About six months ago, I finished up at a day job to see what I can make of a full year of writing full time. I’m keeping track of things during these blogs. Previous installments are racked up here.
“Time, time, time is on your side. Yes it is.”
Who the hell said that? That’s fecking absurd. Whoever said that must have been out of their tree on the kind of hard drugs that…
What? It was who? Oh. That makes sense then.
The end of March was the six month mark for this year-long experiment. I’m halfway through. So, it’s time for some full and frank accounting. What’s gone wrong and what’s gone right?
Writing has happened. Quite a lot of it, actually. I finished my novel The Flesh Market, drove three-quarters of the way through a new novel, have written eight stories so far for The 52 and another two for publishers, and am deep into three more novellas that make up a trilogy to be released sooner than you think.
As satisfying as that is to list, it’s still less than I wanted to have done by this point. My biggest problem has been organising my time. I have no problem at all when there’s just one thing going on (write a new novel, for example), but as soon as that combines with something else (keep writing a novel while publishing a second one), the new writing is usually the thing to suffer. In my dayjobbery existence I’ve shown myself to be good at multi-tasking and handling changing situations under pressure, but I’m struggling to bring those skills across to this freelance year. I wonder sometimes whether it’s having nobody to show off to. That’s a terrible thing to admit, but being surrounded by people to perform in front of can be very motivating (or, if you get it wrong, quite crushing!).
Perhaps it’s not showing off, so much as being accountable. My most productive writing periods over the last few months have unquestionably been when I’ve set hard daily targets and then blogged through the day as I chase the words. It doesn’t really matter who is or isn’t reading those posts – going public seems to focus me down. That may be something I can make more use of in the next few months.
My goal for the first part of the year was to publish one major novel, and in February I released The Flesh Market in paperback and for the Kindle. Next month, it will also turn up on the Nook, Kobo, and Sony Reader. Job done.
I also released the ebook version of Hiram Grange and the Nymphs of Krakow in conjunction with Shroud Publishing. The paperback has been available for three and a half years, so it’s nice that ebook readers can finally get hold of that.
Although I don’t really think of it as a publishing project, The 52 also launched and is ongoing. That big collection of new short fiction, despite being a massive undertaking, sort of hangs just outside this freelance experiment by dint of not being geared towards making any money. It’s for fun, but the time it takes needs to be accounted for.
The time I’ve devoted to publishing my own stuff has had a serious adverse impact on my intentions to work with actual publishers, and that was never what I wanted. I do have a novel sitting on one editor’s desk awaiting consideration, but since September I’ve made almost no new submissions. I need to remedy that, and it again comes down to managing time and being able to tackle multiple projects. While I enjoy exploring self-publishing options, and do consider it an essential part now of whatever career I might have as a writer, I never intended for it to be so dominant. Over the next six months I want to rebalance a bit, and have big plans for submissions I can make to two or three publishers I want to work with.
I need to get moving on this.
Looking at The Freelance Leap as a ring-fenced project (ignoring everything that went before it), I’m running at a painful loss of (at the moment) about a £1000. I hoped The Flesh Market would do at least the same sort of business as Craven Place did last year, which would have seen it break even by now, but that didn’t happen. The book’s had some of the best reviews of my career, both from horror fans and those who normally stay clear of dark fiction, but so far new readers have been slow in finding it. Unless things change, this may be the first book I’ve published on my own that fails to break even in its first twelve months (all of the others did so inside six, with two managing in the first three). It will eventually. Last month’s countdown sale went pretty well (thanks to those who helped spread the word), and the income from that will take me closer to the black when it arrives later this month. And while sales are painfully slow, they aren’t drying up.
To be fair too, a third of that £1000 is money I’ve spent on the next book. More on that tomorrow.
It’s fair to say that this isn’t where I wanted to be at this stage of the year. Had The Flesh Market done as well at launch as Craven Place it would have been a huge boost to this whole experiment, and I’d be running at profit. Instead, it’s failure to appeal has made it more of an uphill struggle than ever.
Still, nobody said this was going to be easy.
Apart from getting a better handle on multi-tasking major projects, I need to cut costs. All of the outlay for this year was saved up and put aside before I started, which is the most important piece of advice I’d give to anybody planning to self-publish (don’t spend money you don’t have and can’t part with for a while), but to continue I need to start finding ways to reduce what I’m spending. The more I can reduce a novel’s startup costs, the faster it gets into the black. Quite how I’m going to do that without reducing quality I’m not yet sure, but I’m looking at it closely.
Six Months Coming
So I’m six months through, and in the red. Having taken stock, tomorrow I’ll walk you through what I’ve got planned for the next six months.
That’s not a lot of time to turn this thing around. Good thing I like a challenge.