The Everyday Author

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

Category: State of the Author

State of the Author: 2016 (plus 2017 publishing predictions)

2016.
2016.

Need I say more? I know many indie authors and creatives in general who are looking at the New Year with emotions ranging from trepidation to outright anxiety. No matter what your situation is now or what looms ahead, just remember this: you can only control you. As Chuck Wendig advised, write despite.

Focus on the things in your control — whatever else is going to happen will happen, whether you worry and let it affect your writing or not.

2016 quick recap

From the outside looking in, 2016 would appear to be a step backward. I haven’t published a book since July (Golden Mane) and my only other two titles were the Swords for Hire Anthology (which I edited and published through Undaunted, but only wrote a single, 12k short for) and Into Exile, a 35k novella I wrote and largely revised at the end of 2015 then published this March. That being said, I took a step back from hectic production in past years to hone the non-writing stuff like pre-production outlining, research and planning, book packaging, my overall author strategy and trajectory.

luke balance

Basically, this was the year I slogged through the swamps of Dagobah, doing flips and pull-ups, the muse manifest on my back in the form of a creepy little green dude. I’ve got a game plan and I’m ready to take names in 2017. If you’d like to follow the journey, I’ll be recording the Bestseller Quest here on the Everyday Author in written and possibly audio and video form.

2016 by the numbers

  • Estimated rough draft words (for books only): 100,000+
  • Words published: 105,000+
  • Words revised: 175,000+
  • Books published: 3

What went well

Mailing list growth

This could also be filed under delegation because the biggest thing I did was hand over the reins to Author Platform Rocket. I have nothing but good things to say — my mailing list has more than doubled and I’m getting almost 50% open rates on my emails. I didn’t stay on the Instafreebie train for long, but I also found results there and know many authors who swear by it.

Miracle Morning for Writers

I’ve only been doing it for a month, but it’s still one of the most important changes I made this year. I’m soooo much more productive. Read the book and follow its advice, people. It’s a game-changer.

Co-authoring

I took a swing at this with Golden Mane. Overall, it was a great experience ( I think my partner in crime, Joseph Medina would agree as well). Although it’s not something I’m ready to do on every book I write, I’ll definitely be collaboration on more books in the future.

Anthologies

Although it didn’t get much fanfare, releasing the Swords for Hire Anthology was an amazing experience. I’ve spent the last three months gearing up for our next one, the Lone Wolf Anthology, coming January 2017. Yet another great way to collaborate with other authors.

Permafree book

Into Exile is my best-written book to date…and I haven’t made a cent in sales from it. The verdict is still out over the value of permafree titles, but I welcome any way people can get into my funnel, even if some of them never turn into true fans or buying readers. Exposure is the name of the game!

Smarter Artist Summit

I can’t say enough good things about this event. The #1 best thing I did for my career in 2016. Cannot wait for the 2017 Summit in April. There’s nothing else like it, folks.

Balance

I’m getting regular exercise, clipping on with my author business and also seeing success with some other side hustles. There’s a LOT on my plate, but I’ve finally settled into a groove (knock on wood).

Book Review 22

I’m very proud of this service. We’ve delivered tons of great results for authors. I’ll be the first to admit we can do better, though. We’re constantly monitoring the numbers and tweaking things. One of my goals in the next two years is to make BR 22 one of the premiere author services out there.

Delegation

As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, you can either spend time or money. We’ve established a top-rate team for Book Review 22 and have also assembled a number of professional editors and designers to work with through Undaunted. I hope to continue growing the crew in 2017. Cutting out tasks has helped me focus on what I do best and I’m starting to see major headway in all my pursuits because of it. 80/20, 80/20…

What didn’t go well

Golden Mane: The collaboration end was great, but Golden Mane as a write to market project failed. We failed to find our audience, but the people who did read it thought it was awesome. Unfortunately, they were few and far between. It didn’t help that I fizzled out around the launch and ensuing promoting, either. If I had hustled harder, I think we could have made a serious splash with this title.

