Ann Jensen and Skylar West talk about their 2021 and plans for 2022.
Skylar West/Rogue London
Hi, I'm Ann Jensen coming to you from the east coast of New Jersey. Hi, I'm Skyler West coming to you from the west coast of Canada. We are two Romance Writers using our life experiences to break down and share with you all things romance, how you find your next book boyfriend, discovering genres and tropes and looking at what works and why. What doesn't work and why. Welcome to coast to coast romance. This is our year in review, where Skyler West and I are going to be going over the craziness that was 2021. Of course, there was a lot of craziness in 2021, just on its own to I was reading today that the reason why 2021 was so crazy was because the number that led the year was a crazy number. Whereas for 2022, numerically, it's a six and a six means stability, and all these other wonderful things. So we can all expect amazing things and do till 2022 based on the fact that when you add it all together, it's a two plus two plus two, which is a six, and six is supposed to be lucky. And two plus two plus one is five and fives I'm looking Correct. Ah, okay. I love this guy. You know, as an application, I'm gonna say five is much cooler number than six, but whatever. Right? Well, my Personally, I really like eight because when you turn it on its side, it's infinity. And so I quite enjoy that. In fact, I have this theory that when you turn the infinity symbol on its side or an eight on its side to be infinity, that our lives are the two loops. So the first loop of the circle is us building and building and building towards whatever it is our life is about. It's about kids and work and careers and jobs and goals. But when you hit a certain point, and you cross over that midsection, and it's circle starts to take off in the opposite direction before it finally loops around. That is the part that I feel I am in. And it's so exciting. I love it. I love to be on the new loop. New loop has paused endless possibilities. Mm hmm. Yep. Okay. And I'm just, you know, I just think it's cool that I was born on the square root of the day of the month that I was born in. Oh my God, whatever. Mathematician. I'm just gonna go throw up now. Where's my glass? Alright, Skyler. So yes, it's January 2021. Where were you? Where was your mind? What Where did you think you were going? What did you think you were going to do? Wow. Well, so here in Canada, and specifically BC, because that's the province I'm in COVID had had taken another round. So here, I lost my job. And then I lost my second job in January of 2021. And so there was a part of me that was elated. Because I'm like, Okay, I wanted to focus in on writing, I wanted to pump out a bunch of books create a blacklist. So this works out really well for me. However, that second job was teaching yoga. And you know how much I love yoga. And I'm very closely connected with everything that it infers. And I have so much training and experience that I felt like a part of me was lost. And so I channeled a lot of that energy and loss, because I find I write better when I'm not in a great place. I don't know if that's true for any other writers. But if I'm hurting as a human, I write better, which I've always found interesting. So anyways, I ended up going and writing and then in as we got into April, May, I was considering something different for myself. I wanted to re reinvent. And so I created rogue London, with the help of a very good friend who gave me some advice. And she said, you know, why don't you write some smart and just, you know, pump it out there, you know, make some money. Oh, I deny it all. There you go. deniable plausibility. Okay, plausible deniability. There we go. That's what it was. Well, it's still yours. Right? I so I write backwards and then I fix it. Anyways, so I did a reinvent and created rogue Linden so that I could write stuff that was well, but that wasn't at the beginning of the year. I'm just talking beginning of the year, like, how many books did you have out before this year? How many? Actually, when I went back and looked at it, I had put out a book in 2019 under scholarship And then I went and started working 70 hour weeks, so I stopped writing for about 667 months. And then at the very end of 2020, it's when I wrote Fallen Angel and Dark Angel, Dark Angel discovered. I had thought for some reason my brain thought it was 2021. But it wasn't I went back and looked, it was the end of 2020. And so with that second one that I mentioned, came out literally just a few days before Christmas last year, so random at this time. And then I just started pumping out a book a month. And that's how so January, there was a couple months when there was two, like there's literally like two weeks apart. But just what were your goal? It what were your goals to do a month of a book? Book a month? Yeah, yeah, that was definitely my goal. And I did it, and did more, in fact, so I tallied I thought it would be 20 bucks by the end of 2021. It ended up being 18. Nice. So just over one book a month, between the two, the two names. So about me Where were you back in January 2021. So January 2021, I was an unpublished author, who had just gotten, I think it was December, I had gotten my acceptance