I don’t know how famous writers do it. They go out of town from conference to conference and still get all their writing goals accomplished. This past week, I was in New Jersey to teach a workshop and speak on a panel at the North Wildwood Beach Writers Conference. I only skipped one day of writing while I was there, but it felt like it really threw me off my schedule. My morning writing routine has been glorious and I’m very afraid of anything getting me out of whack. For many reasons, I’m happy to be back at my desk.
I’ve gotten comments back from four of my beta readers on Ted Saves the World. I’m happy to say that three out of four of them had good things to say, while all of them offered helpful, constructive criticism.
I’ve also changed designers for my cover to a new up-and-coming artist who does fantastic work. I think he’ll be just the person I need to bring the outer shell of my novel to the world.
As the publication date draws near for my first novel, I’m becoming nostalgic for when I released my first non-fiction book, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts. I thought I’d tell you all the story of how that came to be. Enjoy.
When Do You Know You’re An Author?
I started writing my first book in December 2008, though I didn’t know I was writing it. I sat in a lonely Chicago office the week of Christmas. I was supposed to be answering phones for a temp gig, but the calls were few and far between. During those five eight-hour shifts, I had about 30 hours of downtime. I felt devilish as I began working on my first blog, Build Creative Writing Ideas. I pitched myself as a sort of Tony Robbins for writers, creating keyword-focused content pages on how writers could defeat writer’s block. After all, who was better to teach readers than a person who hadn’t figured out how to overcome his own creative roadblocks. I figured I’d learn productivity by writing about it.
I spent more time checking my web stats over the next six months than I did writing. One of the pages I wrote, a page of 10 creative writing prompts from the heart, pulled in twice as much traffic as anything else. The prompts were easy to write, as they were just like initiating the hundreds of improv comedy scenes I’d been a part of the last few years. As I continued to write more pages of prompts, my traffic grew. My income crept up a little as well, but it wasn’t quite enough to pay for hosting. After a year and a half, I’d written 70 pages of 10 prompts each, and I was losing money in the process.
I’m not sure when the idea came to me. I must have read somewhere that it wasn’t too difficult to put your blog posts into a PDF file to turn it into a book. I liked things that were easy. I brought up my 700 prompts to an even 1,000 over the next few weeks and put up my PDF file on the website in August 2010. Aside from my future mother-in-law pulling the trigger, writing the book didn’t give me quite the financial boost I was hoping for. At least, it didn’t until I heard about self-publishing for Kindle.
On a late-night search of ways to not be broke, I learned that with a little technical knowhow, anyone could sell their digital book on Amazon for free. It was the free part that appealed to me and I jumped right into the help section. I knew the ugly green-and-gold cover I’d thrown together wouldn’t fly online, so I bought a beautiful stock image and asked my girlfriend to do the rest. I had to pay her $50 upfront and $50 out of the first $100 I made off the book so that she wouldn’t feel like I was ripping her off, but the cover she produced was much better than what I could have done on my own. It took me about a month, but by September 2010, I had a semi-functional and attractive book up for sale on Amazon.
Nothing happened the first 30 days, and I beat myself up for putting in all that hard work. I started linking my website up to the Amazon page in as many places as I could. By October, the strength of the links kicked in and a few sales began to trickle through each week. The numbers grew until Christmas 2010 when they really started to impress me.
I was sitting on the guest bed in my girlfriend’s parents’ house when I checked my stats for pre-Christmas purchases. I had sold over 10 copies since that morning and more than 30 copies that week. I felt like Tom Cruise when he jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch. I was ecstatic. The sales numbers continued to grow in January and February, and I started to think something new and unusual. Maybe I should start writing more books. Maybe I wasn’t a secretary, a barista or a blogger. Perhaps, I was an author.
Top Image: Flickr Creative Commons Written in Slumber by Matryosha
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