Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Piracy: Basically, You're Stealing My Kids' Lunch Money

I know, I know, when you download that book illegally it doesn’t feel like it matters. It doesn’t feel like it’s hurting anyone. Authors are rich, right? No one will notice that one little book.

But here’s the thing, *most* authors are not rich. I couldn’t survive on the money I make from writing—I’m lucky to have a spouse who brings in the income that helps us scrape by. My income? Well, it can hardly be called that currently. With no book deals in my immediate future and my advances from previous ones paid…this year I will be earning the least amount since I sold my first book in 2011. In fact, I am honestly considering not writing anymore because I cannot afford to.

So today I’m just hoping to put piracy into a little perspective. I’m sure people who steal books won’t care and I’ll still get flamed, but hey, I’m an author. I care about this. Piracy literally threatens my ability to feed my kids.

Here’s the hard numbers:

On my traditionally published US paperbacks, I make about .69 cents per sale. Yes, not even a dollar of that $9.99 price point goes to me.

On the traditionally published US ebooks, I make 25% of list, which is anywhere from $0.49-$2.00 depending on sales and how they choose to price the book.

On my indie books, it’s much more…but I sell drastically less. So we’re going to say it all evens out.
My kids’ lunch costs $1.75 each day.

I currently have TWO kids in school, so that’s $3.50 a day currently. When my last joins his siblings in school it’ll be up to $5.25 a day.

That might not sound like a lot to many people, but it is a lot to us. Some people might even say “Oh, well if you made lunch it’d be cheaper”…but I’ve priced that out and it’s about the same. Trust me, I try to save a buck when I can.

Let me throw more numbers at you. If I paid for this school lunch for all twelve grades, what would be the cost? Well, school here is about 180 days, so accounting for absences let’s say 165 days a year I’m forking out $5.25 for my three kids to eat lunch at school (and it’ll probably be more when they hit Jr. High and up and want to buy the fancier stuff).

165 x 3 kids = 495 school lunches a year

495 x $1.75 = $866.25 a year for school lunch

$866.25 x 12 years = $10, 395 just to feed my kids one meal a day

Add in school clothes and supplies, extracurricular expenses, doctor visits, college funds (which I can’t even begin to create)…supporting a family is hard. You think authors are rich? Honestly moment—I did not make 25% of that $10,395 sum last year.

Most days, I don’t even sell a book. If I had to feed my kids on what I sold each day…they would starve. Or one would get a meal if they were lucky. So if we’re cool with piracy because it doesn’t impact authors, please just remember that most days, I don’t make enough money on my writing to even buy my kids school lunch. When you pirate my book, maybe imagine that you are taking a meal from my kids. You’re kinda like that punk on the playground going around stealing kids’ lunch money because you’re bigger and you can and you don’t care. Maybe you even get away with it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt people.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dear 20 Year Old Me

So, 20 Year Old Me, it’s been 11 years since I was your age, and today I’ve been thinking a lot about you. There’s this thing on the internet (you haven’t gotten into blogging yet, but just you wait you will know way too much about “social media” very soon) where people write to their “Teen Me.” But I think I have a lot more to say to you, 20 Year Old Me, than to myself as a teen.

Besides, Teen Me wouldn’t have listened anyway.

But you? You’ve at least figured out you don’t know what the hell you’re doing (Sorry, I say “hell” now, you are surely appalled). And I know you thought the whole “being an adult” thing would be a lot easier than it has been thus far.

You’ve been doing well in college—something no one is surprised about. School was always something you could figure out, with your high GPA and over-achieving ways and crushing guilt at not turning in assignments. (You will probably be shocked to know I do not miss school one bit and would never go back now.)

It’s the life stuff that you have always struggled with. Making friends. Going out and trying new things. Meeting guys and attempting dating. Having a career or whatever. You have but a year of your undergrad left at this point, and you are fairly terrified of what happens after you don’t have school to focus on.

You’ve just gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship. Though you broke up with him three months ago, you are only starting to realize how messed up it all was, how scared you were of a guy you thought you loved.

It wasn’t really the best way to experience your first kiss, first relationship, first thoughts of spending your life with someone.

But hey, you dodged a bullet, and you will forever be grateful to that roommate who sat you down, showed you the cycle of abuse, and told you that you needed to get out and not marry that guy. And I promise that you will start dating an awesome guy, get married to him, have kids, and do all those things that seem completely impossible to you right now.

