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The Things I Do to Put Myself Out There

I always get nervous before I do a presentation or workshop. But recently, I discovered that the host can say one sentence and put me on the brink of panic. That sentence?

“We cater mostly to a geriatric crowd.”

Yes, this sentence was actually spoken to me before I was about to present. I almost lost my mind. Seriously. I had been scheduled to do my Women and Slasher Film presentation, and this was the crowd I could expect. What? I’m pretty dang sure the host saw the worry on my face because he immediately started trying to make me feel better. He said things like, “It’s going to be fun, don’t worry.”

“You’ll do awesome.”

“The purpose of the humanities is to introduce people to new things, so this will help them stretch their boundaries.”

I tried to let his words make me feel better, but I could tell from the look on his face that he wasn’t exactly convinced either. But at that point, there wasn’t much either of us could do. I was scheduled to go in a few minutes. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t run away. Forty-two people showed up for that presentation.

I tried to keep my shakes to a minimum. I was given a podium to put my bottled water on, and I don’t usually use them because I have a tendency to pace, but I used it this time. I needed something to keep me steady. As I got into my speech, I began to relax. I had to pace back and forth to play the movie clips from the computer, so that helped loosen me up too. No one got up and walked out and no one yelled at me from the audience, so I considered that a win.

At the end, several people came up to me and continued to talk horror movies and told me how much they enjoyed my talk. It made me feel good. Participants also had the option to fill out a survey. Out of those who did, only three said they didn’t enjoy the presentation. And that could have happened at any event, not necessarily one that catered to a geriatric crowd. I considered that a win too.

One of the things I really enjoy about giving presentations and workshops is that I get to meet new and amazing people. This was a really good lesson for me to not judge my audience beforehand. I never know what will appeal to some and not to others. And as far as horror fans go, they are numerous and diverse.

Most days, I’m not even sure why I do presentations and workshops. I have anxiety and social anxiety, so being in front of people is an incredibly scary prospect. Did I say scary? I meant terrifying. For days before the event, I’ll worry about it. My stomach will have both butterflies and knots. I’ll worry about all the things that could possibly go wrong. On the day, as I wait for the time to begin, I’ll feel like I’m going to throw up.

Then, as I start talking, all of that goes away. I become focused on my topic and excited to share my research with others. I ask them questions and expect them to be involved. I crack jokes and answer their questions. It’s not exactly a high that I get from doing workshops because I don’t walk out of there feeling euphoric. I just like to share my research with others, and I enjoy when they learn.

It’s a weird space to be in. Before I go in front of the audience, I always wonder why in the hell I’m doing it. I always tell myself that will be the last time, but then I find myself putting in proposals or sending out brochures. There’s parts I completely enjoy, and then parts that scare the sh*t out of me.

I’ve tried to figure out exactly why I put myself through that, and I haven’t been able to come up with an answer. Normally, I’m not one to back down from a challenge or let my fear dictate my actions—and believe me, I have lots of fears. I’m not trying to prove anything to myself, I just really, really enjoy talking about the subjects I talk about.

Perhaps one day I’ll have an epiphany that helps me understand why I put myself through this emotional roller coaster. When I find out, I’ll let you know.

There’s Always More to the Story

Last week, I explained to you what my rankings are and how they worked. I mentioned that I constantly check them like a junkie looking for a fix, but I don’t think you realize how bad it is. There are times when it’s automatic. When I’m not even thinking about it and I find myself on Amazon. I just shrug it off like it’s no big deal.

But I think it’s a real problem.

I’m going to be honest: I get bummed out when I check my numbers and see they’re on the rise. It breaks my heart a little bit when I fall out of the top 100. I expect it, sure, but it still has an impact. And it shouldn’t. Because if I think about it, they’re only numbers. They only tell part of the story.

Sure, it tells the part about sales and reads. Which can be important when figuring out royalties and that readers are actually reading my work. But these numbers don’t show what kind of impact the book had on the readers—whether good or bad. Reviews can do that, but not all readers review books. That doesn’t mean they didn’t like them, they just don’t write about it online.

And Amazon isn’t always the best place for reviews anyway. Especially since they took to policing comments and taking down those that may or may not come from someone an author knows. Goodreads is probably a better place to find reviews, but I’m terrible about getting on there. I really need to make an effort to get better about visiting.

The rankings numbers don’t show the messages I get from fans about how much they enjoyed the work or how worried they are about me when I go through a tough time. It’s amazing how much support I get. Some days, it absolutely blows my mind. It’s the best in the world, and I’m thankful for the love.

The numbers definitely have their place in the larger picture, but I put a lot of stock in them. There are days when they are the only thing that matters and if they’re high, something must be wrong. I have to remind myself that while this can be an important indicator of success, it’s not the only one.

When it comes down to it, it really all depends on what I want out of my writing and how I measure my success. I can be excited about low numbers, and I can be bummed out when they start to rise. But I must always remember that there’s more to the story. I have to realize that no matter if the numbers are high or low, they don’t—and shouldn’t—define me as a writer.

I’m working on cutting down how much I check my rankings. I feel like if I spent as much time working on a new story as I look at those numbers, I could be half down by now.

Still, I owe all of you readers and fans a big thank you for all that you do for me. As I always say, you’re the reason I write. Without you, what’s the point?

