The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Category: Inspiration

State of the Author 2017 (& lessons learned from four years as an author)

And we all thought 2016 was crazy, eh? Visiting the Everyday Author in preparation for the post I was surprised to find our last piece of content here was back in April. That’s a pretty good microcosm for how the year went: fast. (If you want to check out my 2018 Author Resolutions you can find them here)

I’ll go into more details later on but for now, just know we’ve got a full slate of new Everyday Author content on the way! And now that the Gryphon Riders Trilogy is out in the world, I’ll be wrapping up the Bestseller Quest series as well.

It’s been a whirlwind. Looking back, I’m still a little surprised at everything I was able to squeeze in. I find it hard to believe that it’s been just a year since Undaunted released the Lone Wolf Anthology and I sat down to finish up the outlines on the Gryphon Riders Trilogy. I’m immensely glad I did it but not sure I’d want to do it all over again (at least not right away).

2017 quick recap

I wrote last year about taking a break from crazy production schedules to hone in on some other areas. Well, 2017 was back to the old grindstone BUT with the added benefit of bringing everything I learned in 2016 to bear. I successfully wrote, revised and published all three books of the Gryphon Riders Trilogy and they were BY FAR my best launches to date. All three earned back their production costs AND — I haven’t drilled this down to the dollar yet but it’s looking pretty good — helped me cross the threshold overall into profit for the first time in my author career.

I learned I could accomplish more than I would have thought possible before (it didn’t kill me but it was definitely touch-and-go at times). This year wrung me dry and I’m still recovering. Maybe I pushed a little too hard but if you don’t test your limits, how do you ever improve?

2017 by the numbers

  • Estimated rough draft words written (books only): 215,000+
  • Estimated words published: 319,000
  • Estimated words revised: 225,000+
  • Books published: 4
    – Lone Wolf Anthology
    – Windsworn
    – Windswept
    – Windbreak
  • KU Pages Read: 892,794
  • Giveaways (free books downloaded): 10,000+
  • Books sold: 2,130+
  • Yearly earnings: $9,800+

What went well


I’m lumping a lot of things together in this section because my production model as a whole took a huge leap forward in 2017. Without the team I had, there’s no way the Gryphon Riders Trilogy would have been released (mostly) on schedule and the overall quality of the books would have suffered as well. My process is to write the rough draft and then usually take a breather by moving on to the next book. By the time I go back to do the second draft I’ve had a decent break to let things marinate. I do a second pass and then send the book along to my production team: 2-3 fellow authors who give it a read, fix basic typos and point out any areas or confusing parts. After their changes, the book goes to another reader for final proofing (who also has editing expertise and gives it a final polish. Once I deliver the book to the production team, it’s usually ready to publish within 10-14 days but we could get it down to a week if time got tight.


I was able to get through quite a few more books this year — audiobook, ebook and print. Having a book going in each format helped me read more and mix things up. I could listen to audio in the car, read ebooks on break at work or in small bites here and there and still sit down with a paperback in the evening to unwind. To tie in both this section and the one above about production, I highly recommend the book Creativity Inc. by Pixar Founder Ed Catmull.

What didn’t go well

Staying on track with revising

Pretty sure I’ve talked about how much I despise revising books. I think I’m better at knowing how to polish a book to reach its potential but I’m still not any faster at it. Luckily my production team (mentioned above) really helped carry me here as I only had to do one and a half passes for each Gryphon Riders book (a second draft and then final edits based on their feedback). Windswept had a few areas I had to rewrite but it still shouldn’t have taken me three months (August – October) to polish 60k words. I also got down to crunch time with Windswept and Windbreak which meant that the latter parts of each book were rushed to meet the deadlines.


It’s become a theme to talk about biting off more than I can chew every year in these posts. This year, however, I took a different (although doubtfully better) approach. Once I got in the zone writing and later revising Gryphon Riders, everything else pretty much fell by the wayside. The good news was I was able to really hone in on finishing the books and setting up successful launches,. The bad news was Book Review 22 and Everyday Author suffered from my lack of attention. Next year I

4 lessons learned from 4 years as an author

I originally called this section “lessons learned from four years in self-publishing” but then I realized that I really don’t consider myself a self-published author anymore. Although I’m still an indie, I’ve started thinking of myself more as just an author in general. Overall, I think this mindset has been adopted by many authors in the indie space. We’re evolving past “self-publishing” especially when you consider many of us have production teams (see above) and are collaborating more than ever to meet reader demand (see below in 2018 predictions).

