Second Year Recap: Doing It Wrong, For Fun

It has to be longer than that. Right? It’s been… it’s only been two years? I mean, that’s 20 years in indie pub terms, but… two years? Huh. (OK, it’s a few days short of 2 years, but this week is going to be hectic from here on out.)

I wrote a draft of a two-year retrospecticus at about 1.5 years, because this year was so intensely frustrating and defeating that I didn’t see any other way it could end. And yeah, it was pretty much like that. But not entirely.

Theme song: “The Poet” – Bastille (as noted in the liner notes for THH, I listed to a lot of bombastic arena rock this year)

Previously On…

In year 1, I gave up on Being an Indie Author. I went up the mountain to meditate under waterfalls and live in a cave and whatever — to just write whatever I wanted to write, to make it the best quality I could, to publish whatever resulted, and to stop fricking worrying about Doing It Right. I didn’t seem capable of Doing It Right, and it didn’t fit what I wanted to do, so I stopped trying.

Therefore, I Did It Wrong from beginning to end. But I did something, instead of not doing anything at all for fear of doing it wrong. That may not work for everyone, but it works for me.


Overview

This year was dedicated almost entirely to producing Book 2, The Healers’ Home. I wrote a bit about the writing process back in December 2015. For draft 1, produced at the end of my first year of This Stuff, I tried to do everything Right: short, fast, no character noodling, plotplotplotplotplot. (In this draft, that meant stuff that happens to the characters from outside themselves — the two plots that side characters hatch in act 2, to avoid spoilers about it.)

I didn’t like it, and it felt disjointed, but hey, DOING IT RIGHT. After some back and forth with my husband / Ultimate Beta Reader, I grumped along and added a whole truckload of character moments and setting and blah blah blah. And so we wind up with a book that isn’t Doing It Right, but it feels  more like a book I wrote, for good or ill. (Mostly ill; there are few reviews in for Book 2 so far, but they have all taken it to task for the triviality of the story. Que sera.)

Then there was a ~6-month delay in the beta reading process. As a solo, no-budget operation, I depend on volunteer work and favors, and beggars can’t complain about timelines.

Since the first book was out and Book 2 wasn’t ready, I blew off the business end of this enterprise entirely. I read a bit about business stuff and listened to podcasts to keep a toe in, but that was it.

Eventually book 2 did come out, but the first half of its 30 days on earth* were plagued with stupid technical issues — the table of contents wasn’t right, the cover didn’t show up on Amazon, and I got banned for life from Mailchimp for unexplained reasons. I got most of that straightened out, but it was too late to make much of a difference.

And here we are.

* Indie books (all books?) only have 30 days to live, after which they “fall off a cliff” — in other words, no reader will touch them. It’s gross imagery, IMO, but I didn’t make up the lingo. Anyway, this is why cramming early publicity in there is important. Time is of the essence.


Prices

Book 1 was $2.99 until the release of Book 2 at the end of August. At that point, I released book 2 at $2.99 and dropped book 1 to $1.99. This means that I make 30% royalties now instead of 70%, but hey, it’s a dead book anyhow.
Promotions

None, as the first book was dead throughout (30+ days old) and the second wasn’t ready.
Expenses

Covers $81 (a new cover for Book 1 to gel better with book 2)
Renewing post office box $88

That’s it, not counting web hosting, which I split with myself-as-a-crafter.

Total Expenses $169
Income

$72.80. Oh, glamour.

Grand Total -$96.20

Here’s the good news about that: I now have covers for books 1 and 2 that I like and that go together reasonably well (in my opinion). And I lost less money this year than I did last year.

I also learned from Year 1 / Book 1 about print, a.k.a. don’t. The upside of the on-demand printing of Book 1 was that I could hand out some copies to beta readers as a tangible thank-you gift, and I had a reader or two who don’t do ebooks and wouldn’t read it at all otherwise. That was meaningful to me. I may commission a VERY small print “run” (like 3 copies) of Book 2 sometime down the road, if I feel like burning time and money.

