Welcome back Writers!
On Episode 26 I continue sharing my origin story
As a quick recap, if you listened or didn’t listen to the last episode, number 25, I shared with you how I started. Listen or read HERE
- The BEST publishing Facebook group that is life-changing if you just read the all-star thread and please for the LOVE read the rules!
- Sherry Howard’s book
- James Rosone’s book
I started as a teacher. I was inspired by my students and the need that I saw in the world. I went home one day and wrote the book and then had no idea what to do with it.
It sat in my computer for 10 years about until I joined an online membership group for Mama’s to get our Mojo back!
It was surprising; I never expected to feel that encouragement and support from an online community. That was my first experience really in online learning, in giving somebody money over the Internet. That was SO weird for me at the time. But that’s how it started. And through the encouragement of those ladies, I ended up moving forward. I accomplished my goal!
I published my book, it was for sale on Amazon September of 2016 and my mom bought a copy, my sister bought a copy. Of course my best friends bought a copy, and many people supported my Kickstarter campaign and bought a copy through there. (Remember to let me know if you want to hear more about Kickstarters and crowdfunding campaigns in general and how they work and what it even means.)
So there I was, it was September, I published my book and sold a handful of copies and then sales really flatlined and I just figured that was how it went.
I figured I crossed that item off my bucket list and there’s 8 million books for sale on Amazon. And so this tells me where my book sits in relation to 8 million other books, which was not high up. And I moved on.
I really did think that that was it. So for about six months, I concentrated on speaking engagements. I did a TEDx talk about children in the wild and how they need to be more free, less scheduled. I spoke at a few teachers conferences that year because it was my hope that I could help teachers learn to identify anxiety in children and then handle it. I encourage them just to assume that all the kids needed this little bit of emotional stability and support in the classroom. And I really enjoyed that. I focused my time and my energy on the mission that I have of empowering children and helping them realize that they’re capable human beings. And I joined a bunch of Facebook groups and the best Facebook group that I found is called 20booksto50k.
It’s so helpful. It’s life-changing. This Facebook group, which sounds so silly to say, I mean it’s a Facebook group! But there are about 30,000 people I think in it right now, so I’m not the only one who has found it. People talk about it all the time and then more and more people join it. But I’m just going to tell you right now if you’re heading off to join that group please for the love: READ the pinned post, read the pinned post, READ THE PINNED POST!!
I think it’s called the all-star thread. Just going through that thread will take you weeks of your life but you will learn more from reading those posts just there at the all-star thread. You’ll learn more than if you were to read books upon books upon books from the library, from Amazon, all the people who are anybody who is writing books on self-publishing are in that group and they’re sharing their knowledge.
So I encourage you just to, to go in and just read the things. I think that they have it set so you can’t actually even make a post for your first month. Because what was happening is people were going in and they were making posts like, “Hey, I’ve written a book, how do I self publish?” It just wasn’t beneficial for 30,000 members of the group. And so they have a strict moral compass in that group, but it’s fantastic and well worth being a part of, in my opinion.
My Bad Habit
So what I did, because remember I’m a stay at home mom. I had a two-year-old at that time, two, five and eight-year-olds. Not a lot of extra time. I would go to bed at night after the kids did, but like so many people, I have a horrible habit.
I look at my phone as I fall asleep. I would pull up Facebook and scroll through a little bit. But at this time of my life, I would read these posts for hours in bed on my phone. It’s like that super special quiet time after the kids go to bed but you’re too tired to do anything of value!
I used to spend time at night watching TV and now I was spending time on Facebook and this one particular group! I just soaked it all in, I consumed everything that I could possibly consume about book sales and I learned a TON.
There’s not a lot of people in that group writing children’s books. So I had to take it and tweak the information to make it work for me. But that’s exactly what I did. I found a gentleman by the name. I didn’t find him, actually, he was in there and I learned from him, and he is a data geek. (DATA KING!)
He loves data. I should have Brian on the podcast. Write to me in the comments or let me know somehow if you think I should ask Brian if he could come on and talk about data. He’s a math guy. And so he loves the numbers. And what he started to share about was Amazon ads. Now Amazon’s number one priority is the reader experience, but they show ads to people in such a seamless way, you almost don’t realize that they’re ads, and three years ago there weren’t that many people using them.
Brian started talking about them and then everybody started talking about them and we started realizing that they really did work. So what I did was I started learning from Brian. At first I thought, no, I don’t need to run ads and you know, I can only run them to an ebook at the time and kids don’t read ebooks.
