You’re getting the human today for several reasons. First, I’m tired, second, the cats are tired, and third… we’re all tired here. That’s okay. Mostly.
Over the past few days, there have been a lot of questions, especially regarding series, stuff I need to work on and haven’t yet, and how I decide what I’m working on next.
As you saw in a prior post, I’m doing a lot of ‘finishing older stuff’ work in 2022. Sequels I haven’t written, continuations of series that never sold well, etc, etc, etc.
You’ve also gotten to hear me bitterly complain about the general entitlement of readers who think we should produce a series all at once so they don’t have to wait.
(Spoiler alert: that’s not how this works.)
But, I find understanding is a core element of patience, so, I’m going to take a stab at letting everyone know why I have made some of the choices I’ve made.
Question: Why haven’t you continued $character’s next book?
Answer: It’s always one of several things. Here’s the not-so-quick and dirty list.
1: The first book exhausted me so much I have come to hate the characters, come to hate even HEARING the title, and I want to light it on fire.
In good news, that is not the most common reason. But this is a reason. I’m not going to list the books this is the case for. That’s a me problem and not a you problem.
This is the most common reason a book hasn’t gotten attention. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and committing to a book means I’m committing to at least $2,000 of up-front investment.
Every book I write is a gamble. Will I make that $2,000 back? Will I make enough over that $2,000 to pay my staff? Will I make enough off the book to pay my bills?
I’m the last person paid in the writing endeavor… and I’m paid 3 months after the book is released. This is not like a regular job. I can’t go to work and expect a check in two weeks for having worked on the book.
This is how the expenditures work.
Step 1: Buy a cover. (Approximately $1,000.) To buy the cover, I have had to spent the hours conceptualizing the storyline, coming up with a title, theme, and so on. Once that cover is made, I’m committed to the promise of the cover, so if the book tries to go off the rails, I have to fix it so it matches the cover… else I’m out another $1,000 redoing the cover.
Step 2: Write the book. (As talked about in a different post, it takes me about 335 hours to write a book. I am not paid for this time. I have to hope the book pays the bills.)
Step 3: Edit the book. (Another $1,000+ to my editorial staff.)
Step 4: Proofread the book. (May involve more money depending on if I need extra proofreading work.)
Step 5: Release the book.
Step 6: Wait 3 months. Get paid for the book.
Step 7: Hope the book continues to sell and give me a few bucks a day of passive income.
Since we’re discussing labor of love projects, here is the bitter truth:
When I write outside of the main series, I might make $2,000 on opening week of a book. Maybe. If I’m lucky.
Unawakened did a little better than I expected, earning $2,500. (Guess what? I managed to pay the book’s bills, but I didn’t actually make any money on that book…)
Working for free sucks.
Right now, I’m in a position to handle taking the losses, as I’ve squirreled enough in my bank account on the books that are doing well to basically cover only earning enough to pay my staff. I will hope some of the books do better than expected, but the rest of my 2021 titles will be buffering in expectation that I will be taking very little home for a year while I work on these books.
I promised to write them, so I’m paying the piper.
But next time you complain a writer has dropped a series, this is why.
Nobody should work for free, and if the books aren’t selling, the books aren’t selling, so the rest of the books that would have been written go to the great book graveyard in the sky, dead before they could be born.
This is precisely why authors have so many problems with readers who refuse to invest in a series.
The series dies.
Authors are not one trick ponies who want to write the same sort of story all the time, or only write standalones to appease an audience.
We want to be creative.
It costs a huge amount of money being creative.
The reality is, one day, these expenses and expectations will be too much, and I’ll probably finish what I have on the plate now and just stop writing to publish, instead writing just for myself and skipping the huge amount of headache, heartache, and expenses.
The vast amount of entitlement readers can show are a core part of this problem.
All being entitled does is make us want to quit or write for ourselves, because really? Writing is fucking hard, it’s painful, it’s expensive, and failure is a daily part of our diet.
This week, after dealing with the bitter complaining I dared to write a series, I may have spent some time on job hunting sites to see if there was something a little less tiresome on my damned heart.
Like working nights at a gas station in a bad part of town.
Like… I want to write stories, but it sure would be nice if people understood that the $6 I charge is fucking pennies compared to the investment of time, effort, and money I dump into each and every book. (And stress, so much stress.)
I’m not going to make nice neat standalones just because you don’t want to wait for a series, and I’m not going to hold back 300+ hours of work just so I can release a series all at one time. I don’t have another job. I can’t just go ‘well, I can hold this back because my day job covers my bills.’
