The Dog Days Are Back: This Author is in a Drought!

This is a quick post and is in no way representative of my writing abilities but I want share with you a brief update into my life right now. I’ve completed my Office Surgery Inspections contract (my first with the State of Florida) and now I’m just trying to get caught up on the daily duties of my job that have fallen behind due to writing a contract (which is very time consuming, might I add). Because of that and other life events, I haven’t had the time to even think about personal writing. On top of my work life, we are definitely back to the dog days of summer with Miss Annie.

A few weeks ago, Kyle and I went on a date (a rarity for us lately) and were only gone for two and a half hours. When we returned to our apartment, we were greeted at the door by Annie making her “Uh oh, I did wrong” face. We walked into the living room to find her bed covered in staples. Yes, staples. Like those sharp metal things that you use to bind paper together. Where did she get the staples? Your guess is as good as ours. Oh, but she got them, alright. She tore the box apart and tore the staples apart. They were chewed and gnarled and literally everywhere. After picking up each individual staple that we could see, we vacuumed the carpet and her bed and combed the area for any lingering staple. I called the emergency vet line to find out if we needed to take Annie to the vet immediately since she probably had ingested a few staples. The vet on-call said that it wasn’t necessary because of her size. She would probably pass the staples in a few days with no problem. The vet did warn that if she began vomiting or showing signs and symptoms of a more serious condition, we should bring her to her regular vet immediately. Annie was alright for the first day after eating the staples but, of course, on Monday morning, we awoke to her hurling her poor puppy guts up. She was sick. I called into work, took a day of hard earned sick leave, and called her regular vet for an appointment. The vet asked questions about the staple eating incident and then said that the only way they could tell if she was sick from staples was to do x-rays. Shortly after the x-rays were taken, the vet came in and said, “Well, she definitely ate staples. A lot of staples.” The x-rays were displayed on the computer screen and I could clearly see that the staples were in there. And the vet was correct, Annie had eaten A LOT of STAPLES!


 

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My first question was, “What can we do?” The answer, of course, was surgery. She told me that she could take Annie into emergency exploratory abdominal surgery as soon as we were ready but she wanted to check another option first. Apparently, there was a new specialist in town who did doggy endoscopy and our vet said that she thought it might be a better option for Annie than surgery. Of course, the less invasive you can be, the better. The price, however, was extraordinarily invasive into our pocketbooks. The specialist did agree to take Annie as a case, so I drove her right on over to their office for a consultation. They didn’t waste any time in getting her evaluated and the specialist (an internal medicine specialist with a Scottish accent) said that he wanted to put her on IV fluids overnight, have her stay in the hospital, and then determine whether or not to do endoscopy in the morning after a new set of x-rays were taken. At this point, we didn’t have any other choices other than surgery so we agreed to leave her overnight. I had to pay a deposit to leave her which cost several hundred dollars and I also had to sign a waiver stating that I wanted her to be revived if she went into cardiac arrest. In the morning, the vet called and said he would have to do endoscopy to remove the mass of staples that was stuck in her pylorus. For those of you who do not know what the pylorus is, it is the part of the stomach that connects to the duodenum (or small intestine). The rest of the staples had moved out of her large intestines and into her colon so they would be coming out in her next bowel movement. The staples that were stuck weren’t going to go anywhere without help. The endoscopy was done fairly quickly. She was up and running by that evening, even though she was quite drowsy from the anesthesia. Annie is perfectly fine now–no more staples. Fifteen hundred dollars later and we have a happy healthy dog again. Oh, the joys of being a dog owner! We’ve now officially made it through our first year of having Annie in our lives and it may have been one of the most stressful, most expensive, and most fulfilling years of our lives.

That being said, thank you for your continued support and love! If you want to read more of my work, go buy my book! It’s 99 cents on Amazon Kindle or the free Amazon Kindle Reading App for almost all mobile devices and tablets! You can download the free Amazon Kindle Reading App from my Works page or by clicking on the image below. What a steal of a deal! It’s also in paperback as well if that is more to your liking. Check it out!

FREE Kindle Reading App

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The Art of Setting Goals: It’s Not Always “Go Big or Go Home”

This article was a guest blog post on The Book Designer in June. In the article I look at the goals that gradually brought my book to fruition, and I extract some wisdom at every step of the journey. If you would like to see the original article, click HERE. I hope you enjoy this re-post! Happy weekend!


The Art of Setting Goals: It’s Not Always “Go Big or Go Home”

Goals are the destinations to which we journey in life. Goals give us a sense of purpose when we are working—something to achieve or strive for.

Sometimes without even knowing, we set goals and achieve them, giving us that feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. Writing is no different from any other life or work endeavor and, therefore, goals are essential—a means to an end.

Have you ever started a writing project without an end goal? Maybe you didn’t realize you had a goal but somewhere in the back of your mind, you had a purpose for writing. It happens to me all of the time, so there’s no need to feel out of place.

When I started writing my book, I had no idea it would actually become a book, published on Amazon, and purchased by others. It was simply a story I had in my mind and I decided one day to put it down on paper.

