#PublishingTheAlpha’sDream

A month ago, I published for the first time ever under my own name. I’m still freaking out about it.

I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t my first published work. The thing is, it’s very different publishing under a pseudonym or as part of a collaborative work. Taking ownership of my words is something I’ve always struggled with, and thus The Alpha’s Dream is no small creation for me.

There are tons of things I learned on the road to writing it, but what I want to discuss today is what I’ve learned from dreaming it period. Here are five things wanting The Alpha’s Dream has taught me.

 

Career changes are risky.  

When I first decided to write The Alpha’s Dream there were only two things of which I was certain. I wanted a career from writing my own books and I would have to cut back on my ghostwriting.  That great book you love, it took hella long hours to write. There was no way I was going to be able to keep the pace of my ghostwriting and add in the creation of my own original work. I had to cut back my hours, which translated into missed income from my home. At the time, I had two littles and had just discovered my third pregnancy. I wanted to put it off longer. Collecting great premises that I would one day flesh into novellas or novels had become a hobby of sorts. After weeks of quietly deliberating, I talked to my husband. His response was for me to go for it. We would restructure and figure out how to make it. I was terrified anyway and rightfully so. Our budget was already stretched to it’s seam, but then the first certainty kicked in. I knew I wanted to publish my own work, and there was only one way to get there. I would have to take the chance and pull away from creating for others to build the life I wanted for myself. I had to face the risk of it, or I would never know what could come of it. Thus, the Year of the Leap was born. 

Plan. Execute. Repeat.

I have limited time. Balancing wifehood, motherhood, and writing full time leaves me short of hours. If I was goin to do this I would need to be sure from the beginning. I took a couple of weeks to determine what premise I would use for my first release, then the plotting, and writing came. I’m more of a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl (pantser) but I couldn’t afford the writers block I inevitably end up with when I do that. I had to make the hours count. So I took the time to research the best outline methods and crafted one that worked with my writing style. Then, I went to work. Executing is by far the hardest part of this process. There were times I would fall asleep at the keyboard, or scrap an entire chapter. There were also moments when I doubted I’d find my idea market and question whether the work would sell. Ultimately, I just had to get up everyday knowing I am an author working on her latest release and see it through. Not always fun, but worth it now.

Have faith or fear, but not both.

I am naturally a worse case scenario person. I have a hard time visualizing success, and am actively working to change that about myself. The base for my doubt is always fear, and I couldn’t afford to e afraid any longer. I was taking the biggest risk of my life, with the oldest dream of my heart. I had to pick faith in my God, my work, and myself over the fear. Fear is a powerful emotion. Faith is a strong counterattack. I’m still learning to shift my focus. It has been important to me that I don’t inflate with hyper positive but unsubstantiated ideas. Instead, I honor that I have to work hard by giving voice being uncertain there will be a payoff. I have faith that with every published work, I will build and grow a little more. That is what I hold on to when things are murky. It is a work in progress.

Find your market, or be fearless in creating one.

Initially, I wasn’t sure there was a market for shifter romances with both hero and heroine as African-Americans. The norm seemed to show a comfort level for BW heroes and WM shifters as well as Caucasian hero’s and heroines. I knew I wasn’t the only brown woman who loved shifter romances, but there didn’t seem to be a recognizable market. I searched for months and didn’t find anything. There was more doubt, more fear that the risk I was taking was not going to work. After a while, it didn’t matter that I didn’t see the market. I saw the characters, and their stories. I believed that would be enough to attract readers, even if they were checking out shifter romances for the first time.  I found my niche and I am working it like it has been heavily established. I am a reader of the books I write. I am my own market. As it turns out, so are you.

You don’t have time to wait for the “perfect time”.

The time you are in is always the perfect time. Don’t get me wrong. There is an ideal setting in which i would have liked to start writing. Ideally, we would have been financially sure from other endeavors. The market would be fairly established and my darlings would have a lovely routine that allowed them not to miss me when I was writing. Suffice to say I am still working on that part of the dream.  I had to come to terms with the fact that I would have to make time, I would have to have faith, and just start. Start. I couldn’t spend anymore years waiting for my ideal scenario to make it easy for me to pursue my dreams. I had to begin right in the thick of my uncertainty. I had to start where I was and hold steady until something great happened. It is happening now.

As I celebrate The Alpha’s Dream very cute and meaningful milestone, I am happy that I took the chances I did. I’ve learned a lot, grown a lot, and produced a work I love because of it.  There will only be more from here.

Comment below with your thoughts on The Alpha’s Dream.

Joy.

 

 

#2Stars: Open to criticism

Writing is an act of art. It is a statement of creativity. It is open to criticism.