The Swords for Hire launch and promotions: Another case of publishing a book and then basically doing nothing around the launch. I plan to solve part of this problem in the future by not immediately jumping into the next writing project after hitting publish. Building a backlist is great, but consistently missing launch opportunities is killing my business growth

Sales: I’ve seen a small trickling increase on sales, part of which is from being all over the board in 2016. I think ongoing sales will be determined in part by bigger, better launches (see above).

Reader quality: I mentioned mailing list growth as a positive, but I’m having a hard time getting my list to take basic actions like leave reviews, engage with my emails, etc. I recognize part of this is a numbers game, but I feel I do quite a bit of giving and relatively small amounts of asking, so when I do make an ask, I’d like to see a few more readers return the favor.

Predictions

Audiobooks will continue to grow in popularity and become a larger income staple for authors.

Along with podcasts going mainstream and the audio-only version of Facebook Live coming next year, I expect audiobooks to take another leap forward. Average people just don’t have/make the time to sit down and read anymore and audio is easy to consume on the go. The cost of production will be a barrier for many authors, but those who bite the bullet will be glad they did a couple years down the line.

Foreign sales will become a larger income staple for authors.

And already are for authors like Joanna Penn. The ebook market in India is primed for an explosion and the German market is only a few years behind the U.S. in terms of size and growth. Like audiobooks, translations and foreign marketing will be a barrier to entry for many, but those authors who hop on board in the next couple of years can establish themselves early on with massive numbers of readers.

Authors writing shorter books on a faster production schedule will see increased success.

Say what you want, I think shorter books will become more popular across all genres (this is coming from someone who reads and writes fantasy, too). Aside from uber readers, people prefer content they can consume in smaller slots of time. There’s something about reading on a digital device that makes long books feel like they drag out — it’s just a different user experience. Reading time now competes with thousands of other entertainment options and people want to burn through their to-read piles without setting aside 2+ hours every day. I see trends shifting to shorter, punchier books in the 20-50k range that allow people to do what I’ve just described. (Speaking of 20to50k, if you don’t believe me, check out the success Michael Anderle has had with this model). Authors benefit because shorter books make the entire publishing process is quicker, meaning they can build up a backlist faster.

$4.99 will be the new $2.99.

In fact, I’d argue it already is. Indies are realizing they don’t have/want to charge $2.99 or less to sell books. As traditional publishing lowers prices of ebooks into the $5-9 range, indies who make their books look just like they belong in the big league will be able to charge these prices too. There will always be freebie seekers and bargain hunters, but building a career solely on these types of readers isn’t feasible.

Traditional publishing will reclaim more of the ebook market share.

According to the latest Author Earnings from October, they’re well on their way. (look up and verify) Scoff if you want, but I believe the big war machine is slowly churning to catch up with the times, as evidenced by the number of traditionally published books in Bookbub and the lower ebook prices of traditional titles. This doesn’t mean indies won’t be able to make a living, but the bottom-end authors will have to up their game. We also have the advantage of being infinitely more adaptable and savvy indies will always be at the forefront of publishing. Improving quality across the board is good in the long run. too.

The 2017 Smarter Artist Summit will establish itself as THE indie author conference to attend.

This isn’t just lip service. If you know anyone who attended the 2016 Summit, you’ve probably listened to them gush about it for past 9 months. In ten years, this could be the indie publishing version of Sundance.

Authors in KU will still be able to make loads of $$$.

I’m going to try very hard not to go on a rant here, but here’s how I see it: 1. You’re potentially missing out on a ton of money by not being in KU. 2. Ride the wave while it’s hot and save your money for when the so-called Amazon apocalypse comes. Don’t let fear be the reason you go wide. Strike while the iron is hot and get yours! 3. Saying that you distribute wide because you don’t want to rely on one income source is a little (cross this out) ridiculous. The book industry is one income source. Outlets are not industries. If book sales tank, they will across the board, not just for Amazon. I’m willing to bet if Amazon stops selling books for some reason, we’ll all have bigger worries, like World War III.

