You might hate me after reading this

When I was a kid I used to love going to the library to check out books. I went at least twice a month, leaving with an armful of books to read until I came back to return them and get more. There was something magical about being surrounded by books, knowing that any one of them could be mine with a simple swipe of my library card. With the amount of books I read, there was no way my parents could afford to buy me all of them, so it was the perfect solution.

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I don’t go to the library as often now, but I do have Windell (my kindle) and I have a Kindle Unlimited Membership. Don’t start throwing stones yet. Hear me out. I pay $10/month for unlimited borrows (up to 10 at a time). And I discover a ton of great authors this way. I still read as much as I did when I was a kid – several books (or more) a week, and the KU membership allows me to do that.

But here’s the thing: As awesome as this is for me as a consumer, I sometimes feel guilty about it as an author.

Before KU rolled out, I was selling tens of thousands of ebooks upon release. Now I sell hundreds, if I’m lucky. Sure, I get borrows, and some of the time those make up for my lost sales, but sometimes they don’t. The truth is that, while subscriptions services do help authors/artists in some ways with exposure and stuff, they also hurt us.

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a little girl roaming her local library every weekend. Words are my first love. Descriptions flow through my veins. Dialogue makes me giddy. Characters talk in my head. Plot holes keep me up at night. New plot ideas wake me each morning.

There’s nothing else I want to do with my life.

I get that computers and smart phones have taken over. I’ve spent so much time trying to fight against the current. To turn back to how things used to be, but I’m exhausted. I need to stop. Stop swimming. Stop struggling. It’s time to climb out of the water, dry off, lie on the beach and take a few deep breaths. Maybe borrow a book, or listen to some soothing songs on my Itunes account.

I’m a hypocrite if I support all of these things as a consumer, but not as an artist.

It’s the way of the world.

So, I’m embracing it.

Recently, I’ve even started writing for an app called RADISH. I love the team there. They’re helpful and encouraging, and I think it’s an exciting way to share my work. It’s a free app you can download on any device from your app store. I have a free story  and a premium story. Premium stories costs coins you can purchase or earn on the site (first 3 chapters are free though). The stories are uploaded as episodes, just like your favorite TV shows. Each episode ends with a writer’s note. Readers also have the option to engage by liking the episodes.

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Sometimes I hear people say that no one reads anymore. That books are a thing of the past, but I honestly don’t think they will ever be obsolete. There will always be people who read. I can’t imagine continuing to live in a world where people don’t. How sad would that be? But I also understand that it may sometimes look a little differently, especially for the newer generation.

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And I’m alright with that.

So, go ahead. Join that subscription service. Download that app.

Just don’t stop reading.

Okay?

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The season finale of The Amber Show

For years, my parents have shared the story of the first Christmas pageant I participated in. According to them, the Wonderland Preschool Christmas Program should have been called The Amber Show. I sang all the solos, danced all the dances, and had all the speaking parts.

In kindergarten I was always in trouble for two things:

  1. Reading entire books to the class every time it was my turn during show and tell.
  2. Writing in cursive.

I was put into GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) early in elementary school.

Growing up, I got the lead in every school play I tried out for and every solo I auditioned for.

As a child I believed I could have anything I wanted, and that I could achieve anything I set my mind to.

But in high school, things started to unravel for me. Suddenly, there were things that didn’t come easily to me. There were moments when I wasn’t number one.

It was hard to come to grips with, and I’ve struggled with it ever since.

Recently I heard a message by one of the pastors at my church. In it he said, “You are not what you produce.”

It hit me hard.

I am not what I produce.

I am not my books. I am not my songs. I am not my voice. I am not my talent. I am not measured by my success.

In some ways this is so freeing. In other ways it’s incredibly difficult.

When my parents tell the story of my preschool pageant, I hear the pride in their voice. I know that my family has always been proud of the fact that I talked at an early age, read at an early age, tested at a higher grade level than I was in. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

What was wrong was my need to always be on top. My need to always please everyone. My need to be seen. To be heard. To be in the spotlight.

To be number one.

It’s set me on a path of constantly comparing myself to others, and constantly searching for approval.

people pleaser

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that the last five years have been rough for me emotionally and physically. I won’t bore you with the details since I’ve blogged about it so much in the past. You probably already know that my mantra for the last several years has been, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.”

I began 2017 praying for breakthrough in the area of fear and anxiety. After several years of being sick, I had experienced major physical breakthrough in 2016, but I was still dealing with some of the after-effects emotionally.

God answered my prayers: In the past six months I’ve only had a few panic attacks. After having daily ones for years, this is huge. Fear doesn’t plague me the way it once had. I’m not a slave to it any longer. I know this for sure. That’s not to say that I don’t deal with it sometimes or that I’ll never deal with it again. But I’ve experienced major breakthrough, and it no longer has me bound.

