You had me at, “Where’s the third book?”
Earlier this year, I made a slightly impulsive decision to leave my day job and write full-time. The decision to actively pursue my full-time writing dream was spurred by two things: 1) a sincere and complete dissatisfaction with my job, and 2) the accomplishment of putting together enough money to provide a meager allowance for ten months. I felt sure that if I wrote full-time and finished my trilogy, then cranked out an installment of my cozy mystery series each month, I could support my family. I was wrong.
Because even though I republished my debut novel, “Building Celebration House,” on March 1st, nobody noticed. I think I sold maybe 10 copies in March. But that was okay, I told myself, because the second book, “Stay at Celebration House,” would be the spark to light up my career. Wrong. Again. I sold even fewer copies in April.
As March waned, so did my meager savings. I submitted my book, “A Year with Geno” to Harlequin and hoped, prayed, that they would accept it, and thus provide me an advance that would carry my family through this financial dry spell. Nope. Harlequin editors asked that I make revisions and resubmit it. For me, that was the death rattle for my dream of writing full-time.
Now, things were getting scary around my household. And though my spouse has always been extremely supportive of my writing, even he admitted I needed to return to work. So, I started job hunting, and lo and behold, I was offered a full-time job, which I started the Tuesday after Memorial Day.
I’d had quite enough of the starving artist life, thank you very much. So, I stopped writing. I like to think of the analogy of Waldorf salad. Have you ever eaten Waldorf salad? It’s a combination of apples, celery, grapes and pecans, usually with a mayonnaise dressing. When I was a little girl, I loved my mother’s Waldorf salad until one summer evening, when after eating too much, I was sick. After that experience, I never – I mean NEVER – ate Waldorf salad. I still don’t.
So, this was how I felt about my writing. It let me down. It gave me the illusion that I could support myself and my family. But I couldn’t. Bills piled up; creditors started calling. And every morning, I woke up at 4 a.m. with worry. What had I done? How could I have been so irresponsible to leave my full-time job?
The third book – “Return to Celebration House” – stalled and faltered. It was supposed to be published on May 1st. I couldn’t finish it. I was too busy looking for a day job. When my family and I moved, I didn’t unpack my office. Writing was something I used to do. Now, my mission was to learn this new day job and be successful in it. No more perusing reviews left by readers or checking my Amazon sales rankings. Those days were over. Or so I thought.
Because even though I gave up on my writing, my readers did not. And they still haven’t.
On May 7th, an advertisement for my novel, “Building Celebration House,” was sent out in a BookBub promotion. BookBub is a website where authors offer their books at discount prices to reach readers interested in specific genres. My genre is romantic comedy or women’s fiction. It took me three years of submitting to hear a yes from BookBub. I offered the first book in my trilogy for free; more than 40,000 readers downloaded it. Sales of the second book, “Stay at Celebration House,” soared. Reviews poured in.
And readers began doing what I wanted them to do for so many years: they began writing to me. Some were just short notes, thanking me for sharing my book. Some were longer, and they moved me to tears. Every day, my in-box would have a couple of emails from readers. I received one just a few days ago from a reader in Wisconsin. I print them and pin them to my bulletin board. They are vivid reminders of where my focus should be: inviting readers to come and play in the imaginary world I created on the outskirts of Lexington, Missouri. Nearly all of the emails ask one thing: where’s the third book?
I’m humbled by the women (and a few men) who took the time to write to me. You guys, well, you’re just amazing.
I’ll close now because I haven’t written my minimum quota of words yet today, and I’ve got a book to finish. And then? Well, maybe I’ll dream up a title for the fourth book…
Hands and arms inside the cart: Doing the work.