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Workspace Wednesday welcomes MJ Fredrick

Today, I am delighted to have MJ Fredrick as my guest for Workspace Wednesday. MJ is another member of my Wet Noodle Posse (writers who finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart® contest in 2003, and who have hung together ever since).

 

Here’s the thing – every time I read one of MJ’s books, I think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that!” She writes the kind of fast-paced, sexy romantic suspense/adventure that really floats my boat. The kind I try to write. She can also write a straight contemporary (like Bluestone Homecoming) with the best of them, a skill I envy.

 

 

She is also one of the few bloggers I follow religiously. I think I learned everything I know about blogging/social media best practice from watching MJ. I don’t do it as well as she does, but she embodies what we all should be doing. She shows us all the facets of her life, not just her writing. Besides being a damned fine writer, she’s a teacher, an avid reader, a wife, a mother, a cat-lover, a talented crafter, a Supernatural fan, a TV and movie aficionado, etc. Basically, she’s the kind of all around awesome person you want to feel connected to. I recommend you check out her blog and subscribe to her newsletter so you don’t miss anything.

 

Okay, now that I’ve spilled all that syrupy lurve all over the place, I’ll turn you over to MJ while I clean up the joint.

 

 

MJ FREDRICK:  I tried, really I did, to have an office. When I first started writing on a computer, I had one, the third bedroom in our old house, with an old XT my uncle had put together, with an amber monochromatic screen. After my son was in bed, I’d go in there and write for a couple of hours while my husband watched TV in the living room. I eventually finished my first book, but it took me months.

 

We replaced the XT with an old PowerBook we got for $300, with a modem that screeched. No more writing in the bedroom next to where my son was sleeping, so I started writing and surfing in the living room in front of the TV. We replaced the PowerBook with the first generation of iMacs, and it was also in the living room. So I got in the habit of writing with lots going on around me.

 

BUT I didn’t feel guilty, because I was still a part of what was going on, if you get me.

 

We moved into this house, a four-bedroom, 13 years ago. I tried several spaces as my “office,” the bedroom off the kitchen, the mud room area next to that, which looked out on my backyard, the middle bedroom (which has since become Craft Central). NONE of those worked for me. I’d get up a million times to go see what was going on in other parts of the house. Eventually, we parked the iMac in the living room and that was my workspace.

 

And then…I got a laptop. Oh, the freedom I had with a laptop! I wrote outside, I wrote in my big comfy chair, I wrote EVERYWHERE!

 

Now, I live in Texas, and the past two summers have been crazy hot, even early in the morning, so I don’t write on the patio. But this house is blessed with a sun room, and that is my favorite room in the house, especially since my baby brother helped me rearrange it a couple of years ago.

 

I have a big comfy couch and a big comfy chair that we bought when we moved in. They’re a little worse for wear, but did I mention comfy? (Also, excuse the cat hair. I AM the Crazy Cat Lady, but getting cat hair off chenille is a PAIN!)

 

In the morning, as soon as I finish eating, I unplug the laptop and curl up on the couch in the sun room. (This is what it looks like in the summer. When I’m teaching, it’s dark dark dark, with only the light from the screen.) Note the Diet Coke–a staple in the early mornings.

 

 

I usually get a cat or two curled up with me, no matter what time of day. Here you see YaYa beside me and Stormy on the floor.

 

 

My exercise bike is right there, taunting me. This summer I’ve had to leave my little area when the boy wants to exercise, which would make me mad if he wasn’t moving out this week.

 

 

I prefer this view, though because of the drought, there’s not a lot to see.

 

 

In the evenings, I join the family in front of the TV, but I’m usually still working on SOMETHING. This is my corner, complete with a blanket, because the AC works pretty well.

 

 

The bonus is, my baby kitty thinks it’s his mama.

 

 

So I don’t stay in one spot and I clearly like to be comfortable. Also, I like green chairs and cats.

