A Return to My Dream

This is a photo of the camera kit I purchased in 2015 with my income tax refund. I had a huge interest in photography, having captured some stunning photos of local nature on my phone; but a cell phone camera can only do so much. I wanted to take photos of distant wildlife and be able to see every feather, every marking, and the expression on each bird, mammal, or reptile’s face. I wanted to freeze spectacular views, master nocturnal lightning strikes, bring the full moon so close you could see its topography.

So I purchased this camera kit, which came with everything in this photo and so much more. I did take some kickass wildlife photos – a great blue heron, a beaver wrestling with a lily leaf as it swam through a swamp, woodpeckers, deer, turtles. I chased hawks for months, trying to get a good photograph of one, but I didn’t get any. Nor have I learned how to properly use my Nikon.

Not yet.

See, somewhere along the line, I made a wrong turn. I took a path I hadn’t planned on, and I lost time: nearly three years. I may as well have blacked out.

However, with the turn of the year, I have gradually found my way back, and along with this blog, my Goodreads listing, and Draft2Digital (I had even forgotten to upload my second book there), I’ve rediscovered myself, my goals, and my dreams.

My focal point of 2019 is on learning. I am reading an in-depth manual on how to use my Nikon so that I can create those stunning images. I am learning different steps to take to market my books. I will be studying how to build my own books using free tools I have been introduced to from helpers like Bookworks, Authors Publish Magazine, and Jane Friedman’s Electric Speed, who offer free e-book downloads and different resources to help indie authors like myself forge their own way. The sheer number of free online resources can be daunting; so I when I come across an resource that offers me something of value, I save it and use it.

My focal point of 2019 is on learning. I am reading an in-depth manual on how to use my Nikon so that I can create those stunning images. I am learning different steps to take to market my books. I will be studying how to build my own books using free tools I have been introduced to from helpers like Bookworks, Authors Publish Magazine, and Jane Friedman’s Electric Speed, who offer free e-book downloads and different resources to help indie authors like myself forge their own way. The sheer number of free online resources can be daunting; so I when I come across an resource that offers me something of value, I save it and use it.

I am absorbing everything I can on how to do things myself, sell my books from my own website, maximize my writing, photography, and other marketable skills so that I can eventually live my dream: To be my own employer, to do what I love for a living.

It’s good to be back.

Shannon

 

 

To Market, To Market: What Should I do?

Well, blow me down! (Thank you, Popeye.) I’m back again. Twice in one month, already breaking a record in 2019 after my long hiatus.

I write to you from the frozen hellscape of Upstate New York, where the snow banks on the sides of the streets are 5, 6 feet tall from the recent snow storm and furnaces struggle to keep up with the single-digit and negative temperatures. It is a whopping 28 degrees today. The cold sucks motivation from me like a vampire drains a body of blood.

However, motivation must be found at some point. I am still a fledgling self-publisher, getting ready to release my fourth title in a few weeks, and hopefully by the end of the year, break yet another record in terms of consistent output.

As fledgling a self-publisher I am, however, I have barely dipped my toes into the monster ocean of “marketing”. If I could afford to pay someone else to do it, you bet I would. Alas, it falls to me to brave those waters.

Therefore, I have been researching diligently for ideas, instructions, directions. The internet is so full of information that it can take a while to sift through all of the advice out there; but I think I have found a few things to try. I’ve decided to start simple, with a short list of items, so that I don’t overwhelm myself.

Join Reader/Author Communities:
I already had a presence on Goodreads, but I never visited there or bulked out my profile. Recently I visited my account, and what did I find? Readers! Ratings! Readers were reading and rating my book, unbeknownst to me. Here I was, agonizing over the lack of reviews on Amazon, and there was a whole ‘nother site where my books were being read. Fancy that. So I decided to further fill out my profile. I also joined Hometown Reads, a site that focuses on helping authors with ideas to market in their hometowns. The more communities I belong to, the more feedback and ideas I get from other members. And my web presence is increased.

Start an Author Vlog:
Everywhere I search author marketing on the internet, vlogging comes up. There seems to be a mass transition of authors moving from blogging to vlogging, or doing both. There are a plethora of articles available on why and how authors should vlog, how vlogging can help you, and author vlogs you should check out. I think this is something I could learn to do and find appropriate subject matter to vlog. It’s worth a try, I figure, to add value to my brand and to help solidify my online presence.

Get Out of the House and do Readings and Appearances:
Okay, when it comes to author readings and appearances, opinions seem to differ a great deal. Some authors think appearances are a waste of time, while others get a ton of return out of them. I am willing to give a local book tour (local meaning within New York State) a shot, to begin with. Why? Why not think positively, anyway? It might also be fun, and a good way to get a homebody like me out of the comfort of my sacred space and out into the public. I am waiting for spring, though. Maybe after April.

