When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Nope. Instead, snatch up the biggest juiciest lemon, and you hurl that mo-fo back as hard as you can. Hear the succulent splat when it hits. Don't worry, no humans were harmed in this metaphor. But when your hopes and dreams receive a sucker punch, lemonade just doesn't cut it. When you don't like the cards life has dealt you, fight back: throw out the whole deck, and choose a different game. While that's better than sinking into depression, it leaves a difficult question: "Now what?"
This is how I felt when I lost the ability to continue as a dance teacher. Spinal injuries can do that to you. I loved that job. I had around 100 students, and contracts to choreograph musical theater. Now what, indeed.
At first I didn't believe it. I stubbornly kept designing flyers for when my classes would reopen. I looked for a new studio to rent, made plans for a new class schedule. I kept in touch with my students, telling them I was feeling better and it wouldn't be long now...
But something fresh and new was growing in my heart. I'd taken to writing comedy mysteries while I recovered. It did a lot to pick up my spirits at a time when I was frightened and didn't know what the future held. I entertained myself, and battled typos caused by laughing as I wrote.
Cue the game change! Kindle Direct Publishing, wagging its eyebrows at me. "Want to publish? Want control? Want to retain the rights to your books?"
Did I care that certain people did not approve? No. It wasn't about them. This was about survival, and I'd just been presented with an opportunity.
So without writing one query, I went into business as an indie publisher. There's a long backstory of me learning the craft of writing, years before any of this happened. So I knew I was ready. I had a great book to prove it, titled Hot Scheming Mess, and I decided to make it into a series.
If I got stuck, I asked myself, WWACD? What Would Agatha Christie Do? She was amazing! She could throw in a plot twist without so much as mussing her hair. She's still widely read today, but I'm not jealous of her success. Because, you know, she's dead. I have a distinct advantage over dead authors in that I can write another book. On the other hand, dead authors don't lay awake at night, wondering how they'll finish their book if there's another power outage. If you ever catch a dead author laying awake at night, find the door, or find a sharp stick. You know what to do.
Once I escorted my first book through the many rounds of professional editing, cover design, and formatting, I was ready to upload. I had to choose categories and keywords so that customers could type in something like "humorous mysteries" and my book would have a chance of being pulled up. I had to give those keywords a lot of thought. Whose books are similar to mine so I'll know what category to go for?
I'd always loved Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I knew my books would fit perfectly into that category. So I set out to take the torch from Janet. (Um...hi Janet. Don't squish me, 'kay? I'm just a lowly little author with big dreams. But watch your back, Babe. Just saying.)
Here's the part where I confess that I did something brilliant, but it was completely by accident. No plan, just dumb luck. I got on Twitter and Facebook, and used those accounts to have fun being a smartass. I tried to make people laugh every day for a year. My friends and followers grew and I had a virtual playground for my twisted sense of humor. Today I believe these followers were tied to my success, but I didn't know it at the time.
The day my book came out, I sold 12 ebooks. I was quite happy about that because my goal was to sell at least 30 ebooks the first month, and grow it from there. But the sales passed 30 early on. I squealed every time I saw the sales number get higher. Then I hit a point where it was no longer fun in a giddy way. I was sobered by the fact that this was really happening. Sales passed 500, and I knew my new dream had just leap frogged. Here I was, an unknown, debut author, and all these people were buying my only book. It was so gratifying! I could finally let go of my former dreams, and know that I'd landed in a good place, with a career I loved!
I sold 1,154 copies of that one book that first month. Me, a nobody. And now I have actual fans eagerly awaiting each new book.
Indie publishing is a lot of work, and my story has had its ups and downs. But I'm very excited about my future. I'm in control, and all signs are pointing to success.
And not one query.
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