letter from a publisher saying they were going to publish my book, and I was clueless as this whole publishing thing. I was just like, I'd watched every YouTuber out there, every podcast every you know, I was just soaking it in, like, What am I, you know, what am I supposed to be doing because I have this book that's gonna come out in February. And none of it, none of it prepared me. None of it prepared me for it. But I my goals were, I was supposed to put out three books during the year. And two of them were already written. And that was it. That was I was gonna put out three books. And I was like, if I sell 1000 copies, between the three books, I will consider this not a waste of time. And if I sell 5000, I will consider myself a success. You know, and I'm very realistic goals. Because as you have like, screamed at me all of the time, I set very realistic goals. I do not shoot for the stars, I shoot for ground level. And it's worked so far for me. That's where I was. And I had no idea about marketing or social media. And I we're not friends at all. Not saying that we are friends now. But I understand social media now. I'm not saying we're friends. I get that. So yeah, I had this very small goal in mind. And then my first book came out and did okay. I think I sold a couple 100. So I was like, Yeah, solid, I'm on plan, I'm on track. And then I got a BookBub deal. And then like, my life exploded is really what happened is you know that that BookBub deal changed everything. The publisher went from saying, Okay, we'll publish three of your books a year to can we have them all now? Ride the wave, ride the wave, and then I met this crazy lunatic? Who, who was so cheerful and so happy, and just so bubbly and had 1000s of ideas for 1000s of different things. I know I shouldn't I should be someone labeled with ADHD. But I'm not. But well, I mean, we were talking about how this podcast started. And and you were so funny, because you were like, oh, is your idea. I'm like, no, no. Idea. You were talking about it. You're like, oh, we should do you know, it would be great. You know, if we did a podcast and I'm like, Oh, I've done a podcast before because I had done a podcast on quilting. And I had actually done a podcast on books before called bad guy or bad guys, booze and Bs. It's no longer out there. And dear god if anyone drags but it was basically a friend and I getting drunk reviewing books, and tasting bad wine. But I was like, oh, yeah, I know. I know how to do that. And really, I was just saying, if you want me to tell you how to do this, I'll do this and you're like, great. We're gonna do a podcast together and I'm like, we have graded the back. If you haven't figured it out yet, and is the reluctant friend. I made her my friend. You know, when you go to school and you and you see someone I'm gonna make them my friend. Yeah, I did that. She didn't stand a chance. And I don't regret a moment of it. I don't I really don't. Because you have made me laugh and and actually not have complete meltdowns. On more occasions that count. There you go. Because I don't think like, I don't think I could have got as many books out as I did this year. I don't think I could have done half the things on social media. But if you hadn't just been like, Hey, can we hear? You should do this. And I'm like, All right, whatever. Yeah, behind you. There's like three days, and meanwhile, I've spent 10 minutes, Hey, have you thought of something to be said for dynamics? And, again, for you guys that are out there if there's anyone listening other than Tina, Hi, Tina. But if there's anyone listening, and and I are almost we're like, Solstice. Okay. So in the north, it's the shortest day and longest night of the year in the South. It's the longest day and shortest night of the year. polar opposites. Right. And our writing process is different. Everything that we do is different, but somehow it works. pantser plotter Yep. Although you're turning me into a plotter. I'm a What is What does Rene rose call it? Plant share to? She's a plant, sir. Yeah, I'm becoming a plant, sir. There's hope for me. I still like and I would say like 80% or 90% of the Roman saucers that I've met are all Pantsers. And I'm just like, how you do it? It's just, that would freak me out? Yeah, yeah. No, I hear ya. Well, and you know what? That just doesn't work for your brain. Yeah, man. All right. So now I know you put out 18 books like and everything like that. What do you think was your biggest achievement this year? Oh, man. I guess it depends on what you consider what the world would consider an achievement versus what I consider an achievement. But I'll tell you this, I don't care about the world. What do you consider? Well, so you read a lot as a writer about how you want your numbers to stabilize. So you want to have this big push, when you're putting out a new book. You want to have people ready to review, you want to have an art team together, you want to have all of these things in place. And the idea behind that, of course, is that your launch successful but and I'm still learning about this. But apparently, the algorithms on Amazon and these other book carriers, they all work differently. And so if you have a huge success in your first week, and then your