This housewife’s advice on the humble beginnings of a writing career.

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First I will start with being clear that I’m not one to get advice from.  You can get an idea or inspired but all my experience is homemade from scratch and I’m not a professional in anything.  Oh sure, I have strong opinions I like to talk about loudly and I really believe that I know the “right and good” way, that you should follow me.  Ah, but logic kicks in and Spirit whispers in my ear and I am reminded that I know very little and in the end, I’m just here to be an example of what I have had some success in figuring out.

I have no college degree, I didn’t even finish my secretarial certificate.  I wasn’t one of those fresh young kids writing on into the wee hours, submitting articles and books for decades, reading all the great pieces of literature or the new age authors.  I’m far from hip nor have I been at it for long.

I’m also not famous and rich at this point.  That may never happen and at 47 years of my sweet little life filled with most of my dreams and wishes come true…I’m not sure I would want that.  I did buy a fancy new washer recently on my royalties and that was a thrill.  Our family savings is growing plump from my royalties…slowly, and that is wonderful. This month I made more than I have in two years.  I’m advancing in this career that is for sure.

Now I can say that I’ve been at the writing career for over two years and in the last 6 months it has really taken off.  My blog is a year old and busy and readers enjoy my write-ups.  My books sell at 25 to 50 per day.  It helps that most of them are .99 cents.

Today I love, love, love what I do.  I live to write and I don’t care what people think or say.  And I have had the awful reviews that would make a lady faint.  However, I’ve had enough great reviews to cancel those out.  I don’t compare myself to others any longer and boy oh boy does that free one up to just enjoy the process and go for it.  I have written almost 20 books to this day and I blog three times a week.

You may say, “How do you do this with a family?”  I have young boys and I’m a housewife.  I have started my own little urban homestead with chickens and winter gardens. I’m old-fashioned and frugal so that means I bake my own bread and hang my clothes on the line outside.   What? How the heck do I raise kids and chickens and make my own bread then write?

Well, you must love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life-Confucius (loosely translated).  I mix my writing time in with my day.  I write will I wait for the bread dough to rise or the washer to wash, I write when my boys are really engaged in play and don’t need me, I write at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, I write when one of them naps and the other is doing his lessons on the computer.  I play, write, cook, write, clean, think, write, read books to the boys, write…you get the idea.

When I first started I was so very awkward.  I made every mistake I could, I had to re-edit and proofread my books and then re-publish them 20 and 30 times.  I made my own covers from amazons cover creator ( I still do with Createspace) and I did all my own work from the editing, cover making to promoting and marketing.  I signed up for everything such as Twitter, Tumblr, Linkedin, and Facebook. I wrote witty, pithy little things to market myself.  I acted like a real juvenile.  I had friends and family rate and review my books and that was a huge mistake.  Don’t do that.  First off, they don’t read your stuff so they make things up, second, they put good reviews.  You want real and honest reviews from strangers or you won’t grow and learn and become better.  You want the bad reviews along with the good.  Good just gives you the boost to keep going.  Bad reviews actually teach you.  Sometimes. There are some reviews written by the local looney tune being their crazy, mean self.

When I started I got caught up with Balboa Press and spent a mini fortune for them to publish my book.  They took months for not much work and took 90% of my royalties.  I did all the work and the cover and website they produced were a hideous pink.  They don’t promote or market the book unless you have another mini fortune and they lie about selling the books.  Brick and mortar stores do publishing on demand so you never really get out there.

I had no more money after that and a new hobby to feed.  I found Amazon and it’s free and easy.  You can self-publish, make covers, advertise…all for free and within a matter of days.  I also found other sites to promote my books that were free or $10.  Then I found WordPress and with $99 a year subscription I can plug into all sorts of media.  With my $300 laptop, my new blog, and my new found love of writing, I sat down and got to work.  I was clumsy with setting up the blog site and I still tweak it to this day and freak out when I can’t figure out the calendar of some silly thing.

I had to write a lot of books before I got some attention.  In the beginning, I sold a .99 cent book every other week.  One book.  In the beginning, I had 3 people visit my blog daily if I was lucky.  I made mistakes, did weird things to my blog site, tried new things, would wake up at 4:00 am to post to all sorts of promotion sites, joined book clubs just to advertise, had a binder full of passwords because I had joined so many sites.  I made book covers and changed them every couple months, I put books out there before really cleaning them up and would have to redo and redo and redo.  Doing the editing and proofreading yourself is a mistake unless you have studied in this field.

I read books out the gazoo from other authors because I was working on fictional writing as well as my homemaking and frugal books.  My first fictional book was ok but embarrassing and I later rewrote a completely different story and title for it and now it’s a really delightful story.  My second book was sort of well-received but only a 3 star.  I rewrote that too with a new ending, more chapters and scenes and new cover…5 star reviews.  The other two fictional books I can’t seem to give away, although, when people do read them they really enjoy them.

