Email: rachelkramerbussel at gmail.com



 

Lusty Lady

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why Tuesday is my favorite day of the week

Today is Tuesday, which to me is my favorite day of the weekend, although I love weekends too, because it's payday. Since starting my part time copywriting job last June, which I go to three days a week, I've welcomed the change of going from chasing down checks that may or may not arrive on time to doing that but also getting paid every single week for the work I've done the week prior. I'd bet money (ha!) that having a steady paycheck has contributed greatly to my mental health, because I know that as long as I show up to work, I'll have that check, and can better plan when I will pay rent and bills.

From what I can tell so far this year, my book royalties will be the biggest source of my gross income, with my copywriting job the second, but the big difference is my royalties arrive four times a year and are utterly unpredictable. They've ranged from the very low thousands to over $17,000 and I have no way of predicting quarter to quarter what they will be, so I can't rely on them. That being said, I should receive my royalty statement for Q1 2017 next week and I already have a list of what I will pay for with it, including some to my retirement fund, some to debt, some to key purchases and some investing back into my biggest literary moneymaker, the Best Women's Erotica of the Year series.

This year, as I've become fanatical about bookkeeping and started truly analyzing the cost of each dollar I earn, I've realized how wasteful I was of both my time and money in my younger days. Projects like interviews for Gothamist, some of which I am still inordinately proud of, didn't pay. Others, like In The Flesh Reading Series, sometimes broke even and sometimes didn't. A wiser person would have parlayed that reading series into a book deal and/or a sponsorship. I didn't, which contributed to its demise when I felt like I was taking advantage of myself. I sometimes wonder, what could I have done with all that creative organizing energy that would have been sustainable in the long term? I don't think of it in a regretful way but more in a how can I apply this to my work life now? way.

This month I've been busy with promoting my latest Cleis Press anthology, On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories, finalizing the table of contents for the self-published rerelease of Sex and Candy and some freelance writing, and starting next week/month, I will be planning the first of many online courses I plan to teach, organized around my consulting and teaching site, EroticaWriting101. All of those projects and whatever happens after them are part of my strategy to stay relevant in the job market. I'll also be making a copywriting portfolio page and learning more about SEO and Amazon keywords. It's a lot to juggle, but I feel good about taking a proactive stance. I'm writing an essay about how I'm paying off a large amount of debt and while I'm not proud of having the debt I'm excited that I can see the light at the end of that damning tunnel and eager to get started on projects that have the potential to yield income for many years to come. Still, as long as they will have me, I'm grateful for my job, which is teaching me a whole new world and style of writing and outlook on the world, and giving me that Tuesday morning payday to look forward to. I am ready to make new mistakes (because I'm sure I will), but at least I won't be sitting around waiting for things like I did in my twenties and thirties, when I never asked for a better job title or advocated for a raise or anything else that would advance my earning potential. Now I realize that I have the power to at least try new endeavors, measure their success and go from there.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories is out today!

Happy release day to me and my authors! I'll keep this short and sweet: today, the ebook of On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories is out! You can 1-click and download it right now for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Google Play and Kobo.

On Fire Is Out Now!

Want to read the introduction? Visit the On Fire Tumblr. I'm so thrilled that these super sexy stories about couples having erotic adventures, from BDSM and fetishes to swinging and orgies and anniversary celebrations and so much more, are available to the world. This book was three years in the making, due to my own delays, so I'm extra excited. It's also On Fire Week over at group blog Lady Smut so check us out for daily posts related to the themes of the book. Thank you again to Cleis Press for being amazing to work with! And if you want the audiobook or print edition, just wait a little while...audio is coming soon, narrated by Rose Caraway, and the print book publishes officially on August 8th but Amazon told me my copy will arrive by July 31st. And if you've read the book or plan to read it, a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads is MUCH appreciated and helps readers find out about the book and helps me fulfill my commitment to my authors to get their stories before as many people as possible. Good, bad, or indifferent, reviews help; right now there are three on Amazon, two praiseworthy, one who hated it, and to be honest, the one that didn't like it is the most compelling because it has details about what they liked and what they didn't. So all opinions are welcome and valuable and help guide me for future anthologies.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

What it's like to work on three books at once

The past week has been especially busy, with my mind and to do list pulled in many directions. Firstly, I've been helping my boyfriend promote and prepare for the play he's directing, which will be performed this Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Princeton, New Jersey. I don't know the first thing about theater except that I enjoy going as an audience member, but I know a few things about event promotion based on my five years of In The Flesh reading hosting and assorted book event organizing. Getting Instagram photos to show up in Blogger is not my strong suit, so if you can't see the image below, it's also here - evidence of my adventures in poster hanging (my takeaway: bring a stapler, not tape, next time).



So I've put up posters in Princeton, posted on the Chimera Productions Facebook page and Instagram account and helped make some goodie bags. I love that I'm part of an artistic couple and am happy to help out where I can.

