Warning: Long Post

It seems as if everyone is doing a post where they review the year that ends today. I like that idea. It's a bit of housecleaning and throwing down a welcome mat for 2014. So here's my 2013, along with lessons learned, thoughts, and what to expect in 2014.

First, the good stuff for readers. In 2013, I had (counting fingers) 8 books out (including novellas and shorts). There were five stories from Harlequin (six if you count the 2-in-1 that came out this month) and three stories in my Hostile Operations Team series. There was also my freebie short story, Maddie's Marine, which I didn't count in the total because it's been available on this site for free for a long time.

I had a lot of fun bringing those stories to you, and I've heard from so many of you who seem to love what I write and want more. Thank you so much for sticking with me. πŸ™‚

What's coming in 2014? From Harlequin, you'll get my sheikh duet about two brothers and the Crown of Kyr. In May, the first book, GAMBLING FOR THE CROWN, will be out. In July, the second book, CARRYING THE SHEIKH'S HEIR, will follow and finish the story arc. Two yummy sheikhs, y'all! I just love sheikhs.

In December (I think), you'll get an as-yet-untitled story from me featuring a Greek tycoon (my first Greek!) and the hotel heiress who works for him.

That's only three Harlequins, I know, but that's because I'm also writing the HOT series and I want to get you more books sooner in that series. This spring will see the release of DANGEROUSLY HOT, the second full-length book in the series. HOT SHOT will follow in the summer. After that, I'm not sure which story I'll write next. But I can say that Colonel Mendez may just get a story of his own!

I'm also working on a secret project that I hope to publish this summer too. I want to put up three books in that series at once, so we'll see. It's my first foray into first person storytelling and I'm loving it very much.

Now, thinking about the lessons of 2013, this is where a lot of the post centers on writing and writers.

Lesson One: Sometimes you have to explore new territory. And when you do, you discover amazing things.

I went into 2013 as a traditionally published author at a major romance publishing house. But I was self-pub curious and I was determined to explore those waters. RT 2013, in Kansas City, became a watershed moment for me in that journey. After meeting and hearing such authors speak as Liliana Hart, Jasinda Wilder, Abbi Glines, Shayla Black, Theresa Ragan (who I already knew), Jana DeLeon, and a host of others I can't remember at the moment, I felt like I'd attended a revival.

I left KC determined to become a self-published author in addition to writing for Harlequin. And I did. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Lesson Two: Eject the people who don't support your career choices.

I had to part ways with my agent, which was hard in some ways because the dream for so long had been a NY agent and a traditional publishing contract. I had what I'd always wanted — but now it didn't fit anymore. I learned that sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone and do what was unthinkable to you only a year before. My agent and I split — and I haven't regretted it for a moment. My former agent — who was and is a good, honest agent — didn't want me to self-publish. I think she would have been happy selling the HOT series straight to digital with no guarantees of advertising or support from the publisher. Why should I do that when I had the tools to publish myself? Why would I give up that kind of control?

Lesson Three: Self Publishing is a BIG job.

Don't half-ass it, because it *will* come back to bite you. So many people act like self-publishing is a gold rush and they have to get in NOW or they won't get any gold. But I'm telling you, if you get in now with a shoddy product just because you're worried about getting a piece of the pie, the readers will respond. And probably not in the way you hope. Don't rush the work to market, y'all. It won't do you any favors.

By the same token, don't take two years to polish one story. You have to keep producing product if you want to succeed in self-publishing. It works a lot like traditional publishing, except the timelines are much faster. Write, revise, send to editor, begin new story while waiting for more revisions. The difference is that at the end of the cycle, you can publish right away instead of a year from now.

I repeat, self-publishing is a big job. But it's not impossible and you CAN do it. Just remember that whatever you put out there is your first impression and now that the field is getting crowded with self-published books, readers have more choices than ever. If your book is poorly written and edited, they aren't going to buy you.

Writing is like any other skill. It takes practice. You wouldn't begin piano lessons today and book Carnegie Hall for six months from now, would you? So why do you think you can set fingers to keyboard and have something publishable, something people will pay money for, as soon as you're done writing it? It doesn't work that way. Pretty much every overnight success story you've heard comes from someone who was writing for a very long time before success came — even if they weren't trying to get published, they were writing.

Lesson Four: There will always be people who annoy you. Stop paying attention to them.

It's not worth your energy. If they drag you down, ignore them. Stop reading their posts. Don't engage. There will always be those who seek attention. They may brag about their success, or they may say things that require a “But you're smart and everyone likes you!” response so they won't sink into a wallow of self-pity. You are not required to respond either way. Eject negative people or people who damage your emotional well-being. You can't stop them, so eject them.

