My Writing Journey

My Writing Journey

If anyone is interested more about me (like, way more than you care to know) or just need a little motivation to keep you writing, here’s a summary of my writing journey. (Forgive me if I got a little “preachy” in the piece.)

Thank you E. Paige Burks (and Infinity Flower Publishing) for hosting me on your blog. I really enjoyed writing this piece.

Here’s a little snippet:

My Writing Journey – Perseverance – Joynell Schultz

The quote, “You are your own worst enemy,” sums up my writing journey and affects many artists. Heck, I think everyone struggles with this to one point or another.

As far back as I remember, I loved writing. My favorite part was looking at the finished product and saying, “Hey, I created that OUT OF NOTHING!” Each story always brought me some emotional satisfaction. The characters, their struggle, or just the way the plot was crafted. Not that I’m brilliant…far from it.

I think nearly anyone can write. It’s just a matter of how much work you’re willing to put into the story. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago I had this revelation.

… Read the whole article here: My Writing Journey – Perseverance …

Have a fantastic rest of your day!

–Joy

 

1000 True Fans – Readable Content

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March’s focus in the 1000 “True” Fan blog series is KEEPING FANS.

This Weeks Mission: Creating Readable Content

What started this thought?

My husband says, I checked out your blog post AND IT WAS REALLY LONG! So long, it made me wonder if I need to shorten them up.

THE AVERAGE USER SPENDS LESS THAN A MINUTE ON A WEBSITE. Most spending only 10-20 seconds. Make your important points stand out. What point is there in writing something if nobody actually reads it?

The Key: The content needs to skimable with important points called out for the readers.

Here are some tips on how to make the content readable:

  • Keep things short!
    1. Short sentences
    2. Short paragraphs
    3. Use lists
  • Call out important points (but not too much of this. I know, I over do it.)
    1. Start each sentence with most important point, or bold it if it’s buried in the paragraph.
    2. headers / font size (vary it, and larger is better)
    3. bold / italics
    4. color
  • Keep it visually pretty.
    1. Use white space. Big blocks of text turns people away when reading on a screen.
    2. Add images
    3. Get rid of any clutter (tags, links, etc.)
  • Actual readability
    1. Light background with dark text.
    2. Proofread
    3. 400-600 words

That’s all for this week!

(Did you notice that I rearranged this post from my standard template and put the important content on the top?)

Want to read more about readability?

So…a summary of how last week went, for those of you who are following this journey on a week-to-week basis.

Review of Past Week (Mission 11: Daily Routine): It went great!

I shortened up the list of things I checked on every day to the things that had the most impact or that made me the happiest. It may not have grew my mailing list, but it made my life more manageable. Do you know what? I actually was productive towards writing my current book, The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives. Yay! A big win!

I’m still participating in some newsletter building cross-promos, so how is it going?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 1400 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 151 people since last week.)

Again, I’m over my goal of 1000 subscribers, but they’re not all fans. I’m continuing my journey this year, trying to find 1000 readers that truly support me. Here’s the data so far:

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Next Week: Next month, I’m focusing on small changes. The posts will be short and sweet. See you then.

If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Book Spotlight – MALL FAIRIES: EXILE by Conda V. Douglas

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Novel: Mall Fairies: Exile

Author: Conda V. Douglas

Genre: Fantasy / Teen / Children

How I found this book: I participated in a Facebook giveaway event, where I offered to read and review a speculative fiction novel on my blog as a prize. Conda V. Douglas was that lucky winner.

Amazon book description:

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Swoop the fairy lives in the attic of a shopping mall and loves it. She’s terrified of Outside, where fairies can die. But when Swoop finds her best friend One Wing in the company of a human, she determines she’ll do anything to save him from being exiled Outside.

 

What’s not in the blurb: Besides being about Swoop the fairy, it’s also alternates perspectives with a teenage human named Grace who is torn between her love for her grandmother and starting a new life for herself.

As I writer, what I really enjoyed and appreciated: I really appreciated the quirky names the fairies were given (with such a large cast of characters, it was great they had names that described their personality or physical attributes. Besides One-Wing and Swoop, the cast consisted of Shiver, Smoke, Buzz, Grey Wing, Jumper, and I could go on and on.) I also enjoyed the fairy society Conda V. Douglas created in the mall. The fairies had their own quirks, rules, fears, and pastimes that were specific to their species.

