But it was insane for me in LOTS of GOOD ways! I’ve grown so much as an author this year, this whole blog post is about all the exciting things I’ve accomplished, because why not celebrate the good things? Post contains affiliate links.
I always like to do a “looking back” post this time of year around my birthday.
I’m an optimist. But I struggled a lot this year, too, like everyone else in the world. Being pregnant during covid was an interesting journey, and I don’t think any of us will ever forget this year. But I don’t like to focus on the bad stuff.
I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.
So first, here are some of my non-publication achievements:
– I learned how to cut my toddler’s hair! And nobody got hurt. Now if I only wanted to brave my own hair without messing it up…
– My Etsy shop did almost 400% better than 2019 (yep, 400%). If you didn’t know, I sell handmade papercut bookmarks. And I came very close to making 1,000 sales before I put it on vacation mode for maternity leave. Next year!!
– I had a baby!
– I gained several more wonderful editing clients and grew my freelance editing portfolio.
I’ve got a few things planned for 2021. I’m hoping to release 2 new books in the Everturn Chronicles. After that, well, who knows!
I hadn’t actually planned on releasing all of the books I did in 2020, and you can see how that turned out. I think originally it was just going to be the Writer’s Notebook, and The Storm King. But I had a golden moment in time with my toddler’s sleep schedule where I could write and do work during his nap and while he was in bed mornings and evenings.
Fortunately, as I was already a stay/work at home mom, my schedule didn’t actually change much this year. I just had less places to go/things to do with the toddler during his waking hours. I can’t wait until we can get out and about again, now with his little brother, too!
What a small world this is! I got a chance to review an advanced copy of author Elsa Kurt’s new book, Mae’s Cafe. Why is it a small world? Let’s see. I first met Elsa at a writer’s group here in Connecticut about a year and a half ago. So we’re both from Connecticut!
Mae’s Cafe is set in fictional Chance, Connecticut. But it’s not fictional, or at least, it doesn’t read fictional. The small town life Elsa writes is spot on. It’s like you grew up in Chance yourself, reading all about the different histories between the characters; the drama, the connections.
I’ve never read any of Elsa’s books before, but I slipped into this book really easily. It’s a fast read. I also only just started reading romance, and I’ll blame Outlander for that ;) I enjoyed the romance and the tension and build and everything with Mae and William. William thought he was just “passing through” but he is very quickly sucked in to the cafe and Chance–Mae, the small town drama, Mae, and–what else?–Mae, draw him in.
I also really liked the “cafe” itself, it’s like its own character. It has a lot of history and detail that speaking of Outlander, is reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon’s incredibly detailed writing.
Occasionally I try to reach outside my normal reading genres and try something different. My comfort genres are of course Fantasy, Sci-Fi and YA. My favorite local bookstore recommended this book, Jack be Quick, by fellow Connecticut author Benjamin Thomas. I will be completely honest, I think it is the first thriller I have ever read, and I really enjoyed it! Now if it just had some vampires or something, it’d be perfect…just kidding!
Thomas writes a fast-paced thriller that just keeps you hooked from the beginning. I couldn’t stop reading it. The main character Noah is fascinating. A paramedic trudging through his own pain and addiction; meanwhile trying to decipher and stop the murderous Jack-the-Ripper style killings happening around him. It all starts with a message scrawled in blood when Noah responds to a paramedic call. And while Noah tries to figure out the pattern of the killings, the murderer also seems to stalk Noah.
The murders follow the pattern the original Jack-the-Ripper held, in Noah’s small Connecticut town. Noah knows finding the killer will prevent more murders, but he needs to battle through his own mental and physical wounds to stop the killings.
From indie authors to traditional–unless you’re JK Rowling–a big part of being an author is figuring out how to sell more books. Marketing, social media, etc…. I have found that for me, my biggest return on investment is in-person book events.
I’ve learned a lot of the logistics of doing book events in the past several years, and I want to share with other authors, so here goes!
1. The Basics
To do a book event you absolutely need two things in hand:
and a way to accept payments
Whenever I’m on my way to an event, and I’m experiencing that last-minute “what did I forget?” moment, I just ask myself: Do I have my books and my change? If the answer is yes, I pull out of the driveway.
The books: The hardest part is knowing how many books you will need, because you never know how many books you might sell. This is something you will only learn from experience–I have sold anywhere between 1-30 books at a single event, but for the most part average 10. Just try to prepare as best you can. Purchase them through your print-on-demand services (KDP or IngramSpark) if you’re an indie author, or through your publisher.
Budget how many books you can afford to have in your inventory. Books don’t go bad, but you’ll probably also be reporting them as inventory on your business taxes. You’ll also need to physically lug them to the event, so you might want to invest in some sort of cart. I have this one. And, of course, you’ll need to store them in between events.