1. If your book isn’t selling, the reason probably isn’t that complicated

Assuming this is a new-ish title, it really comes down to one of four things: your cover, your description, your other marketing efforts or your writing itself. If sales aren’t where you want them to be, take an objective approach (this is a lot harder than it sounds but you’ve got to take off the rose-colored glasses). Pick the one you think is the weakest. Maybe your cover doesn’t fit your genre or maybe it’s not up to professional standards. Maybe your description just isn’t converting readers. Maybe your book isn’t in the correct sub-genre or you could find a new category where the competition is easier. There’s also a chance you just need to level up your writing with more practice or by employing a trusted developmental editor. Or maybe you just need to give it another polish.

If you’re not sure where to start, try to figure out where you’re losing readers at. When you run a promotion or ad if you’re not getting downloads or purchases, check the front door: the cover, description and price. If people are downloading the book but not buying the next in the trilogy, or if they’re not leaving reviews or leaving poor reviews it might be a case of the wrong category or the writing itself.

It’s not easy to sell books but it is relatively simple when you break it down into these elements. If you’re looking to do a relaunch of an old title, I highly recommend Relaunch Your Novel, by Chris Fox (affiliate link).

2. There’s room for everyone

When you take a look at the fan bases and platforms of the uber-successful authors out there, it might feel like you’ll never get a piece of the pie. Here’s a secret: readers read. The ones Michael Anderle calls “whale readers” read a lot. Here’s another secret: readers read faster than writers write. If you’ve got an all-around quality book (remember, be objective and don’t kid yourself here) you can find an audience. When you check out the Top 100 books in your category, you’re not looking at the competition, you’re looking at your allies. Reach out to those authors. Ask how YOU can help THEM. See if they’re interested in a cross-promotion of some kind or just get to know them. What you might consider a competitor could, in fact, be the person who helps you take your author career to the next level. Avoid a scarcity mentality.

3. It can be done (be patient)

  • I published my first book and a short story in November 2013. It took me — I don’t even know for sure — eight years or something to write and a year to revise. I made $26.87 in the last two months of that year.
  • Year one: I spent most of 2014 writing the second book in the series and revising the first. I didn’t publish any new fiction. I made $33.95 that year.
  • Year two (2015): I published Return to Shadow (book two in my Teutevar Saga) as three books. Then I combined them into one later that year because sales sucked anyway. I made $60.46
  • Year three (2016): I published a prequel novella to Teutevar Saga, wrote a separate standalone book with another author and released an anthology. I made $105.24. I had listened to the podcasts. I’d been to the conferences. I read the books. I knew I had to change something or I was going to burn out and call it quits.
  • Year four (2017): I produced faster and released tighter, simpler stories (they were also my best-written work). I followed the rules of the indie author “elite” to prove once and for all if it was possible for some regular dude to find real success. As I reported earlier, I made over $9,800.


Am I quitting my day job and going full-time? No. But 10xing my income is a pretty awesome personal victory. Now I have the experience and a real foundation to build on. Better yet, I’m finally in the black overall for my author career, production costs and all. Going forward I’ll be able to use actual profits to expand into audio and higher quality covers.

Trust me, if I can do it, you can too. Just hang in there.

4. Pace yourself and stay focused

This goes hand in hand with being patient. It’s easy to look around at the lightning-fast pace some authors are cranking out books and feel overwhelmed/discouraged. On the flip side, it’s extremely hard to just do you and stay at your own pace. But that’s what it takes. Learn what you can from others but ignore their specific circumstances. You do you. If you’re serious about being an author, you’re in this for the long haul, not 2, 5 or even 10 years. You’ll accomplish more than you think if you put your head down and do the work. I’m always striving (and often failing) to find balance. You can’t go nonstop forever and the faster you’re going, the harder it’s going to be to recover when you hit that wall.