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At the same time, I've been working on three anthologies simultaneously, and that's quite a mental challenge to keep track of what stage each one is in, attend to the seemingly umpteen emails and tasks associated with each, and not go into ultra panic mode. My anthology On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories publishes tomorrow, and as part of my efforts to reinvent my book promotion efforts, I've done a few new things. It will be listed soon on Netgalley, which is exciting for me because it has the potential to reach so many more book bloggers and reviewers that way, and I've done some outreach but would like to do more. It will also be On Fire week over at Lady Smut so stay tuned for related posts, including one from me Wednesday on the backstory of why this book took three years to come out (spoiler alert: I messed up) and a sexy excerpt.

At the same time, I'm diving in to self-publishing by reissuing my 2007 anthology Sex & Candy with a super hot new cover, new title and a few new stories. For that I had to contact all the original authors, some of whom had changed email addresses so the email bounced back to me, some of whom have updated their bios and bylines. I also solicited a few new stories so that the book isn't entirely a reprint of the first. The original was print only; the new edition will be ebook and audiobook only. So far I've only worked on the words part. Next it will go to the authors to look over for typos or grammatical errors, then I will send it to my amazing copyeditor, who is helping save my books from being horrifically riddled with grammar issues. Then...I'm not exactly sure because I've only self-published one short story and my then assistant did the hard part. So I'll have a learning curve in terms of formatting it for Kindle and possibly other retailers. Then Rose Caraway will be recording the audiobook. I'm hoping to have the ebook out by September, so stay tuned.

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Along with all of that, I'm in full-fledged marketing mode for the book that will probably outsell the other two a few times over and therefore deserves the bulk of my attention, from a business/logical perspective: Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3. Since this is part of a long-running series, which started in the year 2000 with Best Women's Erotica edited by Marcy Sheiner, then moved on to titles with calendar years before I took it over and we switched to Volume numbers, bookstores seem to be more inclined to stock it. Volume 2 was in over 50 indie bookstores and my hope is that more will sign on for Volume 3. So what am I doing all these months before the publication date? I'm making a list of long lead media for my publisher, Cleis Press, to send early galleys to. I'm booking readings for 2018 before bookstores fill up. I'm researching bloggers to contact about the book. I'm brainstorming with my social media assistant about what we will do in the months leading up to the launch so I am not sobbing in agony over having too much to do right before. Basically, I'm trying to set in motion a successful book launch, because the better the book does out of the gate, the better the chances that Volume 4 will do well. My hope is that if the books continue to sell well, I'll be asked to edit more of them, but even if I'm not, I want to make sure all the time, effort and money (I don't have the exact figure handy but I've easily invested thousands of dollars in promoting the series) pays off. If it doesn't, then I will turn to other income sources, because I'm 41 so am thinking about if I have a kid, how I will support them, not to mention retirement.

On top of that, I'm trying to launch a new series of online classes, for which I have to write the lectures and video scrips and learn how to use my new Blue Yeti microphone. That's another project that I decided to do to try to reclaim a semblance of financial stability for myself, because even though I'm on track for my business to have a six figure year and surpass last year's income, that doesn't mean 2018 holds any such promise. So there's a lot on my mind as I navigate all these projects, and any day now I will get edits back for The Big Book of Submission, Volume 2, the book that's coming out one month after BWE of the Year 3, and will therefore add a fourth book to the mix. For that one I'll have to finagle 68 author contracts (there's 69 stories in the book, but mine is one of them), prepare marketing materials, and more. So there's a lot on my plate, but as I said above, there has to be, because I need to be firing on all cylinders in order to make this whole career thing work.

When I break it all down like I have here, it's overwhelming. The only way it isn't is if I do a little bit each day so I can assure myself when I go to sleep each night that I've done the very best I could to provide for myself and my family, to make my authors' work seen and read, and to do right by my publisher (where applicable). Just as I never know how long any given employment will last, I never know if I'm about to edit my final anthology or not. Many factors go into those decisions but ultimately it's a matter, for me, of supply and demand. That may sound cold and artificial, but it's more than just business for me. I only want to produce books that readers want to read, and only ways I have to measure that are via book sales and reader feedback. I'll write soon about the incredible notes I've received recently that buoyed my hopes and reminded me of the human faces behind the numbers on a royalty statement. Those are heartening and incredible, but as much as that's true, I can't turn in a lovely handwritten note to my landlord. Or I could, but they could still evict me if I don't pay the rent. So that's on my mind, not because I'm in danger of eviction, but because until I save up several months' worth of rent, not to mention pay off all my debts, I won't feel like I have any kind of financial stability. The way I see all these marketing efforts is that while there's only 24 hours in a day, I literally can't afford not to market the hell out of my books. So that's what I'm doing, while also promoting my authors, especially my Best Women's Erotica of the Year authors, on social media. At the same time, I'm also trying to get as many worldwide authors as possible to submit stories to my upcoming anthologies Erotic Teasers and BWE of the Year 4, which can sometimes be an uphill battle and stressful because 90% of people submit in the last week, but until that happens I often think, What if I have to cancel this book after I've accepted an advance because there's not enough author interested? So, you know, no pressure or anything.