Amazon ads will be the new Facebook ads.

Meaning DROVES of authors will jump on them as a way to make money, most will waste their money and time and a few, savvy advertisers will make bank because they put in the time to learn the system. Amazon ads have the added advantage of being able to generate a positive ROI on individual titles, something that Facebook has been pretty awful for.

BONUS predictions that will most definitely come true:

Dave Wright moves to Austin and the Self-Publishing Podcast/ Smarter Artist community rejoices. Then he’ll promptly skip town to Alaska without telling anyone and break all the hearts.

Chris Fox begins experiments to assimilate his consciousness with AI. By 2020, his goals will switch from writing million-dollar books to world domination. As a side note, this will also be the year Platt/Truant announce their presidential campaign for 2024.

Joanna Penn is hired by Oculus Rift as a virtual storyteller. She then gets sucked into the Rift (was Chris Fox to blame?) and writes a bestselling Lit RPG book based on her experiences once she returns to reality.

New father Bryan Cohen sleeps through at least one Sell More Books Show episode then cancels the show due to broken heart when… Jim Kukral goes MIA in February and resurfaces in December as the Head of Publishing for Google Play, immediately declaring war on Kindle Direct Publishing.

Kevin Tumlinson becomes the first person to cross the Atlantic in an RV. He tragically strikes an iceberg on the return voyage but lives long enough to publish his memoir: Pants on the Ground.

State of the Author: My 2015 review

Time flies when you’re bleeding out through your fingertips with every stroke of the keyboard —
*Pauses to Google “Time flies expression”*
Eh-hem. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?

Welcome to the second annual Everyday Author State of the Author review. Just like last year, I’m kicking it back and taking the first virgin days of 2016 to reflect on how a year’s worth of everyday authoring went. Although this post will be specific to my goals and work, I’d encouraging everyone to do a yearly review for themselves. You just might be surprised at how much you accomplished. It also has a way of showing where you need to step it up. If you want to see what plans I’ve got in store for this year, head on over to my author blog.

To be honest, I felt like I spent 2015 spinning my tires in the mud. But looking back, I accomplished quite a bit — even if the end results weren’t as flashy as I might have liked.  Here’s a few numbers I’ve calculated. (Note: these are fiction words only, and don’t include any blog posts I wrote here or on derekalansiddoway.com)

  • Rough draft words written: 65,000+
  • Words revised: 185,000+
  • Words published: 145,000+

Before we get into the meat of things, one other sidenote: I’ve included links to a number of products, books and services that I found especially helpful last year and plan to continue using/implementing in 2016. Please not that none of these are affiliate links and I am not receiving any form compensation from these companies. They were a huge help and I hope some of them will work out for you as well.

A recap of my 2015 author plans and resolutions:

Write faster: I tell you what, I blew this one out of the water! When I wrote Out of Exile and Return to Shadow, I had to give myself word count goals for each day to stay on pace and make sure I didn’t procrastinate. The second half of this year, I started using Chris Fox’s 5000 Word per Hour app and fell absolutely in love with it. I went from someone who wrote about 1000 wph (words per hour) to busting out 3000+ on some of my better days. As a competitive person and former track athlete, the allure of racing the clock to try and write faster kept me coming back to my rough drafts almost as much as the desire to finish the stories did. I haven’t read Chris’ accompanying book and have no plans to incorporate voice dictation (call me a purist I guess), but I would definitely recommend checking the app out. Right now, it’s only for iPhone, but the basic version is free.

Edit slower: This one was excruciating for me, because editing either makes me feel like I’m a storytelling genius or (most often) like I’m pulling my own teeth with rusty pliers. On top of that, nobody wants to pull teeth slow, you want to yank those bad boys out and get it over with. I’m still struggling with treating editing as something more than a deplorable task to be complete before a book can be published and I’m not sure what the solution is. Whenever I try to slow the process down, it just leads to me procrastinating. On the plus side, now I’m writing rough drafts faster, I have extra time to waste! I’ve also developed a pretty good production formula: after the second draft, I send the manuscript to beta readers and a continuity/developmental editor then incorporate their input into a third/fourth draft. I then send that to my copy editor. It worked really well with Return to Shadow and I anticipate using this model with all of my future work.