In fact, you already know the guy. You just don’t think of him in that way yet. And you might have sworn never to date someone with feet as ugly as his…and you will be eating your words.

What I really want to tell you, though, my dear 20 Year Old Me, is that you will make it. All those things about being an adult that seem like you’ll never get? You get them. And it’s pretty awesome. I’d tell you to stop worrying about it, but I know you won’t stop so I won’t waste words there.

Here’s the thing, though—it’s not going to be easy. Actually, your 20s are going to be probably the worst decade of your life. I don’t know what’s in store for us in the future, but I’m hoping things even out.

Because getting all those things you want is just plain hard. And being the wife, mother, and author you want to be is hard. (Yes, I said author, you’re probably freaking out now. One sec.) Achieving your goals has been easy for you up to this point—you have never really failed at school or work or anything, but you’re about to learn a lot about failing. You’re gonna become a pro failer, and somehow that’ll be more fulfilling than all the time you spent being a pro over-achiever.

You’ll be a mom, but you won’t be nearly as good at it as you thought you’d be. It won’t be natural. You won’t want to be “just a mom” like you expected. You’ll want more and it’ll be confusing and guilt-inducing. You’ll get over it. Kind of.

And then you’ll start writing. Because it’s always been your dream and it will never go away like you hoped it would. You have always wanted to be practical and you know writing for a career is not…and you will be very right about that but you’ll do it anyway because you must. You will try your ass off (sorry, I say “ass” now, too). You will fail just about constantly.

And all that failing at motherhood and writing will break you. Like, actually break you. You will contemplate leaving everything you love, emptying the bank account, and disappearing a la Breakfast At Tiffany’s. You will resent your family and faith and wish you’d never tried to do anything with your life. You will…start hitting your kids though you know you shouldn’t and you’ll feel horrible about it. You will stop going to church, stop wanting your husband, stop wanting anything you used to love. You’ll be consumed with escape, with being someone else with less problems. You will, for some stupid reason, still think you’re okay.

Until you realize you’re not, and that the pressure in your chest isn’t normal but panic attacks. They’ll happen daily, and you’ll get so used to it you don’t know it’s a problem. You’ll be really grateful to that doctor who explains to you that you have anxiety, and you’ll admit you need help and it’ll be shameful and liberating all at once. The medication will save your life and the life of your family, and you will be able to cope for the first time since you turned 20. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken so long for me to figure that out, and I’m sorry you have to suffer so long not knowing there was anything wrong with you.

I’m sorry that it has to get as bad as it got before things get better.

But hey, things do get better. And though you aren’t some huge bestseller, by the age of 31 you are the author of multiple books. That have been on store shelves. That have been published in other countries. That have been read and loved by some people. I know, 20 Year Old Me, that this is a big deal to you. Sometimes I forget it’s a big deal, but then I remember you and your dreams that felt impossible and I am living the life you wanted. You even have friends that have stuck with you through all this. I know how hard it was for you to make friends, but here we are—we even have that. And don’t get me started on how incredible your husband and kids are.

It’s awesome.

So hang in there. It’s going to be terrible for awhile, but so far the 30s are treating us much better. I really like the 30s. Or maybe I just like not being in that horrible 20s decade. We made it, okay? And that’s what matters, even if the journey was messy.

Love,
Natalie

P.S. Just dye your hair red now—it’s better that way and you never go back to blond.

Monday, December 8, 2014

All Day Q&A

It had been a LONG time since I've opened up a day for Q&A, so I thought I'd do it today and see how it goes. I'll be taking ALL questions asked today—all topics, writing, personal, etc.—on any social media. I'm on Twitter, FB, Tumblr, and here on the blog.

If you want a very in depth answer, I recommend asking here on the blog or on Tumblr. Those are the easiest place for me to ramble on excessively.

I am literally sitting here waiting for you to ask (minus when I go grocery shopping later), so answers should come pretty quick.

Monday, December 1, 2014

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo


I was doing NaNo this last month, which left this blog very sparse for the few people still reading it. But today I wanted to kind of write about what me, someone you could call a "seasoned" author perhaps, learned from this experience.

This was my first official NaNo, actually, though I have written at "NaNo-esque" pace before in my lifetime (not recently though, not for years). I decided to do it because I've been in a very tough place mentally for me as writer. A scary place. Because I've found myself just…not caring about writing. Not sad over rejection. Not mad that I can't "break out." Just…numb. Truly numb. Not the I'm-telling-myself-to-be-numb thing, but actually, seriously, I'm-gonna-try-NaNo-just-to-see-if-I-can-FEEL numb.

