In which I am very bad at a job.

Siri, please play ‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo.

TL;DR #firstworldproblems

I had an extremely busy week starting at Dubai Eye, which has been an incredibly grounding experience. While I never (for once) thought that things would be easy, I also believed I might be at least in the category of ‘mediocre’ to start. At 40, I thought my days of epic fail were far behind me. I (naively) thought my skill set was a decent match for this role. I thought I was someone who could pick up things easily (but now I’m learning that’s because I chose those things).

Turns out, not so much.

Reader, I am terrible.

Like, there is no depth to how bad I feel like I’m doing, of what there is to learn, of how many hours I could work and still not get to where I need to be (like, yesterday). While a small part of me recognizes I am only one human person with one day of training for a job I’ve never had before, all I see is someone reacting, and never being proactive. Someone who manages to forget at least 42 things in an hour. Someone who can’t keep up. Someone who is trying their very hardest, but really, the hardest isn’t nearly enough. Someone who knows the next fuck up is literally minutes away.

Although I’m organized (only in my daily life apparently), filling six hours of programming has left me feeling all the feels. Things are especially challenging because I tend to commit to things a) where I know I’ll be successful, b) it’s work I’ve done before, and c) generally avoid situations where I’ll be vulnerable or have the potential to fail (I’m certain Brene Brown has a few things to say about this). To say I love being organized, in control, and good (or even great) at a job makes this whole experience even more difficult. I’ll also admit, I didn’t realize that positive feedback was also something that I actually did need.

I come from a history of A+ report cards and stellar annual reviews from supervisors. I have positive reviews on my books and articles and get compliments on everything from my phone etiquette to my weekly newsletter, and while I’m certainly not perfect at everything I try, for the most part, I’m at least decent. I have a good reputation in a number of categories I’ve earned: reliable, genuine, punctual. The rational side of me says I am still all these things, but the louder voice wants to know how I am so incredibly bad at producing.

So, I tell you all this because I want you to take pride in your job and how you do it well. Of how you make it look easy. Of what you contribute to your team. Of how you manage others. I want you to feel good about having years of experience in a field or being an expert on a topic.

Here’s hoping I can get my shit together a bit more next week.

Actually, my 2020 was pretty great.

*waves* Don’t get mad, please?

Hi, I’m Courtney, and my 2020 wasn’t a complete disaster.  Sure, my 40th birthday was one of the lamest I can possibly remember, but I am optimistic that perhaps my 41st or 42nd will make up for the forgettable steak and lack of friends and family.

And yes, there were a few health issues (not mine) that made this year a little scary, but I think everyone has come out okay.

So, what made this year particularly good?

  • My new niece (Baby H) was born safe and sound!!!
  • We adopted a dog!
    • Poppy really is the highlight of 2020.  We love her so much and our life is just so much better with her in it.
    • From memory, we also fostered Lily (puppy) and Lulu (cat) at the start of the year.
  • I published four books.
  • I wrote two manuscripts.
    • Take Two at Mulholland High.
      • I’ve even managed to start the first draft of this in December!
    • Untitled sequel to Confessions of a Teenage Band Geek.
  • Even though I’ve been slow with season 4, I did complete another season of my podcast, CSR of One.
  • I made new friends.  Yes, even with all the lockdowns and social distancing, it’s nice to come out of this year with new friendships (as well as solidifying old ones).
  • We moved!
    • The Springs are SUCH AN IMPROVEMENT over JVC/our asshole landlord.  Even 10 months in, we still comment on how happy we are living here.
  • I got a new job. Sure, December 21st is a weird day to start, but I will officially be working with Dubai Eye in a freelance producer capacity.
  • I was a lot more ‘balanced’ about going out.  I cut back on some unhealthy habits, and I really hope to continue this approach.
  • Biden/Harris won in the States (really, I don’t know what I would’ve done if Trump won the election).
  • There are a number of projects carrying into 2021 that I’m really excited about.

PopSugar 2021 challenge.

My favorite time of year!  Check out the challenges for 2020, 2019, and 2018, if you’d like. And find the original PopSugar post here.

If you’re looking for some suggestions from my books, might you consider the following?

