Finally, a Newsletter

Those who’ve followed my blog for a while know that I was resistant to starting a newsletter. After all, I keep a blog, shouldn’t that be enough? Well, based on what I’ve now learned, the answer is no, for a couple of reasons.

First, any mail list I create is mine. As was pointed out to me by others, Facebook, Twitter, BookBub, WordPress, and LinkedIn etc. could disappear overnight for various reasons and I’d lose all of my contacts and followers. I’ve seen authors be banned on FB and Twitter, lose their ads, or have other things diminish their presence. Whatever happens to social platforms over time, I’ll still have my email list of subscribers.

Secondly, I’ve learned that I am not my readers. The newsletter will therefore be written for people who are interested in my mysteries or who are curious about me as an author. I’ll be focusing on insights about other authors’ mysteries, the writing process, and also sharing excerpts, and book cover reveals.

To that end, if you wish to join my mail list, I’m giving away a free ebook of my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, for the next couple of months in order to help build my list. You can click on the link HERE, which should take you to my original landing page inviting you to subscribe.

I’ve chosen SendFox as my provider because it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles and the current price is just a one-time offer of $49.00. In other words, no monthly fee!. SendFox is fairly new and there might be glitches to sort out, so hopefully it’ll work for you.

What you should see is my original landing page. Once you subscribe, you should receive a welcome page with the link to the free ebook. This will take you to BookFunnel, which is a great service for readers and authors to giveaway their stories, send Advance Review Copies, and do joint promotions with other authors. If you want to learn more, you can find the link HERE.

BookFunnel will then ask you which email address you’d like your book sent to and voila it should work. A couple days after that you’ll receive a follow-up email from me asking if you received your book. If you do sign up, let me know how it goes, so I can work out any glitches.

I plan to send a newsletter at the beginning of each month, so my first one will be in March. If you’re thinking about starting your own newsletter, but aren’t sure where to start, I recommend reading Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque, which I’ve recommended before. It really helped change my thinking. Now I just have to change my mindset about ads.

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Winding Up 2020

Pexel photo by Karolina Grabowska

If you’re not an accountant and would much rather write or clean out your closets than tackle recordkeeping for your writing biz, I understand. Having been raised by a bookkeeper whose father was an accountant, and with three CPAs in my immediate family, numbers are definitely a thing in our household, though. Oddly, I’m the one who balances the checkbook in our house, but I don’t mind.

I keep records for my writing business without using any particular program, although I will if the business grows. Right now, income and expenses are few enough to simply record on an Excel spreadsheet. My family takes care of the tax filing and calculating the deductions I’m allowed from working out of my home office. My part is to simply enter expenses and income as they appear.

It isn’t always that straightforward, given that bookstores and some of Draft2Digital’s vendors have a lag time between making a sale and reporting it to the author, as do publishers. In the old days, I used to wrap my bookkeeping up on December 31st, but it now occurs the last week of January.

Crunching the numbers is the best way to take stock and compare net profit with the previous year’s income, and to make budgetary decisions for the year ahead. I wasn’t expecting much for 2020 because my usual craft fair events were cancelled. The book promotion sites, especially BookBub boosted ebook sales to the point where I sold more books than last year than ever before, although 90% of them were ebooks and therefore a fraction of the price of my print books. Still, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that my net profit for 2020 was up a little bit compared to 2019. The reason is that my expenses were cut in half because I didn’t have to spend big bucks on craft fair fees and the insurance coverage that some fair organizers require.

Hopefully, the craft fairs will be back this year. I’ve already received one application from a fair planning to return in November. I can’t wait to see how this year unfolds. How about you? Was your 2020 better, worse, or the same as the previous year? Do you plan to try something new to sell books this year?

The Gritty Part of Editing

I’ve reached the halfway point of editing draft #6 of my urban fantasy. My critique group’s been immensely helpful, as of others. Fellow blogger, Jacqui Murray for instance, recently wrote about getting rid of lazy words like ‘there’ and ‘was’ in her manuscript, which reminded me to tackle this as well.

