Why I Self-Published (Again)

I spent nearly all of 2019 researching literary agents, querying those agents, writing books that said agents might be interested in, writing queries, sending partial and full manuscripts, and crying and stressing.

I doubted myself.
I hated my writing.
I questioned my dreams and goals.
I felt like crap.

When people would ask why I wanted to go from self-publishing to traditional publishing, my answer was (and still is) because I want to seem my book at Target. Yup. Is that silly? Sure, but I’m owning it.

Why Target? This answer is two part … 1.) I write books for women like me and women like me love Target. 2.) I dream about walking down the aisles at Target with a latte in one hand, a child-free shopping cart being pushed with the other, and seeing MY BOOK on an end-cap begging to be found by new readers.

That last one is the true answer for why I tried the agent and traditional publishing route—I want to reach more readers. It would also be nice to not have to do everything myself. Then again, having 100% of the control is a hell of a drug.

So, why am I going indie again? This one is a little harder to answer.

The first reason has more to do with my mental health than anything. Querying agents and going from the high of getting a request to the low of a generic rejection is exhausting and painful. It’s a gut punch. I queried three books last year and became obsessed with my numbers and checking my email. Not healthy.

Control is the second reason. Some of the feedback I got with rejections made sense from a “what sells” perspective, but the stories that “sell” aren’t always the stories that need to be told. I don’t want to write solely for the sake of selling. Yes, being an author is a business but it is art first. Along those same lines, I like having control over cover art and timelines and edits. Do I always make the right choice? Probably not, but I learn something every time.

Timing is the last (big) reason. Y’all publishing is sloooooooow. Like, slower than Christmas. As in, I could write a perfect book tomorrow, land the dream agent, and earn a 6-figure advance and it would be at least 2-3 years before that book landed in readers hands. I do not have that kind of patience. The 1.5 minutes it takes my microwave popcorn to pop is too long. So, yeah, waiting 2 years to publish a book sounds excruciating.

Do I still want to see my book in Target? Yes, please (if you wanna reach out to your store or corporate and request my book, that would be cool). For me, though, it’s more important to get my books out into the world and reach readers. If the right opportunity came along, I’d definitely be open to traditional publishing, but right now, I’m happy where I am.

Instagram for Indie Authors

Instagram, and particularly Bookstagram, can be an invaluable tool for indie authors, but Instagram can often seem like a daunting platform. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge fan of social media and love how I am able to connect with readers.

As an Indie Author, one of my biggest tasks (aside from writing books) is figuring out who my readers are and how to reach them. This is the one business side of self-publishing that I actually enjoy … I’m sure it also helps that my day job is in marketing.

A few years ago, I stumbled on the Bookstagram community (#bookstagram) on Instagram and knew I’d found my people. Without a single hint of hesitation, I decided to dive head-first into the community. I’d be lying if I didn’t join in-part because I wanted to sell books, but my primary goal was to connect with people like me. I love to read almost as much as I love to write.

At first, I was intimidated by the gorgeous photos and massive followings I saw on the “big” accounts. It took a few months for me to find my footing and balance. I learned what worked for me and my books.

Here in it’s most basic form is what I’ve learned about how to use Instagram as an Indie Author:

Instagram for Indie Authors:
Know who your ideal reader is (general demographics and a bit deeper. I.E. women, aged 25-45 who enjoy books by Elin Hilderbrand, drink coffee, and have families)
Follow Hashtags & Accounts that align with your ideal reader
Be Yourself – this is one I cannot stress enough. Your readers want YOU. Yes, pretty, overly-staged photos are nice, but what matters most is the authenticity behind them. They don’t want another influencer selling them BS. Use your bio to share you & link to your website (if you can, create your own Instagram link page and avoid Link Tree).
Be Consistent find a posting cadence that works for you and stick to it
Utilize Stories post in your stories consistently, reply to stories, use the tools IG gives you (polls, quizzes, questions, etc.). Keep highlights of the best stories on your grid.
Engage. Engage. Engage. Like, comment, follow, post content that drives conversations. Don’t post and ghost.
Don’t Dive Into an Ask please, please, please. Do not blindly message someone you have never engaged with and ask them to buy or read your book. No one likes being sold to or feeling used.
Don’t Play Follow/Unfollow Games they don’t work. It’s an old trick and no one likes it.