What’s All This “Rankings” Business?

If any of you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I’ve been talking about my rankings on Amazon quite a bit. You’ll also know I’m incredibly excited about the numbers, so let me explain a little bit about what they mean.

First of all, I have to say that the whole rankings business is a little complicated and not everyone agrees about how Amazon figures it out. Amazon is pretty tight-lipped about how their calculations, but there is some information out there. For a really good idea of what I’m talking about, you can read this article.

For the rest of you who want a quick and dirty version, here ya go.

In a nutshell, my books are compared to every other book on Amazon’s site and ranked according to sales. If you look at the following picture, which is a snapshot from a specific time, you’ll see that there is an overall ranking (Amazon Best Sellers Rank), which compares me to ALL Amazon books, then there are three categories beneath that. These categories are more specific to my book so that readers can find it easily and know if it’s something they want to read. This screen shot was taken for Life After the Undead.

From these numbers, you can see that I rank 33,882 out of ALL PAID Kindle books on Amazon. They separate books further into PAID and FREE. Overall, that number doesn’t look that fantastic. I mean, 33,000? Pffft. That’s 33,000 books ahead of mine. However, if you take into account that there are millions of books on Amazon, that number isn’t so terrible.

The three numbers beneath that are what matter the most to me. As you can see from the above photo, I am in the top 100 for my three categories. That means that out of all the other books that have the same classification, I’m pretty low on this list. When that happens, my books appears on another list that shows covers for all top 100 books. This helps potential readers finds my books and hopefully leads to more sales.

(Notice at this particular point in time for this particular category there are some R.L. Stine books around me. How freaking cool is that?)

So why is this so important? Am I that greedy that I have to make money on my books? Well, yes and no. It’s important because it means my books are getting into the hands of readers—and that’s the whole reason I write. And yes, I deserve to get paid for the work I put in, but I’m not going to be retiring any time soon.

Amazon ranks books based on sales, but it also takes into account how many reads are done through their Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. For those of you who don’t know what the KU program is, it’s a subscription service that Amazon offers. Readers pay a monthly fee to access books. They don’t have to purchase the books separately, so it works kind of like a library—but with a fee.

Authors within the program get paid by how many pages of their work are read. It averages out to be like .004 cents per page, but, if you ask me, it’s better than a kick in the pants. There are some rules to the program, such as if your book is enrolled, you can’t have it for sale anywhere else—it has to be exclusive to Amazon. That means no Barnes and Noble, no iTunes, no nothing. As an author, you have to decide if that’s worth it or not. Personally, for me, it is. My sales were pretty dismal on other channels, but the KU program gets it into the hands of readers. Again, the whole reason I write.

Depending on what authority you ask or what article you read, rankings are either down hourly or at various times throughout the day. In either case, they fluctuate. For part of the day, I might be ranking in the top 100, then the next part, I’m might not be. It all depends on how many sales and reads happen throughout the day. However, it also factors in historical sales. I’m not exactly sure how that formula works. And, to be honest, I don’t know that I really care.

The reason I get so excited about my rankings (and check them like an addict looking for a fix) is because I love seeing people check out my book. I love knowing that readers are reading it. It helps build my confidence and inspires me to keep writing.

Not all of my books get low rankings on Amazon, though they all get ranked. I’m totally fine with that. If my zombie books didn’t get the low rankings they have now, I would be fine with that too. In fact, for years they never made it this low and it didn’t impact me or my writing. However, it feels good to know they are ranking so low now.

One day, I will fall off the charts again. I will stop being in the top 100, and I’m totally fine with that. Until that day comes, though, I’m going to ride this wave and share my excitement with the world.

The OPCA Conference

First of all, I would like to apologize for not blogging last week. I fell ill and spent the day recovering. I’m really trying to get back in the habit of getting my posts done early, but life doesn’t always work that way.

Anywho, let’s get on with the post.

At the end of March, I had the opportunity to go to Honolulu to the OPCA Conference to give my Women and Slasher Films presentation. I had never been to Hawai’i before, and neither had my kids, so it also doubled as a vacation. For pictures of the fun we had, check out my blog here.

The conference was held at Chaminade University and was pretty small. It spanned two days—Friday and Saturday—and there were 7 panels on Friday and 6 on Saturday. On Friday, they also showed a rough cut of a new film that is coming out about the history of hot rodding in Hawai’i. I didn’t stay to watch it. I’m sure it was fascinating, but it wasn’t really something that interested me.

The panels I did go to were incredibly fascinating. I love going to conferences. Seeing what others are working on and meeting new people is so much fun. Plus, it’s an opportunity to talk academia and be a nerd—two things I really enjoy.

My presentation was on Saturday, and there were two other people on my panel. One was discussing the HBO series True Blood, which was fascinating. I’ve never watched True Blood, but now I’m intrigued. The other presenter was an engineer who had designed a sustainable house for the zombie apocalypse. It was so cool. 

I think I did fairly well for my presentation. It’s always hard for me to tell, but no one yelled at me or stormed out of the room, so I take that as a good sign.

If given the chance, I would definitely go again. Small or not, the conference had a lot to offer was so much fun. And it was Hawai’i, how could that be bad?