The first time I was sexually harassed, I was six years old. Six. I was a little girl. A boy in my class, whose desk was paired with mine, exposed himself to me and tried to get me to touch him. He actually grabbed my hand.
I fought back.
I wrenched my hand away and told him no. I froze with panic, terrified that I would get in trouble. Eventually, we were moved around. (My teacher paired students with someone new every so often.) I never told a soul, until now.
I’m telling this story because ever since that first time, it’s happened so many more times, I can’t count. Boys and men touching me, making jokes and comments, catcalling. Then there are the two boyfriends who sexually assaulted me. Raped me. Violated me with acts of violence that I will never forget. Men who I trusted with my body and heart, yet they only wanted to control and possess me. To hurt me. I went years without telling anyone, and it almost killed me. This story has a happy ending: I did the work, and I healed. I grew strong. I got my voice back, and a confidence I’ve never known before. But.
I’m worn down to the bones, sick in my soul every time another story hits the news or blogosphere about men who hurt women. I’m tired of the violence, the victim blaming, and the bystander effect. All three contribute to rape culture, and these three seemingly small things—men who turn away when they overhear other men make a sexual joke, for example—are the reason why women stay silent. Only when others come forward do we feel protected enough to raise our voices, too; there is safety in numbers.
I’m tired of men making excuses or saying they’re sorry. Instead of being sorry, stop being a piss poor excuse for a man. Don’t justify your past actions or write apologies to the women you’ve hurt. Start being a better person. Stand with us when we’re accused of trying to ruin a man’s career. Speak with us when we tell a man to leave us alone. Stop automatically siding with your bros, and start being a brother to the women in your life—both friends and strangers.
And for fuck’s sake, quit it with the “not all men” line. When you’re whining, you’re centering yourself in a story that isn’t yours. Your selfishness is complacence, and your hands are around her neck, too.
As a small business owner—yes, writing books is a small business!—I’m always looking for interesting ways to get myself and my books in front of new readers. So when Paperless Post approached me, I thought “Why not?”
I’d recently released Any Other Love and thought Paperless Post’s cards would be a fun way to announce the book to my readers. I have to admit, at first I misunderstood and thought they were sending me 800 free coins for physical cards. I had visions of swag postcards dancing in my head. So I was a little bummed when I discovered I was “only” getting digital cards. My first thought was “Who sends e-cards anymore? It’s not the ’90s!” My second thought was “I can make this work.”
In the meantime, I’d set up giveaways via Goodreads for Just One More Minute and Any Other Love paperbacks. I decided that using Paperless Post would be a fun way to let my email list know about the giveaways, and started off by browsing their Business Launch and Event cards.
Figuring out the Paperless Post site came with a bit of a learning curve. I’d expected an interface more like Vistaprint’s, where I can edit text boxes with just one click, and place them wherever I want. Paperless Press is sort of like that; I could edit the text, but I couldn’t move it around on the card. I found myself a bit limited with what I could do. I could also start with a blank card and add my own image, but I only got a single large text box superimposed over the image. Since the image I planned to use was a book cover with its own text, that wouldn’t work.
I thought I’d just use a teaser, then, but I couldn’t resize the image; when I uploaded it, Paperless Post dropped it onto the card at an odd size. It took some playing around, but I ultimately found a card that matched the cover of Just One More Minute. (I’d really wanted to use Any Other Love‘s cover, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.)
The design just so happened to have an envelope liner option that exactly matched Just One More Minute, which was cool but there wasn’t a way to choose an exact color. If I’d stuck with the Any Other Love cover, I would’ve ended up with a card that clashed.
I also wasn’t sure why an e-card needed an envelope, but what do I know?
Paperless Post’s behind-the-scenes magic automatically addresses each envelope for you. (Their physical cards have a similar option, and you can have Paperless Post mail them out for you.) I could’ve chosen a fancy stamp, but I stuck with the default one because it would’ve been at least one more coin per email address. Each card starts off costing two coins per email, and I have almost 400 subscribers, so I had to be careful.
Here’s where I spent an embarrassing amount of time being confused. On the next screen, you can pick a reply card option. Since I was just letting people know about the giveaways, not inviting them to an event where they’d have to RSVP, I didn’t need the default “yes or no” reply card. It took me a bit of playing around to figure out how to change it to a simple call to action with a linked button.
I could’ve changed the reply card’s design and its backdrop, but I decided to keep them simple. I wanted the book to be the focus.
I also couldn’t figure out how to change the text on the reply card. Hoping I could figure it out later, I clicked “done.” I didn’t have to wait long, because on the next screen, I could customize the text itself.