I had a lot of preconceived ideas that were proved wrong and continue to be proven wrong. Now I just try to really go through this whole journey with an open mind. But anyway, I learned from Brian, I started running ads and what happened? My book started to sell. It was incredible. It started to sell five copies a day and then quickly 10 copies a day and then quickly 50 copies a day. It was mind-blowing. My husband is slightly suspicious, let’s say. And so at the time he kept saying things like, “What does Amazon have to get from this? Like what’s the catch here? You know, what’s the downside?”
Well, Amazon makes money on your books. When you self publish on Amazon, they take 30% and you pay them to show your ads. So they are earning money twice from you. They’re selling our books but we are earning at the same time.
So just for people starting out, if you’ve already published and you’re in the same predicament as me, what you’re going to find is you’re spending money on your ads but you don’t get your royalties from Amazon for 60 days. And so there’s this period of time, usually about two months where you are in debt unless you have money saved. I did not, I had no money. I had to go to the bank and take a line of credit to pay for my Amazon ads. But I could see my sales. I knew the money was coming, I just knew it wasn’t coming for two months. And so for that two months, it was a really tight, tight time period for money. But it was incredible because I realized my book was actually good. My book was being sought after, my book was written on a topic that was being googled and, searched for on Amazon.
And then my book was being found and purchased!
And then the reviews started coming and people liked it. They really liked it. It’s quite a feeling. I can’t even share with you the feeling of getting random unsolicited messages by email or on Facebook or reviews that say, your book has been so useful for my child or in my classroom or in my counseling practice. It’s really a fantastic heartwarming feeling. And after spending, you know, at this point, close to 12 years thinking, Is my book garbage? Is it not garbage? Is this a good idea? Is this a bad idea?
It’s just such a vulnerable time and you’re never sure you know if it’s going to do well or not do well. And so to have that reinforcement from people, people that I didn’t already know, that validation, was so uplifting.
That’s my story!
That was two years ago and my books have continued to sell. And because I loved the process and I still have this mission of empowering children, I continue to write books in the mindful mantra series. I’ve done some girl books and some boy books and some different mantras because different kids struggle with different things.
There’s seven books in the series. The eighth one, the proof is sitting on my counter top looking at me. So I guess there’s eight in the series, but the eighth is not yet published. I just kept on writing and then something else happened.
Once people found out that I had written a book and gone through the process and was selling some books, I started getting a lot of messages. Mostly Facebook messages saying, ‘Hey, I saw what you did. Can I, can I take you for coffee and pick your brain?’ Like lots of messages, multiple messages each week and after writing so many books and still being at home with the kids, I just didn’t have very much time. My time is very limited and, you know, I hate even saying that because I’m just falling into the societal trap of busy, busy, busy.
But here’s the thing, I love what I’m doing. So yeah, even now, I work Monday to Friday and then I say, I’m not going to work on the weekends, I’m going to spend the time with the family. And you know how there’s like an hour on a Saturday where everybody just goes to their own corner of the house and they read or they play or what not? What do I do? I open my computer, I do social media posts or I write books or I check in with people who are in my courses because I love what I do so much. I can’t stay away. It might be a problem. I don’t know.
What I realized is that there are MANY MANY other people who, like me, have a book written and need some guidance. I am a teacher at heart. I can’t stop teaching.
I started with an in person, like in my town, workshop here and just a handful of people took that workshop. I think five, they were all inspired. They all went away and they all hired illustrators and two of them are actually, actually, three of them have multiple books. Like I’m talking four or five or six I think. And they are bestsellers as well! I’m so proud!
They were inspired by how easy it was compared to what they had built it up to be in their minds.
They were inspired by the lack of barriers when you do it yourself.
They were inspired by the fact that my books were actually selling and it was a viable source of income for me to add into my family’s income. And they, they liked all of that.
They’re all doing so well! I’ve interviewed two of them on the podcast and the third I think is going to come on, Jacque, if you’re listening, Jacque’s going to come on and talk to me soon I think. Right Jacque?!!
I started off in person, but here’s the thing about people these days, they don’t want to leave their house! And like me and like you, everybody’s so busy.
So writers really need it to be more accessible. Even if it’s in town and it’s a five-minute drive away, they need things to be more accessible. So what I did was I put together some courses for people online so that you can access them on your own terms at your own time, at your own leisure, you know, and just the weekends if you have weekends free or in coming up this summer, summer of 2019 I’m going to offer my ‘How to Self-Publish a Children’s Book’ course, JUST to teachers because teachers have no time during the school year! I’ve actually gotten a few messages from people who said, ‘I’m a teacher, I can not do it during the year, but I can do it during the summer’. And so I really wrestled with that one because my kids obviously are off during the summer. But if I limit it to only teachers, I think that we can make a good go of it and get it done and it won’t be too taxing for me or for them, is my goal.
