Thanks to you, dear readers, Arcane Solutions passed 15,000 copies sold yesterday (Jan. 30, 2016).
It’s definitely a milestone for any book, much less a self-published one.
Obviously, it didn’t reach that goal overnight (and here is where I put on my business hat and share numbers):
See if you can pick the months that I released new titles for the series.
I’ve been writing since 2006, and self-publishing since December 2007, with my first ebook sale in January 2008. I was not earning a living or even a decent sideline income those first six years (2008-2013, though November and December 2013 were my first good months). A good month prior to those was one I earned enough for a tank of gas or to take the family out to dinner.
There aren’t any secrets or surefire methods to success in fiction writing. The only advice I can give is to always, always do your best with each and every book, keep learning to write better, and hone your storytelling skills. If you want to be a writer, then keep writing whether you’re selling any books or not.
But no matter how hard you work, I do think there still has to be a stroke of luck involved. You can promote until you’ve exhausted yourself and your pocketbook, which may result in short term bonuses, or in longer term bonuses, or even nothing at all.
Yet if you’re not writing the next book, you’re going to end up disappointing the readers you do earn. They will move on, because why stick around hoping you’ll get another book out if you’re not writing more?
The flipside is that once you do start seeing some success, see that your hard work is resulting in financial returns, you want to keep that going. Who hasn’t dreamed of earning a living as their own boss? Of maybe being able to quit the day job to do what they love?
Writing became my sole source of income in early 2014. I’m definitely not getting rich, but I am earning a decent living for the first time in my life, compared to every full-time day job I’ve held in the past. And let me tell you, it takes work to stay there. I probably spend far more time working now than I did working for others. If I’m not actually writing, I’m brainstorming, working on covers, revising older works, or spending time updating my business spreadsheets. Or even just psyching myself up to get my butt in the chair and WRITE.
I am not someone who can work a full-time day job and write too. I tried that for a brief period in late 2010, and basically had no energy at all leftover to write. I admire writers who can handle full-time jobs, their other responsibilities, and still find time and energy to write. I’m just not one of them, so for me to continue to write, I have to keep earning a living from doing it, because my bills aren’t going to get paid if I don’t have income.
Which means never resting on my laurels, but writing as much as I can, and releasing new titles on a regular basis every year. Also crossing my fingers that I don’t screw up and lose my readers’ trust by jumping the shark at some point.
Writing is an uncertain business. I have no way of knowing how long I’ll be able to continue to do well enough at it that I keep earning a living, and thus, can keep doing this thing I love so much, and I absolutely DO love to write.
I’ve managed to keep it up releasing only 2 titles per year the past two years, in my Discord Jones series. Having other titles available means there’s more for readers to select from, but frankly, those other older titles just aren’t as popular as the Discord series. I have to step up my game!
What I’m saying is, don’t expect one or even six “successful” books to carry you as a writer forever, or even for many years. You have to be like a shark, always moving, always writing new books.
There’s an ebb and flow to sales over the short and long term. Release months may be fantastic, but roughly 90 days later, sales will drop and so planning ahead is a good thing. Either by having another title ready to release, or having put money back from better months to ride out the slower sales months. And since you’re self-employed, don’t forget you will be paying taxes through the nose on your earnings.
For all the “writing is a marathon, not a sprint” school of thought, you still can’t predict future sales. But I do think that the more titles you have available, the better your chances are of making it long haul.
I know there’s still a lot of sneering at writers who write a lot, or “faster” as it’s portrayed. But based on my experiences, the one surefire method of promotion that always has results is releasing a new book. That was true before I began to earn a living, and it’s holding true now that I am. Your mileage may vary… or not.
I’ve watched 4 titles over two years now, and have seen how sales drop between the first 30, 60, and 90 days after release for each before they begin a faster descent. Based on that, I know that I need to try and release at least 4 new titles every year (3 months apart) to continue to earn a living, and hopefully, weather any future changes in publishing and bookselling.
Criticism from other writers about writing “too fast” has no bearing at all on my business. I’m not in any sort of partnership with those other writers.
The only partnership of any fashion I’m in is with my readers, and they want more as fast as I can manage to deliver something to them I won’t be ashamed to have my name on.
What I’m saying is: The only people who matter in the equation are you and your readers. Those are the people you need to worry about satisfying.
If you’re satisfied that you’re doing your best with each and every new title, and your readers are satisfied with the results, then you’re doing fantastic.
I’m not an overall Top 100 author on Amazon.com, I haven’t had an overall Top 100 book there either. My books haven’t made the USA Today or NYT bestselling lists (not gonna hold my breath that one ever will, and don’t care if one ever does). I don’t have a traditional publisher behind me. I have a small group of beta readers, a good editor, a love of telling stories, and the desire to tell them as well as I can.
From that, I’ve earned some readers who do poke and prod at me to get the next book out, and because of those readers, I earn a living as a writer. If there’s anything better than that for a writer, especially readers wanting MORE from you, I don’t know what it could be.
And if you’re curious, the green-shaded months are new release months. When 2 months are in a row are shaded, it means the new title was released at the very end of one month, so its first 30 days went into the following month continuing to “bump” Arcane Solution’s sales.