If you've read this far, you are very kind (thank you!). If you're thinking, Rachel, I want to help you and your books succeed. What can I do?, here's my answer: If you've read it or plan to read it, leave a review of On Fire on Amazon starting July 18th, no matter where you acquired the book, and/or Goodreads, or mark it as "want to read" on Goodreads.

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Retweet when I Tweet about my books. Let someone know about my titles if they're asking about erotica. Ask your local library or bookstore to stock my books. Sign up to get a free copy of BWE of the Year 3 from me and leave a review. Lastly, you can think good thoughts (I know, that's super woo-woo, but I believe every little bit helps). It's certainly what I'm doing as I prepare to launch a new book into the world tomorrow.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Brides article on how erotica can help relationships

I'm thrilled to share my first article for Brides.com on how erotica can help improve your relationship. There are of course other benefits to reading sexy books but they asked me for ideas geared toward couples, so that's what I wrote, with wisdom from some wonderful relationship experts (and a few more pieces are in the works). I also gave some podcast and book recommendations at the end to get people started. So far online people have been all over the Fabio photo they chose, which I think is hilarious. He is still so recognizable as a cultural figure all these years after his heyday!

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Friday, July 14, 2017

My new book On Fire has arrived - hear me tonight on podcast Sex Out Loud

My copies of my new Cleis Press anthology On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories arrived yesterday! I love that moment of opening up a box and seeing a book that I made, with the help of so many authors, my publisher and their distributor. This one was a long time in the making, due to my own delaying, so I'm thrilled these stories are about to be out in the world. On Fire will be out on Tuesday, July 18 for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Google Play and Kobo.

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The print edition will hit bookstores August 8th and Rose Caraway is narrating the Audible audiobook, which will also be out soon. I'll post when that's for sale. Tonight, July 14th at 8 pm EST I'll be joined by three of the contributors, Donna George Storey, Angela R. Sargenti and Lawrence Westerman, on the podcast Sex Out Loud hosted by Tristan Taormino. Can't wait to hear these authors read from their stories! If you miss the live broadcast, you can listen via the link below to the recording. I'm especially looking forward to it because while I've done readings with Donna before, I haven't heard the others read their work.

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The book was just reviewed by RT Book Reviews, which said, in part, "A wide variety of writers add their flavor to this eclectic assortment of erotic delights. Each manages to be unique when telling their particular story. Kudos to Bussel for doing an excellent job in organizing this collection."

And I'll conclude with a favor: to a large degree, my books succeed due to reviews from readers like you. If you have read or plan to read On Fire, I'd love if you left an honest review on Goodreads (any time) or Amazon (starting July 18th). The better this book does, the better my chances are for getting more book deals to edit more anthologies and publish more wonderful authors!

On fire review calls

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Listen to me Friday on Sex Out Loud podcast

This Friday, July 14th at 8 p.m. EST I'll be talking live with host Tristan Taormino on Sex Out Loud podcast about On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories, which comes out Tuesday in ebook form (and August 8 in print and very soon in audiobook) from Cleis Press. I'll be joined by three contributors: Donna George Storey, whose stocking fetish tale "Sensitive to the Touch," opens the book, Angela R. Sargenti, whose "Masquerade" is a very hot vampire erotic story, and Lawrence Westerman, who wrote an incredible femdom BDSM story, "Dreams Made Flesh." And a reminder that through this Saturday, July 15, I'm giving away 15 autographed copies of the On Fire print edition (U.S. only) over at Goodreads, and I do monthly giveaways in my author newsletter open to anyone in the world - the July newsletter already went out, but the August newsletter will have a Women in Lust giveaway.

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Listen in then and subscribe to Sex Out Loud in iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts so you can hear us if you miss the live broadcast.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Join me in Princeton, NJ July 20-22 for the play Dead Man's Cell Phone (watch trailer)

Every summer since 2012, I've gotten a special summer treat: to see a play in an intimate 60-person theater in Princeton, New Jersey. My boyfriend is the co-director of Chimera Productions, so he's worked on all those plays, and more before that (this is their 12th year), and he even wrote his own amazing play, Bottle Factory, two years ago. This July 20, 21 and 22 they are putting on the comedy Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, which I'm really excited to see, partly because with the dreadful news blaring nonstop from my TV, I could use a laugh, partly because I loved her play about vibrators and hysteria but was utterly puzzled by her play about polyamory, so I look forward to a third chance to see her work. TL:DR - you can come see this play for just $15 cash at the door (doors open at 7:30 each night, the play starts at 8). That's a huge bargain and you're not going to find too much theater at such a low cost. It all takes place at The Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street, and it's right near tons of great restaurants (and amazing ice cream at Halo Pub).

