It’s the last Sunday of the month, which means that it’s time for one of our chapter PAN members (PAN stands for Published Authors Network, a professional designation within RWA open to members who reach a certain level of sales) to visit the blog to share some of their wisdom and expertise.
This month, PJ Sharon is here to inspire us with some thoughts on “taking the leap.”
Take it away, PJ!
Taking the Leap
~ By PJ Sharon
I can hardly believe that it was ten years ago that I completed my first manuscript. I remember the day—Valentine’s Day 2006—and recall the excitement and sense of accomplishment I felt. It was a moment I’ll never forget—the moment I knew I could be a writer. Of course, the manuscript was awful, but I knew with perseverance and hard work that I could learn the craft of writing. After seeking out a trusted mentor, joining RWA, and eventually finding a group of helpful critique partners, I was hooked on the idea that being a published author would be worth any challenge that came my way. With that in mind, I set myself the goal of becoming published within five years. I figured if I treated my writing as if it were a college education, it would take about that long to “graduate” and join the big leagues.
Five full-length manuscripts and five years later, I could see the writing on the wall. As a self-employed entrepreneur who was determined to steer my own ship, the long and uncertain path to traditional publishing didn’t work for me—or my time line. I had received positive feedback from contest judges and was getting those lovely rejection letters stating “we like your voice and your story but don’t know how we would market this,” or “if you would just change this, take out this subplot, rewrite this character,” etc, etc.
I knew that three of my novels were publish worthy, and despite being told by more than one NYT Bestselling author that “I deserved to be traditionally published,” I took a leap of faith. In keeping with my independent nature and entrepreneurial spirit, I hired an editor and indie published my first two Contemporary YA novels in 2011, just as self-publishing was hitting its stride. I followed up with a third Contemporary YA in early 2012 and began to grow a readership. Sales were slowly creeping up and I began to think that I really could make a go of this writing thing. Using my five-year plan model, I determined as with any new business, it might take three to five years to turn a good profit. I was in it for the long haul and willing to invest the time and money to make it happen.
Then I had a brilliant idea for a dystopian trilogy. It was around the time that Hunger Games had hit the shelves and I thought what great timing! Apparently, every writer on the planet had the same idea. Being a prolific writer, but a very slow typist, the series took me three years to complete, by which time the “dystopian” market was on the decline. At the same time, Amazon’s change to their algorithms and the flood of indie titles to the market sent sales spiraling downward. It became apparent that readers of Contemporary YA were not readers of dystopian fiction, and with the deluge of cheap/free e-books, my sales dwindled to a trickle. No matter how much promotion I did, it didn’t seem to make a dent (except in my wallet, my ego, and my self-confidence).
Upon the advice of a well-respected, bestselling indie author, I took a break from finishing the second book in the trilogy and wrote another contemporary YA, but even that didn’t do much for my sales. So, to recap, I indie published two novels in 2011, two in 2012, two in 2013, and then completed the trilogy in 2014, adding an additional Contemporary YA novella and a box set to my cyber-shelf. The results…nada. Sales flagged, I didn’t recoup my costs of the last three releases, and I was exhausted, frustrated, and ready to quit.
My day job as owner of a holistic health care practice—which had been supporting my writing—also took a downturn with the economy and neither business was doing well. Dividing my time between running two businesses was taking its toll financially, emotionally, and physically.
That’s when I had a “come to Jesus” moment. I would either have to quit writing, try pounding on traditional publisher’s doors again hoping for some takers and an advance (with no guarantees of making any more money than I had with self-publishing), or find a way to combine my two businesses.
Aha! This last idea sparked some fresh enthusiasm and I decided to give it one more go.
For several years, my clients had been asking me to write a book on healthy living. With over twenty-five years in the health and fitness business, I apparently had a few things to say on the topic and I no longer had the excuse that I didn’t know how to write a book. Thus was born OVERCOME YOUR SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE (A Practical Guide to Improving Health, Fitness, and Well-being for Desk Dwellers and Couch Potatoes). Writing non-fiction was way off my beaten path and out of my comfort zone, but I trusted that voice inside me that I’d heard after finishing that first manuscript. It said, “You can do this!”
It took me a full year to complete the project, but once it was done, I had that same wonderful sense of accomplishment and I knew that I was fulfilling a purpose. Whether the book sells a million copies or only a few hundred, every sale of this book gives me hope that I’m making a difference in someone’s life—which after all—is the greatest measure of success for any writer.
I have no regrets in having taken that initial leap of faith in believing I could be a writer. Nor do I regret any of the leaps I’ve taken since. I may have gone off the beaten path, out of my comfort zone, and even into a bit of debt, but I truly believe that every leap of faith teaches us what we’re made of and shows us what we can become. And if we can make a positive difference in the world around us, all the better.
Have you taken a leap of faith with your writing? Did it pay off? What did you learn about yourself in the process?
In addition to authoring award winning young adult novels, PJ Sharon owns the holistic health care practice, ABSolute Fitness and Therapeutic Bodywork in Granby, CT. With over twenty-five years in the health and fitness industry, Ms. Sharon finally wrote the book all her clients have been asking for. Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle is a holistic living, self-help book, written to get people motivated and moving toward a more balanced and active lifestyle.
When she’s not writing, or spreading the love through her practice, she can be found kayaking in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, and renovating an old farmhouse with the love of her life.