Leap, And The Net Shall Appear (or, “Relaunch, Post 1”)

Late 18th Century Trapese Artists

My first novel 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 the gallery said it 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 consumer-level art anymore.  My sales tanked. Everyone’s sales tanked. The gallery lost its deal with the cruise line. Then, the gallery closed, taking nine of my paintings with it.

I founded my own online art gallery (at www.DeepUrban.com, for those playing along at home) where I still sell my art. 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 occupied the balance of the next four years.

And then, in 2012, when the indie publishing revolution was just getting underway, I published my first four books on Kindle and Nook on the advice of a writer friend.  She was making a lot more money 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.  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.  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 covers back on my books, my sales momentum 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.  Life has finally settled down enough for me to turn my attention back to writing.

But how does one go about re-launching a traditional-turned-indie-turned-stale writing career?  I wondered.  And I googled.  And I found good stuff for indie-newbies from the likes of Joe Konrath, Nick Stephenson, David Gaughran, Chris Fox, and Derek Murphy, amongst others. They don’t have a lot of information to offer writers in my situation. Indie publishing is new enough that there aren’t a lot of writers whose sales took off, tanked, and were subsequently revived.  But, following their advice, I’ve cobbled together what I believe is a sound plan of action for myself, including a couple of new ideas of my own that I’ll be testing.  Annnd…I’m re-launching my writing career.  For the second time.

Which means I’m writing again.  A lot.

This month, I’m releasing a box set of the first four books of my Regency Matchmaker Series.  Over the next five months, I’ll be re-releasing three backlist titles and launching two brand-new titles.  And then the plan is to release a new title about every 1 to 3 months thereafter, depending upon length.

So, I’m not quite starting from scratch, but I am re-launching my writing career. Leap, and the net shall appear!  I’ll be blogging about the process, and I invite you to watch what happens. It may be a train wreck, and it may be fireworks, but either way, it should be interesting. 🙂

Wish me luck!