I am not above a bad review.

Common knowledge.  For some writers, the first review where a reader expresses discontent with their work is akin to having their heart plucked out while still alive. It is a shock to the system, feels fatal, and is often callous. Yup. All of that is still true for someone like me whose worked behind the scenes on several projects. Anything below a three star writing is definite grounds for improvement.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been stalking my ratings and reviews. The very first moment I noticed the below three star ratings on The Alpha’s Dream my heart sank like a stone in a pond. I read the written review carefully.  I analyzed it for days looking for some hidden bias. The hidden bias? The reader didn’t like my writing style. She just didn’t like the book. Fair. NOT FUN, but fair.

I’m bringing to light these ratings because I believe in their credibility. This isn’t about knowing the reviewer, but about knowing the process. I believe the ratio to readers and reviewers is something like 5 or 6  to 1. Out of 50 people who read a book only about 10-15 will leave a review.  So every review counts. Every review also represents multiple people. The reviewers who left the 2 star ratings represent other readers who ultimately decided against leaving a rating at all, rather than leave bad one.

Deep breaths. Long Sighs. Honesty is rarely pleasant.

However, I am not one of those authors who feels that every review must be a positive one. I am not lost in the fallacy that everyone who reads my books will fall haplessly in love with my work. It is unrealistic, no matter how badly I would like it to be true.

As an artist, it is difficult to read that someone doesn’t like the work I’ve spent countless hours developing. Art requires thick skin. Art requires respect for the audience just as much as for the authors.  I suspect over the life of my work there will be even more unflattering reviews. I’m prepared-ish for that, and I will face it with grace.

I want all my readers to know that their reviews, ratings, comments are honored. I hear you. I’ll work even harder to give you a product that you enjoy. We’re in this together and for the long-term.

Comment below with characters or stories you would like to see written.

Joy.

#OwnIt: My most prominent book launch mistakes

There were mistakes made in my launch. Here’s how I feel about them.

Alright, so you’ve seen my excitement about The Alpha’s Dream being released. It is heaven to see my work finally published and available to those who wanted it. I’ve been stalking my sales, and pages read through Kindle Unlimited almost hourly. Seriously. It’s to the point that my husband has put me on a schedule. He gets me, but he also knows I’m crazy. It’s true love.

Now that I’ve had a little time away, my feelings for my launch are finally sorting. Here comes the part where doing it all on my own takes its honest toll. I worked for months in writing of The Alpha’s Dream. It was originally only supposed to be a 20,000 word novella to open my career. I was nervous about attempting more.

In the end, Nathaniel and Euphoria took on a life of their own. They knew what they wanted, and their story. They desired depth and space to come to terms with the lives they were living through the pages. I was honored…am honored to have done that.

As with anyone, I realize there are limits to  talent. So, even in my writing there were things I had to prepare for in order for my book to be a success. So, I made a plan.

I would write the book. I would then do a secondary edit of the book to fill plot holes and  catch minor grammatical errors. I would then hand the book off to a great editor who would fine tune what was missed. They would return the book to me to make final adjustments.

It was a simple plan with modest expectations and nothing extravagant in terms of what other authors are doing.

I am prone to Murphy’s law. Everything that can go wrong will generally go wrong when it comes down to the wire.

My editor bailed. My secondary choice was great, but not as good. In the 25th hour I ended up doing a lot of it myself. I’m not an editor. I am a writer. It shows in my work.

As I proceeded to go through the work, I cleaned it up as much as I could and pressed forward. It would not be perfect. The flawless finish I wanted did not come. Editors, like authors, have very specific skills. I know my role well, and I know the limits of that role. What I offered was not the pristine product I’d hoped.

To further exacerbate my anxiety, the placeholder copy I used for the pre-order setup was even less perfect. It took several failed attempts to submit the first edition final version of The Alpha’s Dream. However, it was too late to prevent some of the pre-orders from receiving the completely unedited placeholder copy.

I was mortified.

My big launch, my debut to the world was marred by a completely jumbled amateur move. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Immediately, I went into recovery mode. I researched and reached out to those that I could about the copies they received and offered edited versions. I hoped for the best.

The feedback I’ve been getting for The Alpha’s Dream has been predominately positive. When I look at the reviews, I realize that I wasn’t the only one looking for books like I’ve chosen to write. It heightens my desire to create a great work. At this point, all of the Amazon reviews are glowing. The GoodReads ratings, not so much. I Love GoodReads. I love the people represented there are truly just there for the books. So even a two star rating ( at this point I have 2 two star ratings) has a significant purpose.

