Four years ago today, I hit the "publish" button on my first cozy mystery ever -- Murder in Christmas River: A Christmas Cozy Mystery.
At the time, I was a nervous ball of energy. Writing a book on its own is a big endeavor, but what you don't really realize until you send it out into the world is that your work has really only just begun. There's marketing, getting reviews, and more or less, building up a whole career from scratch. Then there's the thinking and praying involved which accounts for a whole other kind of work. You hope that the book will get noticed. Then if it does, you hope readers will like it and appreciate the heart you put into it. You hope that readers won't forget about you when books two and three and four come out. You hope that you never disappoint. You hope to always bring a little joy into readers' lives with each book you write.
It was a rocky beginning. A few short days after hitting the publish button on December 9, 2012, I got my first review on Amazon. I was thrilled that somebody had read and decided to review Murder in Christmas River until... I saw what rating they gave it. It was a 1-star: My first real review ever was a 1-star from someone who didn't even get past the first chapter of the book because they hated the writing style. For a new writer, it was a devastating blow. I walked around for days feeling the sting of that review, wondering if I had a thick enough skin for this business.
But other reviews started coming in -- much better reviews -- and the book was moving. People were actually buying it. I wasn't anywhere near a bestseller, but to me, it was the most promising, exciting thing to ever happen career-wise. I sold about 340 copies that first month, and the feeling from knowing that your book is in the hands of 340 people is absolutely breathtaking when you're just starting out as a writer. There's nothing quite like knowing that all around the country, and sometimes the world, your words and characters are part of other peoples' lives. People you've never met, and most likely will never meet -- yet you're connected through words.
Four years later, and 13 books later, the thought of that still makes me giddy.
So much has changed in my life these past four years. My impossible dream of writing full-time, living the life I always wanted to live, has been attained. Since going full-time with this two years ago, I've been able to travel so much more, live in new places, experience new things, and enjoy more time with my family. I know I'm one of the lucky ones. I try not to ever forget that.
And now, being on this side of it all, I can see that my whole business has been built on hope.
Hoping isn't something you ever stop doing, even when you reach your dreams. Today, I still hope. I hope readers will like my newest series and fall in love with the characters. I hope when my readers finish one of my books, they feel happy. I hope to get another BookBub ad. I hope to make the USA Today Bestsellers' list. I hope to see one of my books or series on the Hallmark Movie Channel one day.
I hope to always be the best writer I can be.
I put a lot of work into my business, but I'm really only one part of the equation. Hope is another part. And another very important part is my family -- who has helped me at nearly every point along the way. They've read all my books, waded through a ridiculous amount of run-on sentences and poor word choice, given me invaluable feedback, designed covers for me, and taught me how to self-publish in the first place. Not to mention the financial, emotional, and spiritual support they've given me over the years.
The final part of the equation has been you, dear reader. Many of you have been with me since Book 1 of The Christmas River Cozy Mysteries and have bought ever subsequent book the very day they came out. You've been patient with me when I push back deadlines. You've written reviews and shared your enthusiasm for my books with me and encouraged me to keep going. I can't even express to you in words how meaningful that's been. And even if you've just bought one or two of my books, or just recently discovered one of my series, your support has been just as appreciated.
Thank you so much for everything these past four years. It's been such a beautiful journey I've been on.
Writing is a very solitary business, but thanks to you guys, I've never felt alone in any of it.