Way back in March, Holly convinced me to sign up for a one-day writing workshop with Cheryl Strayed. Actually, at the time, it took no convincing. I adore Cheryl and have read both Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things. In fact, when someone I know is going through a rough patch, I like to give them a copy of Tiny Beautiful Things. Cheryl is wise and real and kind and flawed, and I love her with that special place in my heart reserved for Wise Women. (Anne Lamott fits into this category too.)*

But as the day of the seminar approached, I was filled with dread. Why had I agreed to give up a precious Saturday during a very busy month? What if it was a complete waste of time and money? And groan, it was an hour away and it started at 9am. I seriously considered canceling. But the great motivator was there: the money was paid.

And so it was that two very pregnant women woke up at 6:30am on a Saturday and drove to Petaluma to see a New York Times bestselling memoirist and do…well, who knew? Holly and I shared our fears about what might happen at the seminar on the drive over: Would they make us read aloud? Trust falls? Picture ourselves as a tree and write about it?

Cheryl Strayed

Within minutes of being in Cheryl’s very capable hands, I was so thankful I was there. Lately, my writing has been suffering. If I so much as sit still these days, I doze off. It’s a struggle at work too–but there I have a full day of meetings to attend and people stopping by to discuss issues, so it keeps me moving. But at home, pecking away at my computer, things get awfully quiet and then the pregnancy exhaustion wins.

Also, it’s time to start the actual writing of my new project and I’ve been putting it off, fearing that dreaded blank first page. I’ve been telling myself that I’m not ready yet. Maybe I should do more research? Take more notes from scholarly texts? Perhaps I should build a detailed outline on notecards like some writers do? But these are just forms of procrastination wearing good disguises.

Cheryl was having none of it. Yes, there were 300 people in the room. You may claim she wasn’t talking directly to me, but I know the truth. She saw me out there and she knew I needed some tough love and she went for it.

Someone asked Cheryl: How do you balance motherhood and writing?

She explained that she wrote Wild when she had two children under the age of 20 months. TWO! To her thinking, you needed to find something that worked for you. She acknowledged that writing every day has never worked for her: she’s a “binge writer.” Instead she would check herself into a cheap, boring hotel near her home for two nights and write non-stop for two days, leaving only to grab food so she could keep going. Then, she’d come home to her family.

Respect? Earned.

But there was something else she said that really stuck with me. Cheryl believes that writers have a central question at the body of their work that they’re trying to answer. She said in her case it was: How do you bear the unbearable?

No matter what she writes–a memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a novel about a troubled family, a Dear Sugar advice letter for The Rumpus–she’s always trying to answer this question because it’s the central question of her own life. Cheryl had a particularly brutal childhood and then lost her mother in her twenties. She’s had to bear the unbearble and yet she’s still here. (She suspects the answer she’s come up with is: you keep walking.)

This got me thinking about my own life and what I’m writing about again and again.  I do see a connection in my work, even from the very first scraps of writing I did in college. But I’ve never stopped and thought about what I’m always trying to talk (and walk) the reader through.

Do you know the central question at the heart of your work?


*One day I found this amazing video of Anne Lamott and Cheryl Strayed in conversation and my head nearly exploded with happiness. My two favorite wise women know each other! And they got together to discuss wise things!


Remember the first time someone told you about Kayak? And you were like, FINALLY! That’s what it’s like when you first learn about BookBub. Much like Kayak, which searches (nearly) all travel sites and shows you the best deals, BookBub compiles (nearly) all ebook deals and sends them straight to your inbox.

It has two uses: one for readers and one for writers. I’ve broken them out below so you can just read the part(s) that applies to you!

BookBub  Free and Bargain Kindle Books  Nook Books  and more


BookBub for Readers:

If you’re anything like me, you read a majority of your books in electronic format these days. In my case, I actually read them on my smartphone. I switched over a few years ago and there’s no going back. For someone who is always on-the-go, my phone is the only thing I can confidently say I’ll have on me at all times.

Generally each ebook I purchase is a little less than the print version, but occasionally I catch wind that a book I’ve been meaning to read is on sale for some jaw-dropping price like $2.99. I always buy it right then and there and save it for a rainy day.

Now that I work for a publisher, I realize that most major publishers downprice a set number of titles every single month and many even have a formal program to do so. (Full disclosure, Chronicle has one. It’s called Chronicle Eye Candy and you should totally check it out–unless you hate saving money or beautiful ebooks.)

But keeping track of everyone’s different deals is near impossible. I’ve signed up for a few Kindle emails but they aren’t always as relevant as I’d like. Enter: BookBub.

