Although I just did a post on my personal website listing my 2015 author resolutions, after I read this James Clear article I decided it might also be beneficial for me to do an annual review of my progress over the past year. I’m very much still new to the self-publishing game and I want to be transparent with the Everyday Author community about my own progress and struggles. I think by sharing our journeys with one another, we can all become better. With that said, here’s my 2015 State of the Author:
What went well
- I pounded the keyboard. After reading Write. Publish. Repeat. in January 2014, my entire outlook on writing and self-publishing was changed. For the first two months of the year, I averaged at least 1,000 words a day a minimum of 5x/week. Most of this was accomplished by waking up a half hour or so earlier and writing before work. At the end of February, I was let go from my job and challenged myself to write 2,500 words a day in two 1,250-word blocks. Although my speed slowed a bit (I hit 1,000 words in 45 minutes a couple of times before I upped my word count), I was still able to easily produce 2,500 words in three hours. This allowed me to complete the first draft of Return to Shadow (about 145,000 words) in a little under six months.
- I knew I could do better. In March, I re-read Out of Exile (my debut novel) and found even after five drafts and a professional edit that I still wasn’t happy with it. As soon as I finished the first draft of Return to Shadow, I did an overhaul of Out of Exile and then had it edited again by a different editor. This took about a month but was well worth it. Although my plot didn’t change dramatically (a few people have commented on the weak plot in reviews), my dialog was more realistic and my writing was sharper when I finished. I learned a a VERY valuable lesson from this process that I shared on my blog when I’d finished the second edition.
- I (gradually) realized I’m in this for the long haul. When I first published Out of Exile in November 2013 I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting to be bringing in a couple hundred dollar a month on sales. My expectations are more realistic now, but that hasn’t put a damper on my dreams of doing this full-time. It won’t be easy, but it is possible. I’m in control of my own destiny.
- I hit the books. Most notably On Writing by Stephen King and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. After devoting myself to the study of self-publishing and writing in general, I realize now that I’ve got a lot of work to do. From great teachers such as the Self Publishing Podcast guys (also the authors of Write. Publish. Repeat), Joanna Penn, David Gaughran, Chuck Wendig and many more, I’ve learned how to be a professional writer and I’ve gained a deeper understanding of book marketing. There are a TON of great resources out there if you’re serious about making a living from your writing (see our Amazon slider to the right for a great start).
- I started an email list. It may sound pompous, but it really is my goal to create the best author newsletter out there. It’s been a trial and error process, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it now. I also started the Everyday Author newsletter this fall. If anyone has tips on how I could make it better, please let me know. If you haven’t yet, be sure to sign up to the right (unless you’re reading this upside down. If so, signup is on the left).
- I started the Everyday Author. Even though this is still a tiny little blog in a big, wide internet, I’m incredibly proud of it and our budding community. In the coming year, I want to provide you Everyday Authors with even better resources to help you in your quest of becoming a full-time author.
- I got Undaunted Publishing off the ground. (With lots of help, of course) Like the rest of my 2014 undertakings, Undaunted is still learning to crawl before it can take baby steps, but we’re headed in the right direction, thanks in part to all of the awesome people who are part of the Undaunted team. I’m proud to be able to offer authors a publishing house where they can grow and have the freedom and support they need. If you haven’t been to our site yet, I encourage you to drop by.
- I attended IndieRecon and IndieRecon Live. Both the online and live versions of these workshops were phenomenal and I applaud everyone who helped with their production. I made a ton of new friends and connections at IndieRecon Live, won a couple of awards and can’t wait for this year’s event. Rumor has it they’re headed to the London Book Fair this year too! If you haven’t attended one of their workshops yet, you need to.
What didn’t go well
- I didn’t stick with my writing habit after I began editing. Since I’m an indie author on the side, I only have a limited amount of time to devote to writing, editing, formatting, blogging and everything else the job requires. With all of the craziness, I still need to remember that writing is the best thing I can do to further my career. Creating more stories should always be numero uno. After I finished the first draft of Return to Shadow, I went into editing mode and allowed that to consume all of my time. When I did write during that time it was mostly blog posts. They’re important too but shouldn’t take precedence over fiction writing.
- I put too much on my plate. Really, this one could cover the rest of my what didn’t go well list. Running derekalansiddoway.com, undauntedpublishing.com, everydayauthor.com and editing flickhit.com was way too much. On top of that, I decided to start a serial with a buddy of mine. Although the first episode of the Freelance Tales is up, we published it nine months and three missed deadlines later than intended (and it’s only just over 10,000 words, haha). Worse yet, we aren’t in place to consistently publish future installments fast enough. Episode Two is in the works and will be up in a month or two. In serial terms, however, three months between publications is a lifetime and completely unacceptable.
- I didn’t take enough time to read fiction. Not consistently, anyway. Whenever I read a book for enjoyment in 2014, I did it in big gulps that threw my schedule and sleep all out of wack. It’s important to me that I read for recreation, both for my sanity and my craft, but I need to do it at a much more balanced pace.
- Web design. Although I’m happy with the layouts on Derek Alan Siddoway, Undaunted and here, what you see is the result of hundreds of wasted dollars. This wasn’t the designer’s fault, it was because I was trying to reinvent the wheel when it wasn’t necessary. Rather than shelling out $30 for a clean, responsive theme to start with, I commissioned these big elaborate sites that looked awful on mobile and were just plain cluttered.
- Social Media. I did an abysmal job being consistent and engaging with Undaunted’s Twitter account (which also functions as The Everyday Author’s right now). On my author Facebook page, I wasted $50 on Facebook ads thinking that more likes would turn into sales. Looking back now, I can see how foolish that was. The good news (see above) is that I learned my lesson and began to build a mailing list before I spent more money on social advertising.
- Commas. For real. I was really pleased to see how few copy edits I had to make when my editor sent back Return to Shadow, but I really suck at commas. I need to polish up my punctuation in 2015.
What I plan to do in 2015
This year I’m planning on simplifying while reaching for another gear at the same time. I’m going to be big and small. I’m going to do better at delegating for Undaunted and The Everyday Author. I have to remember my number one task is to write books. I’m going to be mindful of how many new projects I take on. I’m also going to work on my outlining and plotting to create better, tighter stories. Instead of starting the next installment in my saga, I’m going to write three novellas at around 30k each and also finish the first season of The Freelance Tales which is about 60k words. I realize this is actually more writing than I undertook in 2014, but I hope by breaking it up into smaller projects I can hone my craft and become a better storyteller. Once I complete these books, I’ll have a catalog big enough to big marketing seriously. All in all, I’m excited to get back to work. 2014 was good to me and I know 2015 will be even better.
Now it’s your turn. In the comments below, let us know what went well (and what didn’t) last year in your writing career. What are you going to do different this year?
Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.