Every December I do a post about resolutions for writers, and every year I add more of them. They’ve changed a lot; after all, when I began this, there was no Amazon Kindle, self-publishing was a bad idea, and this blog was for writers eager to find agents and land deals with the Big 6.
But a lot of the advice from a decade ago still holds true, so take these resolutions for what they’re worth to you.
Newbie Writer Resolutions
I will start/finish the damn book
I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth
I will attend at least one writer’s conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers
I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to
I will join a critique group. If one doesn’t exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library
I will finish every story I start
I will listen to criticism
I will create/update my website
I will master the query process and search for an agent
I’ll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something
I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing–and I’m a lot more talented than that guy
Professional Writer Resolutions
I will keep my website updated
I will keep up with my blog and social networks
I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I’ll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner
I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won’t send out more than four a year
I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how
I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher’s
I will stay in touch with my fans
I will contact local libraries, and tell them I’m available for speaking engagements
I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford
I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion
I will help out other writers
I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy
I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic
I will do one thing every day to self-promote
I will always remember where I came from
. . . .
I Will Self-Publish
Just twelve short months ago, I made $1650 on Kindle in December, and was amazed I could pay my mortgage with ebook sales.
This December, I’ll earn over $22,000.
The majority of this is on Kindle. But I’m also doing well self-pubbing in print through Amazon’s Createspace program, and will earn $2700 this month on nine POD books. I’m also finally trying out B&N’s PubIt program, which looks to be good for over $1k a month, and I’m doing okay on Smashwords, with Sony, Apple, and Kobo combining for another $1k.
This is nothing short of revolutionary.
The gatekeepers–agents who submit to editors who acquire books to publish and distribute to booksellers–are no longer needed to make a living as a fiction writer. For the first time in history, writers can reach readers without having to jump through hoops, get anointed, compromise integrity, or fit the cookie-cutter definition for What New York Wants.
I’m not saying you should give up on traditional publishing. But I am saying that there is ZERO downside to self-pubbing. At worst, you’ll make a few bucks. At best, you’ll make a fortune, and have agents and editors fighting over you.
But remember: even if you are being fought over, you still have a choice.
DO NOT take any deal that’s less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you’re selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.
It blows my mind to think that way, let alone blog about it. I got a $34,000 advance for my first novel, and even less for my last few.
Currently, I have seven self-pubbed novels, each earning more than $24k a year. In six years, at the current rate, I’ll earn more than one million bucks on those.
But I don’t expect them to maintain their current sales.
I expect sales to go up.
Ebooks haven’t saturated the market yet. But they will. And you need to be ready for it. Which leads me to…
I Won’t Self-Publish Crap
Just because it’s easier than ever before to reach an audience doesn’t mean you should.
I can safely say that I’m either directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of writers trying out self-publishing. The majority of these writers aren’t making the same amount of money that I am, and are scratching their heads, wondering what they’re doing wrong.
Luck still plays a part in success. But so does professionalism.
Being a professional means you make sure you have a professional cover (http://www.extendedimagery.com), and you have been professionally formatted for ebooks (www.52novels.com) and for print books (http://yourepublished.blogspot.com.)
Being a professional means you’re prolific, with many titles for sale, and that you diversify, exploiting all possible places to sell your work (Kindle, Createspace, Smashwords, iBooks, iTunes, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Borders, Android, and no doubt more to come.)
But most of all, being a professional means you won’t inflict your shitty writing on the public.
Self-pubbing is not the kiddie pool, where you learn how to swim. You need to be an excellent swimmer before you jump in.
If your sales aren’t where you’d like them to be, especially if you’ve done everything else I’ve mentioned, then it’s time to take a cold, hard, critical look at the writing. Which segues into…
I’ll Pay Attention to the Market
To say I’m excited about the ebook future is putting it mildly. But that doesn’t mean I have carte blanche to write whatever the hell I want to, and then expect it to sell.
Yes, writers now have more freedom. Yes, we can now cater to niche tastes, and write novellas, and focus on more personal projects.
But if you want to make a living, you still have to understand your audience, and how to give them what they want.
Self-pubbing is not an excuse to be a self-indulgent egomaniac. On the contrary, it’s a chance for you to learn what sells.
For the very first time, the writer can conduct their own real-world experiments. By trying different things, learning from mistakes, and constantly tweaking and improving, we have more power than ever before to find our readers.
A lot of folks know how much money I’m making. But how many know:
I’ve changed or tweaked cover art 45 times.
I’ve reformatted my books five times each.
I’ve changed product descriptions over 80 times.
I’ve changed prices on each book two or three times.
Unlike the traditional publishing world, where published books are static, self-publishing is dynamic. If something isn’t selling as well as you’d like, you can change it. The work doesn’t end when you upload your ebook to Kindle. The work is never-ending, and vigilance is mandatory.
Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow. This means you MUST try new things.
2011 is going to be a turbulent year for publishers and bookstores and editors and agents. Change is coming, and many of the stalwarts of the industry aren’t going to be around for much longer.
But savvy writers will be safe from harm. In fact, they’ll thrive like never before.
For the first time in the history of publishing, we have control. Embrace that control, and make 2011 your year.
. . . .
This year, I’m boiling my resolutions down to the essence:
It’s so easy to get caught up in different aspects of a writing career. I’ve had phases where I tried to help other writers, started my own company, blogged, collaborated, fought the publishing world, evangelized, experimented, promoted, tried to figure things out, and spent a whole lot of time doing stuff other than writing.
I’m happy I did all that. But it has taken me away from the thing I like most.
I might be a blogger, and a teacher, and an innovator, and a pundit. But first and foremost, I’m a writer.
And writers write.
So for 2016, I’m going to write more than I’ve ever written before. I’m going to finish those stories I’ve put aside, I’m going to break new ground, and I’m going to get back to my roots. I’ve spent a lot of time tending to my career. And for good reason. A backlist is a garden that needs attention to grow and prosper.
But now I’m going to spend the lion’s share of my time planting more seeds.
I’m looking for 2016 to be my most productive year ever.