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I won't pretend I'm not biased (or a user of double negatives), but I've truly been awed by each and every performance, and most years I go to all three nights of the show, as I will this year. The actors do amazing work and the space is truly transformed into a theater using the most minimal of sets. When someone gets shot, you hear the gasps of your fellow audience members. You get to see the reactions of the actors up close and very personal. And the stories they put up stay with me. When they put on the Adrienne Rich poetry quoting play After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo, it promoted a lot of soul searching from me.

On a personal level, I love getting to spend three nights immersed on characters and ideas and art. I also love being part of an artistic household where we can have a play's opening night and a book release in the same month. I love that yesterday I got to help pack up props to go to the theater and wonder what those props would be used for. And as someone who believes the arts are for everyone, I especially love knowing that many people coming to these plays only see this one piece of theater each year. I try to get out of my suburban town and see theater when the timing and opportunity arise (I once even flew to Charlotte and saw The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz) for the second time because I'd loved it so much at Washington, DC's Woolly Mammoth, and was stunned to see an utterly different rendering of the wrestling play), but I know that's likely rare amongst Americans. I'm in awe of how much heart and soul and passion everyone involved puts in for free, simply because they believe in theater and its power to touch people and entertain them. We are living in a time when our federal government cares not an iota for art, and our president would rather hang fake magazine covers on his walls than anything real. To me, this makes theater even more urgent and necessary. For those who feel like theater is overpriced or out of reach, their shows are an antidote to that, because they are, as I mentioned above, only $15 to get in (and if you want perks like snacks and the best seats, donate $25 via their Indiegogo campaign, which goes to cover the price of putting on the production, including theater space rental, props and other costs - it's an all volunteer production so the directors and cast are unpaid, doing it for the love of theater).

I do my best not to read any reviews and not to attend rehearsals or find out too much about Chimera's plays before I see them, but this year I'm helping with publicity, which coincides nicely with some of my copywriting duties and my general attempts to become better at marketing because that's where my career is taking me. So because of that, I've gleaned slightly more information about the play than I might have other years. I know that it probably will speak to dependence on technology that I, as someone who almost always has her iPhone in her hand and her eyes glued on it, can relate to. I know from the trailer that it's probably going to make me laugh; I even asked if I should sit near the exit so I can dash out to pee if I laugh that hard. Watch the trailer yourself:



And I'm going to throw in a special bonus as a thanks for reading this far and supporting the play: If you donate $10 or more, which means you can also select the perk of getting thanked in the show's program, and email me a screenshot of your donation by July 19, 2017, I'll send you a free autographed book of mine (U.S. only because overseas postage costs over $20 - sorry!). Just send your screenshot to rachelkb at gmail dot com with "Chimera" in the subject line along with your full name and mailing address and I'll send your book on July 20, 2017. I can't guarantee which book it will be (I'll send from my surplus stash) but if you have a request of a specific title or subgenre let me know and I'll try to send it.

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Saturday, July 08, 2017

Weekend surprise: Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 is only $1.99

I was casually browsing my books on Amazon this morning, as one does, and saw that Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, is on sale for $1.99 in ebook form. You can get it at the sale price for Kindle as well as Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo. I think this sale runs through Sunday, July 16 but I'm not totally sure so if you want to get it for sure, snap it up this weekend!

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Sometimes I get advance notice about ebook sales and sometimes I don't, but if you want to always stay in the loop about when my books are marked down, follow me on Bookbub (they send an email alert when the book is officially on sale, but sometimes the sale price posts early).

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Anyway, I'm thrilled because from the time the series started, I've been a reader so getting asked to edit it remains a career high and a giant honor. Having the first in the series I edited go on sale means I get to reach even more readers and, hopefully, sell more books. Right now I'm planning readings for Volume 3 (stay tuned for an announcement of the first one around Valentine's Day) and reading story submissions for Volume 4 (the deadline is November 1, 2017). I'll be sharing more about how this series has changed the way I approach anthology editing and, I'd like to think, made me a better editor, and it's definitely connected me to an amazing network of authors from around the world.

Not sure you want to read the book? Listen to four free stories narrated by the BWE of the Year 1 audiobook narrator Rose Caraway, including my own bisexual open marriage travel erotica story "Flying Solo."

