but I still harbored thoughts that was going to be the exception. When I wasn’t, I was bummed. I cried. “I worked so hard,” I whined into my pillow and to a couple close friends. “I spent so much money.” “I did everything everyone said.” (I didn’t, by the way). “I feel like a failure.”

I got a lot of advice. “It’s only been two days.” “Keep marketing.” “Tell everyone.” “There’s always a publishing house.” “Sometimes it just takes luck.” “You’ll get there eventually.” The best bit of advice I got though was: “Cry it out now. Just get it all out and then once you’re done, take some deep breaths and make the decision that you’re going to keep working at it until it IS successful.” So. Much. This.

There’s so many people in our lives who will tell us to suck it up and stop whining and put our nose to the grindstones and if “you’d just work harder” we sometimes forget we’re freaking artists. We’re spiritual, emotional, creative beings and we need to feel. We need to suffer. We need to allow ourselves to suffer. If I hadn’t suffered, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have these words to share. Suffering made me a writer. Suffering is the one thing all people have in common. It’s the great connector. To block ourselves off from it is to block ourselves off from the one thing that makes us writers. So go ahead and cry. I know it’s stupid and trivial, and it feels foolish to cry over shit book sales in your first three days because there’s war in other countries and people are starving and your first world problems are nothing in comparison to the problems of many. But it’s fine. Do it. It will help refresh your creative spirit. And then when you’re done, get back to work. There’s another book to sell.

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Launch Day

It’s raining here in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I had trouble sleeping last night which isn’t entirely unusual. At midnight, I couldn’t resist posting on my personal Facebook page that I’d received a notice from Amazon that The Wheel Mages went live although it wasn’t part of my “launch plan”. Sometime around 3 or 4 am, after I’d fallen asleep to the glorious voice belonging to Sir David Attenborough, my German shepherd, Gabi, had a dream so intense she “ran” herself right off the bed.

I woke to the sounds of yipping and a struggle with the sheets as she tore them trying to cling to the bed. She couldn’t hold on and fell with a dramatic thud. I spent about half an hour trying to convince her to come out from under the bed. That incident combined with the rain made me a little apprehensive about launch day, I’m not gonna lie.

But you know what? So far, it’s been splendid. I got up as soon as my alarm went off and sprung to action. Facebook posts, messages, and texts flooded my phone. I didn’t realize I had so many people cheering for me. It made me feel immensely blessed. I almost cried. Only almost, though, because there’s still work to be done!

I hopped onto the computer to throw out some tweets and make an announcement on my official Facebook page. Everything is falling into place. Except the print version of the book—that isn’t ready yet. Remember how I said you shouldn’t throw last minute plans on your designer? Uh huh.

It’s all right, there’s still time. As my dad always says, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”

When I checked out my book on iBooks (figuring out how to link to an app was not something I was expecting to deal with this morning, by the way), I saw it was related to Game of Thrones and Tolkien. No lie, look!

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One of my friends sent me a picture of her electronic copy sitting spine to spine with Harry Potter. Wow. I’m still reeling. I’m a published author y’all. Published. The dream I’ve held since I was old enough to grip a pencil has finally been realized. After years of struggle and dozens of manuscripts, after hundreds of thousands of words and tens of journals filled to the brim with writing, I’ve finally done it. What an incredible feeling.

You know, when I started this post, I planned to write about how I got here. I was going to lay out the whole process of writing leading to publishing but I’m having difficulty finding the technical words when I’m so overwhelmed with emotion. That post will come but for now, I’m simply going to bask in this feeling while it lasts.

I hope you all enjoy The Wheel Mages. I know I enjoyed writing it.

❤ Aimee

P.s. In honor of Giving Tuesday, 50% of launch day proceeds will be going to HeARTsSpeak, an international organization I’m a member of which is dedicated to helping artists connect with shelter animals to improve their chances of finding a furever home.

A Room of My Own

Author’s note: This post was written on October 21, 2016 before the website was launched. I hesitated to post it because it’s deeply personal, but I decided when I launched this book that I would be transparent with my readers and hopefully give some encouragement for those who are currently struggling.

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. ~ Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Today, I sit down to put the final touches on my debut novel The Wheel Mages before I send it to the copy editor. It’s a time of great joy for me. I spent the first hour of my day dancing to Sia in my living room with my German shepherd, Gabi, chasing me, loving this grand game. But as the adrenaline that comes with ending the task you’ve been focused on for so many months wore off, I became reflective.

I’ve been thinking about Virginia Woolf a lot this morning. I remember reading A Room of One’s Own for the first time in a high school English class. Virginia Woolf spoke to me in a way no classic author had before. Through the practicality of her message I felt a deep romanticism of writing—one I shared and it made it feel like she was truly speaking to me in the most personal way.

When I was in college studying creative writing, my dorm room was covered in quotes from my favorite authors—Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Christina Rossetti, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Dante. But affixed above my head was a quote from Woolf:

“Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.”