On the flip side, it’s hard to make meaningful progress when you don’t stay focused. Chasing new ideas is a major reason why I struggled so much in my first three years as an author. Here’s a short list of “side gigs” I dove into without thinking it through. Some are still going but many fell by the wayside. None have netted as much money as writing books

– Founded a publishing company which has now morphed in a production studio/author co-op but is still going
– Started this blog (Everyday Author). It fell by the wayside this year but I’m sticking with it.
– (Briefly) started a book recommendation site with a fellow author
– Launched a movie review blog with a friend (still going)
– Launched a t-shirt company with a couple other friends (sucked a bunch of time and never amount to much of anything)
– Found a publicity company for indie authors called Book Review 22 (the second best venture)

Too. Many. Directions. Most are way out in left field, too. The ones I’m sticking with (Undaunted Publishing, Everyday Author, Book Review 22 and Flick Hit), I’m doing so for very specific, strategic reasons. My writing projects are much more intentional now, too. Be patient and keep your eye on the real prize.

2018 predictions


Successful indie authors have always gone against the publishing norms but now companies like Sterling and Stone and Michael Anderle’s LMBPN Publishing are creating a whole new production model focused on collaboration. For the vast majority of authors, the only way to release multiple books per year, including a book every 3-5 weeks, is through collaboration. It’s the only sustainable way to keep up that insane pace. In 2018, I believe more and more authors will start coming together in these cooperatives and publishing groups to share a larger piece of the pie. But not just authors. Editors, proofreaders, cover designers and marketers will be integral parts of this collaborative movement as well. Forming a collaborative production team was a major reason for my success in 2017

Next big indie steps (film, tv & more)

It began with The Martian and snowballs every year. With so many entertainment outlets, more indies with established audiences will get deals to make movie and television adaptations of their works. Down the road, I can see this spilling into video games, virtual reality and… (cue mystical voice) beyond.

More authors leave Amazon’s exclusivity

Whether we’re talking about rank-stripping, smaller page-reads payouts or Amazon favoring their own books over others, more authors are going to get fed up of the might Zon and go wide. On the flip side, the authors who stay (and manage to avoid the numerous rapids in the world’s mightiest store/river) will continue to make more $$$ in the short term. Decisions, decisions…

Guest Post: Adventures in Self-Publishing w/ Michael Fletcher

Note from D-Sidd: Michael first joined us for an Author Origins interview back in June of 2015.  He then returned in March of 2016 to give us a sobering update on his author career.  He’d just been dumped by his major publisher and was working on a sequel to his critically acclaimed dark fantasy/grimdark book, Beyond Redemption and wrote about it in this post. Since then, Michael turned to self-publishing for the sequel, The Mirror’s Truth. (FYI, the above picture is not Michael, but he lives in Canada so it’s not completely out of the question that it could be him)

Hey Folks,

Yep, it’s me sneaking in here again for an update on all things random and insane. There are a couple of earlier blog posts you can check out if you’d like some background, or I can just give it to you now in a trippy drug-fueled flashback.

Crap. I’m all out of mescaline. Awrighty. Here’s the fast version:

I wrote a book (Beyond Redemption), got an agent, and sold that book to Harper Voyager. The book received rave reviews and made over a dozen Best-of-2015 lists. Secure in the knowledge HV would want more of my madness, I wrote a sequel (The Mirror’s Truth) and another novel taking place in the same world but with new characters (Swarm and Steel). I then learned that reviews do not always equal sales, and HV passed on the next book without even looking at it. In their words, Beyond Redemption wasn’t selling enough to warrant investing in a sequel. Gut punch.

Okay. We’re kinda caught up.

After spending several weeks drunk and lying in a pool of my own tears, I finally picked myself up, dusted myself off (really needed to vacuum), and realized I still wanted to write.

But it turns out success is a sneaky bastard. And my decision not to self-publish, I later came to realize, was a trap.

Many years ago—back in 2008—I stated in no uncertain terms that I would never self-publish. The few self-published novels I’d read were garbage. I believed whole-heartedly that if my books weren’t good enough to sell to a publisher, they weren’t good enough to publish. That was how I defined success. Well, by that metric, in 2014 (when BR sold to HV) I became successful. But it turns out success is a sneaky bastard. And my decision not to self-publish, I later came to realize, was a trap.

It turns out publishers are not interested in a sequel to a book held by another publisher. No one wanted The Mirror’s Truth. Having sold a book to a Big 5 publisher I now felt fairly confident (well, as confident as a writer ever feels) that I could write at a professional level. I’d spent a lot of time on TMT, and while it was different that BR—more internally focused on the characters—I was pretty sure it was just as good. But it wouldn’t sell. I faced a choice: Self-publish it, or let it die.