I see the complaints in my writing and the calls that there are grammatical errors still. It is embarrassing to work so hard and still have some prominent flaws. I sigh. I cringe. I know there is still more work to do. I’m up to the challenge.

In the coming weeks, as I prepare for even more changes in my  personal life I will be looking for another editor to see if I can finally get it right. I want a flawless project and the second edition of The Alpha’s Dream should be that.

Overall, I am still in awe of this process. I’ve learned some hard lessons and have come to terms with my shortcomings. I take my work very seriously.

This isn’t a hobby anymore. It isn’t simply what I do to pay the bills, and when that work is complete it is my responsibility to make sure it is done right. I don’t take that lightly.

As I move forward, looking down the barrel of a new baby, second edition to The Alpha’s Dream, and plot future works I keep in mind that nothing is without hiccups.  I love that The Alpha’s Dream is doing well. I hate that it isn’t perfect, but I am not intimidated about plucking away until I get it right.

What are you guys working on? Anything you’ve taken a second look at? Comment below.

Joy.

#AprilAccomplished

Aprils is out of here. You know after deciding, to reset on some of my goals, this has been my most successful month yet.

It was a hard decision to drop the migrated book goals that I had, but it was necessary. As I drew closer to the release of The Alpha’s Dream and the coming birth of my third little one, I had to be honest about my time. A very tough thing to face is knowing that I still want to get those things accomplished, but don’t have a specific timeline for them.

I will have to figure out something, because I’ve already started mapping out my  next release. More updates on that later.

So, here is a goal gut check for the month of April. I’ll tell you exactly how I did.

April Goal List:

-Format The Alpha’s Dream

-Decide on Amazon Exclusivity

-Pick New Release Date for Second Draft

-Execute Phase #2 of Marketing

I completely dismissed all of my migrated goals.

Like I said, it’s been a pretty successful month. I got to everything on this list even though some of the things accomplished were in a more abbreviated fashion.  To break down the list, everything got done. I formatted the Alpha’s Dream after getting it to the Editor. It didn’t make it back in time, so there was a little mix-up with the pre-orders. Alas, all is well. I decided on a release date for my second release, but I’m not going to disclose that yet. When I decide whether release number two will be an  short or a full length release, I will give you all the details.

The hardest thing on the list was deciding on Amazon Exclusivity. For this release, I have decided on the exclusivity.  I struggled with that decision as I would like to make my releases as available as possible. It makes more sense to expand to other platforms and once the three month exclusivity clause of Amazon is up, that is exactly what I plan to do. At this moment, it simply felt like a better choice to exclusively publish on Amazon.  As I grow my book list, we will see what happens next.

The final thing on the list, e xecuting marketing phase two is an ongoing process. Yes, I have begun to work out the kinks of my marketing plan, but it isn’t something that simply ends at a certain point. I’m constantly evaluating what I am doing and working to expand my reach. One of the things I’ve done of late is to set up my author Pinterest account. You can see it here. For visuals of the heroine and hero muses I use to model my characters after and writing resources I find crucial to my process, follow my boards.

I’m proud of the work I have been able to accomplish. My goals are super important if I will end the year the way I plan too. I know your goals are important too. Leave me a comment about some of the ways you’ve managed to stay on track. And, tune in next week for what my May goal list brings!

Joy

#soclose

On April 2, 2017 I will reveal the cover of my first realease. Twenty-one days later, The Alpha’s Dream will be live on Amazon.com.

My emotions are all over the place, but mostly I feel like it’s time. I’ve worked hard. I’ve loved these characters. I’ve struggled with the long hours, prayed,  discussed, and planned to a level that I never have before. I know I am doing what I am meant to do. Writing isn’t just something I do for a hobby or even for a paycheck. It literally calms my souls to be able to create these stories. Isn’t that what your purpose should do? It is what I have come to expect.

This has been a crazy journey. It has asked of me things that I did not believe I had to give.  Time and again it challenged what I believed was possible, and forced me to make adjustments. I am stronger now because I have attempted this, and because I refuse to fail at it.

I am stronger now, because I am no longer afraid to have it fail.

The Alpha’s dream is honey in my mouth and will be forever. Whether it is my first bestseller or a complete flop, it has awakened a sleeping dragon in me. It has taught me how to give my all without question, and without expectation. I’m excited to have you be a part of this.

Join me on April 1st, 2017 for my first official cover reveal. Let’s get acquainted. After all, we are in this together.

 

Joy.

 

#wingingit

I’m feeling the crunch.

In a little over three weeks The Alpha’s Dream will be live and ready for the world.  I’m excited, and terrified, and exhausted. All the things I thought I would be over-ish by now. Turns out, I was lying to myself. Not a habit I want to continue, so I’ll put that on my list of habits to break this year.