Accepting payments: Part one of accepting payments is to first look into your state’s tax laws, and any other laws pertaining to selling items. Obtain any permits or licensing before doing an event. I won’t give you any advice on taxes.
Part two is the actual payment. You will want to have change on hand for cash purchases, so calculate how much you will need beforehand and go to your bank and get as many 1’s 5’s or 10’s you might need.
Accepting credit cards is exceedingly easy these days, and is likely to get you more sales than if you only accept cash. PayPal and Square both make card swipers you can plug into your phone. Generally, you’re getting hit with a small fee for each transaction, so make sure to factor that in with your recordkeeping.
2. Finding Events
The first event I ever attended was at my alma-mater: they were hosting an art show, and were looking for alumni who were authors to be part of it. I happened to get an email about it. The second event I attended was at a local library, with several other authors doing book signings–I found out about it from a newspaper clipping someone found for me.
The point here is that you can find events through almost any channel. These days, I find most things through Google, or Facebook to be honest. Join mailing lists, groups, and search for “local author event” or fairs in your area.
Libraries and book stores are the first places that probably come to mind for a book signing–Getting people to attend a single-author event, however, is a whole ‘nother topic. But feel free to branch out depending on your target market. I’ve even done flea markets, craft shows, anime conventions and renaissance faires. Those work for me because I write fantasy. Ask yourself, what events do you think your readers attend?
There is the table fee to consider. How many books do you need to sell to cover it? Are the event hours worth your time? If you know any other authors in your area, try partnering with them and sharing a booth to split the cost if it’s high.
3. The important part: Logistics
The amount of things you may or may not need will depend on the type of show, and how much or little you want to bring. Places like libraries and bookstores will generally provide tables and chairs, at the very least, whereas at an outdoor craft show you might need a pop-up tent to go with your setup.
No, you don’t need all of these things below. But maybe you want some of them. Figure out what’s important to you, and make your own list that you keep for each event so you can check things off while packing!
Here’s a list, in no particular order, of things I suggest to have (besides your books & change):
Tent/Tent Weights if needed
Tarp for outdoor events (useful for saving books in the rain)
Various supplies: tape, duct tape, rubber bands, binder clips, Purrell wipes, tissues, hand warmers, scissors. (Can you tell I used to be a Stage Manager?)
4. Event Day
Now, you’ve been getting ready for this day for a while now, and it’s finally here! First: be early. Whether it’s the library, or the several thousand people market, there are many reasons to be early, and you certainly don’t want to get stuck in traffic, parking, or be late setting up. I like to pack my car the night before, if I can. Second: do you have your books and change?
A few HONEST tips, for once you’ve set up:
Try to look approachable. Smile, if that’s your thing. Stand, if that’s your thing. Don’t play with your phone a lot. Be aware of how you seem–would YOU want to approach your table?
Take pictures of your setup, or event signage, and put it out on all of your social media channels to let everyone know you’re there. Hopefully you have also shared and posted that you’re attending this event a good amount before the actual event as well.
Prepare an “elevator speech”–a quick, 30 second synopsis explaining your book.
Don’t be disappointed. Not everyone likes to read, or not everyone may like your genre. Or someone who might love your book might not be able to afford it. So hand out lots of business cards or postcards.
Make friends with the other vendors/authors/staff. Useful for when you need to leave your table to go to the bathroom/get food/go to your car.
Don’t pack up early. This is a big pet peeve of mine because it drives customers away from all the vendors. Besides, you might miss out on those sales! Even when I’m packing up, the last thing I pack is the books. I’ve had other vendors buy books from me when it was breakdown time.
If you do an event outside, plan to deal with the weather. There are some things you can do to prepare, but sometimes there is nothing you can do. If you have a tent, you can get walls to attach to it, to keep out rain and sun. You can also get weights to keep your tent from leaving the ground (highly recommend!). You can wear rain boots.
There is a lot that goes into doing an in person event, but I have to be honest, that feeling of signing your book and handing it over to a reader is awesome. Isn’t that why we all do this?
I will be honest and say that I am better with words coming out of my hands than my mouth, BUT sometimes you just need to get yourself out there if you want to get your books into more reader’s hands!
Do you sell at markets and events? What kinds of things do you bring?
In the Arcera Trilogy, Sylvia Thorne discovers just what happens when the first war in a thousand years breaks out. But before that, she was just a Rider, spending her days traveling through the wilds between the Four Cities.
Right before the first book Meadowcity, she gets stuck in Lightcity, waiting for a package to deliver. She isn’t stuck for long though, when a young girl decides to go on a haphazard mission into the wilds–and Sylvia feels compelled to follow.
Which brings us to Sylvia In The Wilds–the short story prequel, which will be available as a free ebook in April 2017!
