Writer’s Life Milestone

Last night was one of the highlights of my writing career – I had the honor of being chosen to give the commencement speech for Wakapa Academy’s graduating class of 2019.

If you would have asked me, when I had graduated clear back in ’91, if I would ever be able to stand in front of a full auditorium of students, faculty, and their friends and family… the truth is… I wouldn’t have been able to picture it.

It was their special night, not mine. Yet to be chosen as the guest speaker will be one of the top milestones of this #writerslife.

Originally, the English department chose 3 of my books, Broken Things, Soul Sister, and Sharkbait – one for each grade level – to read for their third quarter. This was followed up with a meeting with the school board sharing the student’s work, an end of quarter parent-student meeting to show off their work, and a morning for me to spend with the students.

Being the local author, I was able to go in and spend a few hours with the class, answering their questions, discussing the books, and discussing life in general.

There is a wonderful intimacy to these events, one in which the students can share common themes from their own lives. There is a level of unexpected sharing, of connecting with the students and their own life events that as a writer you cannot fully expect, and it creates a candid moment when an author can see his writing through someone else’s eyes.

I also got to see the creativity and artistic talents of these students based around the books. There are some gifted artists, poets, and storytellers coming out of Buhl, Idaho. Watch out, world.

So there is a certain honesty and vulnerability that pays for a writer to put into his writing. Maybe not all the time, but we as human beings should seek to connnect with our audience, at least from time to time, to say, “Hey, I feel the same as you, I’ve been there. We’re not alone.” And to do this without preaching. Because at the heart of our art, it is our honesty and vulnerability that resonates with the audience. Not judging. Not preaching. Just sharing.

My first experience with a school was several years ago, at the Magic Valley High School. They had chosen Broken Things for a One Book, One School program, which means that every student and faculty member read the same book in the school over a period of a few weeks. It was a similar event, where I got to go in and spend the day with the students. To this day, going into stores, or just walking in one of the small towns of Southern Idaho, I still occassionally have those past students come up to me to talk.

It is humbling.

When I was asked to be the guest speaker for Wakapa Academy, the English teacher said that the graduating class voted who for who they wanted, and that my name was on every slip of paper.

It is terrifying to get up in front of a full auditorium for the first time. It is just as frightening to live up to the trust and expectation of those who put you there.

I’m not what you would expect at an event like this. I look like a middle-aged dreadhead hippie. I’m sure I raised a few eyebrows. And yet that moment of taking the stage, fear gives way to taking action, to the prepared words that are for the graduating students. To hopefully live up to their expectations on their day. To live up to expectations from a very flattering introduction.

This graduating class is right up there as a highlight of my life as though one of my own children had been a part of it – certainly better than my own graduation. And it is difficult to share this experience, as the last thing I want to come off as is prideful and/or narcissitic. Yet it deserves to be shared, because the experience means a lot to me. I would expect most writers do not expect to have their books necessarily well-received, especially when you think of the challenge of connecting with High School students. Of students being told they have to read your books.

So to the Wakapa Academy graduating class of 2019, congratulations, and thank you for letting me share (and steal) some of your time.

(And a special thank you to the amazing teacher and principal who made this opportunity possible! ❤ )

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How to Make $1 a Month Selling Your Books

That’s not a typo. Yes, just $1.

On Jeff Goin’s website there’s a blog post about how the average writer makes less than a $1 a month. Since there are so many blog posts out there dedicated to making much more than that, this blog post is for those who only want to break that one dollar glass ceiling.

First off, are you writing? If you’re making anything at all, obviously something’s out there. If you’re not actually in the process of writing, you’re best probably calling yourself an author. It has all the hype of telling people that you’re a writer, but is probably more honest.

Do you have more than one book? Because multiple books really helps. Each new book should get you at least a couple sales. Maybe even three! And if you are using bargain basement pricing, you’re going to need all of them to get that dollar.

Are you self-publishing? If so, that gives you more tools than the trad publisher, and more of the royalty goes in your pockets. TBH, if you are making less than a dollar month through a traditional publisher, there’s a problem with the relationship.

Btw… I’m not going into marketing here. That cuts into that $1 goal.

So before we start, you need at least one book, and hopefully indie published. $1 a month, here we come!

Kindle Unlimited

Oaky, so putting all of your eggs in one basket has always been lousy advice. But if you aren’t making that $1 a month, there’s no reason not to. Nobody’s looking for your eggs, apparently, wherever they’re shopping. You want to make a dollar a month? Go exclusive with KDP Select and get your book(s) in Kindle Unlimited.

Why? Because of page reads. Let’s say Amazon pays you an average of .0045 cents a page reads. Each page is roughly the equivalent of 250 words. A 10k book is about 40 pages, which is worth .18 a read by a single person. If you’re writing this short, you need an audience of 6 people to get that dollar.

But you probably have your NaNoWriMo book up, at least, right? And that’s a nice size book sitting at 50k words! That’s .90 cents, right there! You only need one reader and a second somebody to read the first few chapters to get your dollar! Woohoo! Per month! Now you’re living, right?

Exclusivity gives you two other tools. One is Free Days! You’re an artist. You shouldn’t have to give your art away for free. You should expect people to pay you for your work. However! Free is still a good draw, and though most people will take your free book and run, you might get a few readers who’ll read it through Kindle Unlimited. Also, occasionally a free book run sparks interest and gets you some sales afterward. Also, if this is book 1 in a series, if people actually like what they read, they’ll read the rest of your series afterward. You can go free every three months.

Instead of going free, you can do a Kindle Countdown Deal and mark your book down to $0.99. This gets you $.70 per sale, so all you need is to direct two people and you’re good.

Anyhoo…

Paperbacks

I have to throw this one out there. You’ve got a book, make it a paperback, charge $12 for it. Why twelve? Because your goal is to sell one copy (maybe two, since you had to pay for shipping, right?). Take that book to a library! Use your sexy writing charisma (or hutzpah!!!) to sell that book. Librarians are awesome. If you have a decent relationship with them, they’ll likely buy your book. At $12? You’re done for the year! There’s your dollar a month! Sometimes parents and friends can also be this sale, but we’re not shooting for the moon here, any one sale will do. That was almost too easy, right?

Covers and Blurbs

Are people ignoring your ebook? Have you compared your cover to those in the top 20 of your chosen genre? If you want to run with the cool kids you probably need to start by trying to dress (cover) and act (blurb) like them. While this doesn’t necessarily become a sale, it might!!!

Writing

The more you have out there, the more likely you’ll sell a book. Any book. It doesn’t matter what they are, or even if you have crappy covers and blurbs. You very well might sell that book! Which brings me to…

Pricing

Price your book at $2.99 or higher. This price point, through Amazon, gets you the 70% royalty. Anything less? 30%. If you’re desperate and sell you book at the $.99 price point you need to sell three books. At $2.99? Only one.

In Conclusion…

Beat the average! Make a dollar per month! It’s possible! Maybe in the future I’ll talk about doubling this… or more!!! And don’t worry, if you are keen on keeping up the image of the starving artists, the above plan won’t derail your life. You wrote that book out of love anyway, right? Not fame and fortune. The masses will discover your book after your dead, surely, and then everyone will appreciate your greatness. Until then? Get that dollar! Get going and sell that book!