And here's the book's official blurb:
Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, edited by award-winning author and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, delivers risky, romantic, heart-pounding thrills. Featuring a diverse range of characters, sexualities and scenarios, these 22 steamy stories revel in erotic adventure, from the sparks between strangers to the knowing caresses of longtime lovers. Women learn "The Ropes," get "Starstruck" and dine with "Two Doms for Dinner." Penned by beloved authors such as L. Marie Adeline and Tiffany Reisz along with newcomers to the genre, these sexy encounters will give you plenty of fantasy fodder to last all year long.
And here's what reviewers have said:

"Edited for the first time by frequent anthology contributor and erotica veteran Bussel, this annual volume features short stories from a number of notable genre names, including L. Marie Adeline ("S.E.C.R.E.T." trilogy) and Tiffany Reisz ("The Original Sinners" series). Bussel makes a point in the introduction to emphasize that all 21 selections were chosen for their strong depictions of nuanced, intelligent female characters with whom readers should identify, offering erotica that titillates while it "respects your mind." The book lives up to that promise, opening with Tara Betts's poetic "A New Canvas," in which friends Angela and Troy redraw the lines of their relationship using their bodies for their canvas. With plenty of creative scenarios, styles, and positions, this impressive anthology is sure to be a hit among quality erotica fans."
- Library Journal

"This is a great collection of short stories, and if you've never read erotica before, it's the perfect place to start. There's a wide variety in the types of stories and kinks that are in this collection, so it's a great way to figure out what you like." - Bustle

"This anthology of 22 short, sexy stories is the perfect starter pack for erotica newbies and seasoned readers alike. There are pairings of all sorts between these pages. Among my favorites: Flying Solo by Rachel Kramer Bussel, who writes about a particularly hot open marriage, and The Altar of Lamented Toys, a poignant and bittersweet dystopian tale by Jessica Taylor. A bonus: because these stories are so short, they are perfect for reading aloud to your partner in bed." -Popsugar

"There's no bad writing here. It's all good--and a surprising percentage of it is also very good, understatedly original, quietly trenchant, colorfully curious, probing, poignant, powerful, from Valerie Anderson's Demimonde--an engagingly superb evocation of debauchery and kink in buttoned-up late-19th-century New York, to A New Canvas by Tara Betts and Drawn by Nic by Heidi Champa, both breathing in their cool inspirations from the gritty world of contemporary street artists. Jade A. Waters' Ophelia the Second takes readers into the mind and heart of an infatuated understudy, while Starstruck by Lazuli Jones takes a similarly delightful journey into the mad-rushing thoughts of a fortysomething fan-girl at last meeting the object of her hottest teenaged fantasies--one hero, it turns out, who does not have feet--or anything else--of clay!" - Erotica for the Big Brain

"I think Rachel did a phenomenal job compiling together all of these stories. Each one is great as astand alone and yet, all of them work well in this book. The other great thingwith a book like this is that you can find a little of everything for everyone. From loving couples who enjoy trying to spice their relationship up with a"date" night, to a leadership building excursion that turns hot and kinky, you are bound to find at least one (though I assume it will be more) story to enjoy." - The Writer's Inkwell

"The stories themselves vary widely. Some are hard, fast, well-written sex from start to finish. Some are a slow dance, and the sex (or at least sexual activity) are almost a footnote in the closing paragraphs. Want sweet romance? It's in there. Hardcore sex? Sure. BDSM? Yep. Vanilla? You betcha. The characters themselves are no less diverse. Singles on a hot night out, couples adding spice, groups, mono couples, couples in open relationships, renegade artists, hipsters, escorts, office professionals, theatre actors, cis/hetero people, LGBT folks, doms and subs, childhood crushes come to life." - A Roll in the Hay

"A collection of stories that not only seeks to turn you on, but also strives to make you think: about gender, about power, about age and sexuality, and about all the different ways that a diverse collection of women can and do get their sexy on. A definite bedside keeper!" - Romance Novels for Feminists

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Friday, July 07, 2017

July newsletter and 2 book giveaways

I just sent out my July newsletter (click to read). I do subscriber only giveaways each month so if you want to subscribe, do so on the left hand side of my Lusty Lady blog or at rachelkramerbussel.com.

This month I'm giving away 12 autographed copies of The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories. This one's open to subscribers anywhere in the world. Just make sure to include the same email address you subscribed with (yes, I check) and your full mailing address so I can send it. I often have to pick new winners if the full address isn't included. Yes, technically I could email and get the address but I send the books out right after I package the books so don't have time to wait. Good luck! This giveaway goes through Sunday, July 16 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Thanks to all of the early birds who've already entered! Next month I'm giving away Women in Lust and I have a whole closet full of books for the rest of the year's giveaways.

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I'm also giving away 15 autographed copies of On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories (U.S. only) in this Goodreads giveaway.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

5 things I'm excited about in July

Happy July 5th, which I know isn't a holiday, but since that's the date, here are five things I'm excited about in July. I'm doing my best to get back to blogging on a regular basis and hope to do a monthly things I'm looking forward to and a recap.

1. The Big Sick (July 14) - this real-life based rom com looks so good and if it were playing near me now I'd have already seen it. My fingers are crossed that when it opens in wide release July 14 it will come to my area.

