2016 Lessons Learned

failed writerIt’s been a minute since my last blog post. I can’t believe I didn’t even blog about my experience at HallowRead in Havre de Grace! That was one spectacular weekend. I did post pictures of the town on my Facebook page. Maybe I’ll do another blog post for the places I visited this year, as an excuse to post pictures.

As many of you know, I left my job at Genworth last year, about this time, to freelance and write fiction. Now, one year later, I thought it would be both fun and informative to post an update to let you know how things went this year. Lessons Learned. Basically, Successes and Failures of 2016.

The #1 Lesson Learned this year was a huge eye opener for me. I would not have expected this from myself, but I did not enjoy working from home at all. At all! I think there were a few reasons for this:

  1. I’m not married and I don’t have any children. Working from home for me means spending every day alone. All day. Now, I knew this going in and I didn’t think it was a big deal. I’m an introvert, after all, and I require time alone to refresh the batteries. But refreshing the batteries in one thing. No human interaction is another. Especially coming from a company like Genworth. There was such a focus on team building that I formed many close friendships during my years there. I went to work to work, yes, but I also got to see many of my friends while I was there. I didn’t anticipate what it would be like for that to suddenly be gone.
  2. Freelance writing. Being a full time freelancer is basically being a small business owner. It takes a lot of time and a lot of hours. You have to hustle for clients. Always. You cannot stop hustling for clients. Don’t think just because you have a stable full of people eager for your pretty documentation that they’ll always be there. You always have to hustle. And when you have clients, you have to work your butt off to deliver an excellent product to them. Which meant, me spending hours and hours every day working on whatever project I’d been hired to do. One day I realized I was spending more time with my freelance writing business than I spent as a technical writer or business analyst at Genworth. That wasn’t what I’d planned. I could have stayed at Genworth, worked fewer hours, and had health insurance. LOL Insurance, that takes me to point 3.
  3. Health Insurance! At Genworth, my health insurance was less than $40 a month. Genworth also had a program that, if you did an annual health assessment your insurance rate dropped. If you aced that health assessment, your insurance rate went down even more. As a freelancer, I pay $350 a month for health insurance. Now, I crunched numbers before I left Genworth, and I thought I was prepared for that increase. The reality of spending $350 a month for what I previously got for less than $40 a month was a tough adjustment. My other bills didn’t decrease in deference to the fact that I was paying more in health insurance. That would have been so nice. So the moment I left Genworth, my expenses increased by more than $300 a month.

The #2 Lesson Learned is that I like traveling as an author! I did a few more book events in 2016 and went on a research trip. At the time, I was working on a new series that takes place in a town surrounded by water. I wasn’t sure where exactly the town would be within the US, but I knew it had to have a water view. One of my favorite small, waterfront towns is St. Michaels. When I started writing  Jaden, the first book in my St. Sebastians Quartet series, I had St. Michaels in mind. But I wanted to check out some other places. Most of this research took place online. But Old Town Alexandria was close enough for me to drive to. (I was also thinking about moving at the time, and Old Town was in the running.) Long story short, I enjoyed the days I spent in Old Town, but it did not have the feel I was looking for. When you read the St. Sebastians books, you’ll notice I don’t say what state they’re in. That’s because I don’t know. I still haven’t found a perfect location. Can you imagine! So if you have any ideas, send them on.

I also go to visit Havre de Grace in Maryland. I lived in Maryland for 10 years but somehow never went to this adorable, waterfront town. I also took part in the Baltimore Book Festival. You can see pictures from that in my previous blog post. Maggie, one of my editors, was kind enough to accompany me and we had a blast. Book events are usually a mix of lots of activity, followed by quiet times in my hotel room. The only time that doesn’t hold true is when I go to the Romantic Times Convention. I’m usually so exhausted at the end of each day that I just collapse on my bed. Every moment is spent with people! And it’s fantastic.

The #3 Lesson Learned was about promo and book releases. Promo and advertising are necessary. I forgot just how much advertising I did when I wrote as Adrienne Kama. My book covers were up at every romance site I could find. And I did a lot of interviews. I made sure readers of erotic romance knew who I was and how to get my books. Being with a publishing house also helped. Every book that came out from my publisher was automatically sent to review sites. So I’d have three of four book reviews with in weeks of a release. All of those things are critical for a book’s success. I started out the 2016 not doing any of that. No paid advertising at all. When I finally did some paid advertising through Bargain Booksy I was stunned at how successful it was. I’ve also become a fan of Facebook Ads. Now, Bargain Booksy and similar types of advertising are all part of my book launch plans for 2017.

The #4 Lesson Learned was the importance of having a series. In 2015 I re-released the Stella Rice series. It was a three book series and provided me with a lot of insight that wouldn’t really sink in with me until the latter part of 2016. With the Stella Rice books, an important thing happened. This is something that happens whenever someone buys the first book in a series and enjoys it. They went back to buy the second and third books in the series. There are readers who heard the books were great and simply by word of mouth went out and purchased the entire series. Readers love series books. Readers buy the heck out of series books. A series creates loyal readers and more book sales. More book sales make for nicer royalty checks! So what happened after I released Doomsday and Zoe Matthews? Readers enjoyed the books, but there wasn’t anything else for them to buy. Readers of Doomsday wouldn’t necessarily buy Zoe Matthews because it’s not as dark. And people who enjoy the quirky, supernatural mystery of Zoe Matthews may not enjoy Doomsday. I need more books in each series. Ideally, I would have had additional books out last year, but that didn’t happen because I was running my freelance writing business. This is a major fail because now, when I release subsequent books in each series, I’ll be working to get reader engagement all over again. Why? Because many of the people who enjoyed the first books in those series may not even remember those books now. This is why I’m writing two Zoe Matthews/Bridgeport Mysteries books this year.

The #5 Lesson Learned is how much I truly enjoy writing. All of it. The research, the writing, the moments when I feel like a brilliant writer and the moment that I feel everything I’ve written is complete rubbish. It’s all part of the process. The rubbish moments make the brilliant writer moments all the more enjoyable. And I had a great time on my book trips, research and book events. There are book events in Europe that I want to go to. I won’t be able to pull it this year, but I’m looking ahead to 2018. For 2017 I’m hoping my book income allows me to travel a bit further out.

I’m gonna finish here, since this is so much. I’ve got my plan for 2017 and I’m going to put into action everything I learned in 2016. I wanna make 2017 my best author year yet!!!

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