Friday, 28 December 2012

Publish Something!

Well, this is going to be the closest thing I have to offer to a wrap-up for the year. Because of an organisational cock-up on my part, the first episode of Season Two of The Second Realm, Through the Fire and Flames, won't be available until Monday, so I can't put this post out then, as I was intending to.

Here's the short version; at the start of 2012, I had two publications available, 'Heaven Can Wait', which had seen all of about 5 sales, and the first episode of The Second Realm, 'I Can See Clearly Now'. Unfortunately, I have no record of how ICSCN was doing at that time, but if memory serves, it was on somewhat less than 50 downloads total. I didn't start tracking my figures at all until the end of March, around the time I published the fourth episode, and I don't have detailed numbers from any earlier than late May.

However, in 2012, I published 10 whole episodes of The Second Realm, plus the standalone short, Immortal Remains (which isn't getting much love, at least as yet). I did unpublish 'Heaven Can Wait', though I'm hoping I'll be able to re-release it soon. In total, The Second Realm has now seen (at time of writing) 2,259 downloads, which means I can be pretty confident of claiming that for the year, I've seen 2,200 downloads across the 11 episodes - an average of 200 each.

In fact, since the series' total word count is around 110,000, I can claim one download for each 50 words published. It's a long way short of what I predicted back in June, but I've already discussed the drop-off a bit, and I openly acknowledge that my blogging and general public activity has been too low in the last three or four months to change that in any substantial way.

Overall, though, I'm happy with the year. I suspect if I could really get my head around what's happened, I'd be ecstatic (though as I said back in June, the time-frame of this kind of success always dilutes its impact). If you'd told me this time last year that I'd see average downloads of 200 per episode in 2012, I'd have taken it. Depending on my mood, I might well have told you you were being stupid.

Because if there's been one really palpable effect of this initial success - and success it is, however small - it's this: my last significant period of depression was back in January, before the publication of episode 2 of The Second Realm. I'm pretty sure it was caused in part by a sense of creative and career stagnation in the last couple of months of 2011. Since then, it's been up and up and up.

I've also learnt a great deal; some of the things I've tried for self-promotion (notably tweeting and various guest blog-type activities) have failed to produce any kind of noticable effect. On the other hand, my rare periods of regular activity on here have corresponded quite closely to steeper periods of growth in download numbers, so I know I need to blog more (I'm drawing up plans at the moment for a really concerted effort).

On top of promotional tactics, I've learned about design, practiced my secondary skills like formatting, editing and writing marketing copy, and, of course, written a lot. I wrote the better part of 100,000 words of The Second Realm this year, plus Immortal Remains (8,000 words), three novellas at about 20,000 words each, and the first draft of my PhD thesis at 70,000 words. And that's not counting the 55,000 words I wrote for NaNoWriMo.

All of this has been really good for me, and the bulk of it has also been fun. I don't have a good idea of what it's done for my authorial platform (though given that Immortal Remains has only made $9 so far, not as much as I might have hoped - it's early days yet), but those 2,200 downloads on Smashwords can't all be robots, and given how they're distributed across the series, I think there's at least some grounds for saying that some people must be reading me.

So, by way of a recommendation to ALL my writer friends, for 2013, I'm saying publish something. Doesn't matter what; by the end of 2013, get your name out there. If you can sell to a publisher, and the deal's good, go for it, but if not, self-publish something. A short. A novella. Get it out there.

It's exposure, it's practice, it will help your understanding (and everyone else's) of the business, it will thicken your skin, and it's just satisfying. It's the start of your career; we talk a lot about how 'being a writer' isn't a mythic status, but something everyone who writes deserves. Being a career writer, though, means being in print, or online, or anywhere else you can be read.

Now, obviously I'm not saying you should rush into print. Don't cut corners. If your main project is massive and still thirteen months from completion, don't just chuck a few chapters to save time and publish next December. Take a break at some point, write a short, edit it and put that out. It shouldn't take more than a month to get a short story ready for print, if you're proactive about writing it and you find a decent beta reader or editor (shout-out to my heroic trooper of a beta, Lynne Hunt, who's read well over a hundred thousand words for me this year).

I've argued before that every writer should self-publish at least once, and I stand by that, but I also think that however you want to publish, 2013 is the year it stops being OK to wait for publication. We've seen the first print-only deal for a book that became a hit as an ebook, which means that trad houses are starting to wake up to the idea that they can still make money from books without having the ebook rights - and we authors can self-publish as a step on the road to trad publishing (though I maintain there are big changes I want to see before I'm willing to go to a trad house - more on those another time).

And there's no reason to worry, I feel, about the risk of releasing something with a flaw you missed during editing. After all, I did that with 'Heaven Can Wait', and I don't think I've suffered for it. If you publish something that's flawed, it will not be an eternal blight on your name. It will sink without trace and be forgotten in a month, and you'll be free to try again.

Don't publish expecting to make any money, mind - I've made less than $10 this year, though I rather hope to make more in 2013 - but publish, because the longer you wait to start publishing, the longer it will be before your publishing has any effect.

For my own part? Well, I mentioned above that I believe regular blogging is the best way I can bolster my download and sales numbers. I'm aiming to have new content on here twice a week every week (except maybe the first couple of weeks of November - NaNo week and NaNo detox week ¬_¬). Eleven episodes of The Second Realm, two to four other publications (starting, I hope, with 'Heaven Can Wait'), and then eighty-some blog posts.

If I'm going to publish that much this year, then surely you can manage at least one thing, right? Go for it, and good luck!

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