numbers take quite a dive. That doesn't, that doesn't bode well for your second book is. So if you're writing a series, that can be a real issue. And so this is what I had noticed when Skyler undersquare West I wrote Angels and Demons is that it would be thinking up and down, up and down, you know, plateau and then peaking. And I wanted a series that would just do well, you know, weeks after it was released. And so rogue Linden finally came up with the traveling brats. And the first one was released in October, the second one was in November, and the third one was in December, and they are doing well. There that's called what I call sticking, that this has been my goal all along. And the only way I've, I've realized two things from that. In order to have something stick, you have to know who you're writing to. Right? And you helped me a lot with that. And Rhianna Jamison helped me a lot with that. It's like let's fine tune who you're writing this for, right? Because you have to brand. And so I guess all the way along, because I know my work. I guess I assumed that people would start to recognize the brand because I always have dominant men and the strong submissive women, right? Always, always always, it doesn't matter if it's a scalar Westbrook or row Glenda book, I always have that dynamic. And I guess I just assumed because it's so popular and specific sub genres and tropes. But anyways, that was a huge accomplishment for me. And it's nice to have that writing into a new year. Like to have had finally have that occur. The other one was sprinting out and writing a book with someone else. And this is my, my first and I also got in on an anthology with some people I really wanted to write with. So these are two first for me. That both happened this year, but the product won't be out until 2022. And I'm really excited to see how those are received. Yeah, I guess that's an announcement for this. I don't know. I don't think we've really I mean, we said that we were writing a book but we really haven't started yet. Skylar and I are going well. Rogue and I are co who are going to be co authoring a book that well, we co authored a book. That will be out in January, right? Yes. Yes. Master the war? Yes. The first of a very exciting series. BDSM. Yes. BDSM club. Yep. BDSM club and awesome, awesome book. Every time I reread it. I say I'm checking it for edits, but really, I'm just falling in love again. It was fun to write. It's, it's hot. It is hot. I'm excited. I'm excited to see what's gonna be really, it's gonna be a neat journey with that, I think. Yeah. So what is your biggest accomplishment? Do you feel for 2021 Besides meeting me? Well, besides meeting you, because obviously, obviously, that is the biggest thing I've done. No, I think just conquering my feet and conquering my fear. But I the the moment that I remember the most, that just hit me was when my sales numbers came in. I think there were the sales numbers for earlier in the year. But I think I got them in July. And I had tallied them up and I had sold over 10,000 bucks. And I just I broke down in tears, like just big old baby tears. And now I've sold over 25,000 bucks. And it's unbelievable, you know, someone who thought that, you know, I'm gonna put out three books. And five books come out this year, right? Five bucks, five bucks. And then I'm the one that's coming out in January. So I've written six. And you've written six Well, being a full time single parent. Yeah, while being a single mom to two teenage kids and a full full on daytime job and trying to do this podcast, you know, just just it's been a crazy, crazy ride. But I remember because I'm a numbers girl. You know, like just seeing like that, that math, you know it. There's nothing magical about it. It's not even that it's industry standard or whatever. It was just some arbitrary number that I picked out my head and thinking about the fact that many human beings have read my books, it doesn't feel real and then going to the tempted and tantalizing. Right, so what was that? That was recent, wasn't it? Yeah. So in October, I went to tempting and tantalizing they adjust. I mean, they closed New York back down, but they had they had opened up New York. And so it was a a writing, readers convention for motorcycles, assassins, and mafia, I think, right, but the Janina Dante Basco. Oh my god, the event she puts on like, it's not, I mean, I I've been to sci fi conventions or book conventions before, but this was it was like an event and like, there's cover models dressed up like bikers and the people who showed up and the fans that I met, and I met, it was so funny. I met and made friends with someone called, she's on Facebook. right person, Lisa, I believe Figaro. This is her last name, but I thought it was just like, I met this cool person. And I hung out with her for several days. And then you know, is the day of the signing. And I was like, Oh, you're gonna buy my book. And, you know, I thought, you know, I made a friend and she's gonna buy my books. And she's like, Oh, no, I've read your books. And then I realized, like, her reviews were some of my favorites on Goodreads. And I was like, Oh, my God, my worlds have collided. Nice, and she's such a great person and getting to meet her and getting