The story is currently with my beta readers, and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Before the first war in a thousand years, Sylvia Thorne was just a normal sixteen-year old girl, who happened to have one of the most dangerous jobs in the Four Cities.
Now that I wrote that above line, I’m convinced I need to add it to the description below… Anyway, you get the idea. You’re about to find out what Sylvia’s life was like before Meadowcity, before the war, in this upcoming short story (title TBA). Check out the description, which might change right after I publish this post:
For a thousand years, the Four Cities of Arcera lived in peace behind their protective walls, while the lands between them turned wild and full of danger. Only the few people willing to brave the wilds will step foot there, and Sylvia Thorne is one of them.
Sylvia is used to delivering messages between the cities for a living–and she will soon deliver the message that breaks the peace between the cities, but before that, she gets stuck in Lightcity, waiting for a package to deliver.
Her wait for adventure isn’t long, when she discovers that a young girl named Maddy has left the city–untrained in the ways of the wilds.
One of the youngest Riders in Arcera, Sylvia feels she must go after the girl and bring her safely back to her sister.
When Maddy brings them into one danger after another, desperate to find her missing parents, Sylvia must draw upon her training to protect the both of them.
But a wolf pack lurking about is acting strangely, and something seems very wrong in the wilds of Arcera.
What do you think? Look for this prequel short story sometime in April or March, depending on how ambitious I am.
Like many others, I can’t help but look back on 2016 and look forward on 2017. I think it’s beginning to be a blog tradition for me, anyway.
2016 was a crazy year for me. Crazy fast and crazy amazing. And I can’t wait for what this next one brings!
It started off with a trip to Japan:…Which I won’t be forgetting any time soon. We arrived just in time for the cherry blossoms (sakura). I guess I didn’t realize how quickly they peak and begin to die: in the beginning of our trip, the sakura in Tokyo were at peak (like above in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden). We then spent a week traveling to Gotemba, Kyoto and Osaka. By the time we came back to Tokyo, the sakura were gone or dropping petals. The timing was amazing!
I was more than a little inspired by Japan, and have begun to learn more of the language, as we are planning a second trip in 2017! The inspiration reached even further, and might be finding some influence over my next book series, which is currently brewing.
Lots of things (including our trip) stole time from my writing schedule, but I managed to complete it in time! Seeing the trilogy finished was an incredible part of the year.
Turns out I couldn’t say goodbye to Sylvia, however.
In 2017, look for a short story prequel following Sylvia’s adventures before the war.
The new series I’m working on is in the world-building stages, which I have learned is probably my favorite part of writing. I’m tentatively planning a 4 or 5 book series, which I can’t wait to share with you!
In 2017, I’ll also be selling and signing my books in the Artist’s Colony at Connecticon!
Despite a lot of negativity and bad things that happened in 2016, I don’t mind saying that I had a great year. The New Year gives us a chance to turn the page on the old, and start blank:
From the first notes, sketches and doodles, to a complete trilogy in four years. Has it really been that long?
A Rift Between Cities concludes what Governor Sorin Greyling started in Meadowcity…the first war in a thousand years.
Now, it sounds poetic, “the first war in a thousand years”, but when I began writing Meadowcity, I really tried to think of how it would be like for people who have never experienced war in any form. The government would dither (as Gero’s council did), while the very few who are driven and courageous might actually try and stop it, knowing how precious their lives are.
But things go wrong, as they often do. People make mistakes, even with the best intentions. People are selfish, and refuse to aid those they can help. But luckily, Sylvia Thorne isn’t people. Sylvia won’t stop until she is stopped, until she can mend the rift between cities.
Then again, people aren’t all bad. As the Arcera Trilogy comes to a close, you’ll see plenty of good to balance the bad, as we follow Sylvia, Atlan, Ven, Flint, Ember, Neve and Sorin on their final adventure!
Reader’s Favorite kindly gave A Rift Between Cities five stars! Here’s an excerpt of the review:
“Given that the author allows readers to follow many different characters, including the villain, this is an exciting book. Even close to its conclusion, the author keeps readers guessing as to how all the pieces will come together.”
So I embarked on a new creative project tonight for a little art therapy (and I’ve been wanting to try this for a while!). Check out this sweet custom sharpie mug I’m making:
It hasn’t gone in the oven yet, because A. I don’t know what I want to put on the other side yet, and B. Not entirely sure how long to put it in for (because all the instructions differ). If it comes out good maybe I’ll do another post on the DIY breakdown. So far, so good; I got the Oil-Based Paint Markers everyone (aka “the Internet”) says to use.
If you’re in Connecticut, come see me at the East Granby Public Library tomorrow from 6-8 for some free food, and to get your signed copy of The Fifth City!