Using the ‘Find’ icon in Word, I was stunned to discover that was appeared 383 times in 165 pages. From page one, I looked for ways to replace the word or rejig a passive sentence into something stronger. In doing so, I inadvertently cut more words from the manuscript. A huge bonus!

Ridding your manuscript of lazy words is a tedious and time-consuming exercise. It’s the gritty part of editing, but it’s also necessary and in many ways quite satisfying. Draft #6 has been about continuity, cutting, and fleshing out characters’ motives. So far, the process has made the manuscript twenty pages shorter, and I’m hoping to cut much more by the time it’s ready for beta readers and my editor.

Not every writer loves editing but I enjoy it, even though it seems to take forever. I often compare it to a block of marble, slowly chipping away the unnecessary bits to create something meaningful, where everything is exactly where it should be and the work is always worth the effort.

While editing, I usually have either a coffee, glass of water, or tea by my side. In talking with other authors over the years, having a beverage close at hand is practically a must. For me, stopping to sip something not only lets me think about those words on the page, but gives my eyes a quick break from the computer screen.

My family knows I’m a tea lover, so I received the perfect Christmas gift this year. Packets of tea in the shape of books. How cool is that? Part of me doesn’t want to open it and spoil the look, but hey, I still have a lot of editing ahead.

Where to Spend, or Not Spend, on Your Author Biz

Photo from Pexels

At this time of year, I always calculate how much money I’ll need to maintain and expand my writing business. Having grown up relatively poor, budgeting has been a way of life since childhood. The accountants in my family keep me on track, so financial accountability is part of normal life.

I record writing income and expenses on an Excel sheet pretty much once a week, but I don’t create a new spreadsheet of anticipated expenses for the upcoming year, though I probably should. When it comes to annual fees for professional memberships, websites, promotion services, etc. I simply refer to previous years to know what I’ll need.

They say you have to spend money to make money. When it comes to book production, this is quite true unless you’re traditionally published. So, it’s always a challenge to see if anticipated income will be enough to hire the editor and jacket designer I’ll need. As many of you know, production costs can add up, especially if you intend to sell print copies at various events. The question is, how likely will it be to make that money back in a relatively short timeframe, and what is a short timeframe anyway?

To boost sales income, I’ve tried half a dozen promotion (aka book deal) sites with mixed results. Last June was more profitable than the fall, although each event helped get the word out about my books. Still, I’ll be reflecting on how much to spend this coming year. I’ve also pondered Amazon, Facebook, BookBub ads, which can be highly profitable or extremely costly, depending on a number of factors. Based on what I’ve learned so far, you need to know what you’re doing.

A recent post from Writer Beware also got me thinking about money. The piece made it clear that the number of scammers is growing and they’re becoming more clever about targeting authors, both traditionally and self-published. I recommend reading their most recent blog and, as mentioned before, using their site as a resource when you’re approached by someone or a company you’re not sure about. You can find the blog HERE.

To me, financial health is as important as physical and mental health. This year, I’m excited to see if I can build my business while still spending prudently. It should be an interesting experiment.

January Exuberance, Who Knew?

Not quite that exuberant, but close…

A funny thing happened on Sunday night. I felt wildly happy, exuberant, in fact. The reason was simple. For the first time in years, I was ending the Christmas season without worrying about heading back to a day job. Fretting about the return to work, or in earlier days, getting the kids ready for school, or even my own return to school, always meant that the first weekend of a new year was a downer. Not this time, my friends. I tried real hard not to smirk over the fact that my hubby and son were returning to work on Monday. Of course, I failed miserably, but they understood.

I have no intention of shuffling my way into laziness this month, despite the dark rainy days. I’ve a fairly long to-do list in my planner this week, but it’s my choice as to how much time I’ll spend on each of these tasks. This year, I’m going to give myself more free time on the weekends to try new recipes, read more books, or go for longer walks.