  • A genre hybrid. I’ve always thought Room 702 has been a cross of a number of genres. Given the number of stories that take place in the room, there’s no specific category the book fits into.
  • A book that has fewer than 1,000 reviews. One of my newer books, Take One at Mulholland High is such a great novel, and I’d love to get more reviews on it.
  • A book set in multiple counties. Lookin no further than The Queen of England: Grand Tour.  It’s right there in the title, but Juliette visits a number of countries (both real, and fictional).
  • A book you think your best friend would like. Personally, I think just about anyone would like the light-hearted Twenty Year Reunion, but that’s just me.
  • A book about forgetting. Life After Joe is about both remembering and forgetting, the process of grief and moving on.
  • A magical realism book. The Queen of England: Coronation kicks things off with a healthy dose of magical realism, which is continued throughout the trilogy.

Best of all? All of my books are free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited!  Happy reading.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for the remainder of the list!

YA Scavenger Hunt – Fall 2020!

Welcome to the 2020 YA Scavenger Hunt, fall edition!  This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes. At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt.  There are multiple contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all!  I am a part of the BLUE TEAM — but there is also a RED and PURPLE team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE 

Directions: Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the BLUE team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).  If you’re wondering what mine is, I’m a big fan of my birthday, March 17.

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, Oct 4th at noon Pacific time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

SCAVENGER HUNT POST 

Today, I am super excited to be hosting the fabulously talented S.E. Anderson! Find out more information by checking out S.E. via her website.

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

Today’s book, Inalienable (Starstruck Saga #7), looks like an incredibly interesting one, and I’m so excited to reveal the exclusive cover reveal on my blog!  If you want to know more about the rest of the series, here is a link to the books currently available.

In the sixth book of the Starstruck Saga, Sally Webber is still reeling from the catastrophic events of the library. She’s hoping a Florida vacation will solve all of their woes – and when a mystery lands on their doorstep in the middle of the night, it seems like the answer to all their problems. From Florida malls to the dark side of the moon, the trio needs to stall their nervous breakdowns in order to save the planet from an extra-terrestrial murderer – and, apparently, themselves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

S.E. Anderson loves books, outer space, and tea. She’s the author of the STARSTRUCK Saga and a YA travel romance, AIX MARKS THE SPOT. She is currently working on her PhD in Astrophysics and Planetary sciences in Besançon, France.

CONTINUE THE HUNT

And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, S.E., and more! Just a reminder, to enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author!  Click this link to visit Abigail Johnson, also on the Blue Team.

#PublishingPaidMe

First of all, the hashtag from Twitter earlier this week isn’t about me.  It’s about showing the disparity between BIPOC advances and payments in the world of traditionally published books.  It’s meant to make the world of publishing a little more transparent.

While reading through the various posts, I realized, once again, that I’m still okay with my decision to self publish.  It’s not something I often consider, but seeing all the back and forth, not only do I not have to deal with any of the nonsense, but I also don’t have to be part of a system that repeatedly does not compensate BIPOC authors fairly.  There are many problems in the world of traditional publishing, none of which the least has to do with representation and equitable pay and advances.  In the past few months, there have been publishing houses who have carried books with highly problematic authors.  Decisions made at levels that were clearly directed towards money, and not the integrity of the company.  A quick look at the recent actions of a certain famous wizarding author yields even more issues…

So, while my own ‘self publishing paid me’ isn’t much to speak of, at least it has been fair.  The stories I’ve wanted to tell have been my own, the successes I’ve had have been my own, and will continue to be.  While I’m hopeful that the #publishingpaidme hashtag was helpful this week, only time will tell for realized contracts and equitable pay for all.

#BLM.

Like anyone with the ability to consume media, the past week has been a blur.  Of hate.  Of intolerance.  Of injustice.  Of ugly divides that separate so many people.  As an American, it’s especially challenging, and as an ex-pat, nothing short of surreal.  To believe my home country was somehow at its lowest, and knowing that limit might not ever exist is disheartening.  And no, my struggles from the safety of a villa in Dubai aren’t anywhere near what BIPOC, shop owners, or anyone related to the protests are going through.

As I told an author friend this week, it seems utterly ridiculous to be working on a novel where a bunch of privileged white kids have little dramas and humorous scenes on a fictional television show.  Even at 1,000 words a day, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything.  And why write such a fluffy story at all?

So, I’ve donated.  I’ve posted where my network is the largest and within the past hour I called out friends (privately) for perpetuating stereotypes.  I’ll continue to do so, but to what end?  Because, is there going to be an end?  My voice feels so incredibly small in the universe, and I’m supposed to have words, but I can’t seem to find the right way to put them together to express myself.

