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.
Yesterday I took a look over how the first half of this freelance experiment has gone. There have been highs and lows, but for all that I’m relishing it, at the moment I’m financially in the red. It’s difficult from this position to anticipate carrying on freelancing full time come the Autumn.
I’ve got six months left to at least break even. At the same time, I’ll be moving back to the UK in a couple of months, and that’s going to be the sort of massive upheaval that’s bound to impact what I want to get done. It’s going to be an interesting time. Here’s what I’m planning to do. It’s an ambitious amount of work, and I’ll almost certainly fall short, but I might as well start by aiming high.
This summer, I’ll be releasing a trilogy of short books exclusively for the Kindle. They’re very different from something like The Flesh Market. I think of them as summer blockbuster fare. Writing them puts me in the same mood as watching an Indiana Jones movie.
But that’s almost all I’m going to tell you about them.
I have a rather perverse urge about this. When I planned out The Flesh Market, I did most things ‘right’. Copies went off to reviewers before publication day, I did a bit of the social media thing, you lot joined in… and the book fell flat on its face. I still don’t quite know why, so with the next book I’m going to fly in the face of good advice and common sense in order to give myself a new baseline. I won’t be sending the book to reviewers, either before or after release, and I won’t be bugging many official news sites with them. I won’t even be teasing the books here very much. One day there will simply be a blog post, a couple of social media announcements, and a book. I’ll see what happens after that.
Everything is pretty much ready to go, including the cover for the first (a small detail of which heads this post). That’s something I can tell you about. I’m properly delighted with it, not least because it comes from one of my favourite modern fantasy artists, Vincent Chong. Vinny’s worked with some of the world’s top horror and dark fiction presses, won five consecutive British Fantasy Awards for Best Artist between 2007 and 2011, won the World Fantasy Award in the same category last year, and has been short-listed for a Hugo (if feels sort of inevitable that he’ll end up with one of those on his shelf too). I met him very briefly a couple of years ago, when I bought a print of his cover art for the 21st volume of The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.
I sort of figured Vinny was out of my league, both financially and creatively. I really didn’t see why he’d be interested in working on one of my little projects. I contacted him anyway last year. He’s a very busy guy, but to my surprise told me that if I could wait until 2014 he could probably slot me in. We’ve finished the first cover now, and he’s launched himself at it with the same enthusiasm and professionalism I imagine he puts into much grander projects than mine (here, for example, is his cover for a limited edition of Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box).
Why, yes. Yes, I am a giddy fanboy. What of it?
But apart from that, I’m saying nothing else about these books in public. If you want to know more, sign up for my newsletter. On Friday, I’ll be talking a bit more there about them and (with Vinny’s permission) sharing the range of sketches that he offered up when we were discussing cover options. They’re very cool, and you’ll enjoy guessing which one we went with before I show the finished version off on my site the Monday after next.
Those three books are the major self-publishing project for the second part of the year.
Although not a for-profit venture, I’ll also be continuing with The 52.
Beyond those, I’ve no further plans to publish anything else myself for at least twelve months. These books need to not only break even financially before I do any more, but they also need to raise the startup costs for the next one. That could take a while, if it even happens. On the plus side, that will be eight separate books available on sale worldwide, and hopefully they’ll keep being found. I’ll have my eyes open for new ways to effectively publicise them as the months pass by. Once it’s out there, a book is always new for someone.
The break in self-publishing should give me plenty of time to tackle projects that I want to send to traditional publishers. For a start, I hope to get at least a short story a fortnight sent off to magazines and anthologies (for the next six months anyway – I doubt I can sustain that rate for longer). I’ll be concentrating on professionally paying markets, with a little leeway given to other things that I think are simply too cool not to submit to. Published stories make a small amount of cash in the scheme of things (not to be sniffed at when you’re in the red!), but are also a brilliant way to introduce yourself to readers who might not otherwise have heard of you. They’re little adverts, for which you get paid.
I also have a few larger projects to look at, as you can see from the below:
Before the end of May I intend to have The 25 Day Novel complete, as well as the second and third parts of the summer trilogy (which are currently untidy drafts), two new short novels that I want to send to a particular publishing house, and a novella that I want to send to an anthology. All of these are in various stages of completion at the moment.
That, combined with trying to send off a short story submission every fortnight and keeping The 52 up and running, is a shedload of writing. It takes me almost up to the point where we’ll be leaving India, and I want it all done before I set foot in the UK.
I told you it was ambitious.
I’m going to use the blog a lot more in order to keep me on track. As I said yesterday, blogging through the challenges of keeping on a writing schedule seems to make me as productive as I get. Apologies in advance, but there will be much more of that sort of blog. I’ll write and post, but after The 25 Day Novel I probably won’t be sharing these on social media (for fear of boring people). If you want to follow along, you’ll have to remember to pop back each day.
Once back in the UK I have a month or two left in which to pitch and write a novel for one publisher I’ve talked to briefly (this has been on the back burner, as publishing things myself has soaked up more time than planned), if they’re still interested. That’s all I’m planning, for my UK time. If things go well, I’ll see if anything else will slot in. If they don’t, that’ll be it.
it’s going to be hectic, but once this year finishes there’s no do over. Going back to dayjobbery, as looks likely right now, will probably be a welcome relief after getting through this lot.
My first goal over the next six months is now desperately simple – break even against what I’ve spent
The second relates to the self-published books. I’d very much like to be selling five books a day in any format. That’s outside of release weeks or particular promotions, where things naturally shoot up a bit. If, on an average day, I can sell five books I’ll be a happy boy. You can see immediately how much easier this is, theoretically, when you’ve several books available – especially when they’re being found by slightly different readers.
You might think five copies a day is an underwhelming target, but speak to any small publisher or author and you’ll discover otherwise. So far in April, where there have been no new releases or promotions to bump things up, I’ve sold three quarters of a book a day. In March (when there was a significant sale of my novels in the last week), I sold an average of 6.2 copies a day, but at least five of those were sale copies.
If I can end this year with a quiet month looking something like March, I’ll have something pretty decent to build on.
So there you go. What do you think? It looks a little nuts to me, and this kind of schedule isn’t something I’d consider if it wasn’t for the ticking clock in the background. I don’t mind go back to dayjobbery at all – this freelance experiment has never been about getting out of something I hate, but instead has been about trying to move closer to something I’ve always wanted. If by the end of the next six months I can look back and say that I’ve taken a big step towards that off the back of hard work, I’ll be pretty satisfied.