Most importantly: Be you. Be real. Be the type of person you’d want to follow.

While this may seem simple, it does take work. You probably won’t hit a million followers or sell a million books, but you will find an engaged, supportive, and real audience that could become your biggest advocates.

Remember, social media is a great marketing tool BUT it’s a community first and foremost. Treat it as such.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at your social media or Instagram, check out the Author Services section of my website.

Where to Start

So, you want to write a book. Maybe you have an idea or maybe you have a character in mind. Either way, you’re itching to get those words down on paper.

What now? Now, you grab your coffee and writing, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Let me start by saying this, the process is different for every single writer and that’s okay. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa, but every great book starts with a few basic questions.

These are the questions I sit down to ask before I plot or outline any book:

Who is/are your character(s)?
What do they want?
How are they going to get what they want and what stands in their way?
What do they stand to lose if they don’t get what they want?

Simple enough, right? On the surface, yes, these are simple questions. The difficulty lies in answering them in a unique way that drives your story forward and ultimately engages your readers. The most important question to ask is this:

What makes this story unique/different?

The hard truth of publishing is that the marketplace is saturated and finding that one hook that will make your book stand out is the single most daunting task facing a writer.

So, what makes your book or idea different or special?

New Author Services

Y’all … I’ve been sitting on some pretty big ideas the past few months, and I’ve finally decided to take the plunge.

One of my biggest passions and favorite things to do is to help my fellow authors and writers develop their craft and promote their books and brand. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a marketing and social media junkie.

I’ve also spent the past few years really diving into publishing and learning the pros and cons of both traditional and self-publishing.

Now, I want to use what I’ve learned to help other writers realize their dreams.

Ready to learn more? Click here or on the Author Services link at the top of the site.

Comparison, the Thief of Everything

What’s your dream? Are you actively chasing it or working towards your goals? If not, what holds you back?

For me, my biggest obstacle is comparison. I see the success of others and wonder why not me. What am I doing wrong?

On my bad days, the list is a mile long—not enough of this, too much of that—and it’s easy to drown in the comparisons.

The good days are the days I can remind myself that no two journeys are the same, just as no two people are the same. My path forward diverting away from the “normal” isn’t failure. Me being different isn’t bad.

When they say comparison is the thief of everything the truth in that is overwhelming. It’s so easy to sit back and blame yourself for all the ways you think you don’t measure up, but it’s neither productive nor healthy.

When I see other authors getting stellar reviews and selling thousands of books (or hundreds), it’s so easy to let my jealousy shout louder than my joy and pride for them. It’s completely possibly to celebrate the success of others without feeling like you’re lagging behind.

Celebrating success, whether your own or someone else’s, is a choice. We can either choose to find the joy or we can let the darkness win.

I refuse to let the darkness win.I want to be your cheerleader and biggest fan. I want to see your success as a win for everyone.

But I still want to grow and succeed on my own.

These are not mutually exclusive. Celebrate both. Celebrate your wins and your failures. Celebrate that you tried. Celebrate that you finished. Celebrate that you put yourself out there.

Don’t ever let fear of rejection or comparison steal your dreams.

After Everything Sneak Peek

Are you ready to meet Abby? Keep reading for a sneak peek into chapter one of After Everything!

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CHAPTER ONE

I touched the tip of my finger to the cool glass of the window and stared down at the busy street below. Drops of rain raced down the pane, chasing each other toward their final destination. As the heat from my finger transferred to the glass, the droplets diverted and created a new path, avoiding me altogether. Moments like this, I wished I were the rain.

“Abby,” my mother said and cleared her throat. “Are you listening to me?”

I nodded but didn’t speak. She, of course, couldn’t see this through the phone but I kept nodding anyway.

