A Gutsy Business Plan

Last year I started a business. The crazy thing is I didn’t really realize that I was starting a business when I did it. When I clicked on the publish button on Kindle Direct Publishing I was not only sending my first novel (my baby) out into the world, I was also launching my own company, Karen Gordon – Author. 

I was aware that self publishing would mean that I was self promoting but I had a tip-of-the-iceberg view of what I had just jumped into. I would image it’s the same with starting almost any business. There are always hidden aspects, things that weren’t on your radar when you got your initial spark of genius. The good news is that the same internet that allows so many of us to start a business is also replete with guru’s to help you keep going after that first plunge. 

I found my first business mentor when I was writing Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story. Danielle LaPorte was (and still is) the perfect combination of business-savy entrepreneur, spiritual mystic and blunt friend who will tell it like it is (with a few choice cuss words thrown in for emphasis). Her Firestarter Sessions book was exactly what I needed to light a fire under me and push my novel out of my head and into kindles around the world. I recommend her to anyone, but especially women, who have a dream they want to turn into a business. 

I also found a lot of great advice about ways to use social media to grow my fledgling business. I found apps and sites that I never knew existed or had never ventured into, but each promised to be a great way to connect with my audience. So I LinkedIn to Wattpad. I Google+(ed) a Pintrest pin. I Instagramed my FB posts. I tweeted my Reddit quotes and reposted my blogs on Goodreads.

 I scattered myself; my time, my message, my energy so far and wide forgot the reason I was doing it in the first place–my writing. And to make matters worse, I wasn’t good at or entirely comfortable being that social. It’s really not my nature.

Then I found Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. The author was featured on a self-publishing podcast where he spoke eloquently to the introvert in me that was finding it harder than I thought it would be to put myself (and not just my work) out there in social media. The book not only had great ideas for those who might be a little social media adverse, it helped me bring my focus back onto who I am, what I do and what I offer. David Gaughran helped me get back to where Danielle LaPorte started me–following my gut.

I slowed down and backed off. I stopped chasing every possible social media stream and took the time to figure out those few that worked best for me. (Turns out it’s the ones I was already drawn to before I was a business.) I focused on and studied the four forms of social media I enjoyed: FaceBook, Pintrest, Goodreads and Twitter. I learned amazing things about each that I never knew as a casual user and it never felt like a chore. Following your business gut guarantees more fun and less drudge. 

 I’m writing slower too, which really seems to go against prevailing wisdom. I’m not sure how so many authors are producing four or more novels a year, but my quota is closer to two (some years, one). While I can write like the wind once I get going, I need to do a lot of research and pre-planning and outlining before I can begin to think about daily word quotas. I could feel each character and knew each deeply as I wrote my first two novels. Until I get to that point I can’t officially start writing on the next. 

I don’t think my new business plan is so much brave as it is perfect for me. It comes from my gut. What about your business plan? Or life plan? Have you found your guru’s? Have you found the mix of producing and marketing that’s working for you? If you have, please comment and share.

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5 Reasons to See 50

We are still two weeks away from the premier of 50 Shades of Grey and the controversy is already heating up. Twitter was abuzz this morning with giggling-behind-my-hand, junior-high level salacious comments about guys getting some action if they take their date to see it. The purveyors of outrage porn have started the ground-swell of indigent (and mostly completely misinformed) anger. (But hey, if it gets you retweets, why bother researching before you speak.)

I didn’t feel the need to tell the world that I will be going to see it, with a date, and plan on enjoying the hell out of an interesting love story featuring two beautiful people, a great soundtrack and some beautiful scenery. But the level of crazy already surrounding this movie has me wanting to at least throw my perspective as a romance writer into the mix. 

What is it about elevators?


Before I explain why you might want to see it, let me add a few disclaimers. This film is based on the books that are not great literature. Public success and great writing usually have an inverse relationship especially when it comes to writing about sex. It also isn’t a how-to primer on BDSM. If you read one of those you would see that E.L. James did some research, but she barely touches on this complex, widely-varied sexual community. It also isn’t supporting the abuse of women. The main female character is a willing, albeit naive, participant. It’s really a pretty simple story with no political or instructional agenda. 

So, why dedicate another blog post to it? Why am I going to see it?

1. It’s a love story–a sexy love story, something we are so sadly lacking in America. I love to go to the movies and I can’t tell you how many times I have had the time and desire only to find that my choices are either Hot Tub Time Machine 2 or more death and gore in two hours than I want to see in a lifetime. Reading a book or seeing a movie is all about how it makes you feel. Personally, I want to feel sexy rather than moronic or grossed out.