Lesson Five: The truly successful don't have to brag because they don't have time for it. They're too busy working.

I've met some really awesome people this year, and so many of them were willing to hold out a hand and give me advice and information when I needed it. They are the ones I admire, and one thing I've discovered about most of them is that they are often very successful — but they don't brag about it. They just keep working.

Lesson Six: There will always be someone who judges you.

This is a crazy business in some ways, and one thing there will never be less of are the judgmental attitudes. If you self-publish, someone thinks you're insane and that you're selling out. If you traditionally publish, someone thinks you're insane and too lazy to publish yourself. If you do both? Someone thinks you can't do both and you're going to have to choose one or the other pretty soon. And yes, someone said that to me. Maybe they're right, but I make my decisions as they make sense for me at the time. Which leads me to the next lesson…

Lesson Seven: Everything changes. And probably faster than you can keep up.

Self-publishing today is not the self-publishing of last year or even the year before. Things are constantly in flux and it's up to you to keep abreast of the changes. Some things that worked last year still work phenomenally well. Others don't. The only way to know is to keep your ear to the ground and your head out of the sand. Self-publishing isn't going away. I don't think traditional is either based on the sheer number of writers I know who are still writing and submitting the old-fashioned way. Writing is a business, now more than ever since so much of it is in a writer's control, and you MUST act like a business person, not just an “arteest” who types all day while little birds sing and festoon you with garland. Head in the sand is NOT a viable option for growing a career. I am constantly reading books on business, on publishing, and I follow several blogs where conversations are taking place every day about what the future of publishing holds.

Lesson Eight: Be kind to everyone.

This isn't really a lesson from 2013. It's a lesson from life. My personal code of conduct demands that I be nice. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from writers who say that someone was nasty to them and therefore they won't ever, *ever* buy that person's books — or recommend their friends buy that person's books. Writers are readers too. Why would you look down your nose at someone who is a potential customer just because they also write? I get that we all have personality differences and that when we get together in our local chapters, for instance, some annoy us more than others. But be nice and approachable and you may be surprised. You could gain a new fan, a champion for your work to others, and a friend all at the same time. By the same token, give someone a break if they are less than gracious to you — you never know what's going on in someone else's life. If they are always snotty, well, that's different.

Lesson Nine: There are no excuses

Do you know how you get ahead in this business, especially today? You write A LOT. You don't have to be fast, but you have to be consistent. If you don't want to write a lot, and you don't want to put out more than two books a year, that's perfectly fine. But you probably won't get the success you want as fast as you want it. Again, it's all relative. But writing is my full-time job, so if I write two books a year and complain I can't get ahead, I'm stupid. I've done a lot this year to look at my productivity and see how to increase it. I wrote eight books this year of varying lengths, and I'm planning to write that many or more in 2014. There are no excuses not to work hard if this is what you want. (Okay, there are some excuses: illness, death in the family, relationship issues, etc. Not writing because you had to clean the house first is not an excuse.)


And now I come to thoughts. The above lessons are my opinion and not gospel. The only writing police in existence are readers and they vote with their wallets. If you can be nasty to other writers, throw up first drafts, half-ass your way through self-publishing and readers STILL buy your books in droves and demand more, then you are a frigging rock star. So don't listen to a word I say.

Final thoughts for 2013 are that writing is a tough, rewarding business and I love it even when I hate it. Also, life will throw you curve balls and some of them will devastate you. Not writing-related, but if you've been following me for a while you know I lost my most beloved cat back in February and it devastated me. She was only 5 years old and no way did I think I could lose her to heart disease at that young age. I still cry over her sometimes.

But I look forward to 2014 with hope and excitement. It could rock or it could bring devastation. We just never know, do we? I hope and pray that your 2014 is awesome.

For my readers, y'all are amazing and I will continue to write as many books as I can and I hope you will continue to read them.

For the writers who are visiting, I hope you get something out of this post. To some of you, I am wildly successful. To others, I'm doing okay — or maybe not all that good at all, LOL! It's all relative, y'all, which is the point of this post. I want more success, which is why I'm all about working harder, but I'm grateful for what I have, too.

Here are a few posts I've read lately that got me to thinking. Your mileage may vary.

Joe Konrath's Publishing Predictions
Ten Things I Learned About Independent Publishing in 2013
Three Things I realized in 2013
Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors

Have a safe and happy New Year's!!