I self-published my first book, Rojuun, November 24th 2010 at the beginning of the Self-Publishing revolution. I had high hopes and low expectations as to what to expect. I discussed it with my wife and told her that self-publishing would likely ruin my chances to get a traditional contract. However, the thought of going through years worth of rejections when I could put my book out there immediately just seemed foolish. So I went for it.
I began writing Rojuun in January of 2010. I had already written some terrible poetry and a couple of short stories. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing, but the experience taught me a great deal.
2010 was a vastly different environment than now with self-publishing. Everyone was trying new things. Amazon hadn't figured out their algorithms yet, so when I put Rojuun free after finishing the next couple in the series, It took off with thousands of downloads. Rojuun and a few of my other books are still free and those books draw new readers to my work every week.
Book 4 of the Ryallon Series: Rojuun FREE!
Five year plan
When I first published, I decided on a five year plan. I would write as much as possible and do everything I could to succeed to a point where writing could sustain me. I also decided at the time that if I turned out to be a complete failure, I would set it aside and focus on something else.
The reality is that neither of those happened. I could have done some things differently along the way to create better success. I should have reinvested some of my money into my books, but I used it to support my family instead. My family comes before everything. I would even give up writing to take care of them. Also, the last few years have gone badly in many ways. We've had to work through some very rough times, and continue to have to do so. My last book took 2 years to write because of it. That's a serious liability when publishing one's own work. Optimally, I should be publishing 3 or 4 works every year.
That said, I've still achieved a fair amount of success, more than many have experienced. I haven't counted my sales in nearly a year, so I can't give you exact numbers, but I've sold about 15,000 copies of my books. I've made a reasonable amount of money, which has helped with the bills along the way.
And I've enjoyed myself. That's a big key right there. I absolutely love writing. I don't write for others. If I did, then there wouldn't be so many emo bunnies in my books. I write for myself. When I'm done, I share it with the world because it's cruel for an artist not to. The stories are still for me though.
What I've learned
There is a saying that you don't become a professional until you spend 10,000 hours doing an activity. After doing some math where I included a lot of time in the past doing some game building for about 4 years where I wrote a great deal of dialog and story creation, I've far surpassed that. I've also surpassed a million words of published work. I've completed 9 novels, 10 children's stories, 2 novellas, and 4 short stories. Does this mean I'm a professional? Hard to tell, but it does mean I've put in the time.
While writing all these books, I've learned to write. It's a redundant statement, but it's real. I've gone over and over every word I've written. I've changed styles. I've experimented with different techniques. All the while, I've tried to write excellent stories about fascinating characters that stimulate the imagination. I'm still learning with every book I write and striving to get better.
My current books won't ever reach the level of success of a JK Rowling or others like that. I think I made too many mistakes along the way. I developed a story line that was a little too large with too many characters to follow. I should have focused down into some of the stories and developed them into adventure series. It's something I will keep in mind for the future.
Where I'm at now
I just finished a re-edit of Dralin, which is the 1st book overall in the Ryallon Series. I did one of those things where I wrote books 4,5,6 before 1,2,3. However, the Dralin Trilogy is a much better prequel than some others that we'll avoid mentioning *coughstarwars123cough*
In doing so, I realized that I had lost some of my enjoyment and verve when it came to writing. This book returns to the fun, banter and even silliness that my earlier writing had. It's a blast and I love the characters in it.
Book 1: Dralin FREE!
Currently, I'm writing my 10th novel: Cloudswept, Book 3 of the Wyvern Trilogy. It's going very well. I expect to have the first draft of this book finished in late February if too many more things don't go wrong.
What the future holds
After I'm finished with this book, I'm going to write books 2 and 3 of the Crazed Trilogy. I'm afraid I left the characters in that trilogy hanging, along with some very frustrated readers!
I also need to write some more Stories for Demented Children. It's not near as popular as the Ryallon series, but I have some devoted readers of those. I have a few ideas down for stories there. I intend to do another Zachary Zombie story and possibly even an Emo Bunny that Should sequel!
I'm not the best writer, but I'm a solid writer that spins enjoyable yarns. The characters have become real to me and many of my readers. I believe that I will at some point support my family with my writing. In any case, I'll keep plugging away. I truly love writing.
All my best,
John H. Carroll