My first finished novel became a finalist for a Golden Heart Award from the Romance Writers of America and was published in 2001 by Kensington Books as part of its Zebra Regency Romance line. Four years and six more novels later, when Kensington stopped publishing Zebra Regencies, I was invited to continue writing for Kensington, but since my home life was busily falling apart, I elected to stop writing altogether. It’s difficult to write about love when the person you love stops wearing his wedding ring.
Needing a creative outlet, I began to paint. I created and sold over 350 large-scale abstract expressionist paintings. I was discovered by a prestigious art gallery with showrooms in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Dubai, San Francisco, Orlando, and London. The gallery had a deal with a large and well-known cruise line to sell art onboard, and they wanted all of the paintings I could produce.
It was a $700,000 a year deal. To say I was over the moon was an understatement. I was somewhere outside of this galaxy. Maybe even outside of this universe.
And then, the Great Recession hit.
Suddenly, no one was buying art. The gallery lost its deal with the cruise line. Then, the gallery closed, taking nine of my paintings with it. So, I built my own art gallery online (I enjoy creating websites, including this one). Attempting to make a go of that during the financial crisis, plus a move, a divorce, a courtship, a second marriage, several family health crises, and the raising of two young daughters all occupied the balance of the next few years.
And then, in 2012, a writer friend of mine told me she’d indie-published her backlist books on Kindle and Nook, and she was making much more money on those books as an indie than she did when she was traditionally published by a big New York publishing house. Why didn’t I give it a go? she asked.
What did I have to lose? My books were all long out-of-print and just sitting there, doing nothing.
So, I asked my old publisher for my publishing rights back, and I got to work creating new covers. Now, I’m an artist, so creating new covers wasn’t difficult. But I’ll admit that I regarded it as more a labor of love than a necessity, since I suspected that the old saw about people judging books by their covers was mostly hyperbole.
Yowza, was I wrong!
Those covers were good, and they sold a ton of books. To my delight, my indie-published ebooks really took off, ultimately reaching #1 on Amazon’s Top 100 Regency Bestsellers list and #4 on the Historical list (as well as #150 on Amazon’s main bestseller list!). In a year, they’d earned me eleven times as much as they ever earned during the whole time they’d been print-published by my old publisher. I started a new novel–it felt so good to be writing again!–and things were going great.
Until Amazon changed my covers.
A few months into my Great Indie Publishing Adventure, the ‘Zon, inexplicably, switched out the covers I’d made, replacing them with the old ones (which were mostly terrible). And because I was busy paying attention to other things, I didn’t notice the switch for two months. It was almost four more months before I could convince Amazon to put the new covers back on. But by that time it was too late. Sales had halved each month for six months. And by the time Amazon finally did put my new the covers I’d made back on my books, sales had evaporated. I went from being able to buy a new car with one month’s earnings to barely being able to afford groceries.
I’d been writing a new novel, the first of a new series, and I thought that I could probably re-launch my indie career with it and its sequels, but I couldn’t be sure, and with two young daughters to care for, I needed to be Absolutely Certain we could pay the bills. So I found a teaching job for the coming year.
Annnd…guess what? Teachers don’t have time to write or to promote their just-launched novels. At least, this one didn’t. I taught art and drama that year, a job which required 11 hour days, if I wanted to do it right–and I did. Book sales sank even farther into the loo and stayed there.
Fast forward to 2015. For many reasons, a fresh start was in order. So, with my children and husband, I fulfilled a dream I’d had for years, moving from Florida to the Pacific Northwest, where we now live on the edge of the Wild, in the foothills of the beautiful Cascade mountains.
But the next 5 years would be rough.
I went through the deaths of four people I loved (two sudden and two lingering, and I’m not sure which is worse), plus serious illnesses for my husband and daughter (which they both recovered from, thank goodness!). During those years, writing was impossible.
But the currents of life have brought me back peace and happiness again, and I’m writing. Loads and loads of writing. I’ll be releasing new books galore a little later this year. And I couldn’t be happier.
Sometimes when you leap, the net doesn’t appear, but I’ve always been a leaper anyway. How about you?