 

 

Thank you, MJ! Loved the tour of your space! I am so in awe of anyone who can work with a laptop primarily. After all these years in admin support, I’m a desktop kind of gal.

 

MJ Fredrick is the author of 17 books, including this one, Guarded Hearts, published by Lyrical Press.

 

 


 

Now it’s your turn. Do you remember modems that screeched? Did you ever have an XT? Ever meet an author who didn’t even pretend to maintain an office, whilst she wrote in various spots around the house? Have you read one or more or MJ’s books? You know the drill – a comment will earn you a chance to win today’s prize, which you’re going to want. It’s a $10 gift certificate from either Amazon or B&N, at the winner’s call.

Looking back on a year of self-publishing

August marks the anniversary of my decision to start self-publishing. I entered the fray with LAUREN’S EYES, a book which had been previously published in mass market and to which I had reacquired the rights. I added three romantic suspense novels in August and began promoting all four books. More titles followed through the course of the year, and I now have nine books available (two of which are YA paranormals co-written with literary author Heather Doherty).

This month, as I celebrate a year of self-publishing, I thought I’d take my cue from some of my fellow indie authors and share some sales information. My hope is that those of you who are new to self-publishing with perhaps one or two books up and who aren’t yet seeing strong sales, will take heart. It does take patience and experimentation. It also helps to have a series. And naturally, the more books you have out, the better. As you’ll see below, many books making modest sales can generate a nice income.

Okay, let’s get to it.

I know many indie authors have taken off like rockets on Amazon. I have to say that my trajectory was less dramatic. Nevertheless, I am very pleased with the upward trend. Here are the raw numbers:

My sales through Smashwords and its distributors (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony and Diesel) were significantly more for the period, but those dollars are harder to neatly separate into monthly earnings. Payment is made quarterly, and the reporting from distributors lags several months behind, making it hard to draw accurate comparisons with Amazon’s real time reporting. Also, I had Smashwords hang onto my money until I could get an ITIN number from the IRS to establish my tax treaty rights, the result being that most of my earnings for this past year were paid to me recently in one lump sum. Since I don’t have the data to make a nice chart showing the gradual growth in sales, I’ll just speak generally about my Smashwords experience.

Bearing in mind the lag in sales reporting I mentioned, I am showing sales of 7,920 paid units through Smashwords and its distributors. (Total downloads were actually 45,626 units, but 37,706 of those ‘sales’ were unpaid units. The vast majority of those freebies were downloads of a free novella designed to stimulate interest in my Serve and Protect romantic suspense series.)

Contrast those 7,920 units with the 2,083 units sold at Amazon, and you can extrapolate from there, throwing in a little extra for the sales not yet reported. Not a bad year. And – woot! – I just surpassed the 10K mark!

Obviously, in retrospect, my decision to jump into self-publishing could not have been better timed. The Amazon monthly sales chart really tells the tale. The Christmas 2010 rush on electronic reading devices translated into a sharp increase in sales in early 2011. No doubt the addition of more titles to my catalogue contributed to ongoing growth. It also doesn’t hurt that many of my books are romance, which sells well. Nor does it hurt that I’ve spent more than a dozen years honing my craft and have worked hard to try to get my self-published titles noticed.

That said, I’ll be the first person to admit that luck has a lot to do with it. I’ll also be the first person to say that I know countless indie authors whose book sales totally dwarf mine. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that no two authors’ journeys are the same, and I am very grateful and happy with my own lot.

I hope the sales data I’ve shared today will help motivate other authors in the indie trenches who are still struggling. Hang in there and keep plugging away. Be patient. Don’t despair. This is not like traditional publishing; you’re in it for the long haul now. Keep writing and adding to your catalogue. Put forth the best product you possibly can, with a high quality, professional cover. Then do it again. And if after a sufficient length of time has passed, sales still aren’t growing, try changing something up. Tweak your product description or how your book is categorized. Experiment with prices. Try a new cover. For once, all the controls are in your hands. Use them! And good luck.