I compared myself to other authors and wrung my typing fingers with self-esteem issues, I read books on writing, Stephen King’s On Writing and books on screenwriting like Save The Cat.  I read reviews from popular authors like Nicholas Sparks or Anne Lamott and I would read…or try to read stacks of their books.  Truth is I only liked one or two of their books, anyone’s books and then they get on my nerves.  I used to love my Amish fiction and read piles of those books.  I had my favorite authors.  But I can’t even finish their books lately.  Lately, I can’t stand reading.  I made myself sick on books and I prefer movies.  Ironic isn’t it?

I felt unworthy, like a nerdy kid trying to get into the big leagues on nothing but a pipe dream.  I felt silly, awkward, uneducated, unskilled, and I was trying to be a writer (coughing…or choking on coffee…whatever fits that scene).

Today I could care less!!! All those popular writers have their weaknesses and faults.  They may crank out a hit or two but their books are formulaic.  Some writers are trying too hard wanting to be the next Hemingway or modern Jane Austen.  But they find their devoted readers.  We all have that tribe of readers waiting for us.  I see what is most popular on Amazon and it creeps me out. I will never lower my standards to write smut.  I’ll be happy with my washing machine money, thank you.

I learned to tune it all out.  There will always be someone smarter, faster, prettier, better, more intelligent and creative.  So get over it!  And write!

When I got over myself and started being real my blog began to get some attention.  I had been writing almost daily for a year.  I started writing books from my life and heart.  My books began to sell daily.  As I began to make a little money, I’m talking a little, I enlisted a friend and editor to do the grammar checks, proofreading, and final edit.  I began to buy covers and replace the tacky free ones.  I worked on my website to make it more me and spruced up.  As I polished and tidied up my work, it sold even more.  I was investing in what was turning into a career.  I put money into it, I hired someone to work with me even though my first thought was, “what? you make pennies, you don’t have a real career yet?” (mean laughing).  I said, “I will one day and what better time to start acting professional then now!” (haughtily…or defiantly).

And guess what?  My sales have taken off and my blog that used to get a few brave souls to visit and rummage about now has over a hundred visitors a day and over a thousand articles are read daily.  I even raised the price on two books because they had taken a lot of work to create and were worth it.  And they sell hotcakes.  It’s a balance of generosity self-worth.

Another thing I would do in the beginning of my blogging career, I would write everyone that followed me and follow them in turn.  I would try to network and build relationships.  This is a fantastic idea, however, it was taking so much time from what I really enjoyed and it was beginning to feel a bit too corporate.  I stopped this altogether.  It’s not worth it in the end and it made little difference in growing my sales and popularity. I only read blogs I enjoy and I only reach out to those I find a common thread. I only follow blogs I want to be a part of.

I feel like I’ve tried it all and I’ve gone through all the drama of growing as an infant writer to a full fledged adult writer.  I have a ways to go yet in certain areas and that is the fun part, the continueing to grow and educate one’s self, to find new roads to travel and new cities to explore.

My advice would be this;  make sure you love it because writing is time consuming.  Read other peoples works and blogs if it gives you ideas and aids in honing your skills…DO NOT compare yourself.  You don’t want to be those people.  You want to find your writing personality.  Write whatever it is you love to write about and can do well.  They say write what you know but that is the great thing about being an artist.  You can make it all up!

Don’t worry about what your friends and family think.  That will hold you back and frustrate you.  Just because you have become a writer or are doing something with your work, don’t expect these people to be into it or to want to read your work.  It’s your thing, not theirs.  They don’t expect you to go to work with them right?  My family has NO interest in my writing.  When I mention my blogging my aunt’s responce is, “oh, you’re still doing that.”   My family talks about books by other people and friends and neighbors.  I am not mentioned.  My career is not asked about or supported.  My friends, however, are supportive and some of them follow the blog and read the books.  Some of my sweet friends even buy my books.  I have a former neighbor that still follows my blog.  My point is you will never know who will support you or like your work.  Don’t count on people you know or are share a bloodline.  That will save you some tears.

You can start for free.  Completely free but as you start making a little dinero, spend it on good covers and an editor or pay a skilled friend.  Invest in your work and yourself.

The last is this.  If you can write and you are interesting…to someone, you will do well.  How well is the question but there is a group of readers even for the most dull or strange.  You may make a dollar or a hundred thousand dollars.  It may take you a few months to start making money and get attention or years.  If you love it, do it and don’t stop.  Self-educate yourself be reading other writers work, read books on writing, learn new words and phrases, get out that thesaurus and dictionary.  Take a class if you must.  But if you can write you won’t need to take college courses or workshops…unless you want to for fun or to meet other writers.

And write, write, write.  It wasn’t until my 13th or 16th book that I started having success.  Eventually, you get noticed, you make a dollar or a hundred dollars in royalties and it gets fun and exciting.  Enjoy the ride on the way to a great writing life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 comments

  1. I’m glad you didn’t give up! I have read a couple of your books, and hope to read them all. So, when I buy a book on Amazon, do you get the whole .99 (or price of the book) or does Amazon get part? Just curious!

    Like

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