I am VERY fortunate to have gotten the cover titles designed as a gift, though I bought the cover image. “Know somebody who’s excellent at design” is not exactly advice I can hand out, though.

As for spending overall, to calm my ever-jangling nerves, I decided upon a very small monthly budget out of my disposable income. I kicked into that fund every pay period, and added in any pocket change I made on book sales. As long as my spending on Book Stuff remained under that line, I felt all right about it. And it did.


Things I Regret

Time. So much time. Because Book 2 took so long to write and edit, I was more or less doomed in finding readers for it. Anyone who might have read Book 1 two years ago had long since forgotten it. And nobody’s going to read a 2-year-old book in order to catch up with a new one, when readers recoil from anything older than 30 days.

The upshot of all of this, then, is that Book 2 is a labor of love for reasons somewhat different than Book 1’s. The first time around, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I published Book 1 essentially to learn how to do so. The second time, I knew how (mostly), but I also knew that I’d missed the last chance at readership by several months. I also harbored no illusions about its saleability, having seen the first one dribble through no more than 300 copies in a year’s time.

So although I knew full well that it had a non-existent readership, I wanted to finish it and publish it. Why? Because I enjoyed the story. Because I thought it was better written and constructed than the first one. I know they aren’t legitimate motivations. There is only one acceptable motivation in indie pub land, and that’s to Be Your Own Boss(tm). But my motivations are my own, even if they’re illegitimate.

I regret not being able to get it out faster, even though I couldn’t reach the one-month mark in any case. If I’d made it by 4 months or even 6, I might have snagged a reader or two with a long memory. But it didn’t play out that way. In the end, it sold about 3 copies (plus a few to family and friends) before its time ran out.

Even so, it was worth doing to me. Read on…

Things I’ve Enjoyed

I spent this year submerged in Book 2’s story. And I did love it. Still do, so far. It has its flaws. But I tried to give this one a plot, unlike Book 1, and I hope it worked.

I can’t say I enjoyed it every day, but I managed to keep writing through a lot of nagging personal junk. I wrote 500 words a day every day from July 2015 to July 2016, whether I was tired or sick or depressed or displaced from my house or even just busy — anything. I got it in somehow. I stopped after that because Book 2 was done, and I wanted to plan what was next. But I showed myself that I could.

I tried to improve, with mixed success. I learned from my mistakes (I hope). Even though the second book was much too slow, it was still faster than the first, and it had a little more plot. It’s something.

Revisiting the Goals/Values

I worked out my personal set of goals a while ago. Revisiting those:

My cardinal rule and prerequisite will be: This needs to be fun, rewarding or gratifying to me on some level. – Yes, though not every minute of every day.

1) Tell my stories as skillfully as I can. – Yes.

2) Control over content. – Yes. I caved to popular opinion and then un-caved. Whether or not anyone else is happy with that, I still have control over what I do or do not include.

3) Make enough money to sustain the writing habit. – Nnnope, though I wasted less money than in year 1.

4) Share stories with other people. – This is gone now, due to the time lapse. But being published is more share-y than shoving it in a proverbial drawer, so I am okay with that.

Goals for Year Two
I would like to finish THR2, the sequel to the first book, and publish it. – DONE!

I would like to re-cover THR so that the two books look a little more cohesive. – DONE!

I would like to finish and publish the sideline project, which will be under a different name. – Nope! I started from scratch with a plottier approach. Eh.

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. –    Yes to the first part! I’m going to write book 3 with K&A, then a book with Agna’s sister (and cousin, and pen pal) and a book with two more Academy grads, in some order. After that I will decide whether Rone’s story is interesting enough to finish. However, I am not close to releasing whatever’s next. At all.

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. –     Ehhhh… Overall, I did finish 2 faster than 1. Let’s hope 3 is faster than 2.

Goals for Year 3
* Finish and release THR3 / The Healers’ Life.
* Have a solid outline for The Storytellers and/or The Strangers (the two noted above).
* Revive, or scrap and replace, the mailing list.
* Find some beta readers. I have lost all but one to other obligations, and this leaves me on extremely thin ice.


It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it to me.

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