Because I have been remiss in sending out monthly newsletters, which are really just an excuse for me to give away copies of books I love, I am going to give away three ebooks this month to three different subscribers. Join my mailing list (below) for a chance to win one of these wonderful reads.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – It’s still my favorite book of all time and it should be yours too. Unmasked Heart by Vanessa Riley – A Regency Romance with a surprising heroine. Rock Hard by Nalini Singh – I do not read contemporaries very often but this one is swoon worthy.
One of the things I love about the writing community, and the indie author community in particular, is its transparency. Gone are the days when discussions about contracts and money were things you just did not do. I applaud authors who are forthright with what contracts say and how much they make. This transparency helps us all learn and be realistic about our prospects.
I have had books on sale for over a year and I completed my first tax return in which I had sales to report. Since today is officially tax day, I thought it would be beneficial to share what taxes look like, honestly, for newbie indie author.
This was not an easy post to write. I will admit that being this transparent is nerve-wracking, but I believe it is important.
Disclaimer: I did not become an author to make gobs of money. I became an author because I have stories to tell and I love writing. Yes, I want people to read my books and like them, but even if I never published another book, I would keep writing. It is part of who I am.
Another Disclaimer: I am in this writing books thing for the long haul. I have done my industry research and I know I will need more books in my backlist before I start making any meaningful money. I define “meaningful money” as my books pay for themselves and that book reading habit I have.
Here are the numbers:
First, I tracked how much production cost for each book I have produced. This only includes my outside costs. It does not include my own labor cost for things like formatting.
Content Edits include developmental edits and line edits.
Copy Edits are the last round of edits and include copy editing only.
Covers also includes all the Twitter and Facebook banners and other graphics for each book.
These numbers do not include an entire hosts of other expenses which includes, but is not limited to the costs of: ISBNs (I used to be a librarian. I think these are expensive but important.), proof copies of the paperbacks, software I use to compile the ebooks, traveling to a writers conference, traveling for research, copies of the print books I order to do giveaways, other giveaway items, envelopes for mailing, postage, marketing, writing classes, books on writing, domain costs, web server costs, professional organization dues, or the sheer amount of caffeine I consume in the form of tea and coffee per year.
If you total up the production costs (not including anything from the paragraph above) of putting out three books, the total is a whopping $3,965, averaging $1,321.67 per book.
There are cheaper ways to make books. You can forgo hiring a professional editor. You can hire a cheaper editor. You can buy stock covers or make your own. You can rely on readers or beta readers to do your copy editing.
You can. You can do all those things, but I do not. I want to put out the best possible book I can write. That means, I contract out the best people I can find and pay them decent money for the very hard work they do for my books. Some authors pay more than I do. Some pay less. The best thing about being an indie is I choose, and this is the path I have chosen. Your path may differ and that is okay.
Now for the hard truth. My tax returns included sales for the first two books which combined cost me $2,630.50 to produce. The third book, Letters in the Snow, did not go on sale until early in 2016. I included it here for comparison purposes.
With two books on sale, I made a whopping $448 last year.*
I did not forget any digits. That is $448 before taxes.
This is the hard truth of self-publishing, but I have friends who have gone the traditional route and their finances do not look that much better than mine.
What it means:
I am not going to lie. The numbers are disheartening, but I know they can get better. They will, eventually.
I still have a ton of work to do. I have mountains of words to write. If I want to make more money, I have to write more books. Good books, maybe even great ones. Books people want to keep reading at any rate. The ones out already get fabulous reviews, so I know I have the start of an audience and that is an amazing thing all by itself.
If you are new to publishing or thinking of jumping in, it is absolutely worth it. I did not write this post to scare you. I did it so you do not work under the belief that writing, packaging, and marketing books is an easy wave your wand thing to do. Mrs. Weasley is not going to do all that work for you, my dear. It is work, rewarding, but work.
For most of us, it also takes time. This is not my full-time job. It is another job I do, in addition to many other things that require my attention. I wish I did hide in a little hut all day and write, but that is not reality. I am learning to be content with the time I am have and be wise in my use of it.