My thoughts on giving a book away (and the services that support this).

It’s no surprise that as an author, one of the biggest challenges is connecting with potential readers.  Without a large marketing budget, finding new people to read your work — and most importantly, having those readers leave reviews, becomes a difficult challenge.  I think at the beginning of my publishing journey, I believed giving my books away wasn’t helpful, or necessary, or…I really can’t be sure.  And, as the years went on, I realized The System (aka Amazon) pays significant attention to reviews.  And as a reader, I get it.  Although most of my reading comes via NetGalley and authors I already know and love, I’m always looking for new talent. When I approach purchasing anything online, I always read reviews and yes, those reviews have a huge impact on my buying behavior.

So, with some of my recent novels, I wanted to revisit my strategy and and do my best to obtain more reviews.  For The Queen of England: Coronation, I wanted a healthy base of reviews (and also to get over 40 reviews, something that was personally annoying me).  As it is the first book in a three book series, my hope was to grab people’s interest (so that they read – and buy – the remainder of the series).  For Twenty Year Reunion, given the space between releasing Life After Joe (2015) as Ann Benjamin and now, well, it’s a bit like starting over again.  I recognize this as my own failure, but this is also the reality of publishing under two pen names.

Finally, while there’s nothing specifically scientific about it, I value a review at USD$5.  As in, even though it is totally illegal, that is what I would pay someone to leave a review on any of my books.  I think having an idea of what monetary equivalent per review review makes sense, and was important in my approach to below.

So, what services have I used?  Let’s dive in!

Hidden Gems

In case you’ve not heard of this service, essentially for a fee (based on your genre), you sign up for a day and request readers.  I used Hidden Gems – to great success – for reviews for Queen 1 and 2.  While the service yielded more reviews with Coronation (15-20, if I remember correctly) than Grand Tour (9-10), both books received a number of positive reviews, and in a timely manner.  I can’t remember exactly what I paid, but using Hidden Gems was definitely worth it.  The only ‘con’ to using the service is that the wait list is rather insane.  The absolute EARLIEST I could sign up Twenty Year Reunion was August (which I did).

However, a bit of good news, I was contacted late yesterday to see if I wanted an earlier spot (May 8th), which just opened up.  I was delighted to accept.

Voracious Readers

Similar to Hidden Gems, Voracious Readers connects authors with potential readers.  As my approach was to get people on the hook for the first book in my Queen series, I listed Coronation as ‘evergreen’ (an ongoing free book).  As interest and requests rolled in, my optimism grew.  Seeing all the potential new readers, I was excited.

Unfortunately, in comparison to the timely and responsive reviews of the Hidden Gems readers, I felt very disappointed by Voracious Readers, and decided to stop the service two months in.  Why?  For as many books I sent out (almost 200), I think I received maybe 3-5 reviews in that whole time.  And the majority were on Goodreads (my preference is definitely Amazon).  Because I overlapped my Voracious Readers service and a free day on Amazon where I had over 2,000 downloads, it’s difficult to tell where reviews from March 17th forward are coming from.

As some small bonus, I have added more people to my author newsletter database, which is a small silver lining.

AuthorsXP

As I thought Hidden Gems wasn’t going to come online until August (and that was too long to wait), I decided to research some other options to source readers for Twenty Year Reunion, and came up with AuthorsXP.  Reviewing their options, I wanted to try the Elite Readers option (again, as a way to build reviews).  After one week, I’ve sent out 13 copies, which I’m honestly kind of ‘meh’ about.  I was hoping to be closer to 20, but perhaps I’ll hit that number over the weekend.  If I don’t reach 20, I’m going to see what I can do about getting a refund.

BookSweeps

I used this service to try and build my BookBub followers, as well as build my newsletter subscribers.  I had the best luck with this service, and whenever I opted in, I received a list of 325 new subscribers.  Result.

 

Of course, there are tons of other services out there – many of which I’m ineligible for, as my books are all opted into KDP Select.  I do this, mainly because I’m paranoid about not complying with Amazon’s rules.  I’ve tried to submit to BookBub for my YA stuff, but was wary this week about pulling the trigger for Life After Joe (as a way to get new readers for Ann Benjamin), as the $600+ price tag has me nervous on what actual return I would get.

So, where do you find out about new authors?  If you’re an author, have you used any of these services before?