Saturday, June 10, 2017

Taking Stock and Moving Forward

Good morning. Yes, I'm blogging. I've not been here much lately. I know, I know... But I'm here today and that counts for something, right?

I'm here to share with you that over the past few months I have taken a good hard look at my writing, my books, my sales, and my time. A year ago I started back at my old day job working full time. It was a necessary move and I knew that my writing would slow down and I wouldn't be able to produce and publish as quickly as I had in the past. As I predicted, the lack of releases (only 2 in the past year or so) has really affected my sales. I suspected it would and I've been proven true on that prediction.

So okay. I knew it would happen. Que sera sera. Let's move forward.

After some hard analyzation of the data surrounding my sales, what I had assumed was true was confirmed with the numbers -- cowboys and western romance are my bestselling titles. My suspense, paranormal, and even contemporary titles have seriously tanked in the last couple of years. Cowboy readers appear to be my target audience right now, and so I've decided to focus all of my future Maddie James releases in the cowboy/western romance subgenre. Hurray for cowboys!

But what about the other genres? I knew for a while I needed to focus -- I've written all over the board in various romance sub-genres and it is so difficult for me to define my readers and even create a brand around my work. About a year ago I had moved all of my erotica titles to another pen name, so that was already done. I had to think hard about the rest my titles for several weeks. I even went back and re-read some of my books and came to some conclusions.

1. All of my contemporary romance titles need updates. Some were written 20 years ago. Some 10 years ago. I am a better writer today than 10 years ago. I have some work to do here.

2. My suspense titles are all in good shape. They are current, edited well, with recently rebranded covers. Even though sales are low, I think these titles can be marketed along with my cowboys and I can eventually push them to pick up some steam.

3. I have fewer paranormal titles, and they are slugs when it comes to sales. I have some work to do here too, but these titles are my third priority. I'm going to hold on making decisions about these books for a while.

This was a pretty good bit of analyzation as I have fifty-some books in print (if you count all of the removed erotica titles).

So did I make a decision? Yes, I did. I am rewriting and rebranding ALL of my contemporary romance titles. Because some of them were sweet and some at higher heat levels, I knew I also needed to be more consistent with the heat in order to hit a specific target audience.

I also discovered this -- all of my contemporary romance titles were set in small southern towns. Duh. Since I have a lot of experience living in small southern towns, I guess that makes sense. But when I took a hard look at all of these scattered town books, I realized they all could basically be set in the same darned town -- and that's when it hit me that I really have a pretty extensive base of series material here.

That was a huge revelation and a lightning strike type of decision. One town, one series, one major overhaul. It won't happen overnight but the process has started. I have already pulled most (not all) of my contemporary titles out of the marketplace. I will be pulling them all soon. I'm currently rewriting and revising each title and will be re-releasing them UNDER A NEW PEN NAME.

Why a new pen name? I believe it will help with marketing, algorithm placement, 'also boughts', and audience. I have created a pretty strategic release and marketing plan, and all of that will unravel beginning in late July/early August.

So stay tuned. If you want to take a peek at the new me, check out my new Sophie Jacobs pen name and website. And while you are poking around, check out the reinvented Maddie James site too, as she's had a bit of an overhaul. Sophie also has a Facebook page if you want to follow her there.

So what about that time factor? New day job and all? No doubt my job is an all-consuming job and it's one I enjoy doing -- but after a year of adjustment, I'm ready to tackle the juggling act again. I'll drop some balls, I'm sure, but as long as I pick them back up, I'll be just fine.

This is all a work in process and I'll keep you up to date on the blog. This is my first official soft announcement with a newsletter post to follow in a few weeks. I'd love to have your feedback on my new plan, so feel free to comment below. Thank you for being awesome readers!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Writer Wednesday - Take the Pressure Off

A few days ago I can across a Word doc in my "potential blog posts" file that spoke to me. I'm not sure when I wrote the content but I imagine it was a couple of years or more ago. The thing is, it still applies to me today. The theme of the post is mostly two-fold -- quit beating yourself up if you don't make your daily word count, and write every day regardless. Good advice.

I realized as I was reading through the rough copy that I had written that I actually think it was an email I had written to someone else. I often find myself doing that -- sending encouraging and uplifting and inspirational emails to other authors when they are feeling like shit because of not writing. Hey, been there. Done that. And honestly, after 30 years of chasing this writing dream, I just have to say this: 


There is nothing that can halt the good stuff faster than the negative crap we poke in our brains. Stop dwelling on it. Just write every damn day. That's my advice. I don't care if it's two words or two thousand words. Just get words on the page. Every day. 

