Spoiler: I do not become a millionaire. Just in case you were wondering.
When push comes to shove, you gotta do what you love
Even if it’s not a good idea
A little less than one year ago, I returned from a weekend trip, stayed up till all hours second-guessing myself, and uploaded the document upon which I’d spent a chunk of my free time for the last few years. For me, this was not the beginning of the story. It was the end of a story about fanatically hiding what I was working on, telling myself it would never have to see the light of day, pretending I wasn’t writing stories because the very idea made my brain lock up. It was the sequel to a story in which I didn’t write anything but angry blog posts for several years, because all of the ideas were gone, and I was washed up. It was the end result of my tiptoeing back into the water, trying not to look down. It was the result of begging everyone I knew to please help sort out this hopeless mess.
That was the beginning of the year.
Here’s where I am now.
The sequel to my first book is at the end of its first draft. In the meantime, I’ve written parts of two prequels to the first, one of which was posted here; and two-and-a-fraction drafts of an unrelated bear of a book in another genre. I have read several books about writing and publishing, dove into the waters of The Indie Community and crawled out with hypothermia, and learned everything my head can absorb. I should have done all of that beforehand, sure, but I am not in this for fortune and glory. I’ll mess up if I feel like it.
Oh, right, numbers. There aren’t many. Here we go!
38 borrows during the “counted per 10% read” phase of Kindle Unlimited
3007 pages during the “counted per page” phase of Kindle Unlimited, equating to 4.3 copies’ worth
Total: 278.3 copies (or, 0.76 copies per day)
This has been solely on Amazon/Createspace thus far, and pre-bought paper copies at conventions. I hope to delve into other markets when I have more books finished.
Of these, all but 6 copies were ebooks. I sold one paper copy to a relative and five copies at conventions. (I am already a convention vendor, as a crafter; this was not a situation of attending a con as a writer. You may want to put that off until you’ve sold more than, well, 236 copies.)
The book was $2.99 through most of the first year, except for a $1.99 price point for its first two weeks and $0.99 Countdown Deals about every three months, for a week each. (A Countdown Deal is simply a label that Amazon uses for one kind of sale. They pay a slightly higher rate than usual, and they are limited to one every three months.)
That’s a fairly high price point in today’s market, just because it’s the lowest I can price it and still get more than a quarter per copy. I make about two dollars when it isn’t on sale, and about 70 cents when it is. The price will change when I have more than one book finished.
Free: My husband posts on Amazon’s boards every time there’s a Countdown Deal, whether I like it or not. 😉 During the first Countdown, a friend who runs an online game plugged it to the game’s player base, leading to my first two-digit sales day (woo!).
Not Free: I ran two paid promotions during my Countdown Deal in spring 2015: one on GenrePulse ($30) and one on EReaderNewsToday ($15). Between them the week racked up 119 sales, which is still nearly half of all the copies my book has ever sold. The click-tracking link provided by GP reported low click-through from that promo, ironically suggesting that ENT was the better buy for me. Your mileage will vary.
Money, Or, Bad Decisions I Have Made
Oh, my oh my. Let’s just dive in.
Software $40.00 (Scrivener)
Covers $131.00 (THR’s horsie cover; the letters-and-leaves cover for THR2)
Promotion $45.00 (broken down above)
Post-office box $90.00 (I was told I had to have a mailing list…either pay $90 a year or put my personal address on the internet for free. I chose this.)
Bad Decision Paperbacks $97.29 (Do not order 17 copies of your brand new paperback, intending to give away 6 and sell 10 or 11. You will sell five. The other books will mock you with every breath you take for the rest of your life.)
…that said, $8.31 of that was for a proof, and I’m OK with that. I have an irrational fondness for my glitchy little first proof. More on that later.
Signage & Stuff $51.79 (sign holder; commissioning art from a friend to use at conventions)
Total Expenses $455.08
The hell of it is that I can’t nail down any of these that I would skip outright, were I to do this all again, except for the paperbacks. And those don’t make up the entirety of the shortfall. Even if I were to skip them – and the convention signs, relatedly – the rest of the expenses would still put me in a hole.
On top of that, I have skipped a great number of expenses that are supposed to be mandatory, such as freelance editors – to the well-deserved tune of $2000-5000 per book – so that even shaved down to the bone, I wind up spending more than I make.
Overall, I review my expenses with chagrin, but realistically, I don’t think they are overly inflated.
hahahahahahahaha okay, it’s $302.32. Amazon seems to owe me at least another dollar for the last couple of months – there’s a six-week lag between the end of the month and the payment day, and sometimes longer?, when someone reads it through Kindle Unlimited. So overall, perhaps $305.00.
