Today, I have a special guest visiting my blog. Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an international bestselling author from Edmonton, Canada, and she’s here to chat about writing and her new release SUBMERGED.
In March 2012 your thriller CHILDREN OF THE FOG made huge news in the book world because of Amazon’s KDP Select program. Tell us about that.
Last March, I set CHILDREN OF THE FOG up on a free promotion via KDP Select. Within a day or two it had downloaded so many copies that I made it to #1 in the Top 100 Free list. When it went back to $3.99, sales started rolling in. Within that month I sold so many Kindle copies that I made it to #4 in the Top 100 Paid list—not a genre list but the overall list. I was stunned.
What happened as a direct result of your high sales on Amazon?
My sales were noticed by a senior editor at Penguin and 2 literary agents, and I ended up signing with Trident Media Group. Then to my surprise, Amazon contacted me. They put two of my titles on a special, by-invitation-only promotion. My life changed in March 2012.
Why do you think CHILDREN OF THE FOG took off?
I believe this happened for many reasons. It has a creepy cover that draws you in. But mainly it was HOW I marketed it that made the difference. I discovered a way to really leverage my time and efforts. Twitter and Facebook were my leveraging “partners.” And I figured out it isn’t just “using” these that sells books; it’s HOW you use them that makes the difference. (I discuss my strategies in my marketing book.)
Do you still recommend KDP Select or do you think its time has come and gone?
It’s still earning me more money than I had seen pre-Select, so my books are still enrolled. Plus the borrows via the KOLL program have increased on my book. I’ve earned thousands with that part of Select alone, and still do. I write full-time; this is my career. And I expect to make a decent income from it.
When do you think you’ll opt out of the Select program?
As long as KDP Select is still working for me, I’ll use it. I’ve learned that instead of jumping ship just because something appears not to be giving the same results, it’s often better to just tweak the approach—or in this case, the promotion/marketing techniques. So I’m experimenting.
So your new release, SUBMERGED, will be enrolled in Select?
Yes, and I suspect that SUBMERGED, my new thriller, will do very well on it. Right now, it’s available for borrowing via the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL).
Learn more about Cheryl Kaye Tardif at http://www.cherylktardif.com
Enter Cheryl’s March Giveaway – 59 Prizes! http://www.cherylktardif.blogspot.com
I am not going to lie. I can be really hard on myself. I can take a level of productivity that most writers would be proud of and beat myself up over it because I didn’t do more. The thing about creative work like writing and editing is that it’s extremely draining and mental energy consuming work. Maybe that’s the same thing stated twice. I just want you to feel the weight of it.
I read somewhere that unlike a manual labor type job, or a job where you do some office work but most of it doesn’t require long hours of deep, uninterrupted concentration… where you can work for an 8 hour day with a lunch break, intensely creative work, basically any of the arts… MOST people tap out at about 3-4 hours. And they are done. Wiped for the day. Further pushing usually equals burn out.
Now there are some people who can work 8 hour days writing novels and REALLY be writing that whole time. I think those people are like magical unicorns of awesomeness but I’m tired and want to collapse and unwind after 3-4 hours. That’s all I personally can take before I want to cry and rock myself in a corner.
I’ve done a few 10k days and that was ALL DAY WORK. And it was extremely draining, but it was also a rush because it was reaching a peak I’d never reached before. But could I do it day in day out? HELL to the NO.
So anyway… today I got about 4 hours of solid work done. (Note I am not counting any “internet activity” like answering emails or facebook or Twitter because honestly to me that doesn’t really count as work, but your mileage may vary.)
I wrote 2,643 words on one book and got 8 pages of edits done on another. I’m slogging through the edits because I’ve gotten to the I HATE THIS BOOK GET IT OUT OF MY FACE phase of things. This makes me pretty glad I’ve managed to start writing rough draft on something else at the same time because really I need something I’m excited about.
I did all this, but then I had some other business-related work I needed to get done. But at this point I’m wiped. (Plus I’m on Vampire Central Time right now which is doing my energy levels no grand favors. On THIS sleep schedule it’s a miracle I accomplished what I did today.) I’ve had what… by many accounts would be a “good, productive day” for a writer, and yet… I didn’t do as much editing as I would have liked to do and… I didn’t get anything else on my list done.
I’ve decided I put way way WAY too much shit on my daily to do list and it keeps me in this constant stressed-out and anxious state. This is mostly because… in my head… I’m supposed to have energy for 8 hours of work. At the very least 6. (And particularly since I work from home on my own set hours without a boss breathing down my neck. I feel like I “owe it to the world” to work 8 or at least 6 hours a day. You know… because everybody else has to.) But the truth is… if I put in a good writing day… and in this case some edits too, I am WIPED after 4 hours. Fair to the rest of the 9-5 world or not, there it is.
After that I get cranky and anxious and just impossible to be around.
