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  • Writer's pictureJen Trinh

2020 Authorhood Retro

Folks, what a year!

Writing-wise, Falling for You feels like it was published in the Mesozoic Era, and Take Me was the worst bout of constipation I've ever experienced.

Business-wise, I've floundered my way through hiring a professional editor, paying for ads, reaching out to book bloggers, distributing wide versus on KU, attempting to take my book down from a piracy site, and more.

But finally, it's over! I've come out the other side, dazed, but intact. Now, all I feel is sweet, sweet relief.

Grumpy cat sitting in leaves, leaning against a wooden fence.
Odee the Trash Cat knows exactly how I feel.

Just kidding.

I have a ball of anxiety taking deep yoga breaths in my stomach. No matter what I do, it always comes back to center.

My body is changing in ways that you don't want to hear about, but that give me concern about having children.

My parents are getting older, I live in a roach-hut, and I hardly have any savings and no steady source of income.

Well, that's not entirely true. Over the course of my author "career" so far, I've made *drumroll* $950.13, which, over the course of 15 months since I've started writing, averages out to ~$63 per month! Woo! (This doesn't account for the ads that I've run or the editor that I hired, which would take me into the red. 😊)

But you might recall that I set the goal of making minimum wage for myself this year, which is roughly $15,000.

When you set OKRs, if you hit 70% of your goal, that means that you've set a good OKR—not too easy, not too ambitious. My goal of writing two books was spot-on. My income goal was a ridiculous stretch.

Still, I've learned a lot this year that will streamline my writing and publication process going forward.

Advice I've received from other authors:

  • If you want to make money writing, you need to treat your authorhood like a business, which means that it'll take upfront investment and time before you start being profitable. It took one author five years before she was consistently breaking even on her books, and she publishes at least a few books each year.

  • If you've only published a few books, ads aren't a good use of money. It's better to wait until you have a decent backlist, so that when someone discovers you, they might pay for several of your books, not just one or two of them. It's very easy to spend a ton of money on ads with very little return. Instead, focus your efforts on free promotion through engaging with book bloggers on social media, and spend your money on a good editor and cover designer.

  • Don't be afraid to give your books away for free or for cheap. There's no reason why anyone would give a no-name author $5+ for their work. Christina C. Jones (CCJ), one of the most popular indie romance authors, said that this was one of the reasons why she got big. Mark Dawson also kickstarted his career by giving his book away for free. CCJ said that doing a promotion about once a quarter is a good cadence.

  • eBook piracy is inevitable. Sometimes, you can get your book taken down from piracy sites, but most people who are going to pay for your book will just pay. Anyone using a piracy site is unlikely to pay for your book anyway...but if they read your book, then at least they'll be aware of you as an author. Free marketing?

  • Every author's writing process is different. The same author who took five years to consistently break even? She writes linearly, from Chapter One all the way to the end. Meanwhile, I skip among the chapters until I reach around 70% completion—then I have to start from the beginning and go all the way through to pull the threads straight and connect the sections. My process feels less efficient to me, but it's how I think...and that's fine!

Things I've Come to realize on my own:

  • Just have fun with the first draft—you'll have multiple rounds to make it more realistic. If you don't have fun with the first draft, the rest of the process will be a drag. If you don't want to write a scene, figure out if there's a better way to get that information across, or a more exciting way to move the plot forward. Readers don't need every mundane detail.

  • Thinking is sometimes as productive / more productive than writing. Give yourself time to simmer in a question and simply use your imagination. Showers are wonderful places to think.

  • Don't look back too hard. When I first published Crushing on You, I thought that I was the shit. Now, when I read my book, all I can see are its flaws. Oh, it has its moments, certainly, but with each malformed sentence and each moment of telling instead of showing, I cringe a little bit and hope that new readers won't judge me too hard. It's a shame because my writing has improved with each book. Hopefully, readers will be forgiving of book one and take a chance on books two and three.

  • Professional editors are great, if you can afford them. Most editors, like the one I hired for Take Me, range from $0.01 - 0.02 per word! But like I said in my Agile Writing post, if you have several friends who read a lot, they're just as effective for developmental editing (or maybe it's just my awesome friends). This might not hold true for line edits and copy-editing, as most people aren't as good at editing for grammar or style unless they're trained. There are also more affordable editors out there (check out my friend, Erica Frohnhoefer).

  • I write best when completely undisturbed. This means that I cut out social media and turn off all notifications, and abandon my phone by the bed. If I'm fully-steeped in my fictional universe, words come freely. I'm not good at doing brief visits with my characters—I need a weeks-long vacation with them. I'm not sure how I'm going to reconcile this with having kids or a real job, but maybe I'll adapt.

Anyway, that was my professional growth for 2020 in a nutshell. Written out like that, it doesn't seem like much, does it? But it feels about right for one year of trying. I've leveled up from Novice to Apprentice. Next up, Adept!

For 2021, will I continue to write? Yes. Will I have to scale it back? Almost definitely.

I don't want to depend on my husband for our income. I don't want to wait to have children. But I love writing, and I'm quite sure that the stories will keep coming. Whether or not I choose to tell them, and in what form, is, well, another story.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. I hope that your own journeys this year have been filled with beauty, laughter, and triumph. 🥂

Beach waves


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