Standalones are nice and all, but they aren’t my jam. They don’t make my heart happy, they don’t make me delight in the complexities of weaving threads from multiple books together, leaving easter eggs observant readers can find, and taking the slow and long approach to my characters and their lives.
Series are fucking fun.
But they’re hard. I have a cool down period between each book in a series. Usually 3 months. It can sometimes be 6. It can sometimes be a year.
Right now, I’m struggling with Booked for Kidnapping because I didn’t let it sit long enough. Every word is a battle. I’m not enjoying most of this.
Too soon applies.
Which is sad, because I really enjoy the complexity of the Booked for / Vigilante Magical Librarians series. But I didn’t let the book/series rest long enough, so I struggle.
Will you, as the reader, be able to tell the difference? No. That’s what editing/taking time and care with the book/doing my job entails. When the book is finished, you have no idea which parts I struggled on and hated versus the parts I breezed through and loved.
Hint: Every time someone goes “I bet you struggled with this part of this book!” they are 99% wrong. All the time, this happens, where readers make baseless assumptions over what parts they think I struggled with.
In the case of Booked for Kidnapping, all I will say is the entire book has been a struggle. It’s complicated.
It’s been made more complicated because people are upset I’m writing a series. Look, this shit won’t all fit into a singular book, and if I had to charge per the work for doing it all at one time, you’d be paying $30-40 for a digital copy of the story.
I can’t afford that shit, and I suspect most other people can’t, either.
This links to the money thing, but I have to budget my time as much as I do my dollars. If I spend 335 hours on $book_a and it doesn’t sell, that means I have less time and dollars to spend on $book_b, which also might not sell.
Basically, my entire career is one big ongoing gamble. I win some, I lose some.
The Fox Witch world stories, thus far, as a miss, for example. I love this world, I love writing the characters, and I’m having a wonderful time with them… but every damned gamble I’ve done on this series / world has been a bust.
I’ll continue writing it, but the reality is? I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars on this series already, with tens of thousands of dollars in addition to this being dedicated to advertising.
Which isn’t working.
The book/series is just missing that something that allows a book to do well with a larger audience.
It’s still on the schedule because it’s a passion series. I don’t want to give it up, so I refuse to.
I just pay for it out of pocket, try not to cry over the losses, and move forward. And hope, that at some point in the future, the money I have invested in the series will pay off. Maybe later.
After it’s completed.
(I am rolling my eyes at those who refuse to buy a series until it is done right now, for the reasons explained above.)
Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to want to continue writing something. Like, between commentary, complaints, etc, I just have no desire to continue working on some series. So, I will have rabid wonderful fans who ask me at least once a week about the state of a certain book, while the other ear is getting bitched at because why am I not writing this thing they want now, and it just results in apathy.
It sucks, but that is what it is.
And generally, I’m too polite to say, “People have been bitching so much because I didn’t immediately write and release the next book in $this series that I am just sick and tired of writing in general and wish to defenestrate myself during a spontaneous combustion event.”
Honestly, the only reason I’ve stuck with this job is because I DO enjoy the writing portion and I’m more stubborn than any goat.
Right now, I don’t want to write on anything. At all. I’d rather go to bed.
(I will be writing after I finish this post. While growling over needing to do my job.)
5: Mental Health Issues
I’ve talked about mental and physical health here a lot, and sometimes, a book is just terrible for both, so I will avoid it like people SHOULD be avoiding the plague. We’ve learned people don’t actually avoid the plague, but… there you have it.
Sometimes, it’s just not a good idea for my mental health.
Ugh. That was exhausting just writing about the reasons why something doesn’t have a sequel.
6: Last but definitely NOT least, I haven’t gotten the concept done on the story yet. Usually, there is some problem I am having with the story line I haven’t figured out how to resolve. (I’m looking at you, Dale/Ethel #2. I’m also looking at you, Tulip/Justin #2.)
I’ve mostly sorted out the overlying issues and how to resolve them.
Oh, maybe not actually last. One more thing.
7: THE SHINY GOT ME.
Sometimes, an idea just smacks with the force of a freight train at top speed, and I need to work on it.
Storm Called? That’s how that worked out. Taken? Yep. Vampire of Montana? Yeeep. Vampire isn’t done yet, and this is hugely sadmaking because my deadlines were so severe for such a long time I couldn’t scrap together ANY energy to work on ANY of my passion projects.
Thus the whole moving everything out a month thing.
Mental exhaustion is real, y’all.
In a few weeks, after I’m settled into my new routine, I’m hoping I will be able to work with those shinies again. I have not been able to work on anything shiny in months. I’ve just been trying to make good on promises for the current book lineup.
(And yes, it really sucks when I can’t do anything for FUN.)
