Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Self publishing one year later

I was originally going to post this on the 24th, but that was Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I was busy eating too much pie and relaxing with the family.  Since then, I've eaten more pie and spent time hanging a bunch of Christmas decorations while doing my very best not to fall off the roof.  Luckily I succeeded, though I'm extremely sore from the process.

I'll do a blog post on the Christmas decorations and why my wife and I go overboard with them sometime in the next month or so. :D

One year published

On November 24th, 2010 I self published my first book, "Rojuun" on Smashwords, a fact that filled me with quite a sense of accomplishment then and now.

One year later, I've published 4 novels, 1 novella, 8 short stories, 1 personalized children's book, 1 omnibus, and 1 collection of short stories.  That's not too shabby methinks.

In that time, I have reached over 1000 sales, which isn't too shabby either.  Over 100,000 copies of my free books have been given away in addition to that.  Many of the free giveaways result in sales or will result in future sales. 

"The Emo Bunny that Should" has been my most popular story, having been downloaded over 43,000 times.  I don't get results of how many free books I give away through Apple, so it's probably larger than that.

The journey

I decided to try writing in 1991 and put out a few poems.  It wasn't until 2002 that I tried writing a book.  It was a learning process that taught me I wasn't ready.  In 2007, I wrote a couple of short stories, the first of which was "Blue Haired Alien Girlfriend".  I submitted them to magazines, but the quality of writing at that time wasn't good.  I've fixed them since then.

I learned more through making a couple of Neverwinter Nights modules that total nearly 400,000 words of dialogue.  It gave me new ways to look at things and made me stronger at creating a character's personality through dialogue.

Playing D&D with a group and even DMing also helped me look at new ways to write.  World building became a strength, although I learned that it's possible to do so much world building that you forget to write the story.

Early 2010 was when I learned about self publishing through Amazon and Smashwords.  It was then that I decided to write that first book in earnest.

What I've learned

Self-publishing is an incredible amount of work.  Writing is only the first part.  Editing is vital if a writer wants to be truly successful in the long run.  I spend more time editing than I do writing the books.  I enjoy the stories that I write, which helps a lot.  If a section of book is agonizing to edit after the seventh time I look at it, then I study what's wrong with it and try not to do that every time I write again.

Marketing is the most time consuming and frustrating part of the process for me and a lot of other Indies.  It's largely about social networking and selling oneself.  To a large degree, there's no immediate result or gain either.  That makes it very discouraging.  The key has been to remind myself that self-publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.  Still, it would be nice to wake up one morning and see a million sales.  I can't help the desire. *sigh*

The most important thing I've learned is to keep improving the quality of my writing.  It's a long term plan.  I can focus all my energy on marketing and get a lot of sales right away or I can spend time becoming a better writer and earn those sales along with loyal readers over the long term.

Most readers look for authors they know and like.  It's important for an author to brand themselves so that people know who they are.  The way I'm doing that is to give away a lot of free short stories.  My most successful series is the Stories for Demented Children.  They're extremely popular and draw the attention of people because of the odd titles.  I recently put them together in a collection to sell in the hopes of earning a bit of extra change.

In the coming year

I'm working on The Dralin Trilogy.  It's slightly darker than The Willden Trilogy and set in the city of Dralin.  It's fun to write about the characters and imagine what their lives would be like.  The first book is done and I have a few pages of the second one written.  I really need to get going on it.

I want to get a few more novels written to balance books I charge for vs. books I give away, so the novels are primarily what I'm going to be working on for now.  I'm hoping to write three in the next year.  It's a reasonable goal.  However, I do have a day job *sob* which eats away my time.  I also make it a point to spend time with my family, much to their chagrin.  :D  So if I don't quite make it, that's okay.

It's been a good first year and I look forward to many more. :)

All my best,

John H. Carroll


Emily Lark said...

Your background into writing sounds a lot like mine. I have a beast of a story (160k words at least) that I wrote and rewrote countless times from middle school to 12th grade. I eventually want to go back to it, but not now.

I agree, marketing is very time consuming, but like you, I prefer the idea of building a base and branding myself when compared to seeing a spike in sales. I cannot see myself "cold calling" on Twitter or Facebook. It's a major turn-off for me, and I'm sure my readers feel the same way.

Three books in one year is very reasonable. I also think editing is supposed to take more time when compared to writing the first draft. For most of my novels, I've taken 2-3 times longer to edit, and that's not including the month I wait between writing and editing.

Best of luck on the new series :)

John H. Carroll said...

Hi Emily. :) The one thing I've noticed is that most writers start young. You wrote an impressive 160k by the 12th grade and I didn't start til I was 21.

Branding is definitely the way to go. I think Indies can be very successful if they're willing to make a long term plan. The business part of the job is hard for a lot of writers though.

One month is a good wait between edits. I wait 2 months for my novels and 1 month for novellas. I give the short stories about a week. It's easier to maintain focus on those while editing though.

Thank you for the luck and the comment. :)

All my best.

LK Watts said...

Hi John,

Firstly, congratulations on your success. That's a huge milestone. You've clearly done more than me in a year - I'm still working on my second book!

When I started thinking seriously about doing the whole ebook thing, I had no idea how much work it would involve so it was quite a shock when my book was available online and realising then that the work had only just begun. I keep telling myself that my second book won't be as bad because I'll know what to expect.

Good luck in the future years!

Lindsay said...

Congratulations on your success so far, John! I hope you continue to sell many more ebooks.

I'm coming up on my year anniversary too (I guess I will have to do a summing up post too!), and it's definitely a lot of work, but I've found self-publishing to be very rewarding.

Anonymous said...

even writing one book is a great accomplishment. :) Everything about being Indie is a learning process, but it's also exciting to be at the beginning of it.

Thanks! I remember us both joining Kindleboards around the same time and twitter and just about every other site.

Maybe in 10 years, we'll all be the veterans and new writers will look up to us and our millions of book sales. ;)