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Hello, 2013

This Wednesday, I returned from New Media Expo, thereby using the last of the plane tickets in my travel folder. I have made 14 major plane journeys in the last 12 months, so this feels like something to celebrate. Although I had a wonderful time with friends at New Year’s Art Trade and a fantastic time with fellow podcasters at NMX, it didn’t really feel like the new year until now.

So here’s my year in review and my goals for 2013. As mentioned, I traveled a lot this year, though only in the US. I worked in 3 states. I agreed to cover the holidays for a hospital halfway across the country, and that was probably a mistake—not because it was particularly difficult, but because it added a lot of extra plane travel to an already travel-weary year. It was a little too much. I’ll know better next time.

I went to Balticon and Dragon Con, as well as NMX. I hung out with fantastic, brilliant people, and they made me feel at home. I traveled on my own all over Arizona and took a family vacation through Southern Utah, where the scenery is jaw-dropping.

I sold 2,378 ebooks for a total of 4,655 since I started two years ago. I more than doubled my average profit per book when I raised my prices. Although I sold about the same number of books as last year, I made more money this year. The $9.99 Cowry Catchers Complete Series was my best-selling title this year with 719 copies sold. However, The Prophet of Panamindorah Complete Trilogy continues to be my bestseller of all time with 1,161 copies sold. It’s now $7.99, although it was $2.99 for most of the first year. Cowry Catchers Complete Series is far-and-away my highest earner.

I produced and released Cowry Catchers Book 4 in illustrated text and fullcast audio. I spent hours watching InDesign tutorials from and learned to use the program to lay out paper books. After several failed attempts, my cover designer and I managed to produce a good-looking paper version of Cowry Catchers 2. (The final proof came in the mail three days ago!)

I wrote 105,000 words on Hunters Unlucky (for a total of 140,000 words on the novel) and 10,000+ words of annotations published on my blog. I’m not pleased with the word count. It’s a puny output for me. I typically average 1000 words/day when I’m drafting something new. I averaged 1200 words/day for most of the year I wrote Cowry Catchers.

In order to maintain that output in the past, I’ve needed (1) a single, sustained project (which I had) and (2) a predictable schedule with my social needs easily met. That last part I did not have. I’ve got a great set-up with my apartment near friends, but that doesn’t matter when I’m gone for months at a time, doing jobs which are stressful by definition. That’s why these hospitals hire travelers – because they can’t keep permanent staff. These are not the easiest jobs.

I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on the travel thing, although I will examine nearby options that present themselves. I think I need to be more judicious about taking lots of small gigs. The jerky stop-and-start messes with my writing. My computer also began a slow death roll near the middle of the year, which did not help. Fortunately, I jumped ship before it sank. But moving computers always takes time, and you can’t write if your computer is overheating.

Over 100,000 words is the best I’ve done in a year since anesthesia school, so maybe it’s just part of getting back on the horse. Still, I hope to do better this year.

Like most people selling ebooks, I did not see much of a Christmas bump this year—a little, but nothing like last year. January was my best month last year, as people who received ereaders for Christmas filled them with books. Again, I am seeing a bump this January, but not like last year. This corresponds with what most over authors are saying and seems to be a sign that the ereader market is leveling out and finding its normal footing.

I’m still not making a profit on my books. I’m a few thousand dollars behind, mostly because I just purchased the illustrations for Cowry Catchers 5 and also a license for InDesign. InDesign is the (very expensive) industry standard program for laying out the paper books. I could have kept renting it by the month, but I figured in the end, I’d be better off buying it. So I put myself back in the hole. However, I’m confident that my books will dig their way out of again.

I’d like to say that making a profit is one of my goals this year. It’s certainly one of my expectations. But I have no control over whether that happens. I can’t make people buy my work or review it or talk about it. I can only put out great books and stories and make sure people know they exist.

I’d like to release something new for sale every month this year—either a short story or a novel. That’s a high bar to clear, but if I succeed even half the time, I’ll be doing better than last year. Here’s what I’d like to write and the approximate word count. Most of these names will change.