2. I like that these books and this film are at least opening up a dialogue about different types of sexuality. The BIG news that emerged from these books is that not everyone likes their sex the same way. Reading about it and learning doesn’t equate with signing up and joining in. Half the stuff on social media is misinformed or childish, but at least we are talking. And it has couples talking and possibly admitting that they might want more than decades of rote sex with each other.

3. The movie might lead to more couples having more sex and I can’t see that as a bad thing. I am all for women and couples finding the books or movies that turn them both on. It can’t be repeated enough that the way to turn a woman on is through her brain. We need to think sexy thoughts, a lot of them, in order to push the massive, running to-do list that we all carry out of the front-and-center position in our brains. Two hours of beautiful people talking and acting sexy just might do the trick.

4. If this movie does well in theaters then we might get more sexy love stories in the future. I like the idea of us being a more sexy and less violent nation. I would love to see a steady stream of different types of love stories pouring out of Hollywood. (And a steady stream of writers getting big, fat checks for their romance novels being made into movies. Self-serving, but true.)

5. This is sexy done for women by women on a big budget movie. I teach a film class so I can say with authority that Hollywood has not often been open to the idea that women are sexual beings and not just the reluctant or exploited objects of male lust. The female lead character in this film may seem to be an innocent led astray, but the outcome of this romantic tug-of-war for power says otherwise.

So there it is, my two cents worth. And as I do with all my blog posts I will now tweet, post and pin it; hoping to add a slightly authoritative (or at least well thought out) voice into all that crazy. 

Join me and add your two cents and comment. Will you see the movie? In theaters or at home? Did you read the books? Are you ready for more sexy and fewer violent films?

Celebrating Light and Warmth and Peace and Quiet

One of my favorite days is coming up this Sunday, the winter solstice. I’ve never formally celebrated the shortest day of the year, but I’ve always done a little happy dance in my mind that, little by little, the days will now start getting longer. 

I’m not exactly a fan of winter. Around our house I am known as the human popsicle. When the temp hovers anywhere near freezing my hands and feet turn to ice and I feel a chill all the way to my bones. I can lay under a huge pile of blankets and still have icy hands and feet. 

I am a huge fan of sunlight and warmth and spring. Longer, warmer days mean more time to go to my favorite park and walk. Spring means flowering trees. The early ones are the best. I’m thrilled every time I spot a burst of color in all the brown of a just-budding forest.  

So this Sunday I am planning, for the first time, to celebrate the day that marks the turning point back toward light and warmth. I feel a little crazy taking this on. Christmas obligations are barreling down and threatening to run over me already. The news this morning was one frantic reminder after another how many days I have left before I must skid to the red and green finish line, sweating and breathing hard, holding the appropriate number of gifts and cards and dressed in the my ugly sweater, bearing huge trays of homemade cookies and party food, ready to produce a feast for my family. 

Christmas craziness is actually another reason I want to celebrate the solstice–I’m going to declare a one day moratorium from the frenzy and chaos and noise. I’m creating a little celebration where anyone is welcome, but no one is obliged to join me. I’m going to string a few little twinkle lights across a window because they always make me smile. I’m going to add a few springs of pine because the smell will remind me of how great it smells outside. My one project for the day will be to thinly slice and dry and orange in the oven. When finished the house will smell like sunny citrus and when hung in the window the slices look like sunny stained glass–well worth the effort.

Then, the best part–quiet. When everyone else is asleep I’ll plug in my twinkle lights and lay down and watch them. Around midnight, when we turn the corner toward spring I’ll do that happy dance in my mind and I’ll think about the year ahead and all the things I am looking forward to. If it’s a clear night I’ll find a few wishing stars to pin my hopes on them for good things for my friends and family and me.

Whether you decide celebrate or not I wish all of my readers a calm, peaceful longest night and many warm, sunny days to come.

Cheap Reads

Not so long ago my buying order for books looked like this: check the library first, used bookstore second, kindle third. I knew I could find any book I wanted for my kindle, but it was always the most expensive option. 

It was only three or four years ago that most of the books I read were paperback. Now, I rarely pick up a real book and ebooks have become my first choice. Not only are books being released and new authors being published at a rate the library can’t begin to keep pace with, but all that competition has brought some aggressive price discounts to ebooks. 

