Good-bye, 2011

So, this year… It’s been a strange one for me. Some once-in-lifetime awesome stuff has happened, and some (one would hope) once-in-a-lifetime awful stuff has happened.

The awful stuff included leaving my first anesthesia job unexpectedly amid a sea of nasty politics, teaching myself a new practice style (travel work) under great financial pressure, working a lot of 16-hour days in Portland, and somehow hurting my back such that I haven’t been able to sit comfortably for 4 months and may have to have surgery this year. I haven’t been home in 6 months and spent the holidays alone in a hotel. I haven’t seen 2 of my cats since I left, and I feel like I don’t have a home anymore.

The awesome stuff included being on hand for the birth of my nephew, Morgan (first child of my only sibling), still loving the actual practice of anesthesia (even if politics and hours sometimes suck), getting to live in Portland again—hiking its woods, seeing my friends there, eating the wonderful food—even if I was living out of a suitcase, attending a fantastic first Balticon where I spent time with some of my favorite creative people and felt like a rock star for a few days, winning a Parsec with Bryan Lincoln for Fullcast, and having a successful first year in eBooks.

There was other stuff, but those were the highlights. I’m hoping for a less bumpy 2012, but right now, it looks uncertain.

In creative accomplishments, I produced Book 3 of Cowry Catchers in audio (and dealt with the backlash). I also put together the audio for the various Crossroads stories and released that collection on near the end of the year. Starting in Dec of 2010 and over the course of 2011, I put out 10 eBooks. I made 2 of them free (the first books in 2 series) and the rest are for sale. If you look to the right on this blog, you will see them. Four of those books are illustrated, and this involved special challenges. I’ve gotten about a third of the illustrations for Book 4 of Cowry Catchers and they are *awesome.* :D

In actual writing, starting in November, I got through about 35,500 words of the rewrite for Hunters Unlucky. I finished Part 2 (of the 6 Part story), and I’m pleased with how that’s going. It’s shaping up to be a book that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

I also wrote the most icky short story I’ve ever produced (where do these things come from??)—“Kittens: Free to Good Home”—which has yet to find a buyer.

In the interests of helping other self-publishers, I provide numbers. These are my sales so far. This includes only books sold, no freebies. It includes sales on Amazon, BN, SW, and (a very few) on CreateSpace.

  • Dec: 36
  • Jan: 31
  • Feb: 88
  • March: 271
  • April: 180
  • May: 352
  • June: 359
  • July: 363
  • August: 296
  • Sept: 208
  • Oct: 184
  • Nov: 205
  • Dec: 359

Total = 2932

For the money, I track only what has actually dropped into my bank account. All distributors pay 2 months behind. Consequently, the payments I’ve received represent only books sold through Oct. Nov and Dec are not included. With that in mind, my overall expenses for publishing (in text and audio) since 2007 when I started commissioning illustrations have been $13,021.68. My gross income has been $5,051.16. About $1,000 of that came from sales of audio short stories, donations on my site and on, and other little stuff. The other $4,000 came from eBooks.

Included in that 13K is almost $500 in royalties paid to artists this year. That was above and beyond their upfront asking price for their art, which I also paid. No artist asks for or expects royalties, but it was something I wanted to do for the illustrators of the Cowry Catchers books. I volunteered to pay them 25% of what the distributor gave me for the first 3 years the book is available, split between them according to the number of illustrations they did (calculated for each book). Stupid of me? Maybe a little. I doubt I will break even on those books before the 3 years are up, but I don’t think artists get paid enough, and I wanted people working on the books to have a vested interest in them after the work was over.

Through Oct, my average income per book sold was $1.70 (and really somewhat less, because that doesn’t take into account the royalties I pay my artists). I was making $300-$600 per month. However, towards the end of Oct, the Cowry Catchers Complete 5-Book Series hit the virtual shelves, and that had a pretty big impact on the money. It’s a $10 book. I get about $6.60 per book sold, and it’s not illustrated, so I’m not paying royalties to artists.

In addition, sales picked up towards Christmas. Although they didn’t top the summer numbers, I was making a lot more per book. I estimate I made something over $1500 in Nov and Dec, so total income through 2011 will look something more like $6500—right at half of my total expenditures since 2007. Most of that money was made in a single year of eBooks, while the expenditures were gradual over 5 years.

Is this success? Well, I think so! I’m not sure that I’ll be in the black by the end of 2012. I still have to pay for the illustrations for Book 5 and half of those for Book 4. However, I would be very surprised if I’m not in the black by 2013. I will then have the dubious distinction of paying taxes on this little venture.

Will I achieve my ultimate goal of working 20-30 hours a week in the OR and spending the rest of my time writing for a solid part-time income? For the first time in my life, I see how to do it. Might take 5 years. Might take 10. I’d be 44 by then. Still young enough to be an anomaly. :)

Like all creative people, I’ve got a shopping list of goals for 2012. Whether I accomplish them depends on what kind of curve balls life throws me. Here’s what I’d like to do:

Finish 3 novels – Hunters Unlucky, The Scarlet Albatross, and the Holovarus book (not it’s real name, also probably a novella). I’d like to get 2 of these polished and released as ebooks. The third could be written, but I don’t think it’ll get edited until next year.

I’d like to write 4 short stories in the Panamindorah universe, produce them in audio, and put them up quarterly as paid content. I wanted to do this last year, but then life happened.

I’d like to write at least 2 short stories that are either not Panamindorah-related or are very different from what I’ve done previously, for a total of 6 shorts.

I’d also like to produce Book 4 of Cowry Catchers in audio. Possibly start on Book 5, but I’d be happy if I got Book 4 out the door.

A big thank you to all of you folks who bought my work, listened to the podcasts, left reviews, posted on the forums, volunteered your voices, sent encouraging emails, tweeted and retweeted, favorited and friended and shared. You are the reason these projects are successful, the reason I keep throwing myself at those goals even when life gets in the way. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your enthusiasm and support. Have a wonderful 2012!