Who’d enjoy this book: This book is listed in Amazon under “Children’s books”, but I feel it applies to a larger audience than that. I personally felt it would easily fit in the “Young Adult” category. Anyone who enjoys fairies and contemporary fantasy with a younger cast will enjoy this story.

My overall impression: Mall Fairies: Exile was a fun read with an overarching theme of bonds with family / friends and facing your past.  Told mostly from alternating perspectives between two teenagers (one being a fairy who lives in a mall and the other a girl who’s grandma owns a store in that mall) this engaging story was full of flawed characters who made bad decisions and their struggle to redeem themselves. They are filled with struggles many teenagers can relate too. It’s the great start to a series in an interesting world created by the author.

About the author: Award winning author Conda grew up in the ski resort of SunValley, Idaho. Her childhood was filled with authors and artists and myriad other creative types. She grew up with goats in the kitchen, buffalo bones in the living room and rocks in the bathtub.Now her life is filled with her cat, dog, permanent boyfriend and writing.

Conda adores writing the popular tween fantasy Mall Fairies series. The fairy inspiration for her Mall Fairies came from the sparrows that live in the Boise Towne Square Mall in Boise, Idaho. One day she saw the sparrows nesting high on a window ledge and thought, “What if those were fairies?” The Mall Fairies series bloomed into two novels, The Mall Fairies: Exile and The Mall Fairies: War, a short story A Foodie Fairy’s First Foray and a cookbook, The Mall Fairies Sweet Tooth Cookbook. When not rescuing fairies from humans, cats and themselves, Conda works on the last title in the Mall Fairy trilogy, The Mall Fairies: Destiny.

Where to find this novel:

  • Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007NJD1AM
  • Amazon UK : https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007NJD1AM

You can get the bundle of the entire trilogy here:

  • Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QVT6WLK
  • Amazon UK : https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00QVT6WLK

Other books in the series:

  • A foodie Fairy’s First Foray
  • The Mall Fairies: War

My disclosure: I hate star ratings. Honestly, I think these are so subjective and sometimes reflect the reader more than they do the book. Because this is my blog, and I can do anything I want, I’m not using them. I think ANYBODY who puts the time, effort, and dedication to write and publish an entire novel deserves a big KUDOS.

 

Lessons Learned; 90 Days of Self-Publishing

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I’m now out past the dreaded 90 days since self-publishing my novel, Love, Lies & Clones. I posted about my lessons learned in the first 30 days HERE and the first 60 days HERE.

Remember my writing goal? All I want is for people to READ what I’ve wrote. I have no goals to make any sort of real money doing it. (It’d be nice if it wasn’t a money-sucking hobby though.)

Here’s how the first 30 and 60 days went (I published December 16th).

First 30 Days Dec 16th to Jan 15th (Book priced at 99 cents)

  • Expenses: $389
  • Income: $95
  • Profit/Loss: $-294
  • Sold 63 eBooks, 18 paperbacks, and 3824 Kindle Unlimited page reads.

Next 30 Days Jan 16th to Feb 15th (Book priced at $2.99)

  • Expenses: $5
  • Income: $135
  • Profit/Loss: $130 this month profit (but still at a loss of $-259 overall)
  • Sold 13 eBooks & 5 paperbacks and 480 Kindle Unlimited page reads.
  • (Despite making more money, I wasn’t happy that only 18 people grabbed a copy of my novel. Remember, I’m trying to get people to read my stuff.)

So, how did the next 30 days go?

When you sign up for Kindle Select, you are enrolled in a 3 month contract. In that three months, in exchange for exclusivity to Amazon, you receive two benefits.

  1. You are enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. That means that your book is made “FREE” to Amazon’s KU subscribers. As an author, you get paid per page these readers read. (It averages about 1/2 a cent per page.) I had thought this would open my book up to a pile of readers, but I’ve been disappointed.
  2. You are given a choice of two promotions in the 3 month period. Kindle Countdown Deals or “FREE” book day. I wanted to try the countdown deal, since I heard so much good about it making your book discoverable. Again, I was disappointed.

Why is it dreaded to be out more than 90 days? Amazon has lists of new releases. They have a 30 day new release list and a 90 day new release. After 90 days, you’re on your own in the sea of 5 million books. (That’s why, ideally, publishing something every 90 days is helpful for maximum exposure.)