So I’ve decided to cut myself some slack. Week days are now for writing/editing and weekends are now for doing all that “business crap”. I find business crap draining because I don’t like doing it. I find writing/editing draining because it IS draining. Trying to do ALL of it on the same day is a recipe for the nut house.
But that has me working 7 days a week. I’m not really sure what to do about that. But what I know is… if I make this my “working strategy”, at some point I’m going to have my “business work” pretty much caught up and at a very low maintenance level, so it may only take one day of the weekend to accomplish everything on the mission critical list. And further, when I’m not in the middle of edits, and I’m just writing… I have the option of not writing more just because I don’t have editing. i.e. doing the same amount of writing I was doing before… which means working about 90 minutes to 2 hours on those days… and I question whether I even NEED full days off if I’m going to have work days like that. But the reason I would be doing that is because otherwise I’m working 7 days a week. And down time has to come some time even if it comes in a different interval pattern. But I hate losing my momentum.
If I do business work on the weekends because I hate mixing it with creative work, and I still want 2 days off like all the rest of the world, that only gives me 3 writing/editing days a week, which is unacceptable. But doing business work on productive writing/editing days is clearly a fail that just makes me cranky.
So I guess it’s a trade off. I work 4 hours or less on most days… but I work 7 days a week. Most other people work 8 hours a day, but get 2 solid days off a week.
We’ll see how it goes. This is my next work strategy experiment in the quest for the most productive but also most restorative (i.e. don’t burn out) work schedule. If it makes you feel better I’m going to feel guilty the whole time.
I was talking to a friend who was becoming frustrated by all these authors who seem to have only one or two books out and their books are selling like crazy. Or friends of hers who their debut books are getting these really big deals with major publishers. And she’s feeling down about it.
So I wanted to talk about this topic because I know a lot of my fellow writers feel this way, and I’ve felt like this too before. I’m not immune to the frustration.
So here we go:
You do not know another author’s history. You don’t know how many books they wrote before they published one. You also don’t know a debut author is really a debut author. They may have 50 titles out under other pen names. Whether readers know it or not, and they have the finances from other books to help them launch this one. They have more contacts to help them promote their book. They know what works and doesn’t work for them to get the exposure they need. They know their pricing strategy. They are bringing a LOT to the table that they’ve learned from their previous pen name incarnations.
Most people who “hit big” have put in the time. They have their million words under their belt. They’ve practiced. They’ve learned their craft. In short, they have earned their success.
However, some people will inexplicably hit big with the first book they ever wrote. It may even have a ton of typos. You may think it sucks. But for whatever inexplicable reason it seems to sell like gangbusters.
Everybody thinks they want to be this person. But unless you are E.L. James and become literally rich over a few books, and movies are gonna get made, you do not want “early success” as an author.
One of the worst things that can happen to your career is to sell the shit out of book 1. I know that sounds crazy to you, but let me explain why.
The general public is fickle, they are forgetful, and they have a constant barrage of “bright shiny” in front of them 24/7. (Which explains the other two things.)
If you have one book out, readers who love you right now may or may not even remember you when book 2 comes out.
Early success, unless it is epic is rarely a great thing. And if it’s epic… and you had early success before you put in your million words or 10,000 hours for mastery, then the pressure of continuing to please your readers on book 2 or 3 is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Unless YOU feel you’ve reached some level of mastery/competence, it’s going to be hell writing all those other books with so many eyes on you waiting.
Margaret Mitchell never wrote another book after Gone With The Wind because she said she “couldn’t top the damn thing.”
Now you know why there are so many “one hit wonders”.
So… what do you want? What do you really want? Here is the best possible scenario in my personal opinion. Your mileage may vary, this is just how *I* see the world:
You write a ton of books, each getting better and stronger than the last. You build a consistent and loyal fan base. Your 20th or 25th book hits BIG.
All your new slobbering fans have 19-24 other books to read. They will not forget you. You can actually retain those readers.
How many readers do you think you retain if you hit big with book one or two and it takes you 8 months or a year to get the next book out? You can’t write fast enough to keep their attention. Trust me.
Not in the Twitter age.
Think about it.
I speak as someone who had a little bit of “too early success”, but not enough to tip me over into the super safe nearly famous zone.
It makes it more difficult when things slow down a little and you have to start building that net underneath you of backlist.
In fact, today it occurred to me… if I don’t count my short story and I don’t count individual novellas but instead just count the omnibus since it’s “book 1″, I only really have 5 titles out for Zoe. And only 6 for Kitty.
I have a LOT of work ahead of me. Because when I do write that book that mass quantities of people slobber over and miss meals and bathroom breaks for… I want them to have PLENTY of other books by me to read… so I can retain them as a fan for life.
I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m in it to win it. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
When people ask me what I do, I like to tell them: “I kill people off for a living.” You can imagine the looks I get. Sometimes I’ll follow with: “Fictitiously, of course. I’m a suspense writer.” Sometimes I won’t say anything else. Yeah, I’m bad that way.