2. The release of my new book On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories (July 18)- truth be told, I'm even more excited about the copies I ordered along with my author copies landing on my doorstep, which I'm told will happen next week, and sending them out to authors. That's the most exciting moment of a book release because for me that's the moment I know a book is real. I get to hold it in my hands, see the cover not as pixels on a screen but paper that's going to be sent to bookstores all across the country at any moment. This is actually the ebook release date; the Rose Caraway narrated audiobook will publish soon thereafter and the print book hits stores August 8. It's the first time my publisher is releasing one of my books on different dates for different formats, so I'm curious to see how that goes. Also through July 17, those in the U.S. can enter to win an autographed copy from me at Goodreads.

On the book front, I'm also doing the most painstaking part of the anthology process, making sure copyedits are correct so Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3, which pubs November 21, is as perfect as it can be, and I'm preparing to embark on a self-publishing adventure with the rerelease of my 2007 anthology Sex and Candy, with a new, hotter cover and new stories.

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3. My boyfriend's play - Every summer, my boyfriend co-directs a play for three nights in Princeton, New Jersey. This summer, July 20, 21 and 22 his company Chimera Productions is putting on the comedy Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl. Learn more and watch a funny video at their Indiegogo campaign and donate if you'd like to. I'll be there all three nights if you want to join me; every show of theirs I've seen has been excellent and I expect this one to be too. You can also get tickets at the door at 7:30 each night (shows are at 8 p.m.) for $15. Follow Chimera on Facebook for news and photos.

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4. My first bachelorette party - I'll be heading to New Orleans the last weekend of July for my first bachelorette party. I have no idea what to expect but I'll be going with my cousin; the bride is a family friend.

5. Seeing Shawn Colvin - I'll round out the month by seeing her on the night of July 31st. On my own, which I think is how I saw her the last time. She's one of my favorite songwriters and I'd also go to her 20th anniversary A Few Small Repairs tour if I was available.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

What financial independence looks like in my forties

I think a lot about money and independence these days, because for me, they go hand in hand. I think about how for seven and a half years, I was so amazed that I'd somehow seemingly magically been plucked from a hellish typist job in one of the most dysfunctional and boring offices I'd never worked into a print magazine editor job that I never fought for a better job title, a pay increase or a vacation increase. I learned a lot at that job that I use every single day (copyediting skills never go out of style) but at the same time, I did a lot of very stupid things during those seven and a half years, aside from accepting such measly terms and not looking for a new job...like cashing out my 401k and maximizing my deductions and racking up credit card debt. Even though there were years where I was also bringing in a lot of outside income via freelancing, especially when I had my Village Voice column, which I needed to afford my Williamsburg apartment and social life, I still had trouble keeping up. I never felt financially secure. I could never truly think about moving because there was no way I could afford movers or even contemplate escaping my hoarding.

So basically from law school through very recently, I wasn't in any way financially independent. My gross income (and now my company's gross income) may have been what's considered good by many, including me, but it never felt like I could relax or step back and assess things. This year, I've started to do things differently. I decided that if my company is grossing six figures, I should be accountable for those dollars. I shouldn't feel like I have to accept every small job I'm offered just because I "need the money." I should very carefully weigh my time vs. each opportunity, which is much easier to do now that I have a part-time job where I'm paid hourly, both because I have a steady income every week and a baseline to know how valuable my time is in dollars.

All of this has been a learning process. I'm doing bookkeeping for the first time in my life so for my business, I know exactly how much I've made, how much I've spent and what my profit is. The next step, probably in 2018, will be tracking my personal spending, but first I need to get a handle on business. Doing that has allowed me to decide when it's appropriate to invest in my business and when it's not. I listen to podcasts like Being Boss and Hey Brandcrush and soak it all in. I invested $495 in a ticket to Alt Summit, though there are other costs involved: missing several days of income from my part-time job, which I'll have to miss to attend, flight, hotel, meals. But it felt incredible to whip out my business credit card, a goal I achieved this year, and make an active, considered choice to spend money that I ultimately hope I will recoup via the knowledge I learn and connections I make at Alt.

There are still an infinite number of things about business I have to learn. It all feels a bit ironic that in my forties I'm taking a real life, trial and error, my rent hangs in the balance crash course in how to run a business when back in my younger days I thought people who went to business school were, well, greedy mercenary types. Now I'm wondering every time I see a successful business, especially a creative business, How did they do that? What examples of theirs can I follow to grow my own career/business/achieve my dreams? I'm both laughing at myself and diving right in.

For me, a lot of what works is what I learned in Amanda Palmer's memoir The Art of Asking. Asking is how I've gotten interviewed on podcasts, how I've booked readings at incredible bookstores, gotten profiles written about me, gotten my publisher to print galleys of my books, to name just a few examples.