Okay, to the good part of this post. The numbers.

I’ve already posted about my Kindle Countdown Deal I ran HERE. Overall, I was happy to sell 138 books. I had to spend another $219 which I didn’t earn it all back. The rest of the month, I only participated in free promotions. How’d I do?

How’d I do this Past 30 Days Feb 16th to Mar 15th (Book priced at $2.99 with a Kindle Countdown Deal at 99 cents for 7 days)

  • Expenses: $219
  • Income: $121
  • Profit/Loss: $-98 this month profit (total loss of $-357 overall)
  • Sold 140 eBooks & 1 paperbacks and 4572 Kindle Unlimited page reads.
  • (Overall, I got over 140 copies of my book into people’s hands. That made me happy, but there has to be a way to do this without being an expense.)

Lesson’s Learned This Month:

Kindle Countdown Deals: Dropping the price to 99 cents and paying for advertising doesn’t amount to a profit (Unless, you get a Book Bub deal or have more books in a series to sell.) Next, I would like to try pricing my book at “FREE” to see what effect that has–especially since I’ll have another book published and “FREE” sales of one may lead to actual sales of the other.

Kindle Select (Amazon Exclusivity): I’m teetering on whether this is worth it or not. I believe for romance genres, it may be worth it, as there are a lot of Kindle Unlimited subscribers. (Romance readers tend to go through books quickly.) Here’s how I’m torn:

  • Staying in the program: Will my page reads go up when I have a second book out there? Can I increase the number of readers by using Amazon’s “FREE” pricing promotion?
  • Leaving the program: I’d like to be able to give my books away free as a subscriber magnet to build my newsletter, but I’m tied in with Amazon at the moment. Also, I’d have the ability to go “wide” listing my books on other platforms such as Kobo, Google, iBooks, etc. (Though, I understand these platforms are small potatoes compared to Amazon.)

Overall, I decided to stay with Amazon exclusivity for one more contract cycle (3 months) to answer the questions I have about a second book helping the first and how the “FREE” days work.

Amazon Product Page (Sales Page): Three (four?) things REALLY Matter: Cover Art, Title, Blurb, (Reviews?). I think my blurb is good, reviews are good too. Title, I can’t change, but I can add a subtitle. I may have an issue with my cover. I’m completely beginning to buy into it’s worth spending money on a fantastic cover. It really does mean a lot.

What I’ve Done, Moving Forward:

I played again with my cover for Love, Lies & Clones and am currently experimenting with this one. I’m already seeing some increased sales. It’s still not my answer. I also added a subtitle to the novel: “A Captivating Futuristic Mystery Novel.” Again, I probably could do better, but it’s a start.

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I’ve decided to continue in the Kindle Select exclusivity program for another 3 months, more as a trial than for anything else. Here’s the three things I wish to accomplish:

  • See if by having a second book published, if it effects sales of the other books.
  • I’ll experiment with some FREE advertising days, instead of the Kindle Countdown. I had been hesitant because do people really read free books? At this point, it’s worth a try. Bonus – this achieves my goal of my book being in more people’s hands. I just hope they read it.
  • I’ll also experiment with some variations in pricing. I may become the “All Books Only 99 Cents — ALL THE TIME” author. (I’m happy to give up the 70% royalties at the $2.99 price point in exchange for more readers.)

Take Home Message:

First, despite all these “Lessons Learned” I am very happy on how Love, Lies & Clones has performed. (Especially for someone who had NO IDEA what they were doing regarding marketing. Remember when I thought all I had to do was hit publish and thousands of people would find my book?)

  • I have 23 reviews on it with an average star rating of 4.8 stars. Not so bad for a first book.
  • I’ve had a ton of feedback from people that this book got them into reading again as it was so easy to follow and a page-turner, that they don’t typically read sci-fi, but this book was realistic and enjoyable, and even that they connected with the main character and reexamined their own practices in their life. Win. Win. Win.
  • A typical self-published novel sells about 250 copies in it’s lifetime (stats from HERE). Love, Lies & Clones has sold 243 books so far…and only 3 months has passed.

As I plan the release of my next novel, Blood & Holy Water (launch day is set for April 4th) I’ll be modifying some of the things I tried with Love, Lies & Clones and taking some different approaches. Stay tuned for updates on that launch.

