Self-Publishing and Burnout

Once upon a time, I had an idea. It wasn’t like my other ideas. It was bigger and brighter and shinier. A whole imaginary universe went into motion when I sat with my notebook and pen and turned the key. I’d written stories before. Short ones, just a couple of characters, a quick resolution. None of those ideas were like this one. None of them had kept me awake at night; none of them had me leaping out of bed, eager to get the dialogue I’d dreamed down on paper. None of them had me in such thrall that I almost burned my house down, not once, but twice.

As I finished this first novel and wrote a few others, I cherished that joy. It sustained me through some of my darkest times. Nothing hurt when I was writing. My worries melted away for a while, and novel after novel piled up in photocopy paper boxes in my closet. Once in a while I’d dust one off and send it to an agent, and occasionally someone would get excited about it, but nothing ever came of that. So I kept writing.

Then, when self-publishing became an affordable possibility, I began to release them. Online friends helped me learn how to hit all the bases: get the website going, get an Amazon presence, and market, market, market and sell, sell, sell.

I marketed and marketed. I sold…sold…and then, not so much.

Approaching the five-year anniversary of “living the dream,” as we call it in Indie Land, I had a meltdown. I was sick. I lost weight. I was exhausted. I wrote, but I didn’t have the same verve. I keep a folder on my computer named “When I Feel Like Quitting.” Believe me, I dipped into that a few times.

I almost quit.

Then, at the end of 2016, I sat down with a big sketchpad I’d swiped from Art Husband and started sketching out my plans for the upcoming year. I’d been doing this for a while, inspired by Jim Devitt’s blog on Indies Unlimited.

That’s when I had my epiphany. I was in danger of letting everything needed to be a successful self-published author kill what I’d originally loved about the process: the writing.

And I knew that if I let it kill the writing, I’d be sunk. Writing keeps me sane; writing is my release valve; writing saves me from turning into a raging bitch.

So I made lists. A lot of lists. Things I needed. Things I needed to stop. I pulled back on a lot of my commitments, nearly everything that wasn’t related to paying the bills and regaining my health.

I’m ready to dip a toe back in again. I’ve already done a couple of small promotions, and I’m using that same sketchpad to make notes for my next book release, which will happen later this year. But maybe a little less frenetically and more mindfully than in previous years.

And yes. Writing is a joy again. You’re welcome.

Have any of you come out the other side of burnout? What did you do to get over it?


Cover Makeover


New cover!

Sometimes, the hardest part of change is admitting that you need some.

Okay, here I go (deep breath): some things about the way I’ve been marketing my books are not working. So I’m taking it one step at a time, looking at my book descriptions, keywords, categories, all those bits and bobs self-publishing authors have to learn about to help us become more visible to readers.

The first step in my evil plan to achieve world domination (or just, you know, sell a book or two) is to re-evaluate some of my covers. A lot of publishers refresh their books’ covers over time, as styles change, and I plan to do some of that. But this one cried out to me right away.


This girl needs a makeover.

I liked the idea for the original cover for Catering Girl at first. But I think it might have been too high-concept for the story. The intention was for it to be a representation of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, except with the substitution of the coffee cup for the little movie camera: the award goes to…the catering girl.

Crickets. Major crickets. Crickets with jazz hands.

In retrospect, I think the intention might have been good, but the overall execution was confusing. The granite texture says serious and even funereal. The frothy, piped-icing look of the title font says “cute bake-shop cozy mystery.” The story is neither of those things. I think I was trying to lighten the tone of a graphic I had fallen much too far in love with, and send a message that “although this story has some substance, it’s also fun!”

Together, it said, “Uh, no.”

I’ve been meaning to revise the cover for a while, hunting for images in my spare time. Everything looked too light and fluffy—poolside girlfriends, umbrella drinks on pristine glass tables. Then I found this lovely number. Something about it said “Frankie” to me right away. It said “snarky and just a little dark, and how does she do that without spilling her drink?” So, I think it’s a better fit and will hopefully select the right readers.

Onward and upward, as they say.

What’s Smashwords Good For?

SW_Vertical_ColorI know. I’ve been hearing the questions: Laurie, what is this Smashwords thing you keep rattling on about? Your books are on sale there [for the rest of July, ahem], but…what the heck IS it?

I have a post up on Indies Unlimited today that explains what Smashwords is, some of the advantages, and why I chose them over their competitors.

If you’re new to self-publishing, or considering other avenues besides Amazon, you may want to read more here.