“How’s the ‘songwriting thing’ going?” If it were possible to hear air quotes, my mother would be the perfect person to narrate them.

“Great,” I replied. The lie slipped out far too easily. “Everything is great.”

Nothing was great, but I couldn’t tell her that. I couldn’t admit that my lack of planning combined with my impulsive decision to run away from my hometown, family, and husband had all been a mistake. She didn’t need to know the full extent of my failures. Otherwise, she’d never stop rubbing them in my face.

“You’ve always been a terrible liar,” she said with a snorted laugh. “How long do you intend to mope about your apartment? Have you done dishes this week? Last week? Do you have on clean underwear?”

Rolling my eyes, I bit back the sarcasm that bubbled inside my throat and said, “Yes, Mom, I’m wearing clean underwear. The apartment is clean. Everything is fine.”

Fine. The most loaded word in the English language. Fine wasn’t fine and neither was I.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me, Abigail Grace.” Never mind that she couldn’t see me. She knew me better than anyone. Just as I’d known she air quoted “songwritingthing,” she knew I was rolling my eyes as I said “fine.” I flinched at her tone and shook off the feeling it brought on. I wasn’t sixteen. She wasn’t in control anymore. My life was mine and mine alone to fuck up, and I was doing a mighty fine job of that all on my own. I didn’t need her meddling to make things worse. “Abby, are you there? I can’t hear you.”

“Sorry, it’s raining.” I yawned. 

“Let me guess,” she said with a small laugh. “You’re staring out the window and wondering which raindrop will win the race.”

“You know me well,” I said. Niles, my cat purred and rubbed against my bare legs. I reached down and scratched his head. He climbed into my lap and curled himself into a tiny ball of black and white fluff. “Listen, Mom, I know you’re worried or whatever, but I’m fine. I can take care of myself. This is just a small setback.”

“You were fired, Abby, I’d call that more than a setback.”

“I wasn’t fired, I was let go. The agency downsized.” She was right, though, I’d been fired, but they were also in the midst of a downsizing after losing a big client. I might have survived the downsizing if I hadn’t shown up for the most important meeting of my life fifteen minutes late and with a hangover the size of my hometown—small, but invasive. My performance in that meeting is what lost us the big client. So, technically, we were both right. She knew me well enough to know I’d somehow managed to fuck up this golden opportunity. I’m nothing if not predictable.

“Have you told your—” she said, pausing to swallow her distaste before finishing her question. “Your father?”

“Do you really want to know?” I asked.

“Nope, I don’t.”

“Great, then I won’t have to lie.” I hadn’t called him, nor did I plan to. I’d missed our coffee date on Monday, being hungover and late and all. He’d called, but I’d never called him back. I wasn’t in the mood for a litany of “I told you so”s or “you just know how to let me down don’t you”s. The two things I’d recently learned that my father excelled at. Well, that and pretending he’d never had a wife or two daughters in Missouri.

“Maybe it’s time to tuck your tail between your legs and come home,” she said as if she were simply suggesting a small tweak. Her casual tone dug under my skin.

“And do what?” I asked without bothering to hide my annoyance.

“There are plenty of jobs here,” she said.

“I can’t come home, Mom, you know that.”

Mom sighed and then paused as if she were seriously debating her next sentence. As soon as she spoke it, I wished she thought harder and kept it to herself.

“You know he won’t wait forever, right?” she asked.

“I don’t want him to,” I said. As I said the words, the all-too-familiar tug of home pulled me away from the comfort of my cozy Nashville condo. I took a deep breath and said, “And what would I do for work? Ed at the radio station made it clear my old job wasn’t an option.”

“I’m sure there are marketing jobs here,” she said.

“In Wishing, Missouri? They don’t even know what marketing is.” Moving home wasn’t an option. I’d sell myself on Dickerson Pike before I moved back to Missouri. No, failure wasn’t an option. It didn’t matter that I was already halfway there.

“Or, I bet Rayna would let you come back and sing a few nights a week at Lace & Grit or bartend. She did you good when you got that hair up your ass to go to college.”