Again, thanks for sharing this journey with me. I’ll post another update on Love, Lies & Clones after this next 90 days.

–Joy

Feel free to share your thoughts and wisdom in the comments.

 

Increasing Writing Productivity – Camp NaNo Style!

Guess what time it is? Camp NaNoWriMo time! I’m so excited. After participating (and failing) regular NaNoWriMo in November, I can’t wait for camp. Camping is so much fun — all due to the interaction with your cabin mates.

My main goal for camp is to write a 15,000 word short story with a title of “Hidden” for a multi-author project I’m participating in, but I have a secret goal…

Since my funk back in December (when I thought all my writing sucked, and I’d should throw in the towel) my productivity has really dropped off. I’m still moving forward, but at a snail pace compared to how most of 2016 went. For April’s camp, I want to get back in a routine. Back focused on what I love to do — write!

When I look at why I don’t get enough words down on paper, there’s two main reasons.

  1. Motivation: The massive drive I had last year is lost. Where did you go? I miss you! I think the urge to publish something kept me going. Now that I have one (soon to be two) books published, I don’t have that same fire.
  2. Distraction: Having published books means I need to spend time marketing and networking. I find myself spending way too much time doing this. (Yeah, have you been following my 1000 “true” fan blog series? Yup. Lots of time devoted to that.)

So, for camp… I’m making a commitment:

I WILL WRITE FOR 30 MINUTES, UNINTERRUPTED EVERY DAY.

This is not revising, outlining, or editing. This is hard-core putting new words down on paper. I’m going to track the number of words per day. I want to see if I learn to write faster and more efficient as the month goes by. In May, I’d love to up that time to a full hour dedicated solely to writing. (With the wi-fi off on my laptop and my phone on “do not disturb.”)

So…what’s my Camp NaNo project? A group of authors are getting together to write short stories (between 5000 and 20,000 words) with the title “Hidden.” The story can be about anything, as long as it has the “hidden” theme. We’re all going to publish our own stories this fall and cross-promote each other. It’ll be a ton of fun, since I love collaboration! (If you’d like to join us, there’s definitely still time and space — Here’s the Facebook group to join about it.)

I made my first draft of the cover here (It’ll still change 100 times before I publish):

 

Here’s the summary of the project: A pregnant fairy godmother flees to the human world to hide her secret as she looks for the father of her child.

(I have a full outline written — it was something to do while I was stuck in an airplane for 4 hours in Paris last week.)

Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo? I’d love to hear about your project.

1000 True Fans – Daily Routine

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March’s focus in the 1000 “True” Fan blog series is KEEPING FANS. I missed last week as I was on vacation, but BOY AM I READY TO RETURN TO MY NORMAL LIFE. (How was my trip to Europe, you ask? I’m happy to be home. Terrorist attack at our airport, my husband got sick, my kids couldn’t participate in the kids programs because they were in Italian…oh, and my dog died at the kennel. Besides that, we had a great time. Did you catch my dry sense of humor?)

Review of Past Week (Mission 10: Value Added Tasks): Okay.

Being on vacation, I was internet-less for nearly two weeks. It really helped me to focus on what is important and what isn’t. Basically, I decided that I was making a lot of work for myself that really had no impact on anything.

I’m still participating in some newsletter building cross-promos, so how is it going?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 1259 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 573 people in 2 weeks!)

I HIT MY GOAL OF 1000 SUBSCRIBERS! Unfortunately, I sent out my first email campaign  and 50% or more of these subscribers didn’t open my email. That’s something I’ll work on in future blog posts. So, for my goal of 1000 “True” fans, I’m not there yet. Perhaps, when I release a new book and get 1000 sales in the first few weeks, I’ll feel I’ve met this goal. A girl can dream, right?

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This Weeks Mission: A Simple Daily Routine / Checklist

Since I’m easing back into life after vacation, I’m keeping this post simple. Here’s my simple daily routine relating to social media.

I keep a folder of bookmarks on my internet browser, labeled “Check Daily“. I used to have “Check Weekly” as well, but I simplified. In this folder, I have the social media channels I look at and check on a daily basis. I’m not good at posting on Facebook/Twitter. (I’m still working on that, but it’ll come as I build up more “fans.”) I check/reply/address things twice daily…though, once daily would be enough. I enjoy it. Interaction with people is fantastic. 🙂

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The big secret I learned while away on vacation? A little on each site is enough. Show your presence. Interact with some people and rotate based on what interests you. You don’t have to interact with everyone (unless they directly address you.)

