• publishing,  writing

    Self-publishing – 2020 to 2022 in review

    Table of Contents

    So it’s important to reflect and ponder, at least for the first few days of the new year!

    In 2022, I became a self-published author, with one book. I started back in 2020, so this is like a two year recap/reflection.

    The Dramatic Origin Story

    It was 2020. I was re-writing the Epic Fantasy Novel (about five years in development) and got frustrated when I’d finished it and the structure was pudding. It was a bunch of novellas bolted together. COVID was everywhere, and I was trapped in my house. So I joined a year long writing, online course. It was in the UK, I’m in Australia, so lots of getting up at 4am to talk to people or waiting for the replays of courses rather than joining in them.

    Anyway, one thing the course guys said was to focus on the bestselling subgenre in your genre. For me, this was urban fantasy rather than epic fantasy. Also, because the genre draws a lot from detective stories, I could do a complete story in one book! And the main character could have another adventure in the next book!

    I also attended WorldCon 2020 in my bedroom. At the urban fantasy panel, a cool idea for a setting struck me—what if it was a world similar to ours with cars and technology but not our Earth? And what if the past was an epic fantasy setting? And in the modern age, what if people thought that their past was folklore? But magic was still there, if you knew where to look.

    Projects

    In 2020, I wrote the first novel in the setting. And got it finished, thanks to the online writing course. I had a draft, but it wasn’t ready for release. Lots of getting stuck in the middle, and figuring out to make the main relationship ‘work’ between the two characters. It’s not a romance–it’s more of a thriller, but that relationship needed to click or the main character’s motivations wouldn’t make sense.

    So, as a side project, I wrote a novella featuring a side character from the novel, which became ‘Final Night’. I also wrote a short story per month for my mailing list and wrote all of my world building for the setting as a tabletop roleplaying game.

    Problems

    • The novel took longer to develop than expected! In fact, I took it through two more writing courses (I think I got addicted to courses during COVID) and I still think it needs another draft.
    • Because of the above, I launched the finished novella as an ongoing series, which meant dropping the novel and completing the new series based around Lukie, the undead teen detective from the novella. This was a bit of rework and rescheduling things.
    • My best short stories (current reader magnet) don’t link into the current series I’m working on.
    • I’m still working out what comparison authors to use for marketing the series.

    Notes for next series

    • Finish at least the second book in the series, and have an idea for the overall size of the series.
    • Have the reader magnet that links into the main series ready when the first book is launched.

    Business Approach

    I realised I’d be a ‘slow’ author, and wouldn’t be able to keep up the book-a-month or rapid release schedule that the 20Books250k group focuses on. That’s all based around the KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited platform on Amazon. So I’d release wide instead. I went direct with Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and did the rest via Draft2Digital. I’ve only made about $10 from the release so far from vendors (more from hand selling to people at conventions and my book launch). I’m not too fussed, as my plan is to build a backlist and market that when I’ve got the box set ready.

    Uploading to all sites was relatively painless. However, because I kept tweaking my backmatter, I’d have to login and reload my book multiple times. Next time, my final upload will be final.

    Marketing

    I started a mailing list, and wrote a short story a month to entertain people while I worked through things. I decide to have a character host the newsletter, as it makes it more fun for me to write, so I’m still working out a balance between microfiction/and real-life author updates.

    Final Feedback

    Final Night had a lot of work on it – lots of beta reading, developmental editing by the amazing Angela Slatter, more editing by Nef House Publishing…. And I thought it sparkled and gleamed like a fresh-cut gem!

    I entered Final Night in the StoryGraph beta giveaway program. I got lots of reviews! Amazing! However, they were mixed. A few two stars, lots of threes and a few fours. After brooding for long hours on top of a skyscraper like Batman, I read the critical reviews. I thought people would have issues with the world building (It’s a modern world with an epic fantasy past!) but no one’s actually complained about that. Instead, the main takeaways were that readers thought the pace was too fast, and wanted more character development or digging into the side characters. I’ve made notes for Book 2—and I’m juggling the character development with the thriller pacing.

    Goals

    Long-term goal – build my author backlist. So write more books, and worry about ads and things later.

    • For 2023 – Finish the next two books in the Revenant Records series.
    • Complete twelve issues of the monthly newsletter.
    • When I finish my current series/short fiction backlog for the newsletter, submit at least three stories to magazines.
    • Write a proper Lukie-focused short as a reader magnet for the current series, and a second short for readers who’ve gone through Book 1.
    • Streamline my automation sequence for the newsletter.
    • Social media – Write a blog post at least once a month, besides the newsletter. Crosspost to Dreamwidth and Tumblr for audience reach. Try to find a social media that I can engage with that is fun and not tedious. (Currently enjoying Mastodon.) Write a blog post reviewing social media later on.
    • Read and review books and log them on Goodreads and/or Storygraph. Do one book review per month.
    • Engage an artist for some character/concept sketches, starting with the Librarian host of my newsletter.
    • Learn to draw so I can do my own character/concept sketches. Try to do one sketch every two days.
  • urban fantasy,  writing

    Urban Fantasy Tango

    As I sit here, a glass of rum over ice close to hand, I am forced to ponder my impending mortality, and writing career. Or rather, lack of it.1 You know, I always thought that by 40-mumble, I’d have it made. Books published. Name in neon lights. Time to kiss that day job good-bye, and retreat to my writing garret where I would have completed every book I ever wanted to, with glowing fame, reviews, movie contracts, roleplaying game spin offs and video games.2

    So, for the past twenty years, cripes, I’ve been working on a bunch of epic fantasy novels set in the same universe. They’ve been piling up, and they’re recursive, where I’d write one draft, then realise I wanted to write about the backstory of an other character, and would write a draft, realising that I needed another set-up book… And look. There’s a whole cloud drive full of prequels to prequels that aren’t going anywhere, any time soon. My current project is another stab at the epic fantasy epic, but it’s going take a while to sort out. I started it without knowing where it was going, and now I’m nearing the ending without knowing where it’s going either. 3

    Part of the reason for this pile of stuff is that I don’t really plan stuff. Got a vague idea in my head, a strong idea for a character, and then I let it rip. So this leads to lots of dead ends, re-writes, re-builds and angry words. And then, as I realise that this book will take far longer than I have anticipated, I look over at other writing colleagues with actual finished books. Jealousy burns! How dare they, while my beautiful, epic fantasy still lumbers along, half-baked…

    And then it occurred to me. What if I write… something else? What if I sign up for one of those commercial writing courses, and write something that follows an outline? (I’ve heard about them, but I’m not quite sure what they do yet.) Well, turning out a short book isn’t really something that someone who has spent spent 20 years writing EPIC FANTASY has a great deal of experience with, but, well, you need to start somewhere.

    And then I thought, I’d change genres (mildly). I would write… urban fantasy. Noir, detectives, vampires, slick city streets, curses and people struggling just to get by. So, I know a bit about the genre, having played hundreds of hours of urban fantasy tabletop RPGs in the’90s and early ’00s (the Golden Age of Gaming). 4 And I can do a course, write a book, and have something structured and able to be self-published as something on Amazon in a year’s time. It’ll be amazing, and I can blog about it!

    So, is it possible to plan, write and finish a book within one year of this post? Especially for a serial non-finisher? Let’s find out…