My best advice? Do your homework and make an informed choice. Even more than that, find a circle of cheerleaders who will jump down the rabbit hole with you.
The even better advice? Keep writing, my friends.
*Updated: That is gross, not net. I lost money in the long run.
I could not help but laugh at all of us, because I have been feeling terrible about my writing the last few weeks.
Writing anything of length looks something like this, for me anyway:
I have a brilliant idea. Writes. This idea it shite. Writes. How am I ever going to finish this? Writes. Why are the characters doing that? Writes. Everything I write is terrible. Lord, save me from myself. Writes. Reads a newsletter from my editor. Gets inspired. Writes. Gets annoyed at lack of time to write. Gets time to write. Stares at screen. Plays a video game. Reads a book. Or five. Writes. Why the hell am I doing this? Thinks about that other series I could be writing and will not get out of my head. Solves a problem in the plot of the next book in the series but NOT the one I should be currently working on. Ignores the other story and writes. I’m a genius. Writes. I suck. Repeat a million times.
We write these personal things. Books. Stories. Poems. Even if they are not about us, we are in them. Part of us is there, poured into every word and turn of phrase. That is me on that page, in that book you are holding and I want to be lovely and fun, but mostly I just feel like the geek who got pity invited to the party.
I want to own my work better.
My books are good. They have women in them who can rip a man’s throat out, drink their weight in whisky, and who fight for their own HEA. While they do not need a man, they sure do love to have them around. They are worth reading. My harpies are worth falling in love with. I am head over heels for them.
And, like any good love story, this is my confession scene.
I am proud of them. I do want to own up and say, I created them. For better or worse, they are mine.
I love writing. It complicates my already busy, overcrowded life, but I need these words I weave like I need air. One of these days, I’ll be able to admit that I am good at it with better frequency.
I’ve been working on Turning Creek 4, Plagues of the Heart, though lately in the evening I have been too tired to write. I am not, however, too tired to binge on Daredevil or read. Here are a few books that have captured my attention in the past week. In order of most recently read:
Captive Dragon by Ella Drake – Paranormal Romance (shifters) It’s a sea horse, y’all.
Kilt in Space by Ella Drake – Scifi Romance (humanoid) A nod towards Beowulf with kilts!
Sworn to the Wolf by Lauren Dane – Paranormal Romance (shifters)
Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop – Paranormal (shifters)
Before Midnight by Jennifer Blackstream – Paranormal Historical Romance (shifters) AND a Cinderella retelling FTW
A Brewer’s Guide to Opening a Nano Brewery by Dan Woodsky – nonfiction
Queen of Starlight by Jessa Slade – Scifi Romance
What I am reading right now:
The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle – fantasy (maybe with romance)
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg – graphic novel
As you can see, I have been on a shifter kick lately and most of the romance books are definitely on the steamy side. I blame this on Lauren Dane. I read Wolf’s Ascension a little over a month ago and have been craving that sub-genre ever since. Everything on the list was a great read.
Last month, I also went to see Anne Bishop at Murder by the Book. I enjoyed her reading from Marked in Flesh, which you will notice is on the list above.
Today (a day late), I want to do something completely different. Instead of talking about a Greek myth, I want to highlight another book by a fellow Texas author who writes fiction based on Greek Mythology.
If you are at all familiar with Medusa or if you read my mythology post on Medusa a while back, you know that Medusa’s story, no matter how spun, will be tragic. Summers expertly weaves the tragedy together with a beautiful story that ends with an HEA both touching and fitting for her couple.
Summers perfectly nails the personalities of the gods who seek to control the world according to their own narcissistic wants. The havoc they wreck with power that goes unchecked is the force that drives much of the book. How mere mortals deal with the power wielded their way is what makes this story compelling and will keep you turning until the very end.
I recommend this book to anyone who had enjoys the Turning Creek series, a little mythology, and a powerful romance. Spring Break is coming up, perfect time to get a new book and read the day away.
Here is the blurb:
It’s said love
can change a person. Medusa wasn’t always a monster…
Medusa is ruled by duty, to her Titan father and the Goddess Athena. She’s no room for the tenderness her warrior guard, Ariston, stirs. When Olympus frees her from service, her heart leads her into the arms of the guard she loves… and curses her as the creature with serpent locks.