to meet other people who had read my books, that knew nothing about me, it was just this like, Oh, my God, I'm a writer. I'm an author, you know, this is real. And now next year, I can't even wrap my mind around all the things that I'm going to be trying to do. But yeah, so yeah, craziness. All right. What was the hardest part of 2021 for you? Well, I would say at the beginning, I hit a point. As you know, the just before school let out so probably May, and April, early May where I was at odds with what I was doing, because at some point, it just doesn't seem to matter. The amount of books you put out, there has to be. There has to be this moment when you know you're on the right track. I didn't have that feeling. But I also want to, I'm very clear on the fact that what I want to be and do forever is right, because I've been writing since I was 11. So after talking to my bestie, you know, again, getting clear on what my goals were, that's when I will try to, I thought, Okay, well, I'm just gonna create this pen name. And I'm just gonna write some stuff. And I'll just self publish it and see how it does like this little stuff. And, okay, I just want everyone out there to understand this. The advice that I gave Skylar at the time was, hey, you need to make some money. All right? This is what you need to do. Just write smart, just just pure, unadulterated, smart, and just just short, smart, and just get it out there. just crank it out, no story, everything like that. She's like, Yeah, I'm gonna do that. And then she did. She just reinvented what she was writing well, and muddier? Well, in this is what happened is, is I was clear on like, there are aspects to the publishing process that I don't want to do. And one of them is uploading files. And I don't know what you call it, it's when you make it all work on these different programs. So you can put it out to the pub, and a PDF and all that crap. And I'm like, Oh, my God, I don't want to do that yet. I did it as an in McGregor, when I first started writing. And it is, for me a massive chore. It's like learning a new language every single time I do it, for whatever reason. And so at that precise moment, I saw a actually, Vanessa Brooks shared a post with me. And it was from Red Hot romance publishing, Marian Smith had just decided that she was going to step out of her comfort zone, and publish more than her own books. And when I read about what they were looking for, I went, Hmm, this could be another one of those moments in time, that seemed happenstance, but really wasn't. And so instead, I created rogue London, and submitted these three books. I was the first author that they published back in whatever month that was, ah, was it August, I feel like it was June. I literally, I literally put out this book in two weeks. And, and even conceive of that, right, and like a just a speed demon. And then meantime, I had a friend that helped with covers and, you know, up, but then what happens is, is instead of being the simple author, that's just, you know, submitting stuff to kindle or whatever. Mm hmm. Well, now I have to create a brand. So as I'm doing all this, I know creating real glendan And she's getting tick tock, and she's getting BookBub. And she's getting good reads. And she's getting book funnel, and she's getting a website, and she's getting all these things that you need in order to run a book business, because that's really what you're doing, regardless of who publishes your stuff. Right. And it was just, it's exhausting. So this whole last week, I've been super lazy. And getting out of bed when I want to Well, since Friday, when my daughter finished her last day of school, and just taken my time, because it's been a absolute frigging whirlwind. Yeah, yeah. But I think reinventing yourself as well. I mean, I'm sorry, I'm always gonna call you Skylar. Yeah, but it's all good. I think reinventing yourself as Rogue has given you a new kind of fun. Look. Yeah, rock has been very liberating. That is one thing that I love what I write I love, you know, I have a lot of fun with it. And I will continue to always be doing that. I think. I don't know my hardest part. So some of you may or may not know, the hardest thing that happened to me in 2021 was my son got very, very ill. And I spent and I was on a book deadline at the time, and I basically contacted the publisher, and I was like, peace out, like you'll hear from me maybe sometime. But coming out of that. I don't want to say that he almost died. But he did. And coming out of that I had to reevaluate my life. I had to reevaluate my priorities. I had to reevaluate because right up until that moment, this was you know, a few hours a weekend hobby, this was a you know, and I realized that like, I had to live like my son needed to live my my, you know, and you know, him and I have been bonding a lot more and he's been, you know, he's absolutely healthy. Now. I would never know that anything happened or was wrong with him or anything like that. So I don't want anybody worrying about him. But he's Got a new lease on life? And I feel like I did too. Yeah. And, you know, I restructured my, and really went all in on the writing thing now am I giving up my day job? No, I'm not giving up my day job not until I'm doing a