The word is that if an author intends to make an appearance or do a reading, he or she should do that appearance in conjunction with another event or do it in an unusual venue. Given the settings of my short stories, I could do a reading on a deserted island paradise (except that “deserted” might mean a lack of attendees), at an auto service center (thought that is hardly practical – it may be too noisy and oily), in a plant nursery or garden center, or even on a path in the middle of the woods. I could do a “walking” reading at a nature center to promote fitness and the benefits of the great outdoors; similar to the way that businesses began having “walking” meetings a few years ago. The possibilities are endless.

So, there it is. The seeds of a marketing plan. I guess, given the Upstate New York weather, I will have to start them indoors until the soil has thawed and the seedlings are hardy enough to put in the ground.

-Shannon


Happy New Year 2019

Greetings! In the course of the past few months, after I had decided I would be returning here regularly to update as I used to, that commitment somehow got lot in the shuffle. I must ashamedly (is that a word?) admit that among the host of other online outlets I participate in, I neglected this one, which used to be the first place that I would come to do blog updates, to do “This Week in Writing History”, to update my “Horror Review” page, and whatever other activities I used to engage in. Needless to say, I need to make a list of my outlets so that none of them fall through the cracks – particularly this one!

I have discovered, as I leaf through these pages, that not only have I forgotten to come back and blog regularly, that I didn’t even complete the last update on my “Home” page for The Shady Side, which I released on April 30, 2018. Distracted, much? I must appear to have the attention span of a gnat.

Last year saw the release of The Uneasy Series Volume II, The Shady Side: Shortcut to Uneasy Street, as an e-book in April, and then as a paperback edition in May; and mysa cover for web newest project, Story #7: Stuffed Animals, a Novella, went live on Amazon on December 30th. This third title is a huge milestone for me. It represents the clearing away of a difficult time period and the creation of a forward-facing path.

Now, as I sit and watch the snow fall steadily outside my front window, I am making my plans for 2019. Setting some goals. Why “plans” and “goals” and not “resolutions”? I don’t quite know. I think because something in the wordage of “plans” and “goals” indicates flexibility and the ability to adjust my plans and goals as I go along. I mean, really – how many of us can claim that all of our plans or goals have succeeded, step by step, from beginning to end, without some kind of deviation, or hitch, or unexpected event, that had to be taken into account and for which an adjustment or accommodation had to be made?

Life happens, and as the Tori Amos song goes, “We make it up as we go along. . .” And it’s true. Sure, we can make a life plan. Finish high school, choose a career path, go to college, get that dream job. Meet that partner, fall in love, get married, have the house and family, live happily ever after. That is just an example of a plane. Many of us may have different plans than this. However, we need to be flexible in order to hit the curve balls life throws at us. The word “resolution” sounds so stiff and unbending. Inflexible. And if you can’t bend, you just might break.

Part of this flexibility is the ability to adapt to changes. And adaptation requires learning new information; and adjusting practices to change with the technological trends.

There are some practices I am resistant to. I am an 80’s kid. I know what life was like before cell phones, computers and the internet, when all of our files were paper hard copies, and “marketing” meant television, radio, or print advertising. Getting published meant that you slaved over a typewriter, mailed copies of your work to publishing houses and waited months, even up to a year, to receive your rejection slip – if you received anything, at all. Self-publishing was an expensive proposition, often costing thousands of dollars.

Now, I am an Indie author publishing titles under my own publishing company. While  things like multiple rounds of editing, dealing with procrastination, lack of motivation, writers block, trying to figure out how the story is going to get from point A to point B, and finding time to write, are all challenges, these and other challenges inherent in releasing a self-published book are relatively easy to me. I am skilled at facing, and embracing, these challenges. The publishing process itself is also easy. Online self-publishing services make it simple and inexpensive for authors like me to publish their books.

But then there is “after” the release. The e-book is live, the paperback is available for purchase. And then, for me, the waters become murky, because I must enter the realm of a monster referred to as “marketing”.

I am not prolific at “marketing”. Marketing, putting myself out there, touting my work as exciting and interesting to read, for those readers who enjoy my genre, are difficult things for me. Self-promotion. The time that I should be out there, shouting to everyone, “My book is live! You must read it!” Is the time I want to crawl into the shadows and hide. Even writing a blog post, putting myself out there, feels too personal.

Yet it is necessary. I intend to write and publish many, many more titles. I want people to read them, so yes, I need to get myself out there and let readers know about them. So among my big “plans” and “goals” for 2019, is to learn how to market my work.

I quit smoking around 2012, I think. If I can do that, I can do anything, right?

Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy, safe, and prosperous 2019!

-Shannon