Ariston goes to war with a full heart… and dreadful foreboding. He learns too late of the danger Medusa faces, alone, and a Persian blade sends him into the Underworld. But death, curses, nor the wrath of the Gods will keep him from returning to her.
Poseidon will use Greece’s war to get what he wants: Medusa. He does not care that she belongs to another. He does not care that she will be damned. He is a God, an Olympian, and she will be his.
Mount Olympus is an actual set of peaks in the Balkan range in Greece. Mount Olympus consists of 52 individual peaks, the highest of which is Mytikas (pictured above). Mytikas soars to 9, 573 feet, which may seam like small potatoes to Americans who claim many fourteeners, but Mytikas is the highest peak in Greece. It is a popular place for climbers and home to an impressive number of flora and fauna.
In Greek myths, Mount Olympus is the seat of Zeus and the home of the gods. Mytikas was said to be the exact location of the house of the gods which was topped by a bronze dome.
In the world of Turning Creek, the Greek gods did live on Mount Olympus, but their home was destroyed in the uprising led by the original four harpies. The following is an account of those early days, taken from my notes.*
Banished and forgotten on the islands of Strophades, the harpies nursed their bitterness and their appetite for revenge increased. There was very little to do on Strophades except plot the downfall of the cause of their imprisonment. The four harpies swore on the River Styx that they would see Zeus cast down from Mount Olympus and punished for the curses he had placed upon them.
It was not hard for the harpies to find others who had yearned for their own revenge on the Father of Olympus. Zeus had a nasty habit of granting power to others, only to be displeased at the threat he felt to his throne once those powers were wielded. Countless women lost their purity to Zeus and many of his children resented their birth. There were even whispers at the time that Hera, once loving wife to Zeus, had finally grown tired of her husband’s philandering and the growing ranks of bastards in her court.
By the time the rebellion took root, mortals had turned their eyes and their faith from the mountain of the gods. There were no supplicants to record the battles that came nor list the fallen. Few rallied to Zeus’s side and, in the end, those that did, lost all.
In the final battle, the harpies led the charge through the great throne room and tore the flesh from Zeus’s bones. With his last breath, he sent his spirit from his shredded body. It erupted from him in the shape of a thunder bolt and disappeared across the skies.
The harpies had extracted their revenge, but at a great cost. One of their own, Podarge, was killed by Ioke in their final charge. The four shields ran after the death of their master, but word of them cropped up now and then whenever the world found itself at war. Podarge’s body was entombed in Mount Olympus with the fallen of both sides and her line died.
Those left dispersed into the world, intermarried with mortals, and watched as their history became the stuff of legends and myths. With each passing generation, their powers weakened and they became Remnants of their ancestors’ greatness.
Every few generations, a story would surface of some adventurer seeking the lost bolt of Zeus, but it was never found. Few Remnants believed such a thing even existed. Other Remnants remembered the tales of Zeus’s cruelty, passed down to them like bedtime tales of the boogeyman, and they feared one day the stories would be true.
I will be celebrating by taking the day off work, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and and reading things on the internet. Oh, and giving some stuff away.
This book revolves around some key letters Iris receives from different people and we all know letters are vitally important to Iris. Thus, the giveaway includes: one signed copy of Letters in the Snow (because you all need one of those), a set of 36 door note cards (I adore pictures of doors), a set of 10 friendship note cards (because you all have some friends, right? maybe one?), 10 brightly colored pens for writing (who wants boring old black and blue?), 3 tiny composition books (for leaving in your bags and around the house for when genius strikes), and a notepad that says you are awesome (because you are). Iris would approve. Open to US and Canada only.
A frequent trope in myths is the hero who is sent on a quest which has previously caused the gruesome deaths of other would-be adventurers. Nothing says, “I hope you fail,” like sending someone off to kill a monster that can’t be killed. Congratulations!
Enter Hercules and the Nemean Lion. Ya’ll know it’s going to end badly for the lion, but play along and be surprised at the end, okay?