I didn’t know it then but that quote would take on a new life for me many  years later.

You see, The Wheel Mages originated in a dark place.

In late January of this year, I self-committed to a behavioral health facility for suicidal ideation. I’d been having the thoughts for a long time but for whatever reason, that night, the dam broke and I knew I had to make a change or I wouldn’t survive.

Behavioral health facilities do not allow patients to have pens or pencils in their rooms, and the use of them is closely monitored in common areas. At first, this situation didn’t bother me. I hadn’t written anything of substance in years and it never occurred to me that might be something I’d want to do. Thoughts of what I wanted had fled not long after I graduated college.

But after a few days, my mind started to clear. Long hidden desires and dreams resurfaced. Through the fog of the medication, I saw the outline of what could be. It was like looking at a shadow at high noon—impossible and fuzzy but somehow still there.

During my years-long battle with mental illness and addiction (two dirty words, I know), I lost so much. Relationships with men and friends and family, my health, my spirit, my sanity. One after one, pieces of my life tumbled down around me like boulders falling down a mountainside. I watched them fall in silence because I felt I had no choice. No matter how hard I loved or fought or lied, the boulders fell. Eventually, I gave up trying to stop them.

For a long while, I lived like that—in stasis, in a cocoon of my own making. I existed, nothing more.

I think the thing people often don’t realize about mental illness and addiction is that while all the visible losses the person suffering sustains are indeed terrible, the greatest loss is unseen. It is often one of the first stones to fall but it isn’t a boulder—it’s a tiny, insignificant looking pebble that starts the slide. It is the voice of the sufferer.

By the time I found myself behind four layers of locked doors, lying on a plastic bed with a sheet that barely covered my body, my voice had long since fallen and it had taken my desire to write with it.

The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace.

There had been no peace in my life, no freedom. I bore my problems like heavy chains and sat in a pit of self-loathing while my mind made a meal of itself, strangling me from the inside out.

In that facility, with all its horrors and interruptions, a place Virginia Woolf certainly never meant to be the room of one’s own she envisioned for female novelists, I began to find some freedom.

For the first time in years, my time was my own. I had no responsibility to anyone except myself. It was a violent baptism of sorts. I had been stripped bare of all my defenses and distractions, forced to confront myself in the harshest of lights.

Alena took shape in the back of my mind. In many ways, she’s a reflection of who I wanted to be at that time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the first image the reader gets of her is of her standing tall, biting back her fears. That’s how I saw her and how I wanted to see myself.

Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.

As the days in that place trickled by, the story spun outward. There would be a man who loved her and another to challenge her. She would stumble, as we all do. She would fail, as I had, but she would push forward.

My fingers started to itch in a way they hadn’t in a long time. Energy I thought I’d lost resurfaced. My voice started to whisper to me, a wellspring of hope, and I no longer felt alone.

When I was released, the first place I went was a bookstore. Among the familiar scent of fresh pages, new life blossomed. I caressed the titles of works I knew, breathing them in. I remembered college and the quotes on my wall, now stored in a box in my parents’ attic. I remembered how much I’d loved Milton and how ardently I’d argued with my professors over morality in Chekhov.

I remembered, too, how I’d been taught to write fiction but had always been drawn to fantasy. I remembered the shame I’d felt and the judgment I’d borne because I had such promising talent but I wanted to waste it on genre fiction.

Therefore I would ask you to write all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial or however vast.

I thought about writing the story of my ten-day stay in a mental hospital or about the events leading up to it but I couldn’t. If I were to find my way back to myself it would be in fantasy. It would be my path—no one else’s.

I bought all of Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series and read them in two days. I ransacked my old room at my parents’ house, loading my car with books. My apartment, which had always been bare of books (looking back, I can’t help but shake my head, how deep was my despair that my world was bare of books?) was now full of them. Every flat surface held a title—Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey, J.K. Rowling, Cassandra Clare—the novels of my genre touched spines with the classics of my training. I brought forth Durkheim’s work on the Elementary Forms of Religious Life and dove back into the dark writings of Nietzsche. I pulled out notebooks full of research on Eastern European history that has always fascinated me and read my old journals that even then were dripping with the deep darkness that would overwhelm me in time.

When my mind was full and saturated with art, I sat down with my legal pad and let the words bleed onto the page. The Wheel Mages was born.

Now, nearing the end of this journey and the beginning of a new one, I can’t help but look back and see how far I’ve come. For the first time in my life, I’m proud and unafraid to say so. As I sit here, settling into my desk chair with the cover page of a completed manuscript staring back at me and a light breeze drifting through my window, I feel the greatest sense of peace I have ever known.

I finally have a room of my own.

Hindsight Happenings

Hindsight is 20/20. Everyone says it but never has that message been clearer to me than a week before I’m supposed to launch my debut novel. And as I start to freak out and stress, I do what I normally do—I turn to writing.