So what I have now for you is I have little sound bites from two people. I have a lot of contacts now. I’m in a lot of Facebook groups with writers at different stages of their journeys, and I asked around about the biggest obstacles writers face.
The first one is from Sherry. Sherry has a physical disability and so she shares about that as an obstacle and how she overcomes it.
Then we’re going to hear from James who was in Iraq, I believe, he says, and he’s had PTSD and he was already an author, but he decided to turn these experiences that he’s having with PTSD into a successful book series. And I wanted to share about his story because you have to realize that your stories, your experiences, your life is all fodder for books, right. And it’s needed in the world. So don’t let anything stop you if writing a book is what you want to do.
Thanks to Sherry and James for sharing with us. And here we go!
This is Sherry Howard and I write for children both fiction and nonfiction. My biggest obstacle has been a physical disability that creates a lot of limitations. I’ve worked around this by using adaptive writing techniques, being selective about live events and being honest with people about my limitations.”
Hello Laurie, my name is James Rosone. I cowrite with my wife, Miranda Watson. We tend to write military a fiction thrillers. However, after working with my counselor at the Va, she suggested that I take a look at writing a kid’s book that specifically talks about PTSD with their parents. And when we looked online to do a little research on this, we discovered that there really isn’t any books that are written to talk to children about their parents who are struggling with PTSD. And so we decided to take on that challenge and write our first book and call that one ‘My daddy has PTSD’. It helps to explain some of the challenges of that to his daughter.
Our next goal is to write a one about a mom talking with her son about that. And then we’re going to do an aunt and an uncle and a grandpa, and then we’re going to move into doing a line for police officers and paramedics and EMT because this is a serious challenge in our society, dealing with post traumatic stress. How do we deal with that? And it’s really affecting the kids the most though. And no, no one’s really addressing that as far as authors when it comes to creating children’s books. And while we don’t typically write kid’s books, we write military fiction, thriller and a spy thrillers. We saw this as a need and a gap that wasn’t being filled and we’re now moving to fill that particular gap.
So a little background on my wife and I: I served in the military for 10 years, worked another eight more as a DOD contractor, spent three and a half years in Iraq.
So I have a bit of experience with PTSD as well as working in that field in the military and serving in a conflict conflict zone. My wife was a nurse by trade. She also has an MBA. I have an MBA as well as a master’s science from Oxford. So we’re pretty educated when it comes to our academic backgrounds. We decided to get into writing by chance, really. I started writing originally as PTSD therapy. It’s what turned into my first book Interview With a Terrorist, which is based on my experiences working as a military interrogator in Iraq. And then it just turned into a hobby or it’s just writing for fun. And I looked around and there was a lot of books out there that I liked reading, but there wasn’t books about some of the subjects I liked to read about.
And so we started creating books in that genre. Kind of like Clancy’s Red Storm Rising where you have really big, big battles, various tanks versus tanks and just large scale wars, conflicts like that.
Most of the books for it in that genre are typically special forces and navy seals and it’s all going after Islamic extremists. And you know, that’s just not the wars of the future. Where’s the future going to be? Big Wars between the United States and China and Russia and NATO and things along those lines. And there really aren’t authors who are writing that kind of book. So we again found the gap in the market place and we started filling that gap. We’ve managed to go from, you know, selling where our first year hitting in the 20,000 range to nearly 300,000, 3 years later. So we’ve gone a long way as a self published author and really figured out how to do the digital market marketing as well as just finding we are gaps in the marketplace, what authors are writing about, what are they not writing about and what does the reader want to read about. And that’s what we’ve just been kind of going after.”
What I’m hoping you got from listening to those two authors is that for the most part, indie authors are just very down to earth, regular, normal people just like you. The only difference really, is that we set ourselves a goal and we carry through with it. We got over those feelings of vulnerability, we got over any obstacles we had and we got our books out into the world.
Thank you so much again, Sherry and James, I appreciate you lending me your voice to share your experiences and I would like to say thank you to everybody listening.
I appreciate you and I am ever so grateful that you take the time to listen to me talk to myself for hours, on hours, on hours. No, not really.
If you are going to come back to the next episode, I would love to have you!
When I talked to people about their obstacles, I got an overwhelming amount of the same response, the same obstacle, and I’m going to share that on the next episode of the Writer’s Way.