I bit my tongue. I’d sung at the tiny dive bar more times than I could even remember but I was fairly certain neither the town nor Rayna would welcome me back with open arms. Not after what I did to Jacob. Not after I left like I did. “Just, no,” I mumbled to myself.

“What was that?” she asked, her voice suddenly sounding a thousand miles away.

“Nothing, Mom.” I didn’t have the energy to defend myself or my move to Nashville anymore. I wasn’t coming home. Even if it meant groveling for more handouts from my father.

“Sorry, I’ve got to run. Your sister just pulled up with the twins,” Mom said. Her voice kicked up an octave. It always did that when Lindsey was around. My older sister was her pride and joy. I was her biggest disappointment.

“Give them hugs and snuggles from Auntie Abby.”

“Come home and give them out yourself.”

I sighed and said, “I love you, Mom. Talk soon?” She hung up without returning the sentiment.

I dropped the phone onto my lap and closed my eyes. The rain pelted the window. Each one hitting a new note and continuing the song no one asked it to sing. I laid my head against the window and waited for motivation to strike. I should be looking for a new job or heading out for a songwriter meet up or writing a song. Or anything other than moping around my overpriced condo in three-day-old pajamas. But I hadn’t touched my guitar in months, not once in the months since I’d left home. I’d moved to Music City and lost my will to write.

A knock at the door pulled me from my brief moment of reverie. Niles leapt from my lap and rushed to the door, eager to see what was on the other side. I’d gotten a cat because they were supposed to be chill and quiet. Somehow, I’d managed to adopt a lap cat that thinks he’s a dog. I slipped off the window seat and padded across the floor. Before I pulled it open, I swiped my hand through my mousy blonde hair. When was the last time I’d combed it? Monday? Had I even done it then?

“Abigail Rhodes?” a young man asked when I pulled the door open.

“Yes?”

“You’ve been served.” He shoved an envelope into my unsuspecting hand, and I stepped back, refusing to touch it. I knew what was inside that manila envelope, and I had no desire to accept it. Though, I’d been the one to ask for it in the first place, I wasn’t ready for the finality. “Look, you’ve been served whether you take it or not. If you take it, I can go about my day and you can go take a shower or brush your teeth.”

“Rude,” I said and took the envelope. He offered a weak smile and turned to go before I could slam the door in his face. “Fucking perfect.”

The envelope wasn’t big. It didn’t weigh much but it held so much more than just the papers that would officially end the best worst mistake of my life. No, mistake wasn’t the right word. A mistake implies it was a simple oops. Not fourteen years of saying yes when I meant to say no. Not packing up in the middle of the night and leaving without so much as a goodbye. Not the single-word lie I brought with me. Those weren’t simple mistakes. Those were conscious, calculated decisions, and for the most part, I accepted the consequences. Even if I didn’t like them.

Jacob. His name buzzed around my head like a fly I couldn’t swat. It hovered just out of reach, taunting and teasing me. I tossed the envelope on the counter and vowed to deal with it later. I’d sign the papers, I knew I would, I just needed a few more days to clear my head. It didn’t matter that I was the one who left. I was the one who initiated all of this; I just wasn’t ready to accept full responsibility or finality.

Niles worked his way in and out of the spot between my feet. He meowed and stared up at me. I bent down to pick him up and caught a whiff of myself. Ugh. The guy at the door wasn’t wrong. I needed a shower. Badly. I picked up my phone and glanced at the date. It was Thursday. I hadn’t bothered to look in a mirror or change my clothes since Monday. I’d only talked to my mother on the phone, no one else. I hadn’t even left my condo. I wasn’t even one-hundred percent sure the rest of the world even existed. I’d somehow managed to stay off social media; unless playing Words with Friends with random people counted as social media. (It didn’t.) I’d sulked for three full days. It was time to rejoin the world. Maybe I could finally check out the bar that was on the first floor of my condo building. Just one drink, I vowed. One.

