This is my first post as a full-time writer, and I’m sorry it’s come a little late. I’ve been working hard – firstly to finish editing Tempting Autumn, which is now with my Kiwi Birds Review Group (and will be out on 19 April). Then I was trying to catch up with my word count on book 3 of the Four Seasons, Bewitching Winter, because I’m taking part in CampNaNoWriMo like I do every April, and I’m – gasp – lagging behind, something I never do!
But something prompted me to put fingers to keyboard today. It was a review followed by an email from a reader who said she has never read romance before, but she picked up my Three Treats bundle on a whim because it was free at the time, and loved it so much that she’s gone on to buy the whole Treats series.
It was a lovely email and it gave me a real glow to read, but I’m not telling you to gloat. I’m mentioning it because it confirms two things for me.
Firstly, the power of the free book. There was a squabble on a self-publishing loop the other day with one author bemoaning the amount of free books out there and saying it cheapens authors’ work and makes it harder for other authors who are trying to make money. Well, no. She missed the point entirely. When used well, the free book gives a reader an opportunity to try your work without parting with her (or his) hard-earned cash. Of course there will always be readers out there who only read free books, but they are few and far between, and it is the perfect way to reach out to new readers and improve one’s exposure.
Secondly, it told me how many people are missing out on some wonderful books because of their perceived view of romance. I can’t point the finger here—until five years ago I wasn’t interested in the genre because I thought: why read a story where you already know the ending? But I entirely missed the point. A good romance is about the journey, not the destination (a point that Hitch, the hero of Tempting Autumn, attempts to explain to Rowan when he forgets the condoms!) And a good romance can be both fun and sexy while exploring other issues such as recovering from grief, coping with loneliness, and caring for children or parents who have chronic illnesses. Light is made brighter by comparing it with darkness, and the same is true in a romance novel.
I’m still settling into life as a full-time writer. My new desk came today, and I’ll be putting it up tomorrow. I’m still experimenting with organization of time—it’s easy to get distracted, and while I’ve tried short sprints of writing for fifteen minutes meant to ensure I get regular breaks, in a way I feel the writing comes best once it begin to flow, so I’m going to go back to my normal way of writing 1k in 1 hour, possibly even turning off the internet in these sessions, and taking a longer break between them.
What I can say is that I no longer dread Mondays. I’m excited to get to work every morning, and I’m extremely happy with just my characters for company. Contrary to my leaving speech at work, I’m not sitting around in my pyjamas every day—I get up at the usual time of 6:30 a.m., I take the guys to school and get a coffee on the way, and I’m at the desk by 8:30. I spend half an hour to an hour doing some admin, and then I’m ready to write by 9:30 latest. It’s a wonderful way to make a living, made all the sweeter because it’s taken me a long time to get here, but I’ve done it all myself, and that’s incredibly rewarding.
To other writers thinking about making the jump to full-time—it’s not an easy decision. I made myself wait until I was earning twice what I earned at my day job from my books, and it’s taken five years. I made many mistakes along the way, but I learned from them, I kept reading, and I got there in the end. The tortoise and the hare, and all that. It took a huge amount of courage to make the final leap, but I’m sooooo glad I did it, and you can too if you stick at it!
Remember that the difference between a published writer and an unpublished one is that the former didn't give up. The same is true of a full-time writer and a part-time one - the former builds up a back list, is flexible with her writing, learns from her mistakes, and just keeps going!