Question: Why didn’t you warn us this would be a series?
Answer: I did. That’s what “book one” in a series means. If it has a series page on Amazon or is listed as a “Something something novel” IT IS NOT A STANDALONE.
Let’s see… how many standalones do I have…
… none. I have no standalones. Not a single one.
So, let me warn you now.
I do not write standalones.
Have you gotten the point yet?
Magical Romantic Comedies? Not a single damned actually standalone. They all link together. Can you read them like they are standalones? Yes. But you benefit from reading them in publication order, which is the order you will find them on the Amazon series page.
But I do not write standalones, and I really don’t know why some of you are getting your feathers in a bunch. I never have.
Let’s demonstrate this.
Requiem for the Rift King: 4 books.
Fall of Erelith: 3 books.
Magical Romantic Comedies: 18+ books.
Spin off, Hellishly Style: 3 books.
Otterly Magical: 5 or 6 books.
Jesse Alexander: Initially supposed to be a duet. Became a quartet plus an anthology.
Witch & Wolf World: 7 main series, one trilogy, one duet, two side-stories.
Royal States: 20+ books planned across two interlinking series. Written dramatically out of order. Without shame. I need to make a timeline chart for readers to better get a feel for the sequence of events.
Have you gotten the point yet?
I don’t write standalones, and I never have. I enjoy the intricacies of interlinking books.
So, for those in the back who have not been paying attention: I do not write standalones.
Question: Why would you leave us on a cliffhanger???
1: Client from Hell doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.
Seriously, folks. You know exactly where the characters are, you know precisely what their fate currently is, there is nothing IMMEDIATELY THREATENING their existence. They are happy, healthyish, and doing their own thing.
This is not a cliffhanger.
Cliffhanger does not mean “To be continued.” It means a character is dangling from a cliff and you don’t know if they are dead, alive, soon to be dead, soon to be alive… Their fate is uncertain.
You’re just impatient because you want the next book, and I have left you with something you are looking forward to, because CHICAGO!
Yes, yes, I will confirm this now, you will get your beloved check in with your favorite otter, but I am not guaranteeing the amount of screen time the otter and badger get if they show up directly on the page and you’re not just exposed on what they’ve been up to.
Also, I will say this much: if you have not read Hearth, Home, and Havoc, you will want to brush up on that novella before the next Client book comes out. There are some key concepts introduced in that book that will help you piece together some of what’s been going on in Client and why.
Question: I don’t understand the mortals having divine children thing. Help?
Answer: I’ll use Christianity as the base example of concept. Jesus Christ was, according to the Christian faith, an ‘immaculate’ birth from a mortal woman.
In reality, women were treated much differently back then. Immaculate birth could be anything from “she was being trained by an older male of a family line before her marriage” to “we are covering her lack of virginity on her marriage bed claiming God did the deed and not some random man.”
Because the punishment for sex outside of marriage was literally death back then. So, your mileage will vary.
What essentially is happening is that a portfolio is always kicking around, and when it’s time for that portfolio to make it to the mortal coil, the portfolio itself will often choose the parents–or the universe will intervene.
Dakota’s personality, resilience, and general magical abilities made her ideal for parenting a divine. Let’s just say the father of the child (covering that spoiler so those starting in) is likewise suited for parenting a divine.
And, sometimes, the universe pays back those who have already paid steep prices.
Dakota’s little divine of a daughter was one such gift.
Question: Why did you spin Client from Hell off?? It’s so linked to the series…
Because the arcs there don’t fit in with what I’m going to be working on for the main series, end of story.
It’s better off spun off, so that arc is neatly contained. Unlike the Unicorn trilogy embedded within the series, what happens in Client does not continue the main series plotline. It leads to the Otterly Magical plotline, which is also its own thing.
Question: Where does the Mag Rom Com Series go from here?
The End of Days, of course. Kidding, kidding. The whole point of the mag rom com series is to prevent the End of Days. I hope this was more apparent by this time in the series line, although there are some fun side trips on the way that are used to introduce a new concept into the series.
The stray books that don’t seem like they engage in that series, like Fowl Play, etc, actually do. The stuff I’ve opened up just hasn’t really come into full play yet. (Although Fowl Play did introduce the concept of aversions, which is heavily used in Client.)
Tying into this, yes… after Doggone Mess in May, I will be taking time off from the Mag Rom Com world outside of working on Tulip/Justin #2 and Dale/Ethel #2.
I have that long list of non-related books to finish first. There will be one short novel in Dirty Deeds 2, but that’s all you’re getting for a while.
I need to get those other series worked on, and so that goes.