The Oracles at Delphi command Hercules to perform Twelve Labors for King Eurystheus*, a man Hercules loathed, as penance for killing his family. We do not discuss that last bit very often. The hero Hercules, became a hero, in part, in his effort to make atonement for murdering his wife and two children. The Oracles told Hercules that at the end of his service to Eurystheus, he will be granted eternal life.
The Nemean Lion was so named because it lived in a cave in the valley of Nemea. The entire region was frightened of this beast who gorged itself on the flesh of man and beast alike, then would retreat to its cave at dusk. If you, like me, grew up watching nature documentaries on PBS, you are thinking that lions are nocturnal and this story is already ridiculous.
According to some sources, the lion would occasionally take the appearance of a maiden in distress and lure men to the cave where it lived. Once the men were deep enough in the cave, the woman would turn into the lion and eat the unsuspecting men.
The lion was the son of Echidna and Typhon, whom we have discussed before.
Hercules spied the lion moving slowly one afternoon after it had eaten. Hercules pulled an arrow from his quiver and let it fly. The arrow, much to his surprise, bounced harmlessly off the lion. Confused and frustrated, Hercules tried again with the same results. The lion saw him and jumped towards the hero. Hercules kept his wits and pulled out a large club. Before the lion’s jaws snapped closed, Hercules whacked the lion soundly over the head and the club broke in two.
Here is where the story has two different endings:
In some versions, Hercules wrestled the lion out in a field in the open where he found victory. In most versions, Hercules allowed the lion to retreat to its cave. Hercules blocked one entrance to the cave, leaving the lion with no alternative escape route. Hercules crept into the cave and squeezed the lion’s neck from behind to avoid its claws, strangling it to death.
After defeating the beast, Hercules realized he needs to skin the lion and remove its head to prove he had completed the task. In a fit of grotesque genius, he used the lion’s own claws to skin the body. The skin became his famous loin cape, part of his “I’m a bad ass hero suit.” Hercules took the head of the lion to Eurystheus, who was appalled even though this had indeed been the task he himself gave Hercules, and forbade the hero to bring his spoils into the city. Hercules then went about his next task, slaying the Lernaean Hydra.
In remembrance, Hera places the Nemean Lion among the stars as the constellation Leo.
I am so pleased to finally be able to show you the cover for Iris’s story, Letters in the Snow. Alexandre Rito, who has done all the Turning Creek covers, did a beautiful job, again, on this one. I was concerned Iris’s wing would come out yellow on the cover, but Alexandre managed to make the wing look luminous in the snowy winter sky. I adore it.
The story takes place, appropriately, in February when spring still seems very far away. As suggested by the title, letters are integral to the plot. Many of my favorite books use letters as a plot device. Two of them stick out in my memory. Mr. Darcy writes that beautiful not really an apology letter to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudiceby Jane Austen. Folie and Robert fall in love through letters in My Sweet Follyby Laura Kinsale.
Letters in the Snow officially launches February 25th. You can pre-order ebooks at these fine retailers: Amazon, Google Play, and Kobo.
The week before it comes out, I will be giving away some free copies to my newsletter group. Sign up for a chance to win a copy before you can buy it.
Iris is a simple postmistress in the small town of Turning Creek, Colorado. Simple, except for being a descendant of a Greek myth, having a pair of golden wings, and possessing the ability to speak prophecy. She has had her hands so full guiding the harpies towards their destinies that she has forgotten to seek out her own.
A mysterious letter from an anonymous admirer begins a correspondence that weaves itself into Iris’s heart and awakens a longing for a love of her own. The letters keep arriving, and Iris is increasingly more aware of the charms of Jacob Wells, a newcomer to Turning Creek. She wonders if the letters are from him. But even with Jacob’s charisma and the lure of a new relationship, Iris discovers the heart can’t be contained, and that her heart’s desire might be for someone who was there all along.
Unfortunately for Iris, the letters and the resulting affairs of the heart are not the only perplexing things happening in Turning Creek. Something more than nature is burying the town in a deadly winter blanket, and a closely guarded secret that will change Turning Creek forever is revealed.