I am so glad I chose to self-publish. The Mirror’s Truth has been out a little over a month, has already landed on several Best-of-2016 lists, and earned back what I spent publishing it.

I went in knowing nothing, made just about every mistake along the way, and learned some amazing lessons. Super fast summary, ‘cuz this post ain’t about those lessons: Hire a good artist. Hire a good typographer for the cover text. Hire a reputable editor. Understand your deadline is self-set and change it if you need to rather than rushing to meet it. Oh, and self-publishing costs money!

Swarm and Steel, on the other hand, was not a sequel. My agent found a home for it with Talos Press (an imprint of Skyhorse/Night Shade Books) and it’s being released in August of 2017.

So now we’re caught up with today.

What does life look like for me right now? Well, I have a job, a family, and have to sneak in the writing wherever I can.

“How do you do that?” you might ask.

I have never been a morning person. The first time I got up at 5 am I thought I was going to puke. But when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.

I realized right away I was too tired—too burned out—in the evenings to write. After work, there was cooking dinner, doing homework with my daughter, spending time with my wife, and of course, whiskey. The only time I might be able to write was early in the morning. So I changed my schedule around. I’m now up by 5 am every day, even on weekends. This gives me two solid hours of writing/editing time before everyone else rises and the day starts. At 7 am I get my daughter up, and at 7:30 am I leave for work. And yeah, I’m in bed before 10 pm most nights. I have never been a morning person. The first time I got up at 5 am I thought I was going to puke. But when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.

More recently I realized there were writing opportunities at work that I was missing. Breaks, lunch time, and the occasional slow-time when nothing is happening. This coincided nicely with my daughter jumping up and down on a cheap Acer tablet I’d bought her a while back. The screen cracked and I didn’t want her cutting herself, but it was still useable. After installing Dropbox and Word, I took the tablet to work. After two days I realized my plan was crap. The damned thing was an utter bastard to type on and kept creating “Conflicted Copies” in Dropbox. But as they say, peanut butter is the step-mother of adversity. Or something.

I couldn’t work on the novel I worked on each morning while at work. That sentence needs the word ‘work’ in it a few more times. But what if I worked (aigh!) on something different? For the last year or so I’d been thinking about experimenting with hand-writing a novel. I couldn’t ever quite bring myself to do it because I love the flexibility of digital and dread retyping the damned thing. But here was the perfect excuse/reason!

In the last week, I brought a binder, paper, and a lovely pen to my place of employment. I’ve started world-building a new project. Gods my writing is messy! I don’t care how long it takes, but I will finish this hand-written novel.

As writers we face adversity. It’s part of the business. But we’re like sharks: if we stop we drown. (Note: Yeah, yeah, apparently this isn’t true for all breeds of shark. Or might not be true at all. I write fiction. I’m allowed to make shit up!)

The future is less certain than a Terminator movie. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow, never mind next year. Will I someday be able to quit my job and write full-time? Dunno. I hope so, but if not, it doesn’t really matter. I love what I’m doing.

And writing keeps me sane.

Are your hurt or just tired?

At the office gym the other day, I found myself trying to slack off. I’d just finished the first half of my workout (squats and Romanian Dead Lifts) and was moving into the second half (six rounds of lunges, box jumps and leap frogs). I had a couple of afternoon appointments as soon as I left the office, and was tempted to quit twenty minutes early. By this point I was already dripping sweat and my legs were dead after just one round of lunges and jumps.

My brain started thinking up excuses to get me out of there.

Call it good. You don’t want to strain your right calf, you know it’s been stiff lately.

Then I remembered a late summer morning my senior year of high school. It was Hell Week — five days of brutal relentless training to kick off the football season. We’d ran I don’t know how many 50 meter sprints and some of the younger guys were dropping like flies — walking off the track with various “injuries”preventing them from running any more.

There were a few — maybe even half — obviously faking it. Even more tapped out when we started doing laterals in front of the home team stands. The coaches and the rest of us still running were understandably pissed, but to our head coach’s credit, he didn’t force anyone to run. Instead, he said something like this:

“I can’t tell any of you that you’re not hurt and make you run. But you know yourselves, you know the difference between being hurt and just being tired. If you’re not hurt and just sick of running, you’re cheating yourself and your teammates.”