I ran my first sale for the past two weeks on the first book in my Burnouts series and I discovered some great websites that will send you an email daily or weekly with a list of books in your favorite genre that are free or have been discounted–love it!! I found several books that were on my “to be read” list already and saved a few bucks on each. 

Here’s a few of the better organized sites that I found and subscribed to (for free, of course).

http://choosybookworm.com/ – I met the very helpful owner, Jay, through my promotion. (Amazingly patient man with new/lost authors). Not only do they have an extensive list of free and discounted books, they also offer a read to review program. You can sign up for a free copy of a new book from an author in exchange for agreeing to give a review. It’s a great place to find new, exciting authors and give them a boost (because we LIVE for reviews).

readcheaply.com – This site has several subcategories for romance books, but covers all other genres too. I also like that you can specifically request only deals for kindle or nook or whichever device works for you.

https://www.bookbub.com – This is the largest site for free and discounted books, but it is also very expensive for an author to place a book on their list so many newer authors cannot afford to use this option. It’s a great place to find deals on older books from established authors or discounts from established authors. 

Although I write in the romance genre, all these sites have books listed in every genre including kids books. Don’t forget that you can gift books through Amazon to someone’s email address. It’s a great way to share your favorite books with friends and family for free or a dollar or two (and no shipping!)

Popstars, Friends & Lovers are Headed Your Way

So, this was me on Friday.

I finished the first draft of Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale. I’ve been writing like a woman possessed for the past month. If anyone has been wondering why I haven’t called or written or texted it’s  because when I set a deadline, I hit a deadline. And because I was dying to share this story with everyone who has told me they are waiting for it. 

There is still some work to be done. I am shopping for a proofreader, working with the goddesses at Deranged Doctor Designs on a cover and having it beta read. But we will get there, my latest labor of love will be available as an e-book (at first) and I’m here to make the big announcement today. 

Mark your calendars.
To prepare you for this sequel to my debut novel I am going to be sharing the first few chapters of Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story on my blog.  Starting next Monday. This might inspire any of you sitting on the fence to read book one before book two (always works better that way). 
Then …. I will also post the first few chapters of Popstars on this blog in the weeks before the release. 
Finally … I will debut the cover for Popstars here, on my blog. 

In other words …. keep an eye on this blog.

 

Dare to Dream

In a review of Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story the reviewer noted that she didn’t like the fact that the burnouts didn’t seem to have much ambition. It’s true, they don’t. But ambition comes from dreams, specifically dreams that you believe have a chance of coming true. It’s dreams that the burnouts lack and that lack is the theme of my second novel, Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale. (note the new addition to the title!)

One of my favorite scenes in the first book was Ben and the burnouts having breakfast together when he was kidnapped. It’s career day at school and the burnouts don’t feel the need to be there. It’s a traditional skip day for them and that alone speaks volumes about the prospects these kids see for their futures. When they question Ben about his plans the differences become clear. He has a dream, and a clear plan to reach it, and a family that supports him in his dream. 

I Wanna Be a Rock Star …

In contrast Casey hopes to get a job at a local factory and MG has unrealistic dreams of herself and Carrie moving to New York and walking right in to glamorous jobs. Carrie, Gina and Steve have no specific dreams for the future because no one ever told them they could. Dreaming starts at home, in families that tell their kids that they are not only allowed to have a dream, but the family will put time and money and love into helping make that dream come true. I agree that their lack of aspirations is frustrating, but I wrote it that way because it establishes one of the results of their home lives and also opens the door for so much to happen in book two.

Once out of the cocoon of high school outside forces start to define their lives. If you don’t have a specific plan and people to help you keep on track, you tend to drift with the flow and hope for the best. Even Ben finds his dreams changing as life happens to him in book one. 

I’m spending most of the day on most days writing Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale (again, cool new addition to the title) and I love the complexity of this theme. Popular culture tends to show dreams as a one size fits all kind of thing. We are told we should dream and dream big; then we should relentlessly go in the direction of our dreams and never, never give up. Until you have a movie star’s body, face, spouse, house and paycheck you have not made it. 

I can’t wait to dispel that myth. Through MG and Steve and a bunch of new characters I’m turning that cliche, Disneyesque idea on its head. Because its only when we grow up and figure out what we truly want from life that daring to dream becomes powerful. Book two is all about those dreams, the ones that when they do come true bring peace-of-mind, contentment and love (cause it’s a love story – after all).