Hello, 2014

Oh, look, it’s February!
I actually planned to write my New Year’s post in February this year, because January was so busy. January might end up being my busiest month of the whole year in 2014. But now things are settling down.
I had some goals last year. One of them was to release something new every month. I actually managed it (sort of) for about half the year. In May and June I didn’t get the pieces released for sale, just finished. The projects were:
January – “Sky Dance” (novelette)
February – Cowry Catchers Book 5 (illustrated ebook)
March – “Chemistry” (novelette)
April – “Hungry” (a Hunters short story)
May – Hunters Unlucky (finished the 210,000-word novel)
June – “The Secret” (novelette, finished, but not released until the next month)
Halfway through the year, I reassessed. I was feeling really stressed because I was trying to write new stuff while doing a tremendous amount of production. I was trying to finish the paper versions of everything, and I had started experimenting with ACX. My experiments were so encouraging that I decided I should have all my work available on Audible. So I needed sale-able audio of everything + paper of everything + ebooks of all the new stuff.  In addition, I needed to create the Cowry Catchers Book 5 fullcast audio for the podcast. So I was feeling kind of stressed.
I reassessed and decided that, although I am capable of writing something new every month, I am not capable of producing it in every format every month…unless I write nothing except 10,000 short stories. Also, going forward, I want to be writing one book/story and producing one book/story (producing = editing, ebook, paper, audio). At most, that’s all I should be trying to do at one time.
In order to make that happen, I had to stop and catch up. I had all this production work trailing behind me, and it was just growing bigger with every new thing I wrote. So I haven’t written much since June. :( I started The Scarlet Albatross in August, but I had to quickly back away from it when I realized I wasn’t working on the production stuff.
Seven months of no new books or stories have resulted in a predictable slump in my sales. When I was releasing something every month, I was selling about 300 books per month. Now that number has drifted down to less than 50. The process seems to work like this: 1. Existing fans buy my new book or story 2. Elevated sales rankings and buzz around the new story creates interest from new readers. 3. New readers may not buy the new story (not an appropriate entry point), but they start on one of my series. This is how steady new releases lift all of my existing work. At least, that’s my impression. I only have about 3 years of sales data, but this pattern seems reliable. I think seven months is the longest I’ve gone without releasing something new since I started selling ebooks, and it’s also the lowest my sales have ever been.
So what did I get in exchange for this writing-fast and sales die-off?
Well, I got paper versions of everything finally finished in Dec. I am very proud of them. They’re beautiful. I got audio versions of Sky Dance, Chemistry, The Secret, and the collection, Secret Things, into Audible via ACX. That's the only place I've seen encouraging sales lately. I wrote a bunch of emails and managed to extricate Prophet from the misbegotten deal that Podiobooks had with Audible before the existence of ACX. I am going to release the entire series as a single Audible download, the way I always wanted to. Their system is chewing on the final audio QC as I type this.
I also began the more complex process of doing the same thing for Cowry Catchers. I licensed all the music I used in the production, presented the voice actors with a payment plan, and got their permission to go forward with it. I began to the process of re-mastering the audio to make it sound a little more professional, especially at the beginning.
I also put a new podcast in place, so that I don’t lose all of the audience I built from Cowry Catchers when the series ends. (That’s The Worlds of Abigail Hilton Podcast. If you haven’t checked it out, you should!)
And, of course, I worked on the fullcast for Book 5. So far, I have put in 210 hours on that audio book. I write 1000-700 words per hour when I’m drafting, so if I’d spent that time writing, I would have another novel the size of Prophet or Hunters. I tell you this, not to cloud your enjoyment of the audio, but in order to explain why I don’t produce all my books this way. I am deliriously excited about the impending completion of the series!
I only wrote 114,000 words in 2013, my income has fallen off, and I need to pay voice actors for their work in order to sell it, so that it will probably be another year or more before I’ll be in the black financially. *sigh* I had such high hopes, but stopping to catch up on production was the right thing to do. I would have had to do it eventually, and the process became more difficult with every project that got shoved on that production stack.
How much will I write in 2014? What will I work on?
I’m hesitant to say. I won’t write anything until I am completely caught up on production. I’m getting closer. Before I’m allowed to write anything new, I need to finish the CC5 audio, release the entire series for sale on Audible, finish the edits for Hunters, and produce Hunters in all formats. For the Hunters audio, I will probably hire someone else to read it. This person has not been finalized yet, so don’t ask. Hunters will definitely be on Audible when I’m done with it. It may also be free for a limited time in my Worlds of Abigail Hilton feed, but only for a limited time. No more perma-free for giant, expensive audio projects.
In real life, this is the first year since I started doing travel work that I know where I’ll be for the year. I am covering a hospital in Oregon for 12 weeks of vacation (2 weeks at a time), and there are several local surgery centers in Orlando who have been using me regularly when I’m home. If that combination continues to cover my bills, I’ll have a more stable schedule this year and fewer distractions.
If you’re listening to Cowry Catchers Book 5, I hope you’re enjoying it. :)