I realize that I’ve been far too quiet for the last few months. As a self-published author, my first job isn’t to write, but to advertise my books. Writing is actually secondary to marketing, selling, and publicizing my books. When Memoirs of a Future Ghost came out, I did everything I could think of. I contacted the local paper, scheduled a big book premiere/signing in conjunction with a ghost tour, did giveaways, advertised on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon. You name it, I did it. And, I don’t think I sold enough books to cover my advertising costs. Granted, it’s not about money, it’s about the art of writing. But, I would be lying if I didn’t put out there that a chunk of cash and/or notoriety would have been nice.
Recollections of a Future Ghost was released on my favorite holiday, Halloween. The year 2020 was supposed to be a fun, different sort of year for me. I had scheduled a couple of book fairs, my second book was in the pipeline, and I had planned trips to several different haunted locations to write about in my third book, Confessions of a Future Ghost. But, a worldwide pandemic changed all of that. Little by little, my world shrank. Book fairs and speaking engagements were cancelled, investigations weren’t even possible, Paranormal Georgia Investigations dissolved, and worse? Three people I loved passed away.
On Halloween, 2020, as I stood in my friend Stefanie’s shop, ready to sign books, my mother-in-law was being airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital, battling a major stroke. Three days later, she was gone and three weeks after that, we lost my father-in-law to cancer. My grandmother had preceded them both in September. Not only that, but after advertising my book, pushing my book signing, and doing everything I was capable of doing, I had three people show up. The whole day was heartbreaking in more ways than one.
Being a self-published author is a constant uphill battle. Without the backing of an agent and publisher, with said publisher’s marketing department doing all the heavy-lifting when it comes to letting the reading public know that your book is out in the world, it’s nearly impossible to get the word out. Word of mouth and reviews are a self-published author’s bread and butter while social media advertising is practically useless. Sure, creating an ad on Instagram nets you thousands of likes… and no purchases. I think I gave up on social media when I saw a “laughing” reaction to my second book’s ad on Facebook. Like, really? I spent years of my life on this book and you’re… laughing at it? The most frustrating moment was researching the possibility of having brick and mortar Barnes & Noble stores carry my book and finding out that they wanted ME to develop a marketing plan. Um, wow. Really? I’m a writer, not a marketing expert. Just order a couple of copies of my books for each store and stick them in the practically non-existent paranormal section of your stores, homie. Not only that, but I will typically sit down on the couch with a mug of coffee to catch up with the latest reality television or news and see that yet another vapid reality bimbo has been handed a wad of cash by a publishing house to spend hours on the phone with a ghostwriter, get their glamor shots taken for a book cover, and within a few weeks have “their” book make it to the New York Times Bestseller list. Or, see the son of a former president make it to the same bestseller list because a political organization bought enough of his books to fill a warehouse.
*Note to self: Get on a reality show. Join a political party. Get a book deal. Make bank.*
That’s not to say that there aren’t great stories and authors out there. Heck, I’m a member of a book club that sends out incredible books each month. Books that I would have never chosen for myself, but that are exceptional pieces of fiction, science fiction, biography, autobiography, and non-fiction. What I wouldn’t give to get in on the book club scene! But, considering that I’ve been courteous, earnest, grateful, and many other synonyms when it comes to contacting local books stores about carrying my book and receiving mostly silence or short answers in return, I’ve pretty much given up asking anyone to please read. It has come to me giving my books away to anyone who wants them.
And when those three people whom I adored passed away within the span of two short months, I lost all interest in even trying to “sell” myself and my books. January 1, 2021 was my last Instagram and Facebook posts and I quietly decided that I needed to walk away, figure out what I wanted to do with my writing, and how I would go about publishing my third book if I did it at all.
One night in February, I woke straight up out of a dead sleep with this crazy idea for a story. I had toyed with story ideas in the past. I had notes on sticky pads, various notebooks filled with random bits of dialog and ideas, computer documents and while I’ve saved some and tossed others in the trash, this particular idea is the one that has stuck with me and that I’ve worked on over the last two months. I haven’t written a chapter or a lick of dialog, but I’m outlining something that actually makes me smile. I’ve only revealed the story to one friend who got very excited about it and immediately exclaimed, “You should write it as a YA!” That’s Young Adult fiction for those of you wondering. That made me very excited and I ran home and changed the age of my protagonist and a few key details.
I have no idea when this story will be finished. I should have already completed the outline and sent the first few chapters to my editor, but moving to a new house and becoming a puppy mom tends to upend one’s life. Regardless, my office is completely set up and I’m back outlining as I type this. I’m excited about writing again. Someday, I’ll return to the subject of true ghosts stories and my personal experiences with said ghosts. But for now, that part of my life is on hold. In the meantime, I intend to write about monsters, both real and imagined. And hope that somewhere out there is an audience who will love it.
You know I feel every bit of this. I decided that I don’t care about how many books I sell (ok, maybe a little), just that I do the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. That’s it. I’m about to get my second book out, and I’m focusing a bit more on the marketing this time, but ultimately the fact that I did it and that a few people out there read and enjoyed it is enough. I’ll keep writing, and keep trying new ways of getting the word out, but in the end I’m doing it for ME.
I can’t wait to read your first book of fiction. Have fun, enjoy the hell out of writing it, and I promise it will be good.