So. Much. Joy.

When I started writing with Holly, I knew people would go relatively easy on us. As a self-published author you understand that it’s mostly family and friends who are going to read your work first (in fact that they might be your only audience!), and that their reviews will be gentle. In addition, I knew that people would be extra-kind given that our work is co-written by an 11-year-old. Which is lovely–I definitely don’t want her to get her feelings bruised by bad reviews, and I’m more than grateful for any and all support and feedback!

But when you write something–particularly in the over-saturated YA genre–there’s always the chance that you’ll get slammed for missing your mark. Because I published my first YA work under a pen name (as explained in a previous post), I have far fewer friends and family reading it. I desperately wanted to see how it went over with my target audience, and I was thrilled when Cherry from Read Forevermore decided to review @Robertopancake on her blog. I saw her post today and slowly, slooowwwly, scrolled down, unsure what it would say. And I have to add here. for those who are non-writers, getting a review on Amazon, or someone’s blog, or on Goodreads, can be like Christmas morning: you unwrap it cautiously, waiting to see if it’s a pair of socks, or a $100 Sephora gift card. Well, this review was like a $500 Sephora gift card, because she loved the book!

To find that someone got exactly what I wanted them to from my writing left me stunned. You always hope that they will, but then there are moments where you ask yourself if you’re the most mad human being to ever live, going out there and self-publishing things like anyone cares. After reading the review, I think I sat there in a quiet room for like fifteen minutes, not blinking. I was like, So wait–an actual teenage-type reader liked my book? And laughed? And almost cried? Whaaaaa? In all the years I’ve been writing (a lot) it’s been the book that I’ve gotten the most and best feedback from agents on, but even getting as close as I did to having someone take me on based on that work, it still never quite came together. But none of that even matters now, because to read the praise of a complete stranger over something you made is…so magical. And while I know there is an equal and opposite reaction that comes with negative reviews (which I haven’t yet encountered, but am certain to), I’m so grateful that I got to experience this feeling first.

If you feel inclined to read Cherry’s review on her blog, you can find it here. And if you decide to read @Robertopancake after reading her honest, unbiased review, it’s available on Amazon here.

Now I need to go and bask in this glow as I prep for the first day of school on Wednesday, because I have other teenage-type people who will expect a teacher whose head isn’t stuck in the clouds!

Why I chose to use a pen name.

I’ll be totally upfront about this: using a pen name, putting it on my books, and creating a Facebook page for this alter ego made me feel like I was going to end up on an episode of Catfish. But I weighed the pros and cons of it, and decided that keeping my works separate would benefit me in a lot of ways, plus–once I got used to it–it was actually kind of fun to be two different people.

The works I’ve published under my pen name so far are a book of short stories, and a YA novel written from the male point-of-view. I do feel like there’s an edge to them that isn’t there in the work I’m doing with Holly. Even the romance/contemporary fiction series that I’m working on aside from all of this stuff is pretty tame, so it felt right to me to really distinguish between work that I don’t mind being linked to my child in some way, and things that I don’t think she’s ready for yet. If it has words, themes, or ideas that aren’t appropriate for my 11-year-old to read, it goes under my pen name, which has its own Amazon page and Facebook page. That’s been my line in the sand so far, and I’m comfortable not stepping over it.

That said, if you’re interested in reading either of them, as always I’d be honored to have you do so, and I’d owe you a debt of gratitude if you’d leave a kind review on Amazon or Goodreads. Both books are only available on Amazon as ebooks, and both are free today, August 16th, until midnight. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download them using the Kindle app (which is free!), and you can read them on whatever device you prefer.

Tiny Tales: A Book of Short Stories is available here, and @Robertopancake, my first YA novel, is right here.

Hope everyone is enjoying these last weeks of summer!

A close look at my self-publishing budget for the first 6 months.

I thought I’d take a good look at how much I’ve invested so far on my self-publishing adventure. Keeping in mind that I’m currently working on two projects, have published one (with Holly), and have two others that I’ll be self-publishing under a pen name in the next week or so (a book of short stories, and a longer work that I mentioned in a previous post), I feel like I haven’t gone too far overboard in terms of my budget. There are tons of options in the indie-publishing world when it comes to paying for services and assistance, and there is certainly the option to go it alone and do it all yourself to keep the overhead as low as possible. Most conventional wisdom argues for putting some money into your work so that it’s as professional as possible, and I chose formatting and cover design as the two areas that I really wanted to invest in off the top. Here’s a realistic breakdown of what it’s been like for me to get things off the ground in the first six months:

WordPress domain/web address: $26.00 (to get a blog set up and get a website address)

WordPress premium theme: $75.00 (I didn’t find a free WordPress theme that I liked as much as this one, so I purchased it to spruce up my blog)

Book cover design: $365 (this includes $245 for cover design for the first two books in the series that Holly and I are working on, and the other $120 was for the purchase of three pre-made covers that I bought before finding the cover designer that Holly and I are using–those covers are being used for the things I write on my own)

Professional formatting: $159.80 ($79.90 was to format Iris for publication on both Smashwords and Kindle, $29.95 was to format my book of short stories for Kindle only, and $49.95 went to formatting my other YA novel for Kindle only)

Various books on self-publishing: $33.95

Scrivener (a writing program that helps with layout, outlining, and general formatting): $44.99

Grand total spent since February 2015: $704.74

I’ve sold just a handful of books via Smashwords, with the bulk of sales through Amazon (which I expected). I had the exciting experience of receiving my first direct deposit through Amazon at the end of July, but because of the way that Amazon does their payments, it was only for sales made during a small window of time. So (drumroll please), my first royalty check was for three dollars and forty-eight cents! *rainbow-colored confetti falls from the sky* Actually, it was pretty cool to make money of any kind, and because I’ve sold more books over the summer, I know that when Amazon pays out on that time frame, there will be more coming my way. Right now I’m honestly looking at this as a fun hobby, and as something that I plan to keep chipping away at long-term, so the investment really doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve spent more money on things that have been far less fulfilling than this, so I don’t mind at all that I’ve shelled out for something with no guarantee of a return on my investment.

With summer ending, I don’t feel like I’ll have as much time and energy to devote to writing, but I fully intend to keep working on the projects that I currently have going. This has been far too rewarding on a personal level to let it fall by the wayside, but it’s going to take some serious planning and time-management to fit it in around my day job when school starts again. In fact, it’s been so enjoyable for me that I’m planning on incorporating a lot of creative writing with my juniors and seniors (sorry, future students–you will be writing this year!), which will hopefully keep me focused on my own work. I hate to think of the summer ending, but teachers go back in two weeks, so it’s time to wrap up some projects and look ahead to early fall mornings, grading papers in the evenings, homework with my middle-schooler, and crockpot dinners before swim practice (with writing squeezed in there somewhere!)

Bring on the fall–I’m ready for it!