Thessalyn novelette – 10,000*

Lu short story – 6,000

Finish Leopaard short story – 3,000

Finish Hunters Unlucky novel – 60,000

Hunters short story 1 (already written)

Hunters short story 2 – 4,000

The Scarlet Albatross novel – 80,000

Holovarus novella – 30,000

Sunkissed Isles novelette – 20,000

Memoir** - 30,000

That’s 10 things, although 1 or 2 of them might not be able to count towards my goal. I may get more ideas, or I may have a contest or two and do a few more character short stories. If my word counts are accurate (haha! Never), that’s 243,000 words for the year. I know myself well enough to add another 10 or 20K. Let’s say 260,000. And that comes to about 700 words per day. So, there’s my goal.

If I succeed in finishing these projects (an unlikely event, though not impossible), I'll be nicely set-up to begin rewriting Walk Upon High in 2014.

I’d also like to produce Book 5 of Cowry Catchers in fullcast audio this year, and I'll produce most of these short stories as solo readers. If I end up at home for more of the year, I might even record Hunters as a solo read, but that will depend on proximity to microphones. In addition, I hope to release all my novels in paper editions this year. We might not get through the whole list, but I have hopes.

Thank you so much to everyone who bought books, left reviews, hunted for typos, donated to Podiobooks, designed or drew or painted my characters or covers or maps. Thank you to everyone who volunteered their voices, their music, their sound effects. Thank you for entering contests, making fan art, making dolls! Thank you for coming to meet me at Balticon and Dragon Con and New Media Expo. Thank you for your time and your eyes and your ears. These stories are for you.



*I only know the story is that long because I just finished it.

**This will not be published under my name and I probably won’t tell you about it on this blog. Sorry!

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Reader Comments (4)

"It's a slow year; I only wrote 100,000 words."

The poet reads this, sighs, and goes grimly back to 2012's almost-full Moleskine notebook.

January 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteramywatkins

As someone who's dabbled in monetizing online I have to ask, have you considered placing relevant adds on your website?

I recently found the Prophets of Panamindorah. Starting with Book 1 which recommended by the Kindle store near the top of their free fantasy books. The end of that novel quickly led me to your website where I was then able to gleefully listen my way through all of the other podcast for free. I was able to paint and draw away without distraction while I listened. And surprisingly I think I got more painting done than usual :D.

While I have never attempted to write an ebook or podcast to put online I have worked in web design, blogging, and online indie games. If you are getting traffic to your website for the free podcasts, why not monetize? I'm not talking about spamming of course, just something off to the side that can turn a free user like me into a few cents.

I suppose part of me just feels guilty for having had such great entertainment for free, but I still thought I'd mention it in case it helps in any way.

January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Blue

Hey, Rachel! Thanks for stopping by, and I'm delighted that you're enjoying the stories! If you want to say thank you, just leave a review. The first Prophet book has been read by thousands of people, many of whom go on to read the rest of the series or listen to the podcast. However, for some reason, almost no one leaves a review of that first book on Amazon.

For my websites - yes, I have considered advertising. Cowry Catchers website gets by far the most traffic (and you should really check that one out after you're done with Prophet). But I think that ads make a site less attractive. I want to make money when people buy my stories, not when they're trying to enjoy something I'm giving away. The modest amount of money I would make on ads is not worth the irritation it would cause my fans.

I'm confident that if you keep reading and listening to my work, you'll eventually find something you actually want that I'm selling (short stories, illustrated work, paper books, comics, whatever). Content is where I want to make my living, not advertising.

I appreciate your thoughtful comment. It's really cool to know that people have made their way to the podcast from the ebooks. So listen to Cowry Catchers. If those books grab you, next time you have a few dollars, buy some of the illustrated copies (the illustrations for Books 4 and 5 are not available for free). Or a paper book. Or donate a few dollars to Podiobooks. Or leave reviews. Or just tell your friends. Those are all great ways to say thank you and increase the chances that I will be able to make a living doing this.

January 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterAbbie

I am very excited about the Holovarus novella. Love Gerard and Sylvio!

January 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterL Hassing

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