I make a lot of list.

Whatever it takes, right? Whatever it takes.

I’ve spent the last several months working my behind off to create The Alpha’s Dream. I love my work. I’m really happy with it…mostly. Lol. I don’t know that there will ever be a day where there won’t be something that I want to tweak about it.  Such is life as a writer. I hope I never lose the hunger for creating stories and then for making them better. It’s all part of my ever expanding dream.

It will continue to grow.

The closer I get to the end of this or rather the middle, the more attached I get to my characters. Their needs have grown with my understanding of them. They expand, and I relish their expansion.

I love that my hero, Nathaniel, is sure of himself, until his heroine, Euphoria, forces him to examine his most hidden resentments. I love that Euphoria doesn’t try to change him, and instead makes whatever uncomfortable choices she has to in order to keep them both in their comfort zone. It doesn’t work, because they want each other too badly. The fact is, when you are made for someone, attempting to walk away from that will never end well. It takes a little transformation and a lot of faith to come out happily ever after.

This book has become so many things for me. Hope. Labor of love. Confirmation. Affirmation, and so on and so forth. I have learned more about myself as I’ve crafted its pages than I intended too. That’s a good thing. What we love should reveal us to ourselves.

I hope everything I write has that effect on me. After all, there is nothing more dangerous than a settling into complacency. I don’t want to be the author who simp,y cranks out books with no regard as to their effects. I strive to keep that true always.

I want you to enjoy my book. I want you to read and re-read it because the story is good, and the love is real, and it reminds you of something you’ve wanted or have. I want you to come back for me. As we continue on this voyage together, I want you to know that my heart is in it.

 

Joy.

#BlackRomance

As I have mentioned before, I have been in love with romances all of my life. I have vivid memories of locking myself in my parents bedrooms and reading the forbidden love novels while my parents were at work. It left its mark on me.

Now, as I embark on a career that brings me to do what those authors did for me, I find myself thinking of the multitude of voices that influence my desire to write. It took a minute, but I was able to narrow my list down to five AA romance authors who’ve consumed hours of my life with their works. My reasons for loving them individually are just as differing as their respective voices.

I wanted to share them with you, because I still love them. I still lock myself away to read their newest works. I think it important to give voice to those who’ve influenced us. I hope to learn some authors who’ve influenced you too.

In full disclosure, this list is no way exhaustive or in any order. I couldn’t dare quantify what these people mean to me one over the other. Just know they still my breath, make me squirm and giggle, as well as swoon. I fall in love with their characters. I hate their villains and rush through chapters when things get too intense. I’ll never get enough of them.

 

Brenda Jackson

No one writes a series like Brenda Jackson. The Madaris’, the Westmorelands, the Grangers’ all of them are good enough to eat. I’ve hoped from one series to another then back again and I love every one. The endings are always a little rushed for me, but ultimately I still fall for them. I know my happily ever after is coming and I stand on my tip toes waiting for it from her.

Zane

If there is anyone who knows how to pour on the heat it is Zane. She made it a thing to talk openly about our sexual desires and I was loving it. HEr characters were true to themselves. Even when they were looking for approval, they knew their own identities. I love it. I love it. I love it. As long as she’s writing those sexy stories, I will be a happy reader.

Eric Jerome Dickey

This was the first male author who convince me he knew anything about women. I love his stories. I like how they are a combination of street colloquialisms and romance. His characters are flawed, and honest as they fumble through their love lives. His dialogue feels true to form and his endings are not always predictable. Romances a aren’t just for women and he proves that over and over again.

Francis Ray

I came late to the Francis Ray party, but I never want to leave. Her descriptive story telling paints the scene. Her characters are twisted, or incredibly flawed, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sometimes broken. The vulnerability in her writing sends me through highs and lows that are often unpredictable. She  comes to a happily ever after, but there are always moments where I hold my breath and hope for the best. Her smooth, descriptive writing is something I hope to have in my own work. I always go back to her when I  have a weekend I want to feel with a carefully unfolding romance.

Donna Hill

I was first introduced to Donna Hill through the Black Expressions Book Club. I have loved her ever since. Her books are generally smooth reading. There might be a hiccup or an uncomfortable situation, but nothing that feels insurmountable. When all I want is a love story, I turn to Donna Hill. Her characters are genuine and heroines stand on their own. Her heroes are strong, driven, and now what they want. It rarely takes more than a couple of hours, if that to get through one of her books. Sometimes, that is all I need.

I can’t possibly imagine I ma introducing any of you to any of these authors, but if I am pick up anything they’ve written and dive in. I would love to know what you find. Who are your favorite authors? Leave a comment below.

 

Joy.