So I’m starting 2018 asking for breakthrough in the area of identity. I want to truly believe that I am not what I produce. That I am not measured by my talent and success. That I don’t have to prove myself. That I don’t have to be the most talented or smartest or richest.

That I don’t have to be number one.

Of course I will keep working hard. I will keep reaching for the stars.

But above all I will seek God.

Years ago, God directed me to this verse:

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
I didn’t fully understand what he was trying to tell me until now. This year I want to know Him in a way I never have before. I don’t want to seek man’s approval. I only want to seek the approval of the one who has always given it to me – freely and without expectations.
I know I will find Him, and in the process I hope to find myself.
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I Quit: Giving up on the Self-Publishing Dream

When I wrote my first book in 2007, I had no idea what I would do with it. Mostly I just wanted to see if I could complete a novel. Once it was finished I allowed friends and family to read it and the consensus was the same – I should get it published. So I picked up a copy of the latest Writer’s Market book and started the arduous task of querying agents and publishers. I foolishly believed that they would love my manuscript as much as my friends and family did. I thought it was only a matter of time before my book was published. But after getting the first dozen or so rejection letters, my dream began to dwindle.

Fast forward 5 years and numerous manuscripts later and I had abandoned my dream of being traditionally published. I couldn’t handle the rejections anymore. Also, I had started to hear of authors like Amanda Hocking who had self-published and done well with it.  So I started to research self-publishing. And the more I learned, the more I started to see this as a viable option. I was ready to start my career, and I didn’t want to keep waiting around for publishers and agents to finally tell me I was good enough. I believed I was good enough. I believed that if readers could get a hold of my books that they would do well.

So on January 20, 2012, I published my first book PROWL (PROWL TRILOGY #1).

Prowld

The book didn’t make any lists and it didn’t make me a millionaire, but it sold. People were reading it and reviewing it, and it felt amazing. So I published the next two books in the series in quick succession.

Prowle

ProwlfAnd sales started to gradually pick up. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to keep me going. So I continued writing. I released an adult suspense novel and then published a young adult paranormal series. At that point I was making enough money that I was able to quit my day job to write full-time. Around that time, the NA genre was picking up so I decided to try my hand at a contemporary romance. Once I started writing contemporary romance I felt that I had found my niche. Not only did my sales sky rocket to places I had only dreamed of, but I enjoyed writing them. My sales continued to grow steadily and honestly it surprised the hell out of me. I was making more money than I ever had before.

But then about a year ago something odd happened. Sales just sort of stagnated. Then they started declining. And the decline wasn’t gradual. It was instant and it was significant.

It seemed weird that my sales would tank since I had more books out, and my fan base had grown. And I couldn’t find an obvious reason. I was still receiving great reviews, so I didn’t think it was a reflection of my work. It was baffling, and frankly kind of scary. Then I started hearing from other indies and they were in the same boat as me. It seemed we were all suffering.

Lately I’ve been hearing about indies who are suffering to the point where they have to go back to work and some are even considering quitting. And it makes me sad. I’ve read a lot of articles where experts in the business predict why this is happening, and some of them make sense. I do think that with all the indie books priced at $0.99, readers are starting to expect that. And so when I release my book at $3.99, most readers don’t want to pay that. The problem is that I can’t afford to pay my bills if my books are all priced at $0.99. And honestly, I don’t feel like $3.99 is very much for a book that I spend months creating, writing and editing. I pay that much for a peppermint mocha that takes 2 minutes to make, and less than an hour to drink. And I don’t feel like it’s a waste of money. I thoroughly enjoy every minute of my mocha.

The point is that there are a lot of reasons why this is happening, and I could sit around and think about all these reasons and let it get me down. Sometimes I do. But the truth is that writing is in my blood. I can’t stop even if I wanted to. The millions of rejection letters didn’t stop me, and declining sales won’t stop me either. Actually, these things tend to spark my competitive side and make me work that much harder.

I wanted to write this blog in honor of all the fabulous indie authors I’ve met in this crazy business. I want you to know that I love you, that I respect you, that I know how hard you work and how difficult this business can be. And I want you to know that I am here to support you. One of my favorite things about this business is you – my fellow indies. It’s such an amazing, supportive, encouraging community.

And I want to thank my die-hard readers. Even in the darkest times you’ve kept me going, and I can’t thank you enough. I know things will pick up, and they may even decline again. But know this – I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here on my computer plugging along. I’ll write as long as the voices in my head keep talking and as long as the readers keep reading.