My first time sitting down and writing, I truly didn’t have a goal for the book or chapters. I wrote three chapters at first and didn’t do anything else with it for a while.

It was never my dream to become an author. I never imagined that it was possible for me to write a book. This is where goals come in to play for me. I’m a goal-oriented, future-focused kind of woman. I set my sights on a goal and I work, work, work until I achieve that goal.

I did the same thing with writing a book as I did with running a half marathon. I set my end goal in the beginning and I worked towards that goal until I reached it. I’m going to do a bit of self-reflection and share with you my goals, show you how they changed over time, and how those goals led me to become a self-published author of a twenty chapter novel.

GOAL #1: Write a Book

My first goal, when I actually had it in my mind that I was going to write a book, was to write as much as I could each day that I had a chance to write. I didn’t have a set amount of words I wanted to write per day or a number of chapters I wanted to complete per week. I didn’t even know how long the book was going to be.

The problem with this goal was that it was big. I couldn’t see the end, which led to boredom. Because I grew tired of writing I took long breaks, sometimes even months at a time. With such a large goal, it was difficult to keep focused on my final destination.

  • TIP: Set your writing goals realistically, break your book into smaller goals, and find a style that works best for you. If you work well with word counts, then set a daily word count goal. If you work best with chapter completion, then set a weekly number of chapters goal. If you are not good with either one of those things, find what works for you and go with it.

GOAL #2: Publish

My second goal came when I was around chapter 15 of the book. I had now written more than I had ever written in my entire life and I had invested quite a bit into the story and characters. I started looking into publishing avenues and read a couple of “how-to” articles on traditional publishing.

During my research, I came across an article on self-publishing an eBook through Amazon. I hadn’t really given this much thought before, but the article was pretty convincing. I looked into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and decided that I wanted to take this route to publish my book. Once I had set publishing as my end goal, I had more motivation to write the remaining chapters of my book.

  • TIP: If you don’t want to publish your work, you don’t have to, but it is helpful to have an end goal in mind for your writing project. Maybe you just want to write a book without publishing it. If that is the case, then set your end goal as the completion of your book.

GOAL #3: Set Launch Date

I finished writing the book, all twenty chapters and an epilogue, and let it sit for a month or so. I knew I wanted to publish my book on Amazon but I had no time frame for publishing. The book needed editing but I had worked so hard to finish writing that I had no desire to go back and read over it.

I needed a break so I took one. When I felt up to the task, I sat down and read over the book. It had errors and plot holes as I had expected but it was a quality story overall. The editing and formatting process took time, and I didn’t know when I would reach the end. It was March and I finally decided to set my publishing date around the end of May.

  • TIP: If you are self-publishing, setting a launch date will give you a time frame in which to complete everything. From there, you can set due dates for different parts of this process. This will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed as you take on the roles of author, designer, formatter, and publisher.

GOAL #4: Format

Over the next month, from March to April, I researched best practices for self-publishing an eBook. I read about everything from cover design to formatting to marketing. I hadn’t realized how difficult the self-publishing route would be to do it all on my own. I had a deadline of the end of May to complete everything.

Formatting was a nightmare and it made editing look like a piece of cake. I tried templates and suggestions from blog posts and websites, etc. to get my book formatted correctly in Microsoft Word. It was a tedious process—format, convert to HTML, convert to .MOBI, test on Kindle Previewer, find an error, repeat.

I did this formatting dance countless times before I finally found Scrivener which made my life so much easier. The formatting was done, saved, and I was ready to produce the final product.

  • TIP: Formatting an eBook for Amazon may not be a problem for you. There are people out there who will do it for you for a fee. If you don’t want to spend any money, invest in Scrivener. It changed my life and made the daunting task of formatting much easier. I’m pretty computer savvy but formatting apparently isn’t my forte. You can find the Scrivener application and even try it out for free at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

GOAL #5: Sell Book

I had a discussion with my husband a few weeks before my launch date about my goals of selling the book. What I wanted was to publish the book but I hadn’t thought about what happens after I publish it. I didn’t have a big following of readers who were anxiously awaiting the launch of my book. In fact, I didn’t really have a following at all.

I decided that it didn’t matter to me how well my book sold, so long as I could sell at least one book. The end of May came and I launched my book, The Last Navigator, on Amazon Kindle. I can’t even begin to explain how good that felt to have accomplished my goal of publishing a book.

Once it went live, I sent the link out to family and friends and waited for the purchasing to start. In the first few days, I had 5 purchases which would have been really great considering I had a goal of selling at least one book.

Somewhere in between the time I set my original selling goal and the time I started selling, I had let my imagination run wild with the possibility of becoming a best-selling author. This was a mistake. The 5 purchases I had in the month of May were as follows: my husband, me, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my dad. I hadn’t thought about the fact that all of the purchases might be family members who were just trying to support me. I was discouraged about my book sales even though I had technically accomplished my goal.

  • TIP: To avoid getting discouraged, set your goals smaller. It isn’t very likely that you will become a best-selling author overnight if you aren’t well known in the world. Don’t let this stop you from dreaming big, though!