I have two major writing projects underway, and a third, which I’ve put on the backburner but really need to finish. It’s a Casey Holland novella, which was written quite some time ago and has been edited at least ten times. I put it away last spring, but 2021 might be the time to get it publication ready. The first six books in the series had a serious tone, but the novella is a tongue-and-cheek look at the lighter side of Casey’s work as a transit security officer. Once I pull it out of its folder, I’ll tell you more.

It will be a work-filled year. My choice. Productive. Creative. Fun. Stepping outside into the real world might be a little more challenging until most of the population is vaccinated, but I’ll do my best to stay safe. But once they are, that’ll be a happy day!

A New Year Dawns

Pexels photo by Olya Kobruseva

Well, we’ve just about made it through 2020 and that’s a good thing, but we must not forget those who didn’t. I know some of you lost friends and family members this year, and words can’t adequately express my sadness for the many lives lost. Articles, blogs, books, and documentaries have and will be written about this year. These days, I choose to reflect on what I’ve learned and to think about new goals for 2021.

As far as writing goes, I intend to follow through with some of the goals I mentioned earlier this month. After researching the pros and cons, I’ve finally been persuaded that building an email list is a good marketing strategy. Now, I just need to decide which server best suits my needs.

As you might have noticed, I’ve been working on branding and came up with a logo, with my daughter’s help, and finally updated my blog sidebar. I’ve also given my website a new look. There’s always something to do isn’t there? With restrictions still in place in our area, I’ve had plenty of time to work on these tasks after a morning of editing.

About this time last year, I set a goal of sorting through bins of the kids’ old schoolwork and recycling as much as I could. I finally tackled the project this week, which has actually been fun. I’ve been their reading class journal entries from grades three and four. In one, my daughter wrote that she wanted to be a writer. I remember that. In university, she chose an accounting career because she’s incredibly bright and well aware that a writing income doesn’t pay off mortgages unless you’re one of those rare souls. She’s always had an artistic bent and drew beautiful pictures in her elementary school days. Since she’s been on maternity leave she’s started drawing again. In our family, one of the most interesting outcomes of COVID is that my son has also taken up drawing. My husband’s enjoyed this hobby on and off for years but he also developed a passion for photography this year. It’s amazing to see them nurture their artistic side.

2020 definitely had some awesome moments for me, like retiring from the day job and the birth of my granddaughter, but I’ll always look back on it with mixed emotions. Meanwhile, I’ll greet 2021 with the same optimism I usually have when a new year starts. I wish you all a happy, creative, and prosperous 2021!

A Different Kind of Christmas

Well, it’s almost Christmas, and I hope you’re all doing as well as you possibly can. Christmas at our house will certainly be different this year. My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter will be celebrating with us via Zoom. My son, who lives with us, will hook up my laptop to our big screen TV so they’ll be as close to us as possible. If luck, we might be able to get my brother-in-law in Ottawa to Zoom in with us as well.

I’m still cooking a turkey and enjoying some wine, and gift unwrapping. I still feel excitement and joy by the holiday season and am heartened to see people doing so many generous things to make the holidays a little better for others.

Today, I’m sharing some photos that represent some of my December. First up are three of my favorite tree ornaments. The chandelier and First Nations design are gifts from my sister who usually brings me a new ornament every year. The pink flamingo was purchased from the gift shop at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, where we took my mom for her 75th birthday just over a decade ago. This will be our second Christmas without Mom, and I still miss her very much.

But we’re also overjoyed to spend our first Christmas with Ellie. This photo was taken on Dec. 10th, after she’d been to the doctor for her checkup and vaccines. She’s now 4-1/2 months old.

Ellie and me

It snowed in our area on the first official day of winter, which is kind of cool. When you’re retired and don’t have to drive to work every day, you appreciate snow a little more.

Taken two days ago. There’s little snow left.