whole lot better than because I got two kids to put through college. But it is a priority. And you know, spending time on things that you love makes you a happier person, which makes you a better parent. Absolutely. I'm showing my kids that it doesn't matter. You know, I'm 46 years old. It doesn't matter. If I start chasing my dream now. And dedication and perseverance and everything like that is the key to succeeding. Now, don't don't bang your head against a wall, obviously, you know, you have to do it smart. You have to figure out why things aren't working in order. But I do believe that you can make your dreams happen, no matter what age you're at. And I so I have an aunt who got her PhD. Like, I think she was in her 60s When she got it. And it was like why would someone in their 60s Go for a PhD? Oh, because? Because her joy? Right? Yep. And girlfriend who's just got a new master. She's 72 years old. And it's like, don't don't stop chasing your dream. And you know, now that I'm chasing this dream I I'm gonna keep going. And yeah, you're of it. Yeah, you dragging you to the finish line. There's no finish line with writing. You just, that's kind of the beautiful thing about it is I was thinking, you know, if I even if I was 90 years old, and for some reason lost both my hands, and my feet, and I was blind. That's what voice to text is for. I could still write, and I can't really explain what any of those things. Like yes. All right. So now that we're not, we're not gonna lay out our goals for what we're nine years old. But what are your goals for next year? Well, I want to I want to slow down a little bit and dig deeper. That's definitely I think we have a killer series. And to continue to work on that I'm working on creating a world. And I'm playing around with exactly what I want that to be. I've got a couple of anthologies coming out that I'm really excited about. But last year 2021 was a race for many reasons, but this year is not going to be that. Well, I think last year you were sprinting. Oh, and I think you just need to find your nice, easy. Yeah, yeah, I set a goal. And I did it. And I know what it takes to write 12 books in a year. Oh, yeah. 18. And I don't ever want to do it again. Yeah, I'm also a naturalist. Like, there's, there's things about my environment about my person, I want to pay more attention to and I just haven't been able to do that. I need to get back to my own things that give me joy, like meditation and my own yoga practice. And metta, you know, breathing and just relaxing and giggling with my husband. Right? Yeah, yeah. And, you know, I always have set time aside for my daughter every single day. And no matter what I have going on, but I'm just looking for it to be more organic, more of an organic process. Enjoy the process, instead of live surviving the process. Yeah, that's good. How about yourself? Last year, my goal was three books. And I did five, not technically six, but I did five. So my goal this year is five. And we'll see what that turns into. But I want to I think more to the point, I want to we're going to start doing the Facebook Lives. So I want I want to get those going. And I want to get authors and narrators and everything like that to join us on the Facebook lies. Yeah, that's been a lot of fun. Yeah, I love that this podcast is so much fun. It is and I still can't believe that people want to listen to you and IBS. But hey, I'm willing to BS for hours. Especially with you. Oh, speaking of ours, we're getting close to the end of our time. Yeah. The think. Yeah, I think the only other goal that I had for next year is co authoring You and with Chloe around. Awesome. So be exciting. Yeah, very excited excited about that. Well, I want to take a second and just thank everybody who has tapped in to this podcast this past year at some point and listened in. Obviously podcasts don't really work if you don't have an audience and I also want to thank all of the readers for both rogue London and Skylar West. And all of the guests. I've loved getting to know so many cool people. Kate Bateman and Renee rose and show Montgomery and Marian Smith and Deborah and Leila Roberts and yet Sasa Daniels and Vanessa Cole. We've met so many and then we had Joe Arden and and Tom Tom and which you apparently need a private room afterwards. Oh, my God, you guys. He is so smoking. Britney Bell was on. Yeah, actually. But she doesn't come out till next year. Yeah, we recorded with her this year. She just yeah, we just had so many, which is why we're gonna try to start doing the Facebook live so that the content can come out more organically. And then after I take it off to the side and I edit the heck out of it make a sound like professionals. Then we'll put it on our podcast so that we always have double content. Perfect. It's gonna be an awesome year. And you know, thank you so much to Tina for joining us in our chat, which was awesome. And hopefully as we start doing these on a more regular basis, we'll get more of you coming and chatting with us live. Thank you, everybody. Thank you for listening to coast to coast romance. I'm Ann Jensen, and I'm Skyler West. If you'd like to contact either of us. Our links are located in the show notes. Have a great week. Thanks so much for joining us.