I slipped out of my clothes, cringing at the smell that wafted off of them, and tossed them onto the bathroom floor. Stepping over them, I reached into the shower and turned the water as hot as it would go. I’d need to boil the last few days off of me if I wanted a chance at a fresh start. Or, at least, a fresh scent. The start could wait until after I called my dad with the news that I’d ruined the shot he so generously gave me.

I reached my hand into the shower and yanked it back out. Flames rushed over my skin. The temperature was near perfect. Jacob would have hated it. I shuddered at the second reminder of him. There wasn’t a trace of him inside this condo or in this town, but I still felt his presence. Inside my eyelids when I blinked. On my skin when the sun or rain kissed it. In between my fingers when I reached for a beer; the shape of the bottle reminding me of the feel of his hand in mine. He was nowhere but everywhere all at the same time.

I hated myself for thinking about him and romanticizing our brief marriage. A year ago, I’d never have considered that I might miss the doldrums of our routines. I also didn’t assume I’d be living in a condo that my dad owned in downtown Nashville. A year ago, Jacob and Wishing, Missouri, were all I knew. Our relationship had survived high school, college, and our mid-twenties, but it couldn’t survive our very different dreams. The dreams we’d once shared had shifted as we grew up and apart. His involved buns in the oven and mine involved guitars and lyrics. I’d once been convinced that they could live together and become a shared future. Jacob hadn’t seen it that way. His home was, and always would be, in Missouri. I used to think mine was too; then one day it wasn’t.

I’d always felt safe and content with him and in the hometown we shared. But contentment wasn’t what I thought it would be. Safety wasn’t love, and it certainly didn’t inspire any life-changing songs. That came from leaving your high school sweetheart and packing up everything you owned into the back of a decade-old Toyota Camry and making the 500-mile drive to the city of music and begging your estranged father for a place to live and selling your soul for a paycheck.

Better than living and dying in the same small town I was born in. Just like all the small-town girls who came before me. Better than admitting my life was headed exactly where it started. Nowhere.

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After Everything Cover Reveal

I am so excited to FINALLY reveal my new book, After Everything. This book is my heart and soul on paper. Keep reading to learn more! And, if you’re interested in joining the blog tour and receiving an advance copy, please check out the link below!

After Everything Blog Tour Application

All Abby Rhodes wants is a chance to pursue her songwriting dreams. When she leaves her husband on Christmas Eve and puts their Missouri hometown in her rearview mirror, she heads straight to Nashville and onto the doorstep of her estranged father.

But in typical Abby fashion, nothing goes as planned.

Unemployed and alone, Abby lands a job waiting tables at her neighborhood dive bar. There she meets a local singer-songwriter with steel-grey eyes and a reputation that threatens to unlock Abby’s small-town innocence.

Just as Nashville starts to feel like home, her past comes crashing back in the form of her soon-to-be ex-husband, forcing her to confront the truth behind her midnight escape.

If Abby can’t reconcile her history with her future, she might lose out on her dreams and her second chance at finding love.

STAY TUNED FOR PRE-ORDER INFORMATION!

Releasing Your Words into the Wild

On Sunday, I sent the first ARCs of After Everything out into the world.

I had the emails and attachments ready. Then, I started at the screen with my mouse hovering over the send button. I stayed frozen in that position for a very long time … longer than I’d like to admit.

When I finally hit send, I held my breath and tried to steady my heartbeat. I failed and it felt as though it would race right out of my chest.

It’s scary sending a piece of you out into the world knowing it will be judged and reviewed and not loved by all. Some people will hate it. They won’t like Abby or my writing voice.

It will sting when I see those reviews, but that’s okay. Not every book is for every reader. Writers don’t write to please everyone, at least I don’t. I write because I want at least one person to read the story and see a piece of themselves inside one of the characters.

I see some of me in Abby, but there is also parts of a someone who once meant a lot to me; someone I don’t see or speak to much anymore—someone I miss dearly. In a way, After Everything brought this friend back to me in the form of Abby.

This is what I hope to bring to readers through the characters they meet and the stories I tell. Connection. Belonging. A feeling of being seen.