To those who celebrate, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!! And happy holidays everyone!

Thank You

Photo by Raj Vaishnaw on Pexels

It’s been a remarkably busy pre-Christmas week, but not for the usual reasons. My shopping, wrapping, and charitable donations are all done (about two weeks earlier than usual), which is just as well. My daughter’s been suffering from back pain, which reached an excruciating level on Monday, so I’ve been looking after baby Ellie this week while she recovers. Physiotherapy seems to be helping, but we’ll see how she does over the coming days.

This week, I simply want to say thank you to followers of this blog for sticking with me these past couple of years, and give a special welcome to those who have joined this fall. I’m especially grateful for those who’ve taken the time to comment or respond to my questions. I love the interaction I’ve received since joining WordPress and hope it will continue to grow.

Meanwhile, are you on a countdown to 2021 yet? Something tells me that many of us aren’t waiting for December 31st to get the countdown started.

Great Online Workshops For Authors

This week, I spent a few afternoons watching online workshops offered by the Creative Academy (CA), (the workshops are free by the way, although donations are appreciated), and I found some really helpful ones for authors.

I’ve been focusing on audio books and Amazon Ads lately, which has made the process seem less daunting than I originally thought. All of CA’s workshops are archived (many come with handouts and useful links) to view anytime, so if you’re looking for something to do during your Christmas break, this is a perfect opportunity to sign up (again at no cost) and browse through their catalogue of workshops. You can find all the workshops past and future, under their Events tab, but I recommend taking their orientation video to fully learn about the many resources that are available.

Thanks to those videos, part of my marketing plan for 2021 is to create audio versions of my books. As was said in one of the videos, the audiobook world is still fairly new, the way ebooks were back in 2011. There are more opportunities to sell them than I imagined and production costs don’t need to be as expensive as you might think.

There are also a number of new workshop releases called Expertpalooza, where firefighters, police officers, a librarian, a small plane pilot, and Olympic athlete, to name a few, provide insights about their professions. Looks like I’ve got plenty to keep me busy between now and the new year.

Since it was recently announced that British Columbians will not be permitted to go visit one another on Christmas Day and throughout the holidays until Jan. 8th, it looks like I’ll have extra time on my hands.

I also plan to spend these last days of 2020 working on a new book and to continue editing my urban fantasy. I have to say COVID has allowed me to indulge in one of the most productive years I’ve had in a while, especially since retiring in June. Still, I’m looking forward to more get togethers in 2021, as long as I don’t over commit. With luck, things will feel much more normal for all of us by this time next year.

New and Old Traditions This December

Last Sunday, we went for a drive and didn’t head back home until it was starting to get dark. To my delight, many homes already had their Christmas lights up and some were displaying decorated trees in the windows. I totally get it. The need for Christmas cheer is more important than ever this year. Local news reports tell us that customers are buying Christmas paraphernalia, including cards, much earlier than normal.

As is my usual tradition, I decorated our tree this week, as I like to have it done by my son’s birthday in a couple of days. Three weeks ago, I started holiday shopping because I wasn’t sure if our area would have further lockdown restrictions by December. I’m not a fan of shopping online yet, although I’m getting there.

Sadly, many local outdoor lighting festivities have been canceled along with in-person fundraising activities, so I’ve been doing online donations. Christmas will look a bit different for many of us this year. Our gathering will be pared down, though we’re still planning a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. And there will be gifts to wrap, cards to mail, and favorite Christmas movies to watch, so lots of our traditions will be intact.

The biggest and most welcome change to Christmas 2020 is the presence of our little Ellie, who is now fourth months old. It will be awesome to celebrate with a young child again, even though she’s too young to understand what’s going on.

So, new and old traditions merge this month into what I hope will be an optimistic end to 2020. What hasn’t changed is the gratitude I feel for what I do have and the opportunity to give back in a variety of ways. Now that preparations are underway, let’s hope this last month of the year will be the best one of 2020 yet!