I know, I know. I was supposed to resume blog posts after NaNoWriMo, but I decided to take the rest of the year off and concentrate on fiction writing. It was a good decision. #noregrets
We’ll resume our regularly scheduled programming on Monday, January 8th.
*whistles* Folks, 2017 was a heck of a year.
Depressing is an accurate description. The first few months of the year was me trying not to keel over from an aneurysm after reading the daily news about shit-show that is the White House administration. I’m sure a lot of people found themselves in a similar posture. I wasn’t writing. I had no desire to write. An overwhelming feeling of despair overshadowed everything. I was angry and frustrated. Some peace came when I found a couple of Facebook groups full of romance writers and readers who felt as I did. Chatting with them and venting made things slightly better for me. Comradery in those groups, along with Twitter, helped me make it through a super rough part of the year. Shout-out to romance readers, writers, and bloggers in the Resistance!
Officially, my groove came back when I attended RT in May. Romantic Times was my first major book event and signing, and it was also the spark that set my writer soul on fire. Never in a million years did I anticipate readers seeking me out to say they’d read and loved my work. *in my Keanu Reeves voice* Whoa.
After RT, the flames kept burning. I attended my first RWA conference. Then, in September, I attended the Brooklyn Book Festival and the Baltimore Book Festival. I was on a roll. Gooo meeee!
But allow me to get a little more personal and tell you how 2017 changed my perspective as an author and how these changes have guided my career moving forward. Let’s begin with…
The One Thing No One Likes to Talk About: Money
Ready for some blatant honesty? I’m not making any money, meaning I’m not bringing in stellar bucks. SHOCKING, RIGHT? Not really. I’ve only published five stories: three short stories, one novella, and one novel. I have a long way to go before writing can be a sustainable full-time career, but guess what?
I mentioned the dreaded M word.
At this stage of my career, I spend more money than I take in. For now, I’m fine with that because I’m building an empire. #bossladygoals I’m more than certain things will change in the next two-to-three years. My number one goal has always been to make back the money I’ve spent on covers and editing. That’s it. Not everyone shares the same mindset as me, and that’s okay. There are some authors who want to see an ROI immediately. We are all on different paths. There is no absolute right or wrong way to guide your writing career. Okay, there is a wrong way (not researching the market properly, not caring about your product enough to make it shine, spamming any and everyone all day every day with your book promotion, being a dick to readers and authors, etc.), but I think you know where I’m going with this. We do what works best for us at that moment.
Money doesn’t guide my writing decisions. I write the types of stories that excite me, and I self-publish. If something I write is considered “a flop” I don’t see it as a failure. Even in failure, there are lessons to be learned. With each release, I’ve learned something about myself as an entrepreneur, and those lessons guide me daily.
Spending some serious ching in 2017 led to a lot of wonderful experiences, and I know for certain it was a worthwhile investment. I’m investing in myself and my business, and I believe my investments have enabled me to network and connect with individuals I wouldn’t have had access to in the beginning of my career.
I’m inching forward and setting myself on a path of greatness, and holy crap is it exciting!
Keep it Real
In 2017, aside from spending $$$, I also took more chances. To some degree, I stopped giving a fuck, and boy was it freeing. As an author—let me rephrase—as a black romance author, I have always been very cognizant of my image and branding. I want to be perceived a certain way. While my marketing has enabled me to build a small following of readers who enjoy what I write, I also realize that it doesn’t matter if I’m the best marketer or the best writer in the world, there will be individuals who will never choose to read my work. My type of romance will not be everyone’s jam, and that’s perfectly okay.
Instead of trying to win everyone over, I’ve chosen to cultivate an intimate relationship with readers who are eager to expand their romance-reading horizons. They want to see more PoC in stories. They want to see more LGBTQIA+ people in stories. They want to read about non-Christian characters. They want to read about heroines, heroes, and non-binary folks who are coping with mental illness. Good lord, there’s a demand for stories featuring REAL humans dealing with REAL issues! LOL, insane, right? When I craft my romances, I’ve always written with realism in mind. I know there is an audience for my material, and I want to keep that audience coming back for more. It’s one of the reasons I’ve started writing short stories exclusively for my newsletter subscribers as a way to thank them for joining me on this journey.
Email addresses are gold, and if someone is willing to give you access to their inbox, you’d better do your best to keep em satisfied.
After three years in publishing, a lightbulb finally came on— I think the 2016 election had a lot to do with my awakening— I always want to see the best in people. I want to be positive and spread love and cheer, but I also believe in putting in the work. I recently read an article that said to pay attention, not only to the words people say and their actions but whether or not they’re consistent in their speech and their actions. In 2017, I chose to focus on being consistent with my intentions and surrounding myself with other author folk who abide by the same rules. I finally got a handle on my tribe. In 2016, I was building it little by little, but now I have a solid foundation of author friends.
Making friends as an adult is hard. Making friends as an author is like pulling teeth. There are people who are friendly and outgoing and want to befriend everyone. *raises hand* Then there are people who aren’t very trusting because they’ve been burned. *raises hand again* If I let the people who’ve burned me keep me away from seeking out new friends, I’d be doing this writing thing alone.
No one can survive alone. No one. Working solo in a bubble can only take you so far. We all need the assistance of others in some form. Authors need other authors in order to succeed. Individual efforts matter, but collaborative efforts also go a long way toward success. Many authors helped me in 2017, and I am so incredibly grateful to each and every one of them and their unique assistance. Because of them, I’m more productive than I’ve ever been, and I have a clear vision of my career trajectory.
2017 has changed my mindset.
Spending money is a necessary evil. I no longer hem and haw when I have to shell out $$$ to ensure I’m making the right moves as an entrepreneur.
Not giving a fuck is freeing. I’ve lost some readers, and I’ve gained some readers. I’ve been unfriended, unfollowed, blocked; you name it. I will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that is A-okay. Being my authentic self is all that matters in the end. Well, that and writing a quality story. LOL. I don’t want to be an authentic person who writes crap. I’m always trying to hone my craft!
Being consistent with your intentions garners support in ways that may surprise you. Never be afraid to ask questions. Never be afraid to ask for help. Never be afraid to tell people they inspire you. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Everyone will not love you. Everyone will not like you. But it’s important to have people within the writing community who have your back. Writing is a solitary gig, so find people who get you and want to help you succeed. Like any other community, the romance writing community has its ups and downs. The ride has a tendency to get a little bumpy, so strap in tight and make sure you’re seated next to people who are ready to hold your hand through it all.
In a very odd way, the horrible beginning of the year helped me to round out the year on a good note. I may not be able to control what happens in the White House or in our nation, but I chose to focus on things I can control, and it’s been the most therapeutic form of self-care ever.
2018 has already kicked off in stellar fashion. Here’s hoping the rest of the year brings forth many more opportunities for prosperity!