I thought perhaps you'd like to read that email. It spoke to me again. Perhaps it will speak to you. 

I don't know if it will help, but lately I've been having more success allowing myself to write less each day. I started off a few weeks ago with a strict calendar and deadlines and a 2500 word a day goal. I kept getting frustrated because I wasn't making my goal every day. 

They I decided to say fuck it to the 2500 goal. I realized I was comfortably writing between 1000 and 1500 daily. While beating myself up over not reaching the bigger goal, I failed to realize I was still significantly moving the book forward each and every day by writing less than the goal. And, I met all three of my last deadlines without doing that, and I should make my deadline at the end of the month on this current WIP.

Why the difference? Less pressure. I've divided out my day loosely -- fiction in the morning, non-fiction in the afternoon. It's helping me to balance all of these different kinds of projects. And I've been happier with what I've produced each day.

So, I think what I am saying is, perhaps, give yourself some firm deadlines, a timeline of sorts, and allow yourself to write LESS each day, as long as you write EVERY DAY. I am finding the every day advice to be pure gold for me. I don't put it off anymore. It's the first thing I do in the morning.

Make sense to you?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

By the numbers -- A look at the New Year

We’re all thinking about new beginnings right now. After all, today is January 1, the first day of a brand new year. It is normal to ponder starting over, setting new goals, and pledging resolutions to do things differently or to make improvements in our lives.

I’ve been thinking along those lines too.

As I wrote in a blog post a few days ago, 2016 is getting a bad rap all over social media, and people are happy to see the year go. I hope, for all of those people who were so adamantly negative against the year, that 2017 will bring greater joy and awesome things for them. I wrote in that piece that perhaps what needs to happen is a change of attitude. I’m not the judge and jury on that, but I do have to wonder if others really think and analyze what went wrong with 2016 for them, and how it can be different next year.

And then, there is Elizabeth Gilbert, who shared in this Ted Talk that perhaps some things aren’t our fault. That perhaps we’re assigned muses or beings or somethings to our lives who make us look at things this way or that, help us write our stories, do our work, and so forth. That perhaps, it’s not just talent—she thinks that’s a heavy burden to put on our shoulders—but that it’s how much our muses decide to show up for work each day. Which lead me back to thinking about new beginnings again and numerology.

Now, I’m not a fan of numbers. I’ve never really liked working with them—yet, I hold a great respect for them. Mostly, I respect people who understand and love working with them. I’ve never found numbers as fascinating as words. The concept of numerology, however, has long fascinated me and if you go back to Elizabeth Gilbert’s philosophy, I like it even more. Perhaps things are ordained, so to speak, for us. Perhaps it is the choices we make within that “plan” or path that is set forth too. Maybe it’s a combination of fate and determination, with some wisdom tossed in on the side.

At any rate, I’ve looked at the numerology predictions this morning for 2017. Both the Universal Year Number and my Personal Number are number 1. That means that this next 9-year cycle for me should be a good path forward. According to a couple of articles I read online here and here, this is what I can look forward to in 2017 and the next nine years.

• New beginnings, change, and progress in many areas (ideas, interests, status, friends and business, vocation)
• Leadership is strong
• Individualization
• Confidence – time to assert my will
• A year of ideas! – and being a self-starter (I’ve always been that)
• A year to shine! – with confidence
• Motivation
• A time to listen to my personal ideas and desires and decide what I want to accomplish

I’d be remiss not to mention that this Universal and Personal Year of 1 grows out of a challenging 2016 for me. When I look back over the year, I realize a tremendous amount of change occurred for me during this time.
• I abruptly and unexpectedly lost my mother
• I went back to full time work after nearly three years of working at home writing
• I ended a significant relationship

All the while, I kept plugging away at life. I’ve taken some time the past couple of weeks to reflect, finally, which has been a good thing. I have gained wisdom from this past year, and the previous cycle, but now it’s up to me to put my lessons learned to practice in the coming nine years. I know it’s not just fate, but I’ve been told that numbers do not lie. I have a healthy respect for what they are telling me.

I know I need to put in the work too. I need to show up and do my part. If nothing else, I have determination. I’ll take that boost from the numbers and run with it. And I’m looking forward to 2017 and the next 9 year cycle providing me with the skills, wisdom and insight to move things forward.

What are your thoughts for the new year?