Expect 2023 or 2024 for continuations of Mag Rom Com books unless as passion project comes to life somehow. If a passion project happens, wooooo! so be it. But you can consider the series to be on hiatus after May 2022 for at least a year.
This falls back into the ‘I’m not going to kill myself trying to make people happy writing faster thing.’
I am going to be planning 100 business days for 100k books starting after Doggone Mess’s release, and anything that gets done sooner is just candy.
For the record, 100 business days for 100k books equals 3-4 books a year. This is a sane and reasonable pace.
I want to HAVE a life, not 14+ hour days 6 or 7 days a week.
If this upsets you, like… seriously? No. I’m not even sorry you’re upset at this point. NOBODY should be working 14+ hour days. Nobody.
Patience is a virtue, and I’m really and truly done with trying to appease the entitled and impatient.
3-4 a year is how I’m going to be scheduling, and if things are finished faster than that, excellent! If not, that is going to be fine, because that is how it is going to be moving forward.
Your disappointment is not my burden. I’ve allowed it to be my burden for too long.
Will I lose money from this stance?
But, there is a silver lining in the cloud.
However much this drives me crazy, I am going to be starting a patreon. I do NOT know story release times, but as I write little short stories and maybe longer ‘short’ stories, I will post them to the patreon.
I will also be doing some art in the form of coloring book pages, as time allows.
So, yeah. I’m caving. I will probably regret this.
Stories will include things like the Dustin Walker shorts I used to do for the newsletter. Eventually, everything released to Patreon will be added to various anthologies so those who aren’t patrons will get to enjoy them.
I will also do a question/answer section for patrons. Beyond that, I don’t know. I need to plan it in such a way it does not drive me absolutely and completely insane.
This is tentatively how the Patreon will be set up, but it is subject to change. But it’s there, you can sign up, and hopefully i won’t regret this come the last day of August and I haven’t written any stories and need to write one.
As it is July 30, there will be no stories for the month of July. Expect flash fiction pieces for August. (Flash fiction being below 1,000 words per story.) I have some snapshots of characters I’ve been wanting to write for a while, so I’m going to be working on that.
The Patreon newsletter will have stuff I don’t post here or facebook, which is available in the lowest tiers.
Tiers are as follows:
$5 – The Pixies. Includes the newsletter, access to coloring book pages, and one short story a month.
$10 – The Otters. Includes everything pixies get, but they get 1-3 stories instead of just one.
$25 – the Cindercorns. Includes everything otters get but all stories each month, plus they get better access to Q&A stuff.
$100 – Spicy Ponies with Bite. They get to make a request for a coloring page to be made for them, which will in turn be shared with everyone else to color.
Okay. Have fun. I need to work on writing books, because these books aren’t going to write themselves. (Why? Why can’t the books write themselves? Why???)
P.S.: My computer was being a jerk, so I just palm smashed my brand new keyboard. In good news, the keyboard seems to have survived. Verdict is out on my palm, though.
Today… is not the kind of wild ride I like.
The water is out and this is making my life even more difficult.
I’m going to have a temper tantrum now, and I’m going to blame the cramps. Hiissssss.
Sorry your not feeling well. But I am SO EXCITED for the Patreon! I signed up right away❤️
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
I’m glad you’re excited. I’ve been resisting patreon for quite a while, but it solves several problems neatly, including the major stumbling block (for me) of writing short stories. They don’t pay the bills so I always talk myself out of doing them even though they’re fun.
I hope this patreon doesn’t kill me, though… eep.
It’s ok take your time we can wait
RJ, you are AMAZING and way more patient than I would be. As best you can, ignore the “entitled” complainers. You are also very generous – both with your time and your personal dollars.
As a reader, I love the number of books you produce each year BUT you are hurting yourself with this schedule. Even setting a schedule of 4 per year is going to be challenging. We can wait (not happily but we can) for new releases if it means you retain your health to keep writing.
Also, the prices of your digital releases is extremely reasonable. If these prices are hurting you financially, it may mean you need to increase the prices. Again, there will be complainers but you need to value yourself and your work.
On another note, if you are working on a title that doesn’t feel right, you have the right to change your production sequence so you have breathing space between character sets. As long as you are releasing books for us, we can adjust to title release changes.
I know you are setting limits and that’s great but make sure your new limits allow you to retain your love of writing that got you started in the first place.
This entire post is just my opinion but you matter – physical health, mental health, financial health, marital health AND creative health. Please protect them all!
Agree. We are NOT the boss of you! We are happy (for the most part!) to read stuff as they come out. Those that bitch about stuff need to grow the hell up.