BookBub now has over one million subscribers and growing–making it the largest ebook deals newsletter. You just sign up and tell them: 1) where you like to shop for ebooks and 2) what genres you’re interested in. From there, you kick back and let the deals come to you in the form of a daily email.

If you exclusively buy on Sony and are only interested in cookbooks–that’s what they’ll send you. If you buy on Apple, Kindle, and Nook and you’re interested in YA, mysteries, and nonfiction–they’ll send you those deals.  All the major ebook retailers, all the major ebook publishers, all the best deals. And it’s completely customized for you. The only thing missing from their line-up is kids’ books.

If you’re interested, here’s where you sign up!


BookBub for Authors:

After you put your heart and soul into writing a book and finally, finally, finally get the ebook up for sale, it can be a little disappointing to watch your Amazon sales rank linger in the millions. Everyone in your network bought a copy of your book, but how do you reach new readers? People you aren’t connected to?


Beth and I just tested a BookBub promotion for The Miracle Girls and I was blown away by the results. BookBub is really geared toward deal seekers so we decided to downprice the first book in our series to $.99. The lower the price of your ebook, the more affordable it is to list with BookBub. Since we priced it so low, this promotion only cost us $240 but it reached 190,000 subscribers.

Pricing and Statistics   BookBub Advertising

On the day the email newsletter went out, our Amazon sales rank soared and then stayed high for several days. (Check out the screen shot below. It does an author’s heart good.) On average, authors sell about 1,200 copies when listed in the Religious and Inspirational newsletter and I think we’re just about going to hit that mark. (I haven’t seen the final numbers just yet.)


Clearly if I were concerned about selling the ebook at full price, BookBub wouldn’t be a good fit for my goals. But personally, I’m just interested in getting our book in the hands of new readers. I love The Miracle Girls series and I want more people to discover it, people far beyond my friend circle.

We even strongly considered making the book free and listing it with BookBub. They predict the average number of free downloads for the Religious and Inspirational newsletter to be 2,900 – 14,000. The hope was that some of these new readers might come back and buy Books #2-#4 if they liked Book #1 in the series. But in the end, we were a little nervous about making it free–especially because it would mean offering it exclusively through Kindle, something we weren’t prepared to do just yet.

In the coming weeks, I hope to see a slow but steady pick-up in our number of reviews for Book #1 and sales for Book #2. I’ll report back if that happens, but even if it doesn’t, I’m still extremely pleased. We recouped the cost of the promotion and got The Miracle Girls in new hands. Very exciting!

But one last quick note for you. Obviously BookBub only works if you self-published your ebook–or somehow have control over the price of it. If you published your ebook with a traditional publisher, you usually don’t have any say in what it’s priced at and thus wouldn’t be able to drop the price. BookBub is only for ebooks on sale and generally $3.99 is the absolute highest you’d want to list your book at with them. Anything higher than that isn’t interesting to their auidience.



Battling Burnout: How to Keep Writing When You’re Over It

May 7, 2013

I think it was the third morning in a row when I dozed off in front of my computer that I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t just tired–I’d hit a wall. As a person, I’m pretty good at […]

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Writing Advice from Writers: Start the Next One

April 4, 2013

Let’s do a little bit of circle time, shall we? I’ll go first. Me, I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. These days when people ask me “how the writing’s going” I tell them, Well, it’s really a career these […]

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Are Your Characters…You?

March 29, 2013

Part of what makes this new writing project such a challenge for me is that all of my main characters really existed. Actual humans of history! I keep telling myself that in fact this should make it easier. After all, […]

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Togather: How to Have a Successful Book Reading or Author Event

March 21, 2013

I’ll be honest, I kind of failed at book readings when our books first published. It’s not that I’m afraid of speaking in front of people. Beth, can tell you I’m actually quite the little ham once I’m in the […]

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Hooray! The Miracle Girls Ebook is a Nook First

March 13, 2013

I’ve been a little quiet on my blog, but behind the scenes I’ve been busy busy! Today, I can finally announce one of the projects I’ve been working on. When we signed up the four-book Miracle Girls series with Hachette (FaithWords), […]

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Do You Have Any Research Tips for Me?

March 8, 2013

My Twitter bio used to be: “It’s easier if you make it all up.” This was a private joke. As a fiction writer, I’ve always been amazed at the research nonfiction writers do for their books. And I was relieved […]

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When to Quit and Why It’s Okay

February 13, 2013

With the very best of intentions, many of our parents did us a disservice when they told us to “never give up.” Well, at least if you didn’t grow up to be a professional athlete or, you know, an Olympian. […]

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The Confidence of Sheer Ignorance

February 6, 2013

One of the things you need to know about me is that I’m a massive Gilmore Girls fan. I discovered the show when it was in its fourth season and watched the first three seasons in a weekend-long bender that […]

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