I don't know what to make of this, honestly. I don't like it, but I can't seem to stop feeling that way. So I went into NaNo hoping it would give me some kind of revelation about my writing or place as an author or something. I'm not sure I found the answers I was looking for, but this is what I learned:

1. You have to believe in yourself and your story.
I struggled all month with this. Yes, this book was the 19th one I'd started, and I was still in that place of doubt. I might still be, but I had enough belief to get through the month by telling myself to just have fun and don't think about if this book will become real or not. As I saw other people work through it, I admired their tenacity and adored seeing first-time novelists find they could do it, find that belief. That is such a magical time. I find myself often getting nostalgic over my younger days as a writer. I hoped to recapture that, and I think I did at times. Other times I definitely did not.

2. I can still write on deadline.
I was surprised at how "well-trained" I have become as a writer. I hadn't written anything in a few months when I came into NaNo, nothing in earnest since the summer. I was so burnt out—I still am, I think—that I was worried that I'd just get behind and give up. But 1,667 words a day…I don't want to sound like a jerk, but for an author like me that is right in the pocket for a day of drafting. The hardest part was writing on the weekends, since I usually don't do that. Those were always my worst days, having to force a mediocre amount of words out and then make up the rest during the weekdays when I was used to writing.

It was oddly comforting to find that, even though I am really struggling with my lack of emotion, that I can still WRITE if I need/want to. My current feelings—or lack thereof—doesn't have to get in the way.

3. I still thrive without outlines.
It's funny how some things just don't change much in your process, and discovery drafting has always been productive for me. I didn't even write down notes on this project hardly, and I had stuff to write everyday. It's a mess, for sure, but nothing slows me down like an outline. Alas, I will always have to accept heavy editing of all my work.

4. You have to write for yourself.
I struggled all month with trying to forget about publishing. I really just wanted to write without any intention of publication, and that is so freaking hard to do once you've published. When I was able to do that, I found the words easy to get down. When I started to love the book some…then I'd want to publish it…then I'd think no one would want it…and then I got sad. It was very annoying. Trying to write for myself again after so long was a real challenge, and I don't think I completely mastered it again. But I really want to, because that was when I was the happiest during this project.

5. NaNo won't fix your problems. Probably.
I came to NaNo with a lot of hopes for some big, impossible things. I was hoping for some huge revelation that would make writing meaningful for me again. There were glimmers of that, but for the most part…NaNo was NaNo, and I am still me. Plus 50k words. I still don't know how to fix myself, how to get past the numbness. I still don't know if I'll continue publishing for the rest of my life. All I know is I'm an uncontracted writer who has no clue what's on the horizon. I've been through another full year of publishers passing on my manuscripts. And I'm still just really tired. NaNo was a good experience, a chance for me to grasp the writer I used to be. But I still lose her all the time, and I still don't know if I want to keep trying to find her. I just don't know a lot of things. I'm trying to be okay with that.

6. Treasure being in the zone.
Overall, I really do recommend NaNo for anyone who wants to give it a go. It's fun to have that sense of community as you write, and it's magical to see all these new writers fall in love with what they are creating. It must be really fun to be that author falling in love with your work, too. I remember those days. I crave them constantly. If you're in that state, treasure it. I know you probably want so much more—I did…and still do, honestly—but those moments where you are in the zone are the best part of this all. They are the moment jaded authors like me chase, hope to recreate, wish we could have way more often than we do. I envy you those moments. So hold on to them and savor them, even when you're looking forward to other exciting moments down the road.

Monday, November 3, 2014

FISH OUT OF WATER American Cover Reveal! Call For Reviewers!

I wasn't sure if I was going to do an American release of FISH OUT OF WATER. Indie is a lot of work, you know? And not just work but money. I wasn't sure I had either the time or funds to put it out in the US on my own…or, in honesty, the desire after doing four novels in one year. I've just been tired. I figured people wouldn't really care if they couldn't buy it here in the US.

But then I started in on edits with my editor. And I remembered how much I loved the book. And I realized I did, in fact, want to share this book with as many people as I could. Even if that was only my friends and family here.

So, with no bites from US publishers or even hints of bites, I finally started the process of designing FISH OUT OF WATER for the US market.

It was freaking hard.

YA Contemporary covers can go in so many directions, so I just wasn't sure at first how to choose a path. Ultimately, I went with things I personally love in covers—font-centric, graphic, simple. I wanted it to be adorable and quirky, since I felt like that is much my writing style.