Have fun writing: Let me preface this by saying I spent the first five months of 2015 revising almost 150k words…and you know now how much I hate revising. That being said, the second half of the year, I got back to the glee of outlining and writing rough drafts. This year, I’ve got a variety of fresh projects and, as funny as it sounds, I’m looking forward to falling even more in love with writing in 2016.

What went well

I read a lot more than in 2014: Although I know now I’ll never get back to my pre-author book consumption levels, I balanced things out much better than I have in the past, keeping my creative tank fueled in the process. Some of my favorite non-fiction books included Creativity for Sale, The Rise of Superman, Gotta Read It, Finding Success in Failure, The Art of Work and Zombie Loyalists. I also placed my copy of The War of Art next to my desk and read a passage every morning before I started writing to give me a little extra motivation.

My websites: Last year, I lamented the amount of money spent on web design and ended up getting new themes for both Undaunted and derekalansiddoway.com. I’m happy to say I learned my mistake and have much cleaner, cheaper and engaging site designs now. I also found a fantastic newsletter signup plugin called Thrive Leads that looks really great on my fiction site, if I do say so myself.

I expanded my learning outside of the writing and self-publishing spheres: Not only what I read, but what podcasts I listen to as well. In addition to the staples I’ve discussed before here and here, I’ve also found a ton of great listens on the rainmaker.fm. In the publishing world today, being an indie author also means being an online marketer, entrepreneur, copywriter and more. I’ve found tons of gems from shows like Rough Draft, Unemployable with Brian Clark, Hack the Entrepreneur and more.

Facebook ads: Although I only began dabbling with them the last few months of 2015, using Facebook ads (with the help of Mark Dawson’s training course) helped me grow my author email list faster than breeding harem of rabbits.

Outlining: I’ve dabbled in this off and on after reading Anatomy of Story a few years ago, but I took it to a whole new level after ready The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. This is a book I use as a reference every time I’m starting a new outline. Regardless of whether your write fiction or non-fiction, check out the website. There’s a HUGE amount of free resources that I guarantee will up your writing game.

I got back to a regular workout regimen: Although sometimes it felt like the last thing I wanted to do, I know that staying in shape helped me keep my sanity by giving me an outlet to blow off steam. Not to mention that your brain works better when the rest of you isn’t coated in a layer of fat. P90x3 was fantastic, but if you’re just getting starting, you’ll probably want to work up to it. Those workouts are killer. I also love the 7 Minute Workout app, which is great in a pinch and requires no equipment for its workouts. There are lots of different ones out there, but this is the one I use.

What didn’t go well

My plate was still WAY to full: In addition to Everyday Author and my indie fiction writing, I also started another new company (more on that later this month) in addition to holding down a full time job during the day, plus hundreds of volunteer hours with my county’s Search and Rescue. The result was a series of waves: I’d hit rock bottom, do nothing for a few days and be completely tuned out, then ramp back up and fire on all cylinders for a few weeks before crashing again. I got through it, but I really, really need to hone things down a bit more.

Keeping a schedule: As you can guess from above, I really struggled setting and sticking to a routine. This is going to be a big focus for me in 2016. A consistent bedtime will help me wake up early enough in the morning to get some personal work done before I have to switch focus to the day job. Hopping back and forth between the two over the course of a day has proved to be a recipe for getting nothing done at all.

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913Derek 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.

Now it’s your turn, everyday authors! Leave a comment below and tell me what went well for you last year (or what didn’t).  Feel free to brag about your word counts, sales or any other 2015 resolutions you achieved.

State of the Author: my 2014 review

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.

Happy Writing!

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?

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913 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.

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