top of page
  • Writer's pictureCelise Downs

The 2022 Afterword

There’s this cute little family movie that Matt Damon made called We Bought A Zoo. He’s a widower and basically buys this rundown zoo and moves his family out to the country to run it. At one point, one of his kids yells, “WE BOUGHT A ZOO!” in utter disbelief. As if that’s the craziest thing in the world. It is, when you come to think about it (it’s based on a memoir, actually). But it’s kind of how I felt when I started writing this.

As I reflect on these past twelve months, and how I’ve been a business owner for ten of them, I’m referring to the year 2022 as my Trial-and-Error Relaunch Year.

The Accomplishments

I RELAUNCHED MY BUSINESS! <yelled in my best little kid voice as if I was yelling “I BOUGHT A ZOO!” >

After setting it aside. Twice.

The first two versions of my business (An Eye for Romance and Romance Society Editing) focused on just independent adult romance authors. I’ve been reading adult romance for over thirty years, so when I thought about the type of business I wanted to create, I knew it had to be in this genre. At some point, I’d love to dip my toe in the Sexy Pool and try my hand at writing a short story.

I quit my first business because I wasn’t seeing any traction and became frustrated.

The second time, I didn’t quit. I restructured.

When I decided my business model was going to be Editorial VA (Virtual Assistant), I dove back into a pretty comprehensive VA course as a refresher. A course I had purchased years ago and never touched, mind you. In doing so, I held myself back from putting myself out there.

I needed to be prepared. More prepared than the first time.

I needed everything to be in place first before I relaunched.

I needed to feel ready.

When I relaunched in February, I clearly wasn’t ready because as the months passed, I found myself anguishing over:

Landing page vs. a website. I started out with a landing page, but soon realized a website would better fit my needs. Yet even as I write this, I’m side-eyeing my site and thinking maybe I should go back to the landing page? …

Pricing of services. I’ve been proofreading in the corporate world far longer than the book world. What seemed fair? Do I charge per hour as is the typical way of VA businesses? FUCK NO! Even though I entertained the idea. Briefly. Like a mere nanosecond. It reminded me too much of corporate. A world in which I currently still inhabit and am trying my best to unshackle myself. I chose a hybrid per word/project-based model. Retainer packages were always the plan… for the entrepreneurs. Until Kindle Vella came along, and I thought, “Well, authors may want a retainer option, too.”

Services offered. Lordt! This was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Every month, I seemed to change my mind. I started out offering proofreading, transcription, and manuscript assessments (basic and detailed). I scrapped transcription and switched to proofreading, copyediting, proof-editing (combo of proofreading and copyediting), and manuscript assessments. I ditched the proof-editing combo. Most recently, manuscript assessments got kicked to the curb. Subject to change, of course. Possibly. Maybe. More than likely.

Nicheing down. For me, this should’ve been the easiest part of the business process, but no. The universe was all “Bless your heart, Celise. You get an A for effort.” The first version of my business was just working with adult romance authors—indie, hybrid, or traditional going indie—and publishers on books of any length. I was worried about alienating the different types of authors and wanted to be inclusive, so to speak. This time around? Not so much. In the end, I want to help all adult romance authors (well, authors in certain categories, that is)—no matter their publishing journey—but indie authors who write short stories and serials up to 15K words take precedence.

The bless-your-heart part came when I decided to expand my target audience to include female entrepreneurs.

My bestie was leaving the corporate world to start her own massage business.

Former coworkers were starting (or currently running) their own side businesses.

My niece was blowing our minds with her crafty biz on Etsy.

I began to think that romance authors may not be the only ones who needed editing assistance.

Initially, I wanted to work with women in my fields of personal interest: living abroad, tiny houses, plant-based diet, sustainable lifestyle, and naturopathic medicine (in all its varied forms). Ironically, I found that to be too niche, and it was hard for me to write copy around that. There’s really no catch-all word to encompass these topics as a whole. Additionally, I kept thinking “Should I be that exclusive? What if someone outside these topics wants to work with me? What if I wanted to work with them? Am I going to turn them away?” FUCK NO! FOMO set in and I couldn’t have that. So, I decided on the general term of female entrepreneurs (a.k.a. fempreneurs).

I edited 94,281 words this year.

55,376 of those words were edited for free, either in exchange for testimonials or as volunteer work for a nonprofit.

I took a chance and shot my shot.

During the pandemic, I dove headlong into the world of short story romance. My parents got COVID right when it started and it hit my dad the hardest, gifting him with a ten-day stay in the hospital. My older sister and I quarantined with them for nearly a month and these short half-hour to an hour stories kept my sanity in check. Except for a few authors who write full-length novels, my Kindle library mostly consists of short stories of no more than 15K words.