While this might LOOK simple, man, it was not simple to create! I think I about killed my designer with nitpicking and stressing as we worked and worked to find the right feel, the color scheme, the way the fish should look, etc. It was crazy and even now that it's done I'm so nervous to show it! But I also lurve it so hard and feel like it is exactly what I wanted. So without further ado: FISH OUT OF WATER! (US version)


Isn't it awesome??? And look at the blurb! Thanks to Kasie "Dimples" West for that little gem. And guess what? I am releasing it IN HARDCOVER (because I want to hold and snuggle my very first hardcover). And the flap copy:

Mika Arlington's summer will be perfect, she's made sure of it. Interning with her parents at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Check. Sand sculpting at the beach with her best friend. Check. Eating delicious food until she can't walk straight. Check. But the arrival of her estranged grandmother and too cool Dylan are about to wash away her ideal plans. 
Mika’s grandmother has Alzheimer’s and demands care from the family she once shunned. Dylan, the brooding new employee at the pet shop where Mika works, may be hot but everything that comes out of his mouth is the exact opposite. She can’t stand either of them, and yet she’s expected to be their babysitter. Talk about worst summer ever. Until she learns that sometimes the best things can come completely unplanned.
I hope you love this all as much as I do. And I have to ask an awkward question now. So, do you want to maybe read this book for review? (I feel like I'm asking you out on a date.) Because I'm looking for up to 50 advanced eARC reviewers—please fill out this form in you're interested.

And now, back to NaNo for me! Happy November, all!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Witchy Sale!


This is basically like the perfect Halloween read, and you can grab it for the price of a fast food burrito! Woot! Right now it's available on Amazon, but I'm sure B&N will match it soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why The Hell Am I Running?

When I finished all my crazy deadlines and tours and conferences and junk, the first thing I did was make new goals. I'm gonna go running so I can be less fat! I'm going to have a clean house for once! I'm going to learn new things! Because that's what you're supposed to do, right?

Heaven forbid we ever stop running ourselves into the ground for one second.

A couple weeks ago I was at the gym, walking around the track in preparation to do my run. It felt like I was about to torture myself. I had been adding a lap every time I went and was near two miles running—I just didn't want to run that day. Okay, I never want to run. Even when I was doing it consistently I hated it.

So why was I doing it? Because that's what I've been told I should do. If I want to be thin and healthy I need to sweat and count calories and somehow all of this is supposed to make me happy. Except it wasn't, and I wasn't losing weight either because I have been so dang high strung all year that my body is still not sure how to cope with the copious amounts of stress I put it through. And you know what? Running was stressful, too. Running made me think I needed to be more than I was, and guilty because I didn't actually WANT to be more.

That's when I decided not to run that day. Or after that, unless I wanted to.

I still go to the gym, but I walk the track while jamming out to Kpop. And I enjoy it. And I smile. And I kinda wish they offered Kpop dance classes because I'd so take that. Feeling happy and relaxed while moving for an hour? That is what I need. I realized I don't need to buy into the thin=happy crap they constantly feed us. I move because it reduces my anxiety—that's what I need in my life. Not something that's more stressful.

I don't know why we (women especially) seem to think we have to run ourselves into the ground to be proven Of Worth, but I have felt that many times in my life. I have to be an amazing parent who doesn't ruin her children's lives with her imperfection (impossible), I have to be a bestselling author because there is not other kind of author (not true), I have to have a pristine house (yeah right), and of course I must be a model while doing all this (I totally am that).

Where did all these expectations come from? Who is imposing them on me? Society? Myself? I have no idea. All I know is I'm tired of them. I didn't think I was buying into them, but in a way I was. I was certainly buying into the idea that if I wasn't 150% productive at all times I was a lazy piece of crap and it was all my fault I wasn't successful. I was running much faster than I was able, and it got me a load of stress and burn out.

I'm learning how to slow down again—which is surprisingly hard. My body is forcing me to, since my mental health is not good and I can literally only handle so much in a day before I start to shut down. But I've been doing crazy things like being 0% productive in a day…even a week. Doing not much more than consuming lots of TV and video games. I get all guilty-feeling still about this at times, but I'm getting over it. I'm reminding myself I have no deadlines, no contracts—I'm not actually slacking at all. I'm on vacation.

I'm allowed to walk instead of run.

I'm allowed to sit and do nothing if I want.