Defining Goals and Starting Small

I shared my story with you as an example of real-life goal setting by someone who isn’t a professional writer or experienced author. I fell into the trap of “Go Big or Go Home” and I want to warn others that it’s easy to fall victim to this notion.

If I could have gone big, I would have certainly loved to do so. It isn’t a reality for me, at least not yet, and I needed to set my goals to reflect my current circumstances. After a week of severely slow sales, I came home and cried to my husband. I was a ball of self-pity and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I was fully prepared to take my ball and go home when he gave me this nugget of advice.

He reminded me of my original goal to sell just one book. He told me that if I had changed my goal, I needed to come to terms with that and work harder to reach my new goal. He advised me to try to set realistic goals for myself and not expect to become a best-seller overnight.

I reflected on this for a while and came back to him later on in the night. My goal had indeed changed and it was an unrealistic goal that was only going to lead to disappointment. When I told him this, he smiled and told me that I just needed to sit down and define my goals—starting small and celebrating the little accomplishments.

With a deep breath I embraced his advice and set my first real selling goal as follows: to sell my book to one person with whom I am not related and have no relationship. I got a call from my dad the next day who told me that one of his former students (with whom I have no relationship and I am not related) bought the book. Goal accomplished! I set my next selling goal to sell at least 10 books during the month of June and have made it almost half way already.

  • MY ADVICE: Start where you are in life and make changes as your circumstances change. If you go big, you may end up going home.

The Back to School Freebie Event Begins Today!

On your mark…

Get set…

GO!

The Back to School Freebie Event has begun and will last ALL WEEKEND LONG! Get your free copy of The Last Navigator today or Saturday or Sunday! You have THREE WHOLE DAYS to download The Last Navigator for free from Amazon.com.

Don’t miss this opportunity because it is the last freebie event of the summer!

To download your free copy, simply click on the book cover below to go directly to my bookstore. From there, all you have to do is click “Buy from Amazon.com” and complete your FREE DOWNLOAD!

The Last Navigator Cover Art

If you have any problems downloading your free copy of The Last Navigator, please don’t hesitate to contact me using the form on the Contact page. The Fourth of July Freebie Event got 47 downloads. Let’s beat that number during The Back to School Freebie Event!

Get the word out!

Share with your friends and families!

Thanks for all of the love and support!

Until next time…

J. G. McNease

Coming Soon: Back to School Freebie Event

Starting this Friday, August 2nd, The Last Navigator will be ABSOLUTELY FREE to download for THREE WHOLE DAYS!

That’s right!

Don’t miss out on this Back to School Freebie Event, August 2nd, 3rd, and 4th! Download The Last Navigator for yourself and tell your friends and family. This is the last of the free events this summer so get your free copy while you can!

I’m so excited to be able to offer The Last Navigator for free this weekend! To download your free copy, simply click on the cover image below which will take you directly to my bookstore.

The Last Navigator [Kindle Edition]

Mark your calendars so you won’t forget about this amazing opportunity!

Until next time…

J. G. McNease

My Success with KDP Select

“It’s a funny thing about life if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

When I first decided to publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, I was on the fence about enrolling in the KDP Select program. I wanted the benefits of being able to offer free days for my book but I didn’t want the obligation of selling exclusively from Amazon.com. It wasn’t until this first free event that I was sure about my decision to enroll.

Why am I sure? It’s simple. I TRIPLED my sales goal for the month of July by offering The Last Navigator for free for two days. I surpassed my goal of 15 free downloads/sales for the month in just the first day of the free event. At the end of July 3rd, I had 16 downloads which was more than I had anticipated having for the entire month, more than I had for the whole month of June, and more than my goal for downloads during the complete two day free event. If you read my post about Exceeding Expectations, you will see that my goals were reasonably set and I was optimistic going into July. I NEVER expected to have 47 downloads at the end of my free event. The decision to enroll was indeed a good one, and I would encourage others who are unsure about the KDP Select program to give it a try. I mean, anyone can do something for 90 days, right? If it doesn’t work out for you, then don’t re-enroll. It’s as easy as un-checking a check box. You will have to fulfill your obligation of 90 days but when it’s over, you are free to sell wherever you want. This experience has taught me several things:

  1.  More people than I thought are interested in reading my book.
  2. People are more likely to download a free book written by an unknown author than pay any money for it, even if it’s cheap.
  3. Scheduling free events on holidays is a good idea because people are already on the prowl for holiday discounts and deals wherever they can find them.

I haven’t decided if I want to simply change the price of my book from $2.99 to $0.00 for a few months to build up an audience. It seems like a good strategy and I’m going to mull it over for a few days before I decide. If I don’t change the price, I will definitely be featuring it again for free in early August as a Back-to-School Special. If you didn’t get your free copy and don’t want to pay for it, be on the lookout for this event coming up soon. For those of you who did get to download The Last Navigator, I encourage you to write a brief review on Amazon.

Until next time…

J. G. McNease