Finally, it was time to add my recipients. I could add them one by one, or I could import contacts under the “email list” option. I initially thought the email list option actually connected my MailChimp account, for example, and then imported my subscribers. That would be cool. Instead, I got a downloadable spreadsheet and had to manually add 300+ people to it. Thank goodness for copy and paste; I exported my MailChimp list as a .csv, then copied the names and emails.
To be fair, my use of the card was a bit unorthodox; Paperless Post is intended for things like birthday parties and weddings. The average person would’ve just imported their contacts from their address book.
Before sending my card, I previewed it in my browser and emailed myself a test.
Then I sent the card off! I sent it to myself, as well, so I was able to open up the actual email and make sure everything worked properly.
The animation is actually pretty cool. I saw right away why I needed an envelope. The flap opens and the card slides out. That’s not the coolest part, though.
Once my cards were sent, I could see who opened them in real time. My readers could even send me private messages.
If this were an event requiring RSVPs, recipients could click yes or no, and I’d see right away which they’d chosen. For my purposes, though, I could see as soon as someone opened it. I didn’t know whether they clicked my link, though—at least not through Paperless Post’s interface. (Instead, I used my website traffic stats to get a general idea of how many people clicked.)
I got a few messages thanking me for the giveaway, which was pretty cool. When I send regular newsletters, it’s rare that I get replies. (Does my aunt count? No? Damn.) It’s totally okay, because my email list has a higher than industry open rate, so I know my readers care. (Seriously—experts say to feel lucky if 18% of subscribers open; my average is something like 30%.)
All told, sending these e-cards would’ve cost me about $75 out of pocket. (I used 755 coins; 600 coins cost $60 USD and an additional 200 coins are $28—or I could’ve purchased 1,000 coins for $90.) Also, you can’t use coins to send paper cards. Though it’s an interesting concept, I’m not sure that I would spend $75 on e-cards. On the other hand, their RSVP response and private message system for paper cards would’ve come in handy when I got married. Their prices for print cards are comparable to, say, Vistaprint, so check them out!
When was the last time you sent an e-card? Let me know in the comments!
Disclaimer:Paperless Post provided me with 800 free coins in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
I love the newness of this time of year. Maybe it’s because it’s almost my birthday, marking the beginning of another year of life. Or maybe it’s because, all throughout childhood, this is always the time I’d be getting ready to start a new year of school. Whatever it is, the end of summer and early fall—this in between time—have always brimmed with possibility.
This is usually when my writing is most productive. Last year around this time, I wrote a 60K-word novel in two weeks. This year, I’ll be doing something a bit different.
I’m going back to school.
Throughout the past six years, I’ve learned a lot about publishing. I’ve released 11 novels (plus some now out of print short stories and novellas). I’m damn proud of all I’ve accomplished—especially recently making the bestseller list in three Amazon categories—and I’m looking forward to a lifelong career.
I’ve also long felt like I’ve been missing some valuable piece, though.
Whether I’ve been with a publisher or independent, I’ve been responsible for the majority of my marketing. While I can do things like write a marketing plan and create an email sequence, there’s a lot more I need to learn.
So I’ve decided to go back to school.
I thought about it all summer, and then two weeks ago I applied to a program before I could change my mind. I start my B.S. in marketing on Monday.
I’m hoping that it won’t affect my production schedule too much, but since it’s an accelerated program, I know I’m going to have to make some sacrifices. I can’t do it all.
For the next eight weeks, I won’t be blogging much.
Aside from scheduled Facebook posts, I likely won’t be on social media often, either. I’ll do my best to reply to comments, but please know that studying will have taken over my life.
I will continue monthly email newsletters. You can expect them on Friday, September 8th and Friday, October 6th. (If you’re not already on my email list, sign up here.)
I’ve started working on a new novel. It’s a standalone second chance romance. I don’t have a release date for it yet, and likely won’t for a while. I do hope to continue publishing regularly, though.
My latest book baby is out in the world! It was really hard to let go of Amarie and Char—or Chamarie, the ‘ship name my CP gave them. I could’ve written another 75K words about them just living their lives. Fortunately for you, I had a deadline to meet, and didn’t want to upset the Amazon gods, so I forced myself to “be done with it,” as Skye Taylor says.
And now my spoonie, f/f, small town romance is yours.
It’s been a whirlwind past couple of days, and I only have a minute to post this, but…
Any Other Love broke Top 100 in three!!! Amazon categories!
Amazon ranks the bestselling books in each category from 1 to 100. I’ve always hoped someday I’d make it to one of those lists—never mind three, and certainly not two days in a row! (Yesterday Any Other Love was in the Top 100 in two of its categories.)
I’m absolutely speechless and so, so very grateful to every one of my readers for purchasing a copy and sharing the book on social media. I think I can now say I’m a bestselling author, which is just… mind-blowing.
This was completely unexpected. Thank you all for believing in me and this little book!