So, if any of you hopeful authors would like to know some mistakes I’ve made and ways to make your first book launch go smoother than mine, I guess there’s no better time to tell you about them than when they’re fresh in my mind.

1. Do Plan to have a Print Version of your Book

I didn’t plan to have a print version of my debut novel. Until today. 11 days before release day. This was not a good plan. Actually, it was the absolute lack of a plan that got me into this terrible situation. Do not do this. Print is good. It’s your friend.

Why didn’t I have a plan for a print version, you ask? Because it seemed silly. We have technology strapped to us all the time. Your dang watch can be an e-reader (okay, maybe this is an exaggeration, but maybe it isn’t). I didn’t think anyone except for super nerds like me preferred print over eBook. As it turns out, this is not true. A lot of people still really prefer the print version. They like the way books feel in the hand and the way they smell, and your friends and family like the fact that they can have an autographed copy.

Be prepared to use CreateSpace at the very least. They facilitate the handy “Print on Demand” feature on Amazon. Also be prepared for a bit of a formatting headache if you’re not a computer whizz (guilty). If you’re not, watch this YouTube video tutorial on formatting your book for CreateSpace. It will help, I promise.

Also be prepared to have a wrap for your print version. It’s more than a cover, it’s a PDF spread required by CreateSpace that includes the spine and the back of the book blurb. You can create your own through CreateSpace but in my humble opinion, they simply don’t look as good as one done by a professional. Thank heavens my designer, Fiona, was willing and able to put one together for me on short notice. But it isn’t a nice thing to do to a designer, so try to avoid it and have it ready to go in advance.

2. Do have some Wiggle Room in your Budget

This was actually something I did do, but I was amazed how quickly the money in my budget disappeared. This self-publishing thing is not cheap. One of the biggest errors I made was only including “big ticket” items in my budget, like the artwork and editing. The little things add up quickly and caught me by surprise. Here’s a quick list of the things I included my budget and others that popped up along the way:

  • Cover Design (included in budget)
  • Artwork/graphics for website, Facebook, etc. (included in budget)
  • Wrap for print version of book (not included, popped up)
  • Content Edit (included in budget but went over budget)
  • Copy Edit (included in budget)
  • Costs associated with buying ISBN numbers and barcode (I literally didn’t know this was a thing until about a month before launch. I’m not proud of this lack of knowledge, but if it helps one of you avoid the same mistake, I’m happy to admit it. Obviously, this was not included in my budget)
  • Website hosting costs (included in budget)
  • Vellum formatting costs (or other formatting costs if you choose to go with a formatter for print and/or eBook) (not included, popped up)

3. Do Consider Pre-Orders

The pre-order function on Amazon didn’t really seem to make much sense to me for a first book. I mean, no one has heard of me and the only people who were going to pre-order my book were people who were going to read it anyway (my family and friends, mostly). But as soon as I started posting about the release date on Facebook and officially launched my website, I found a lot of people were interested in pre-ordering my book. My editor also asked about posting pre-order links to her social media accounts. This left me in a bind.

I actually did manage to scramble and get something ready for pre-order, but it’s not much of a pre-order as it’s only coming a week before launch. It was also extremely stressful (I’ve been working for going on 14 hours today), and in my haste, I messed something up on my Amazon submission and my book is now listed under my editor’s name instead of mine, and I’m sitting here with my fingers crossed obsessively checking my email every 17 seconds to see if Amazon gets my email begging them to fix it before it goes live on the site.

Which leads me to my next point about pre-orders on Amazon. At the very least, pre-orders give you a chance to correct any silly mistakes you’ve made (like listing your book under your editor’s name instead of your own) BEFORE your hard launch. The other great thing about pre-orders is that if it’s already ready to launch, it will be released exactly when you want it to instead of having to wait 12+ hours on launch day for it to go live on the site.

4. Do Remember to Breathe

I’m a naturally anxious person, so I might be more stressed than most, but this is advice I could have used. All throughout my day, I kept telling myself: there is nothing that has been done that cannot be undone. There is nothing that cannot wait. It helped. Well, at least until I put my book out for pre-order under the wrong name.

Seriously though, it can be fixed. I know it can. That’s the great thing about technology and the great thing about self-publishing. This would have been much more serious if I’d just put the wrong name on a slip for a 10,000 book print run. That could probably be fixed too, but this is much simpler. I can fix it quickly with Amazon (aren’t they the greatest?), and I’ll be right back on track. Nothing is so big it can’t be addressed.

5. Don’t Forget—Taxes are a Thing

Any retailer is going to ask you to fill out a W-9 for tax purposes. For me, this was relatively simple, but I didn’t realize it until I was basically ready to start uploading to various retailers. This might be an added complication for some, so I wanted to throw it out there in the event someone wasn’t expecting it!

Happy Writing! And if you see The Wheel Mages listed on Amazon under someone else’s name, please still buy it! I’m pretty sure I got the mailing information right for the check, at the very least!

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My very first reader—that’s IT by the way! On my Kindle!