I could not have said it better myself. As someone who has committed to working 6 and 7 days a week for the past 4 years, I get it. I hate waiting, true, but it gives me something wonderful to look forward to! And in the interim, I can read others and reread your series again just before the new book drops.
Honestly, your books are my addiction. I will wait for the next one, avidly pre order, work to get others addicted, etc. And those other books you love but aren’t making a lot? Give it time. They will. I’m even happier now that I have purchased everything I can find of yours (some twice, because they came bundled), and will continue to do so.
Don’t let the negativity get to you. You are the only you who can do the literary voodoo you do so well. And thank goodness. We, the book dragons 9f the world (or my small chapter) salute you.
This was very informative to read. Thank you for taking the time to do. I enjoy several of your books.
I think this breaks things down really nicely for ignorant people, actually. I used to get a bit pissy (WITHOUT sending messages to authors) about prices and delays until I ended up friends with some indie authors who did similar number breakdowns for me when they were venting.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
Thank you very much for not sending the messages. <3 I can understand the pissy part; it's easy to think books are expensive, especially when some people devour them in an hour! But then I try to remind people "How much do you pay to go to a movie?" That tends to make them pause a little because it's not uncommon for the time expense to be about the same. And unlike going to the theatre, you keep the book!
<3 But yes, I do think not really understanding how book money happens is a real thing.
You take time to do what you need to for your health. If Simone Biles can bow out of the Olympics for mental health reasons, then you can bow out and take your time too. I’ve been waiting over twenty years for a book by another favorite author to come out, I can totally wait for you to do you. Anyway, here’s some cheese 🧀 Mike’s Firehouse Pepperjack is great if you like spicy, 2year Aged White Chedder if you don’t. Both are from Petaluma Creamery. My sister lives in California, but I have no idea where she found it. I’m pretty sure I remember a post that you like cheese, so take a break and have a bite. 🙂.
I love everything I have found of yours so far. Thank you for being my new favorite author.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
I need you to stalk your sister and tell me where I can get that because now I’m REALLY hungry. I’m in South Bay Area. I need help finding the cheese.
So I talked to my sister. She says that you might be able to find certain varieties at the Berkeley Organic Market & Deli. There is also Instacart or Good Eggs grocery delivery, but she’s not sure as she doesn’t have groceries delivered. The Petaluma Creamery is in Petaluma, CA, if google is correct it’s about an hour from the South Bay Area. Hope that help. My sister says that things out there are not as close as one might think, especially if you’re looking at maps while in Nebraska. 🙂
Valerie J Peterson
Excellent explanation of your process. I just wait for new books to appear.
I think 3-4 books a year is a lot for one author so please take the time you need to look after your health and ignore the ungrateful. Apologies if this has already been answered before but will your schedule over the next years include more Bernadette Franklin titles? I do enjoy those too, especially Juliet’s antics. Thank you for your hard work and take care.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
Undecided on the Bernadette Franklin books. They’re a lot of fun, but they don’t sell well, and with SO many books that won’t sell well coming up to finish series, I’m hesitant to add more to the mix. I might, depending on what the $100 tier patreon folks vote on. There IS an option for a Bernie book in the mix.
Have to agree with the other fans above, I’m more than happy to wait for you to write the books. My perspective is I wait eagerly each year for a new Guild Hunter book, a new book by Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs. I wait eagerly for however long it takes my favorite indie authors like yourself to publish books. Ignore the obnoxious entitled, unfortunately they are hiding behind computer screens everywhere.
I’m just going to sit over here quietly and wait patiently for the SHINY 😉
All I can say, is you have more patience than me to deal with some of this. I totally enjoy your writing, and will opt in to your patreon. Thanks for continuing to write.
Katherine Kenner Lemus
I’m with everyone who said take your time. Your health is more important. As I writer I also recommend if you didn’t let something sit long enough. Walk away. I don’t do fiction but there’s nothing worse then technical jargon that just won’t agree to be written and coworkers who are spoiled and ungrateful. In the short term I’ll go weed for an hour or so and silently fume as I rip out Russian thistle plants. In the long term it’s just better to work on something else. Play with that shiny. It’s better for you. Better for the shiner and eventually better for the book that wasn’t ready to be written yet.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
If I used this advice, I would never write books. That’s just the honest truth. I would never finish anything. So… I appreciate the advice, but it’s just not something I can follow, for many good reasons. It’s not really better for the shinies. I just wouldn’t be bothered to finish anything. Books are work. They are not all fun and games, and if I stopped just because I didn’t let it sit or I let a stubborn book beat me… seriously, I’d never finish anything.
Books are NEVER ready to be written for me. Ever.