This summer and year are, for me, all about exploring and expanding on how to be financially independent. I live in fear of being reliant on my partner for money or beholden to him in any way. That would feel very scary and disturbing and off balance to me, even though I know the time may come when that will happen, temporarily or permanently. We're living in a time when few people have job security, but as a freelancer in every aspect of what I do, I certainly have none. My book sales could drop to zero at any moment, my copywriting job could end, my writing gigs could dry up. While logically I'm aware those are unlikely to happen all at once, I'm an anxious person who catastrophizes in my head quite often, so that worst case scenario haunts me, but also drives me to push myself to diversify my skill sets so that I have as much chance of economic stability as possible. I'm well aware of that doomsday outcome, although I try not to fixate on it, and instead I keep upping my game, learning as much as I can, trying to prove myself, to readers, who I hope will continue reading/borrowing/buying my books, my publisher, who I hope will continue to give me book contracts, and my boss, who I hope will continue to need my copywriting services. I can never forget that my financial independence is deeply tied to my dependence on the opinions of these people.

That's challenging because while I may not be relying on my partner, I am, clearly, always relying on so many others to keep me financially afloat. I'm relying on readers who, considered en masse, are a large, anonymous group. I maintain my newsletter and do monthly giveaways in part to keep that group a little more known. It's one thing to think about "readers" and another to be sending snail mail to people around the world, to hear from them via email, to organize events and meet them in person. I've already got two tentative dates planned for events next year because, whether it's the best business decision or not, I as a human being need that person to person connection. I have never been able to simply do all my work inside my own home. I crave that connection that can only come from being in the same room as other humans interested in the same subjects I am.

While I've had to cut back on in-person writing classes because they're just not feasible in most cases, when I am traveling, I try to incorporate them for the very selfish reasons stated above, first and foremost. I miss that interaction when I don't have it, so I work that in. I am scheduling readings for many reasons, such as providing my authors with a platform to hear their words out loud and to bring my books into prominence on bookstore shelves, but primarily, I'm booking those readings because without them I don't feel like my books are complete. They feel too empty, the words trapped on the page, but when I do a reading, I feel like I give them a new life because I get to hear them in a whole new way. That's something I'm willing to invest in (as long as I have the funds to invest).

I'm learning that "financial independence" doesn't mean "not spending money," but rather, spending it judiciously in ways that align with my values and will bolster my career in some way. I'm preparing to invest in those events (one of which will also earn me money, the other is a reading so may earn me a very small amount in royalties if books are purchased at it), for the same reason I invested in Alt. I consider every penny I spend on my business by asking myself whether ultimately, it will lead to my financial independence. If not, I don't do it. I'm scheduling my readings around the rest of my life, and planning them over six months in advance (something I've never done before) so I can properly plan promotions for them.

I also try to use the money I do earn to support other artists and creative businesspeople, whether that's buying jewelry on Etsy or, this weekend while in New York, from Yumi Jewelry, or shopping at independent bookstores when I travel or mail ordering from Powell's, or buying books like my friend Rob Hart's latest Ash McKenna mystery, The Woman from Prague, and indulging myself by buying it in hardcover because that's my preference. I'm proud that I can help other woman in their creative careers by hiring them to copyedit my books and to help with my book social media accounts, something I'll be expanding on in another post. I'm proud that I've increased payment to my Best Women's Erotica of the Year authors with each volume, going from $100 with Volume 1 to $150 with Volume 2 to $200 for Volumes 3 and 4. Those actions were only made possible because of my financial independence (and, in the latter case, book sales).

This weekend, while I've made many to do lists, I've tried to actively be off, something that clashes deeply with my workaholic streak and ever-present need to be working toward that financial independence. People sometimes say to me, "It must be great to make your own schedule," or "You have a four day weekend every week." What they don't see is all the hours that go into my various tasks, which could be research for an article pitch (that may or may not ever get picked up), planning for a book marketing social media post, correspondence with authors, going over a book's copyedits, etc. Next month I'll get a royalty check. It could be three figures or four figures or five figures. When those checks are good, which I don't know until I receive my quarterly royalty statements, I often feel like I've won some sort of lottery. I find myself thinking, Passive income really is incredible. But here's the thing: For me (and I can't speak for anyone else), this long, circuitous route from law school dropout with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to six figure freelancer has been and continues to be anything but passive. It involves constant vigilance, constant brainstorming, constant motion. There's plotting and planning and trial and error and sometimes, after the fact, I realize a project wasn't worth the time I had to invest. I'm constantly assessing which of my income streams I should keep and which it's time to retire.

It's also is a constant balancing act between being a good businesswoman and being a good girlfriend. Over the past five and a half years, I've had to learn over and over again that financial independence might come at the cost of not being able to prioritize my partner, especially when our schedules differ. I've had to readjust my expectations of what my work hours are. I've had to know that sometimes I've cut into time with my boyfriend because as a freelancer, I was pretty much "on call" to an editor.