Want to read more? Something more complete? Here’s a neat checklist to checkout.

Next Week: Writing content people will actually read (in newsletters, blog posts, social media posts, etc.)

If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

What sites do you interact on every day? (What’s on your daily checklist?)

1000 True Fans – Providing Value

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March’s focus in the 1000 “True” Fan blog series is KEEPING FANS. Last week, we talked about newsletter content. This week, we’re moving on to what’s value added and non-value added content.

Review of Past Week (Mission 9: Newsletter Content): Success

I still can’t come up with a catchy title, so I developed a contest in my April Newsletter, asking for help. If anything, I hope to engage a few people with the request. Also, I reformatted my newsletter for April and developed a welcome email for new subscribers, telling them who I am. I think both of these will work out nice.

I’m still participating in some newsletter building cross-promos, so how is it going?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 686 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 197 from last week.)

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This Weeks Mission: Keeping Fans – Value Added vs. Non-Value Added Content

Okay, my years in management are coming out. Value added? Non-value added? What the heck is that?

As a manager, anytime we wanted to improve a process (typically, simplify it to save time), we first identified our customer (or audience, in this case). Then, we determined if what task we were doing added value…or didn’t.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this in regards to writing/blogging/social media-ing. Does my content add value for my audience? Am I doing too much? What can I stop to simplify things? What’s just annoying to everyone involved?

So, who is my audience? It’s you. Who are you? A writer. A reader. Just somebody who is trying to waste time and stumbled up my excessively wordy blog post? I have a mix of all the above. Do I have “fans” of my fiction writing following me? Very few–but this is expected for a newly published author. Each platform I use has a different audience, though some of you cross between a few of them.

  • Blog: Mostly writers–mostly NEWish writers. Writers trying to develop their skills, platform, or finish their first book. Some readers / book bloggers sprinkled in. (Tell me if I’m wrong, please.)
  • Facebook Page: A mix of readers, supportive writers I’ve stumbled upon, and some obligatory following of friends and family.
  • Twitter: Pretty much all other writers, trying to promote their own writing. Some writing friends I’ve met through Kindle Scout and other writing adventures I’ve done.
  • Newsletter: Mostly READERS. By giving away a free book in exchange for a sign-up, this has populated with readers.

What does my audience want? What does anyone want. They want to be entertained. They want to learn something. They want ??? I’m still learning this.

Knowing who my customers are and what they want, my next step is to determine if each task I do adds value to the customer. Does it give them what they want? Its a way to keep a loyal audience and to make sure I’m not wasting my time. The nice thing is each platform can tell you what topics bring audience engagement…by number of clicks, likes, opens, etc.

Example for each platform:

  • Blog: I looked at my most popular posts and pages. I learned something interesting. My “About” page was at the top. Does that mean people want to know more about who I am? I don’t really talk much about what I do outside of writing. (i.e. carting my kids to whatever sport/birthday party/school function they are going to or whatever vacation we’re going on–next week it’s 12 days in Europe on a Mediterranean cruise.) Perhaps, I should sneak this in more, but I’m just not good about talking about myself…not that I don’t like to share. 🙂 Other popular posts were my Lessons Learned With Self-Publishing and this 1000 True Fan Series. Writing tips were way up there too. My book reviews/spotlights–not so popular.
  • Twitter: I tweet…and I tweet…and get minimal engagement. My tweets have to be NON-VALUE ADDED for my audience. I need to either change my tweets, change my audience, or just send Twitter to the bird house. (Though, my blog posts that flow to twitter get some interest, I think I may focus on these some before I give it up.)

My goals this week: Focus on my audience and simplify my routine. Review each task I do and ask if it is giving my audience value. Save time to be able to focus more on writing my current novel (Secret Lives of Superhero Wives.) Go through each social media and ask if what I’m doing actually adds value. (Noting that some add value to ME, and that’s okay.) Also, I’m going to schedule some of my historical blog posts as tweets this week–let’s see if I can get my engagement up.

Want to read more? Here’s a webpage to check out.

Next Week: I’m on VACATION! I won’t be blogging again until the 21st or 22nd. I’m coming up with a checklist for daily value added tasks to do to save time when using social media.

If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.