So, about a month later than usual, I’ve finally gotten around to starting my taxes for 2017. Which gives an opportunity to reflect on my situation as it pertains to my writing.
2017 was the year I released my most recent book, namely this one:
It was also the first year since 2011 – when I first started publishing – in which I have not made money from my writing, in fact I racked up a financial loss large enough to be uncomfortable if bearable. The reason for the loss is on the face of it simple, Out of Era flopped. Completely and utterly. A bit of a pisser but there we are; it reviewed well but it didn’t sell beyond a handful. You hope that somewhere down the line it will pick up but really that’s grasping at straws, if it doesn’t kick off pretty much straight away it’s not going to.
So where did it go wrong?
So from here on we’re going firmly into the realm of anecdotal evidence. The last of my successful Nameless War series was released in September 2014, Out of Era came out in October 2017. That’s a big gap. In fact to be brutally honest it was probably too big a gap. I never stopped writing during that time but there were other priorities – I started dating a woman who I’m please to say has recently become my wife, I moved house into what was a bit of a fixer-upper and changed the day job for the first time in over fourteen years. The time slot for writing and its attendant activities basically took one hit after another. Meanwhile the world moved on and I suspect, most of the people that read and enjoyed the Nameless War forgot me enough that the name Edmond Barrett, stopped triggering any kind of mental response when looking at Amazon for something to read. Years ago, before I started publishing I heard another writer claim that to make a living at it you needed to put out at least one book a year. I always found that extremely believable but I never came even close. To manage it I would have had to give up the day job, which when you have a mortgage and are the sole source of income to your household, isn’t really a runner unless you’re prepared to really live up to the starving artist cliche.
The next factor which compounded the first was that I changed genre. My name and reputation as a writer was made in military science fiction; Out of Era is time travel. If you aren’t into science fiction that distinction might sound wafer thin but in fact is a significant gap. I’m not a known name in time travel stories so Out of Era had to go it alone. Had there been less of a gap between books, meaning had it come out while the final book of the Nameless War – the Last Charge was still selling in significant numbers there would have been a better chance of readers following me into the new genre. Which in turn would have boosted my visibility to potential readers who never heard tell of me. So Out of Era just got lost in the crowd. I did try some advertising but the problem there is you can burn a lot of money very quickly for very little return.
Another fact is that to my mind self publishing in 2017 isn’t what it was back in 2011. I know e-readers have been around since well before then but in 2011 they were the new must have gadget. Since there is nothing as useless as a e-reader with no books, people were looking for content and when Amazon opened its system to the self publishers there was suddenly a lot of cheap content. There’s no doubt a lot of it was bad but there was also some real gold and I had the good fortune to be a part of the first wave of e-book self publishers. There were a lot predictions that self publishing and e-books were going to kill publishing and paper books stone dead. That hasn’t worked out. What I think has happened is that e-books found their level. They aren’t going to go away but equally that first great rush came to an end.
My run with writing has been a pretty privileged one. I got to make money in reasonably significant amounts straight off the bat which certainly did a lot to justify the time spent on it. I knew the figure weren’t going to be good but it’s another to look at the cold hard numbers. I’m still going to write, it is and always has been as much a pass time as a profession but have had to re-think my expectations.
As previously mentioned my next book – Out of Era – is now available for pre-order This weekend I’m going to be releasing on my mailing list a sample chapter. If you are interested in joining my mailing list see here. The launch itself will be taking place at Octocon 2017 in Dublin, Ireland, memberships are still available and I hope to see some of you there.
Only a few more days to Worldcon75, I’m going to be on two panels on the 12th of August.
Character-based military SF
Saturday 10:00 – 11:00, 101a&b (Messukeskus)
Military SF often deals with inventions and strategies, but sometimes it is character driven as well. The panel discusses their favorite military SF characters.
It Can’t Happen Here
Saturday 18:00 – 19:00, 216 (Messukeskus)
It can’t happen here: Looking at the headlines these days, and many people seem to be thinking bad things can’t happen where they live, but then we get Brexit. President Trump. Turkey sliding into authoritarian theocracy. Russia annexing Crimea with the international community watching. What can history teach us about things that can happen, and how do we write SF that is not going to be dystopias after dystopias? Heinlein’s story, Logic of Empire ends with the line “Things are bound to get a lot worse before they can get any better.” Is this inevitable? What can we do about it, and how can SF offer hope for the future with our fictional worlds?
Well after two plus years of work – which as I mentioned in my last blog has had compete for my time – my next book is damn near done. Touch wood, I’ll be releasing at Octocon 2017 and the book will be going pre-order within the next two weeks. So as the saying goes, watch this space!