This July 4th, while I'm the only one awake, before I've had my coffee, as the sun is making its appearance outside my home, that's what I'm thinking about, before I select a few work tasks to do and then go back to indulging in a four day weekend. I'm slowly figuring out how to value my time, how to let go and recognize that it's okay if I take a little break from that vigilance, to relax, cook, do jigsaw puzzles, watch movies, be silly. That even though my financial independence often feels precarious and surreal, a few hours or days off aren't going to hinder it, as long as I keep on tending it carefully, measuring every decision wisely, and innovating and growing. This summer I'm launching two projects in the name of financial independence and trying new things. I'll be reissuing an out-of-print anthology with an infinitely better cover than it was given the first time and a set of online classes about erotica writing and building a career in this field. I'm excited to learn all about how self-pubishing and creating a course work, so stay tuned.

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Saturday, July 01, 2017

The only reasons I go to New York are...

When I first moved back to New Jersey in 2013, the state where I grew up and lived until age 17 (although I was born in New York City and spent my first three and a half months in the hospital there), I experienced a lot of FOMO. There was always something cool happening in New York and while I lived in Red Bank at the time, and we had some cultural offerings, they were nothing compared to New York, and nothing book-related save for one very short-lived literary event production company.

I was very wasteful when I lived in Red Bank, hopping on that hourly New Jersey Transit train to Penn Station whenever I felt like it. I can't change that, but now that I live much closer to Philadelphia than the Empire State, I've realized that I can live without everything New York has to offer. Do I miss my friends? Of course, but I do my best to stay in touch by email and phone and text and social media, and see them when I do travel there.

Which brings me to the rule I made for myself, which is part of my nesting and saving plan to put some action with my words of the year: I'll only go to New York for family, flights, work or with my boyfriend. See, it's two and a half hours each way and $42 dollars, not to mention somewhat draining to rush to catch the bus. I just did the calculations and realized that 10 trips to New York cost, at minimum, $420, not counting subway fare and any money I'd spend there. There's dozens, probably hundreds, of amazing cities and places I've never been, so why go to one I lived in for over a decade all the time when I could take that same money and save up for an actual vacation?

In June, I broke that rule because I wanted to see some dear friends. It was a lovely visit, but one better suited to someone in a far better financial situation than I am. I miscalculated my schedule because I normally work my hourly job on certain days, but had rearranged it because of a family trip to Denver (I paid for the flight using JetBlue miles and scored part of our stay for free with Kimpton Karma Rewards). So I left work two hours early, adding on to the cost of the trip in lost income. Now, in that one case, was it "worth it?" Yes, but the price tag reminded me that until I'm entirely debt free, I have to make seeing friends part of my other trips.

So today, I'm hopping on an 8 a.m. bus because my grandfather is being given an award by the French Legion! Now that's a reason to make the trip. I'm also going to see a friend, who's joining me at Untitled Space Gallery for an exhibit, Secret Garden, I really want to see (if I can take photos of the art, I'll post them on Instagram. Would I have FOMO if I never got to see that exhibit? Maybe a little, despite my promise to myself to cut that emotion out of me once and for all, but I'd be fine. What I've learned becoming a Jersey girl again is that there is real life happening all around me. I volunteer at my local food bank. I work out at my local gym. I got to lunch with my neighbor. I take walks in my neighborhood. I try to ignore the big box store that treats its workers like shit that's opening nearby.

I'll be in and out of the Big Apple a few more times this year, the next two times to head to JFK for family trips (a bachelorette party in New Orleans and a quick summer visit on Martha's Vineyard with family members who lived across the globe), then in September when I'm teaching an erotica writing class at Sexual Health Expo (SHE) in Brooklyn. I may have one more flight out of JFK, though I'm doing my best to fly from Philadelphia these days. My hope is that I can winnow down my New York trips to a handful a year, not because I don't love certain aspects of the city, but because the whole point of nesting and saving was to have enough profit to decide where I want to go next, to have financial freedom. Spending so many hours on a bus or in a car just to go to the same place ad nauseam isn't my idea of a good time. It may sound obvious: Find New York draining? Don't go. But old habits die hard, especially for me, so figuring out how to stay more focused on the life I have now rather than the life I used to have is challenging. There are still services I use exclusively in New York, a city where almost every block I walk down has a memory attached.

Today I'm looking forward to seeing family, friends and art...but also to getting back home where I belong. The other big thing that's changed is that I'm a tourist. I have to look up which subway to take to get places. There are always unfamiliar sites. I got disoriented and overwhelmed by a city I used to think I'd never leave. It's a compelling and always buzzing and gorgeous city, but it's not mine anymore. My way of thinking and acting is slower, calmer, out of sync with the pace of NYC life. I used to think it was a shame that I changed, but now I see that it was just part of growing up. I'll be doing another post about how my business has done the first half of 2017 and how much I've nested and saved (spoiler alert: not as much as I could have), but I think it's safe to say it would've been a hell of a lot harder to do as well with all the distractions, wonderful as they are, of New York. I'm glad I live close enough to see my family who live there and who travel through there, and to occasionally catch up with my friends, but I am very happy with my Jersey girl life and whatever comes next with it.

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