On Writing

I’m an author.

Yeah, it sounds funny even to me.

See, I’ve been a writer for 15 years, ever since the very first moment I put a pencil to paper during 7th grade Geography at Marsh Valley Middle School and wrote a 20-page ‘novel’ about a little girl who lived on the prairie. I imagine you can see where that story went…pretty much in the same direction as the real book about a little girl who lived on the prairie. But that’s beside the point, because I loved writing that story. I remember that moment vividly; it was the first moment I felt something come alive inside me. That was it. I was hooked. End of story.

I could go on for days describing to you all what writing means to me, and what it feels like to create my characters, to know them, to sit back and let them tell their story. I could sit and tell you that there is nothing quite like reading over your own book and laughing at something you wrote…or crying. I think one of the best feelings in the world for a writer is reading their own work and thinking, “Wow. Did I really write this?”

I think my story telling started WAY earlier than 7th grade. I have some friends who can vouch for me when I say that we used to sit under a shaded tree after lunch time in elementary school and I’d tell them wild, crazy stories that were’t actually true but I convinced people they were. I loved it. They loved it. It was a lovely love fest.

I wrote my first real book about a young female jockey. This was around the time I thought I could EVER be skinny enough to ride a horse at 40 miles an hour, but that’s beside the point. It was okay, not good, but it was something…..and I was about 14 years old, so it was a great something for an angst-y teenager.

A couple years after that I wrote my second book about a teenage girl who went to rehab for being crazy. My knowledge of that whole ordeal came from the depraved mind of a 15-year-old Idahoan girl, so none of it made sense, but it was still a story.

I kept writing books, with each book evolving and filling out a little bit better than the last one. I pitched to agents and editors and wished and wished and wished that someone would make me the next Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling. That’s not how it works, of course, but I’m still trying to convince myself of that even now.

In 2014 an agent read a book I wrote called TRIAL. She loved it. She signed me. We changed the name to CAPTURE ME and did a lot of revisions and then she started submitting my book to publishing houses. Less than two weeks in, she quit the agency and dropped her clients, including me, like we were nothing. To this day I’m still conflicted when it comes to that agent. While she dropped us at our most vulnerable time, she also gave me hope that if she loved my book, someone else might too. So I fell off the ladder when she left, then started from the bottom and tried again.

In the four years between now and then, my husband and I had a baby and started our little life. My husband is amazing. Truly. Shortly after we married I lost my day job and focused on writing instead. He made enough—barely—to keep us fed and dry, while I worked tirelessly on writing and pitching more and more books. I worked from home as a freelance editor and ghostwriter. It wasn’t much, but it was some side money to keep us going, but I wasn’t getting anywhere professionally with my OWN writing.

I had SO MANY “I love this but” emails from agents that I was in tears and angry more often than not. I revised, rewrote, resubmitted, and did everything else I possibly could to hear that stupid validation I wanted so badly. It didn’t matter to me that I had SO many people praising my work and encouraging me…I mean, people LOVED IT. They loved my books and my characters. LOVED. IT. But at the time I was blind to it. In the publishing world, it’s so easy to get lost in the world of, “I’m only good enough if an agent/editor says I’m good enough.” It’s dangerous, it really is.

It was my friend and guru Jami that pushed me into the world of self-publishing. I’d met Jami years before when an agent she was interning for rejected one of my books. Jami loved that book, and it didn’t take me long to realize that Jami likes very few books in my genre, and she made it clear I had something special. She doesn’t sugar coat shit. She’s brutally honest and she’ll tell you if you suck. Sometimes she makes me cry a little bit. It’s why I love her and another big reason I continued writing. She’s been my mentor since then, and she’s the reason I self-published.

Like many writers and professionals in the business, I was under the asinine opinion that self-publishing a book was stupid and only people who ‘weren’t good enough’ did it that way.

Jesus. If I could go back ten years and kick myself in the face for not doing it sooner, I would.