If you are now saying “but you said you make $2 per copy and have sold 236 copies, what?”, remember that at least half of those happened when the book was on sale. When it’s on sale for 99c under a Countdown Deal, I make 70 cents per copy. And a handful of books were returned, meaning no payment at all. Plus, I lost a few bucks when people bought the books unexpectedly from countries where I didn’t have my payment options set up right. (The default is, “if I make less than 100 euros/dollars/pounds in sales in this country per month, just make that money disappear.” Thanks, Amazon.)
By the way: Don’t overlook this. I thought “how on earth is anyone I don’t know, in some other country, going to buy this book?”, and it still happened. The internet is strange.
Grand Total (-$152.76)
Things I Regret
Worrying so damn much about freaking everything
…that about covers it
First, I angsted a whole lot about all that money. I am not rich in real life, and setting $150 on fire feels wrong. But I decided to earmark a certain amount every month and keep my expenses inside those lines, and that let me stop worrying about it.
Next, a slow, protracted battle with realizing that my values as a reader and writer don’t line up with those of the self/indie-publishing community. The world told me that I was wrong for structuring my life the way I do and writing the sorts of things that I write, so… I left the world. I decided to go into the proverbial wilderness and write my books by myself. My stress levels plummeted, and I was able to commit to the next book without driving myself around the bend.
I have the freedom to do that, for various reasons. I don’t starve if I fail at writing, and that gives me a lot of choices that not everyone has. And there are a lot of downsides to this approach: isolation, missing out on helpful information, having to figure out every problem single-handedly. But I choose to handle these instead of the downsides of being connected to the community. I find it less stressful. Sad, but relaxed. (Kind of like my writing style. Ha.)
Things I’ve Enjoyed
Entertaining a few people. Finishing something that I didn’t think I could do. Learning about plotting, pacing, marketing, publishing, cover design – if only to realize how much I don’t know. Writing the next book even though the first one failed, because I feel like it. Spending more time with my characters and their world. Making playlists. Spinning a weird off-topic idea into a separate story on another planet. Opening the box with my first proof and seeing my story in print, even though I paid to have it made. It didn’t matter. All of the work that went into the story was real.
I’ve enjoyed everything except worrying so damn much about freaking everything, as above. Everything else has been great. I am always happy when I write. I am always excited when I read about writing, and how to make mine better. Other people who write… well, I don’t fit in with them, that’s all. It happens.
Revisiting the Goals/Values
When I realized that I had the Doing It Wrong problem, I charted out what my personal priorities/ideals were. After a year, I want to revisit these.
1) Tell my stories as skillfully as I can. – Constant work in progress. This is still important to me.
2) Control over content. – Still writing feelsy nonsense without pyrotechnics. Check.
3) Make enough money to sustain the writing habit. – This did not happen (see $150 on fire above). I am still a bit miffed with myself about it, so it’s moderately important to me; I’m just not living up to it very well.
4) Share stories with other people. – Trying to.
In my second year I will add: 0.5), Have Fun / Learn Something / Basically, If This Is Nothing But a Joyless Slog Out of Which You Gain No Satisfaction at All, for the Love of All That’s Good and Holy, Stooooooop.
My cardinal rule and prerequisite will be: This needs to be fun, rewarding or gratifying to me on some level.
Goals in Year Two
I would like to finish THR2, the sequel to the first book, and publish it.
I would like to re-cover THR so that the two books look a little more cohesive.
I would like to finish and publish the sideline project, which will be under a different name.
I would like to decide what to do next and then do it. (More with Keifon and Agna? Finish Rone’s story, finally? Start Agna’s sister’s story? Continue the sideline?) By the end of this second year, I’d like to be close to releasing whatever’s next.
I would like to continue to improve my skills, including speed — I’m probably never going to get up to the 10-book-a-year pace required by indies, but the second and sideline books were faster than the first, and I’d like to continue that trend.
I have learned so much this year, and I’m looking forward to what’s next.
Here’s the rest of my playlist for people who suck at the things they love, including some huge top-40 songs to complete the death of cool:
Mega Man 3 “Game Over” with Lyrics – Brentalfloss (the album version of this song is now the theme song for my inner critic. Note that it’s NSFW and very dark humor, including, uhh, jokes about murder and suicide. I’m not making a very good case of this, am I.)
Loser – Garfunkel and Oates
Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
Am I Wrong – Nico & Vinz
Let’s see how this goes, and keep trying.