Writing thriller, suspense, mystery and/or crime novels has always been my passion—especially if I throw a pinch of supernatural or paranormal into the mix. I’ve always been drawn to dark stories, ones that raise the hairs on the back of my neck or make me glance over my shoulder. The two greatest influences in my writing life have been Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Need I say more?
So what can I offer you if you choose to read my books? I hope and strive to give you a satisfying read, once that will impact you emotionally. If I can make you shudder or tremble or wince or even cry, then I’ve done my job.
In SUBMERGED, I share with you a very personal fear of mine—the fear of being in a car that’s underwater and not being able to get out. I have traveled long distances by car hundreds of times during my life, twice from one coast of Canada to the other. Whenever we’re along a stretch of highway with a body of water beside me, my fear kicks in. And I hold my breath…waiting…praying…
I want you to relate to this fear. But even more, I want my characters to come to life. I want you to feel for Marcus Taylor, a struggling recovering addict who has had his fair share of grief and guilt. I want you to admire his strength, even in the midst of his weaknesses. I want you, dear reader, to feel compassion for this man who has lost his wife and son in a terrible accident, who blames himself for their deaths, and who is searching for redemption, though he doesn’t really know he is.
I want you to cheer on Rebecca Kingston, a mother on the verge of divorce who has left an abusive husband. I want you to feel empathy for her because this decision, no matter what others think, is not an easy one to make. I want you to cry with her when she realizes she is physically unable to help her children who are trapped with her in a sinking vehicle. And I want you to be holding your breath every time Rebecca does.
Marcus and Rebecca (and the others in SUBMERGED) may only be characters on paper, but they feel real to me. I gave “birth” to them and watched them grow. With every step they took, I wiped away their tears, hugged them and loved them. And, dear reader, I sincerely hope you’ll love them just as much.
Happy reading…with the lights on…
Cheryl Kaye Tardif, international bestselling author
PS: The Kindle edition of SUBMERGED is available on Amazon from March 4th – 7th for a special price during the Killer Thriller Book Launch.
Learn more about me and connect at:
So right now Blood Lust is on sale for 99 cents. This sale goes through Saturday, and I do not anticipate it being on sale like this again for SEVERAL months. So this is your opportunity to grab it and get launched into this series if you haven’t already. Be sure to tell your friends! Ebook gift cards also make great gifts! And if you like it, reviews or even just “likes” on my book page are always so appreciated. You have no idea the difference word of mouth makes to an author. It’s your awesome support and excitement about the work that makes it go anywhere!
Okay, that’s enough “Oscar-acceptance-speech” type talk.
Here is where you can get Blood Lust for 99 cents:
(Check other Kindle stores separately. It should be available there as well.)
If you read on any epub reader or a Kindle you’re set here. Or if you have a computer or phone or ipad there is a free Kindle reading app for all of that.
Also, Save My Soul is still free in the US Kindle store but for a very limited time. That will go off very soon! I do not anticipate making Save My Soul free EVER again. So grab that now!
My other titles are currently on sale for $2.99 (normal retail price $4.95.) It’s a great time to either get into my series or get caught up!
Thank you for reading and supporting my work. You guys are great!
I’m always trying to tweak my process to become more productive. On the one hand, I don’t like to work on edits and rough draft of something else at the same time on the same day because it feels like multi-tasking. Why not finish the most close-to-being-ready thing and then move on to the next thing to take your full focus?
At the same time, when I do that, what tends to happen is I will get out of the “writing groove”. So while it can take a lot of time and energy to switch between tasks as one does with multi-tasking, it can sometimes take longer to get into a new groove after it’s gone, particularly with writing.
Chuck Wendig wrote a post that I found inspiring toward this end: How To Push Past The Bullshit And Write that Goddamn Novel: A Very Simple No-Fuckery Writing Plan To Get Shit Done
From the very beginning I knew that this was going to be great because anybody who says No-Fuckery is someone I feel I ought to listen to just on principle.
I had previously tried a 250 words a day writing goal. The idea was to JUST START and even if you JUST do the 250, you’ve got some word count down and you started and if you write more awesome, and it adds up over time. It’s like stealing your novel through fifteen minutes here or there. And while it can take that long to even get into a groove, period, if you do it every day, the time it takes to get into the groove is much shorter.
So, I figure… even while I’m editing, there is a burnout point. There is a point at which I’m not going to edit any more that day. I’m going to do a certain amount generally and then the rest of my time for that day is my time. So, in THAT OTHER TIME, the non-editing time… I can’t carve out 15 minutes to work on my WIP? REALLY???
One of my excuses is that I have to outline/plan a book and that’s hard to do while also editing a book. But I have a WIP in progress right now that I can chip away at. Yes, in the long run it’s going to need to percolate some because I’m a little burnt out on that pen name and I need to get back to Zoe and write Hadrian and Angeline’s book but still… chipping away at it while I work on edits for the other book and then planning for Hadrian and Angeline is forward momentum. And that’s what I need. Forward momentum.
So 350 words a day. Anybody can do that.