I know all this gym rat/jock-speak might be a turn-off for some of you, but the same rule applies to writing: only you know if you’re giving it your all or if you’re slacking, if you need a break or if you’re just being lazy.

It’s easy when you’ve got a day job and a thousand other responsibilities to feel drained and skip writing. To make it worse, the guilt starts setting in, messing with your head and stressing you out. It’s easy to beat yourself up and get trapped in a cycle that can seriously screw with your creativity.

On the other hand, sometimes you really do need to take the night off. Sometimes you need to take a week or even a month off! Overworking will mess you up just as much as slacking will. Knowing which is which can be more complicated than following Taylor Swift’s latest relationship.

There are an infinite number of ways to go at this author business and the only way to figure out the best process is through trial and error. But first, you’ve got to know your limits. Recognize the difference between doing half-assed work and legitimately needing a breather. Nobody but you can determine what you’re feeling.

Many authors advocate writing every day and that’s great if it works for you. For many, however, it’s impractical or even impossible. When I’m deep in the middle of a first draft, I usually only take off Sunday and sometimes Saturday. Not counting those days, my string of writing usually only lasts a month or so. I set a weekly wordcount to hit but my day-to-day output varies based on what’s going on with the rest of my life.

My revising/rewriting process is even more skiwampus. After too many tight deadlines and stress-filled weeks, I’ve learned to put some padding into my schedule to ensure I release the best work possible. The only way I figured this out, though was by testing my limits.

Don’t sell yourself short. You’re capable of achieving more than you think. On the flip side, don’t be too hard on yourself, either. Everyone needs breaks.

The next time you feel like quitting, be brutally honest. Cut out the excuses and all the other bullshit. Are you hurt or are you just tired?

Like an Olympian

Note: Hat tip goes to Joanna Penn, who often talks about this concept and inspired this post.

Watching the Summer Games this week gave me pause to reflect on the awesome and inspiring competition between Olympic athletes. These men and women have trained all of their lives for what can amount to a single defining performance. It doesn’t get much better than that.

There are many lessons we authors can learn from these athletes but the perhaps the most important are discipline and perseverance.

The day-to-day life on an Olympian athletes involves a constant grind of training, training and more training. When you’re competing against the best of the best, all those hours, weeks and months add up to small but vital dividends: you’re a fraction of a second faster, you can jump a half inch farther or higher — tiny little improvements that make the difference between a gold medal and last place.

For Olympians (and authors) it can be extremely discouraging to be trapped in a daily grind, working for such small changes without any immediate results. To keep their sanity, Olympians plan, prepare and measure their progress in four-year intervals.

As authors, it’s easy to get discouraged when our week-to-week book sales aren’t improving, when we’re not producing more and when our newsletter subscribers crawl up by one person every other month. At times like this, it’s vital to look at the big picture, at the change that’s taking place over the long term, not in the short run.

Four years ago, during the 2012 London Games, I was entering my senior year of college. I had a book I’d tinkered with since I was a teenager, writing and re-writing whenever the mood struck me. In August 2012 I made a goal: come hell or high water, I would finish the rough draft of that book before I graduated.

Out of Exile - Store Cover finalOut of Exile was finished in November 2012 and published in 2013. Four years later I’ve published three books in the Teutevar Saga series, a couple of short stories and a multi-author anthology. I’ve also started a hybrid publishing group and launched a service to help authors get reviews for their books. By the end of the year, we’ll be release another anthology and I’ll have outlined and started another trilogy.

Big change in four years, huh?

I don’t share this to brag or one-up anybody. There are hundreds — maybe thousands — of authors who’ve done 10x more than me in the last four years. In the same span, these men and women have become New York Times bestsellers, gathered thousands of fans and made writing their full-time occupations.

Most months, I still sell less than a dozen copies of books a month (although that number is climbing) and feel like I’m closer to the moon than becoming an author full-time. Until I look back on where I’ve come from, that is.

We’re each on our own journey, working at our own pace according to our own individual time lines. Day-to-day, it can feel like we’re spinning our wheels in the mud: like no one is reading our work, like the words we type up flow worse than a bowl of alphabet soup.

During the next two weeks, as the world celebrates Olympian achievement, take a moment to reflect on your own journey. Appreciate where you’ve come from and what you’ve accomplished in the last four years. You’ve probably come further than you realize.

Then make a plan and get to work. 2020 will be here before you know it.

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