Two days before suddenly losing my day job, I sat staring at my journal, trying to figure out when I could quit. It had long been my plan to transition to a full-time author. I just needed to figure out how to increase my writing income—at least, that’s what I told myself. As much as I wanted to spend my days writing, I was afraid to take the leap. I’d heard of other writers who had flung caution to the wind, but that kind of thing was not for me. Plus, most of those authors warned others to not to do the same.
Then, on Friday, February 21st, I was told fifteen minutes before my shift was supposed to end that it was going to be my last day. At first, panic set in. Previously, I had worked at a department store, making minimum wage and struggling to pay my bills so I could spend most of my time writing. It had taken me months to find a better job. This new job had seemed like a blessing, something that would allow me to work steady hours while enabling me to produce a new story for my readers every month. Newly married and looking to start a life with my husband, I was terrified.
Then, as I drove home, a sense of calm washed over me. Suddenly, I knew that this was my chance to make that leap. By the time I got home, I had a new business plan.
Continue Monthly Releases
Luckily, I’d been stockpiling manuscripts since before my wedding in August 2013. I’d created my release schedule for 2014 around that same time, hustling to lay words down every day so that 2014 would be my biggest release year. With so much content already written and suddenly wide-open days, I was able to maintain my production schedule, while also creating room for more projects and administrative things I’d been putting off.
To build up anticipation for titles, I posted my release schedule on my website and sent it out to my email list. Instantly, I started receiving comments and emails about what’s coming.
Extend Popular Series
After some thought, I decided to add a couple more titles to a series that sold the most of all my titles in their first month. The second book in the series captured a handful of pre-orders before its release date, and the feedback I’ve received for both titles has been great so far.
Because the first two books did so well and I’m expecting the third and fourth to follow in their footsteps, I’ve decided to re-outline the fourth (currently unwritten) book, and outline two more. This will help me boost my revenue, but will also give my readers what they want.
Increase Print Distribution
Weeks before I lost my job, I had finally finished producing print versions of my second novel. I had started selling signed copies online and “out of my car,” to family, friends, and readers out of state. When I found out I was no longer employed, I stepped up my game and collected a few more orders. I closed February with enough income to pay a couple of bills and buy an emergency replacement tire for my car.
Due to popular demand, I also opened up orders for the month of March. In the meantime, I’ve been contacting local book stores and schools to try to get the book more publicity and shelf space. This was something that was on my To Do list, but I just didn’t have the time for it before losing my job.
Rebrand Series with Poor Sales
A serial that I started in 2012 had consistently poor sales, but a handful of loyal fans. Originally, I planned to release the final season as a collection rather than single episodes, but when I lost my job, I got creative. For some time, I’d suspected that the reason the serial wasn’t selling was because of its title. So, I spent that Saturday completely rebranding the series. I worked sixteen hours that day, brainstorming new titles, creating new cover art, and formatting the first three seasons into three novelettes.
By the end of the weekend, I had a complete series of four novelettes. On that Tuesday, I released the finale. It was incredibly important to me that I didn’t confuse readers, so I wrote a blog post, sent out a newsletter, and added ample information to the series product page on my website. I also made the first book permafree, in case someone who previously collected the first season bought it by mistake.
Already, the series is selling. I’ve even had a longtime reader comment that she had no idea it existed before, and really enjoyed it! I expect that, once it propagates further through the various retailers, it will do even better.
I’ve always been big on setting goals. It’s been a driving force behind everything I’ve done and been successful at in life. Creating goals gives me something to work toward, even when things seem impossible. I always set goals at the beginning of every month, so I tailored my March goals specifically to my new situation. I’m also working on shorter- and longer-term goals.
My first goal was to write every day—something I’ve been doing for a while now—but decided to leave weekends for play only. Now that I’m writing full-time and then some, I’m learning the importance of having a day off. During the first week after I lost my job, I worked eight days in a row—most of them ten-hour days or longer. With more time in my day, I also upped my daily word count goal from 500 to at least 3,000, or one whole chapter.
I also decided to try to make the same amount in print sales in March as I did in February. I posted an ad on Craigslist and started reaching out to local book stores, schools, and libraries.
Finally, I planned to book at least five signings for the spring. Since I have done signings at various book stores and my city library in the past, it’s only a matter of contacting them and scheduling a date.
The most important thing I’ve done, though, is remain stubbornly optimistic. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and also have a chronic pain illness. Being without financial security is incredibly terrifying for me, but also exciting. There is never going to be a better time in my life than now. Although my husband and I plan on having children someday, right now we just have a cat to look after.
Taking my own advice, I’ve been keeping a journal to record my achievements and things that I’m stressed about. Despite the hurdles I face, I feel incredibly blessed to be in this position; I have no idea how long it would have taken me to do this, otherwise.
When I start to worry or feel doom and gloom setting in, I grab my journal and write. I also go over my plan, analyzing its weaknesses and strategizing ways to play on my strengths. Sometimes, though, we all need a little extra help. I’ve begun seeing a therapist, just to make sure my brain stays healthy. Optimism and sunny mornings with coffee and a blank page can’t always conquer the general depression that comes with losing a job. Throw in clinical depression and the recent loss of a close friend, and I definitely needed the outside help.
Meditation helps, too, and so does leaning on my support system. My loudest cheerleaders have created new routines just to keep me going. With them behind me and my plan, I feel fully capable that I can achieve my biggest dream.
Before I could do any of it, though, I had to convince my husband. I worried that he would be disappointed in me or that he would think my plan to write full-time was a bad idea. My fears were silly, of course—just my own inner misgivings. Mike has always been my strongest ally, pushing me and encouraging me from the day we met. When I told him what happened and my plan, he simply hugged me, kissed my forehead, and told me he believed in me.
That kind of faith, I’ve discovered, is the key.
Elizabeth Barone writes New Adult fiction for people with real problems. She is the author of the ESX series, about a boy band star who wants to be a rock star. In previous lives, she was a retail soldier and web designer. Elizabeth lives in Connecticut with her husband and cat.
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