Jami added me to the Facebook group 20Booksto50k. Essentially the point is, “Publish 20 books, do it right, work your ass off, and you’re well on your way to making a living as a writer.”

The people in this group were and are amazing. I spent MONTHS studying their habits, writing down advice, taking courses, and scrolling through advice feeds. I couldn’t even begin to fathom the fact that some of these people were not only supporting themselves on their own books, but actually making six figures a year….but not just a year, some of them were making that in a MONTH. I even read a few of these books and realized something: they were no better than I was. They were the same. I was just as good.

Traditional publishing is dying. It’s becoming clear to me and others that indie authors are taking over the publishing platform. Once I dove into the world of indie publishing, I realized something: if an agent approached me tomorrow and wanted to sign me, I’d probably refuse. Why? Because I don’t want to pay someone to do what I can do myself. I don’t need the validation of one person anymore. I have the validation of thousands.

After months of research to make sure I did everything right, I released my debut novel, Capture Me, at the end of May.

This book was popular. People loved it. While I worked on getting my next full-length novel ready for release, I released a few more novellas. Sexy ones, hot and steamy and full of angst. People liked those ones even more.

I released my New Adult romance a month or two after my debut. Covering the Quarterback was and still is a huge hit. All my books are.

I may not be making six figures a year (yet), but every month that my books are for sale and available to readers, my income goes up. In the 3 1/2 months I’ve been self-published, I’ve had over 150,000 page reads and make hundreds of dollars a month. To some people that’s nothing, to me, it’s HUGE. That’s groceries. Or a mini-vacation. That’s money I made not even working….because writing is not work for me. Telling stories is not work. Even when I’m not writing, I’m making money. It’s like….surreal.

In the 3 months I’ve been published I’ve been offered two BookBub deals. 90% of authors who apply for a BookBub promotion get rejected. They only take on the best of the best. I guess that means I’m not too bad.

I’m living my dream. Every once in a while this little voice of self doubt crawls up and a voice whispers in my ear, “This isn’t working. You can’t even support yourself yet.” It’s hard for me to admit that I HATE when people ask how much I’m making on my books, because I feel like I should be ashamed that in three months it’s only been the income of a part time job. But you know what? No.

I get out of bed every morning, get my adorable kid ready for the day, and then write beautiful words. I love it. When people ask me how it’s going and how we’ve been, I silently say in my head, “I’m literally living the dream. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do.” I have thousands of subscribers and readers who email me and message me and follow me, wanting to know when the next book releases and needing to tell me how much they loved the last one. I’ve had amazing reviews and a few shitty ones…it’s all part of the gig.

I guess my point is…I’m done being hesitant about my career. About my life. This is amazing. This is my dream, and sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit. I’ve written 13 full-length novels and countless novellas. I’m working on my 14th novel and am releasing another book in October.

I rock. Anyone who can chase their dream and live it, you rock. It’s hard, okay? I’ve invested so much money and even more time into what I’ve before called a pipe dream. So I want to thank the people who call me out for that. My husband especially, my mother, my in-laws, my author friends, my betas, my readers, and my editor. The other day, after a crappy writing day, my editor listened to me bitch and then said to me, “Your books are too good for you not to make it happen. Your writing is fabulous.” Sometimes, that’s all we need to keep going.

Whether you’re a fellow author, a hard-working writing trying to make it, a family member, or a friend, the only way you’re going to do what you want to do is if you do it. Literally. I am DONE not posting book-related things on my personal page because I didn’t want to annoy people with it.

I DIDN’T WANT TO ANNOY PEOPLE WITH MY NOVELS. My books. These 80,000 word books that I cried over and bled over and agonized over. I DIDN’T WANT TO ANNOY *THEM* OR *YOU*.

Somebody slap me, because I’ve been doing it all wrong.

I. Am. An. Author.

I can only wish happiness upon others who aren’t living their dream.

Make it happen. I did.

Xo, A.

 

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