Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

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The Freelance Leap: Swamped

In two months and six days (ish) I’ll be taking a year away from dayjobbery and seeing how close I can get to generating a full time freelance writing career. For the next couple of months I’ve the luxury of preparation time, trying to figure out how to make it work and putting some things in place that will pay off down the line (maybe). Then, at the end of September, I’ll take the leap, put all of this into practice, and see if I’m right about any of it. You can browse previous entries here.

SwampedMonsoon season made an overdue appearance in Delhi over the last fortnight, and has often looked like this.

That’s what life feels like at the moment. I’m swamped, and starting to suffer for it. I’ve geared up to sprint towards the start of the freelance year proper, but massively underestimated how much time I actually have in a given day.

At the moment, of course, I still work full time. My typical weekday is up, grab breakfast, head to work, do that for eight hours, come home, grab a nap, wake up, try to cram in half an hour of writing, make dinner, feed family, put child to bed, open laptop… and crawl, exhausted, through a couple of hours of trying to write before I zone out entirely. I’m so tired during that last session that I get done what would take me an hour to do after a good night’s sleep.

That’s what I’m most looking forward to about this experiment. Instead of having a dayjob then trying to wring out words when I’m least fit to make sense of them, the words will be the dayjob. I feel like I’m trying to fit two lives into one at the minute. Both are jam packed with incident and things to do, but it’s the dayjob that soaks up most of my energy (rightly in my mind – they pay me well, and I like to earn that pay). It must be the same way for many, many writers.

I’ve made things worse for myself by aiming to clear too many writing and publishing projects before the end of September, so i have a clear run at new stuff when the starting pistol goes off on the year. I’ve either underestimated my time, or overestimated how much energy I should have left at the end of the day. This entry a typical example. I’ve been trying to start this blog for about two hours. It’s past midnight, my eyes are grainy, and my thoughts are dull. I’m shattered.

The solution is simple enough, and I’m putting it into effect immediately. I’d hoped to finish off two full length novels by the end of September, but at the rate I’m working I think that’s silly. If I can finish one, the Edinburgh book I mentioned last week, I’ll be a happy man. Not as far forward as I hoped, but probably not as close to actual collapse.

I’m forever miscalculating like this. It’s as though I forget I actually have a life when I plan things out. It’s something I need to get much, much better at if enough of my projects are going to work next year. If I can make better estimates while planning things out, ones that are less punishing, then the coming year could be an interesting experiment not only in working for myself and seeing how that goes, but also in having more time in which to have an actual life and do the normal things that most often get sacrificed on the altars of writing and publishing.

Looking forward to that, very much.

This week:

  • Was awful. Dayjobbery is going through another exhausting mini-spell, and everything else is suffering for it.
  • I pimped The 52 here during the week, and another five contributors stepped up. I’m ridiculously excited by the selection of images I’ve been offered so far.
  • I did more words on a novella last Saturday, written longhand in a few broken up hours during the day, than I managed on the novel across five evenings at the keyboard. This makes me grumpy (though that novella, which I’ll probably release next Spring, is an impossible amount of fun to work on).
  • Craven Place had another strong weekend on Amazon last weekend, then things dropped off as the new week rolled on. I wish I could map the spikes of interest to something specific, if only to be able to see whether it’s replicable next year, but it’s still a mystery to me. Any ideas?

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3 Comments

  1. Francis HaganJuly 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    There is no rhyme or reason to the Amazon sales figures. I launched The Janus Eagle with practically no pre-launch publicity except some mention on FB (which most writing ‘authorities’ agree is the least effective marketing tool of the lot). Two weeks into the publication my sales went through the roof here and in the USA. The latter was always slow for me as the period I write in is not that popular or familiar (Late Roman). In a week I made more than a third of the yearly royalties on the previous novel (The Nowhere Legion). Now it is falling off just as quickly. I have now almost sold in 4 weeks the entire yearly equivalent of the first novel in paperback too. Insane. And quite illogical. There has been a massive roll-back from The Janus Eagle to The Nowhere Legion which shows that many of these sales are from first-time readers of my work. I gave up trying to figure it out except for the following amateur and provisional observations:

    There is no demonstrable correlation between numbers and quality of reviews and sales figures. The Janus Eagle in the States has sold in one month more than The Nowhere Legion in a year there and yet has not one single review in place. In the UK, The Nowhere Legion has a real split of reviews between 1 and 5 stars and yet sold very well over the whole year and put me in the top 5% of Amazon world-wide published authors.

    Summer is a bad time to launch due to holiday and sporting calendar events. Autumn seems to be better.

    Freebies have no effect on real sales as far as I can see. I have two short stories that I periodically release through Amazon for 5 free days. They always shoot up the charts into the top 10 of whatever category they slot in but I never see a roll-back onto the novel sales.

    New Releases gain from being placed across Amazon readers’ home page but this is a short-term sales boost. Longer works not in a best seller list or newly released generate a slow-burn sale curve which is a better guide to your long term potential earnings. In this sense, I gained a better idea of my possible yearly earnings not from month 2 or 3 of The Nowhere Legion but months 5 and 6. The downward curve over the months as sales drop-off is always more easily graphed than the upward one which seems to be sharp and short.

    There are too many ‘experts’ advising on how to increase sales figures to make me trust in them. Your approach of the work itself being good will work in the long term. I tend to think of Amazon kindle publications as the same of going to listen to an indie band in Bar Thirteen. You forgive their roughness (read editing errors, etc) because you are reading something from the bottom drawer (if I can mix my metaphors!). Anything that has actually been well-written and edited stands head and shoulders above the bulk of the kindle stuff!

    All the above is entirely provisional and liable to be re-thought at a moment’s notice, of course!

    • Richard WrightJuly 28, 2013 at 7:36 pmAuthor

      Francis – thanks for that. Detailed and useful. I agree there are no tricks to guarantee success these days. A lot of stuff oft-cited as such are things that worked for a brief period (free books rolling into paid sales was a definite thing two years ago, but no longer works after Amazon switched the weighting of free books so they had much less impact on best seller charts), but which no longer do.

      These days, you’re right, it’s back to where it should be. Does the book look good. Is it then ACTUALLY good.

      There are still ways to tweak in a book’s favour, which you’d be mad not to do, but the effects are less dramatic and obvious than before.

      Look forward to discussing all this over coffee sometime late next year 😉 It’s been a real pleasure watching your own success over the last twenty months or so.

  2. AnonymousJuly 31, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Thanks, Richard – and I must say as writing full-time is my ultimate goal too and I am keen to follow your progress. A note-swapping session is definitely in order when you finally land!

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