Thursday, July 21, 2016

When Good News Comes

Sometimes this writing gig is hard work, isn't it? It's hard work if you're a hobbyist, it's hard work if you're doing it around your regular day job, and it's hard work if it is your day job. There are no guarantees. Some days and weeks go by swimmingly, and other times sales tank, and you have no idea why.

I've had a season of lower sales and, I'll admit it, discouragement. Not discouragement to the point of giving up, but definitely to the point of wondering if it really was all going to pay off in the end. 2015 was a great year. I wrote and released seven titles (five of them novellas) and made a decent income.

But 2016 has been slow out of the gate for me. I released one book in February, wrapping up my Farm Fresh Romance series, and wrote the first two in my new Urban Farm Fresh Romance series. Due to putting the first into a multi-author box set — I've blogged about those here at ICFW before — that didn't release until the end of June, I had a long gap in my publishing schedule: four months! I know. It seems crazy. But in the current digital publishing realm, four months is a long time without a new release.

The timing of the box set, Whispers of Love, was such that I very nearly chose not to participate. I'd intended to release Secrets of Sunbeams in May, and all the files were ready to go. But something special just might happen, and I wanted to be on board, just in case.

Meanwhile, I discovered that Dandelions for Dinner, the fourth Farm Fresh Romance had finaled in the Word Awards (The Word Guild is a Canadian organization for Christian authors). On June 24 I got a text from Janet Sketchley from the Word Award Gala in Toronto saying my title was the winner in the contemporary category! And there was much rejoicing in the Comer household. (Thanks, Janet, for reading my acceptance speech!)

But as cool as that win was — and I'm not downplaying it at all — my eyes were nervously fixed on June 28 and the release of the Whispers of Love box set. We 12 authors had set an ambitious goal: the USA Today best-sellers list, which consists of the top 150 books per week, counted by number of sales across multiple platforms.

There were many unknowns. How many sales would it take this particular week to break into the top 150? As you can imagine, that number varies depending on what else is launching and which older titles are hot. There's nothing controllable about either! Still, we agreed that the more pre-orders we had going into release week, the better our chances would be.

The second question we had is one all authors have. How can we reach beyond our known readers to find new ones that would like us if they only were aware we and our books existed? We had a great start to our 90-day pre-order period. If only we could keep up that momentum, we'd surely land a good spot. But campaigns, like books and authors, tend toward saggy middles. Once our keen fans and followers had reserved their sets, reality set in and the hard work began.

We blogged and guest blogged. We bought Facebook ads. We tweeted. We shared memes in Facebook groups and on our pages. We bought ads on various promotional sites. We shared excerpts. We had a Facebook party.

Frankly, our author friends were beginning to think the set should be named Shouts of Annoyance instead of Whispers of Love.

At the end of the week, we gathered in our corner and waited, (almost) silently. No longer did we wonder what day the USA Today list updated. We knew. Now we wondered what hour. What minute. And we hoped against hope that we'd find ourselves there, somewhere above #150, hanging on by our fingertips.

Instead, God blessed us with a solid landing at #79. All those pre-orders? Enough. All that hustling? Enough. All those prayers? Enough.

Now that the fever pitch is wearing off two weeks later, our author friends are starting to speak to us again. They've forgiven us. They're even happy for us, because a win for twelve indie authors is a win for all authors and readers alike.

Thank you, Jesus. May this bring glory to your name.

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She has been called “a stellar storyteller” as she injects experience laced with humor into her green clean romances. Visit her at