Lana Dash and Brynn Hale are two such authors whom I discovered during the pandemic. Their books often occupy my library and I subscribe to both of their newsletters. In August, they announced in their respective newsletters that they were establishing an independent romance publishing company.

Color me intrigued.

I checked out their website, procrastinated for a few days, then shot my shot.

I sent them a warm email and offered my services on a trial period—for free—for the month of September.

Brynn emailed me two days later and accepted! <cue the Snoopy Dance>

During the month-long trial, I proofread two novellas, one of which has already been published (click on the link to buy)

When my trial was up, I expressed an interest in working with them again. Turns out they wanted to work with me, too. They liked my work, and it led to my first paid project of 2022! Four novellas, up to 15K each, during the month of December.

I invested in a pretty pricey email marketing course.

When you read my origin post on my journey to becoming an Editorial VA, you’ll find that I tend to buy #alltheprettyshinythings (a.k.a. courses). It could be the Gemini in me, the impulsive jump-in-now-regret-later side of me that had the best intentions at the start. But then I either didn’t follow through or lost interest halfway through and wallowed in a pool of buyer’s remorse.

Thousands of dollars wasted and dollars that probably shouldn’t have been spent to begin with.

However, in September, I attended Jordan Gill’s virtual Done in A Day Conference and a session I attended—and the person who hosted it—really resonated with me. To the point where, when her course opened in October, I bit the bullet (for the umpteenth time), said “Fuck it! I’m doing this!” and am now spending $500 a month for the next five months (that started in October) learning how to become social media optional through email marketing.

I’m going to be completely honest here: I hate being on social media for my business.

I have a personal IG page that I maintain, and I wish it was the only account I had. But as a business owner, I know I need to have some kind of social media presence so potential clients can find me. I’ve been trying to find a way to market my biz without having to be on social media all the time, but everyone seems to believe social media is the end-all, be-all.

Even though I read about people getting locked out of their accounts.

Even though I read about people’s accounts being deleted for no reason, losing thousands of dollars in potential revenue as well as their subscriber base.

Even though I read about people’s complaints regarding the changing algorithm and posts not being seen.

Even that one time when IG went down for a day and people LOST THEIR GODDAMN MINDS. (I was not one of those people because I didn’t even know it had happened until a few days later. LOL).

Clearly, social media is not the end-all, be-all, and Kirsten Roldan believes it, too.

I understand that email marketing isn’t new. I had debated on whether to start a blog or a newsletter. Would I have the time? What would I talk about? I imagine there are other email marketing courses out there that cost a lot less than Kirsten’s, but I imagine they won’t have her vibe or a message that resonates with me.

The videos are brief.

She and the coaches will review my copy if I submit it.

And I like that she teaches how to write without the use of templates (that forty kajillion other course attendees would probably be using).

For the first time, I’m excited about marketing my business and making social media an optional, well, option.

I (personally) read 498 romance novels.

My ambitious goal was to read 800, as you can see. Obviously, that didn't happen. I accidentally discovered the Reader Insights section inside the Kindle app on my iPad mini a few years ago and I've been peeking at my stats ever since. I break reading streaks. I inadvertently participate in reading challenges, unlocking achievements left and right. There's a reason why I've been reading this genre for over 30 years and if you're ever in doubt, here's proof.

The Lessons Learned

Would I rather have had all the work I edited come with a monetary price tag? Does a bear shit in the woods? FUCK YES! Do I wish I would’ve waited a bit longer, when I was absolutely ready to relaunch? Yes. LOL Even though I might’ve missed out on an opportunity. But I’m glad this was a trial-and-error year because I learned four valuable lessons:

  1. The kind of clients I want to work with. And the kind I don’t.

  2. Scope creep does not always occur on the client’s side. I was going a little above and beyond and needed to nip that shit in the bud.

  3. I am positive that editing is the only service I want to offer. Even if both writing and editing go together like Bert and Ernie.

  4. I wanted everything to be perfect before I relaunched the business when I should’ve been shooting for “It’s good right now.”

The Acknowledgments

To Liz Kopp, Roxy Rocker, Jordan McCormick, and Lyndrel Downs for being my guinea pigs and allowing me to eyeball your words.

To Julie Stamps at Last Chapter Press for taking a chance on me—during the trial and the paid gig. I hope I get to proofread and copyedit many more books for you in the future.

To my family, for their unconditional love and support.

So… what’s coming for 2023?

Welp, you’ll have to read The Foreword to find out.

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page