Flops, Failure and Learning Experiences

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.

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The civil servant

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February 22, 2018 · 9:21 pm

Out of Era – Sample Launch

Hi folks,

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.

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Announcing pre-order – OUT OF ERA

Well folks, much mentioned an nearly here, my next title is now available for pre-order.

Launch will be at Octocon 2017 in Dublin and I hope to see some of you there. I’ll be talking a bit more about it over the next few weeks so stay with me.

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Worldcon75

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?

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It’s coming!

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!

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Making Terrorism Work

As I mentioned in my last post a few months ago I changed jobs. Part of my duties in my new employment is to look through archives – which currently includes documents from the 1920s. How is this relevant? Well in Ireland between 1916 and about 1923 you get a particularly exciting period of Irish history. The Easter Rising is followed by the War of Independence, which in turn is followed by the Irish Civil War. Having grown up in England I would describe my knowledge of the period as being fairly basic but the rough flow of events was this. In 1916 there was in Dublin an attempted rebellion. Lacking widespread support it failed. Following the rising the British authorities cracked down on those involved or judged to be sympathetic. Several of those captured were shot as traitors. Legally the British Authorities were on solid ground the rebels having received arms from Imperial Germany, that Britain was in the middle of a bloody war with at the time. However politically – combined with the round ups – it was a horrible mistake as in doing so they changed the perception of the rebels from terrorists and failures into heroes and martyrs. Those uninvolved who were rounded up were put into jails with committed republicans and in many cases, converted to the cause. After the end of WW1 the Republicans started again. This time with what would now be called an insurgency. The republicans targeted barracks, police stations and other instruments of state, to make Ireland ungovernable. The British responded with additional troops and auxiliary police, the best remembered of which were nicknamed the Black and Tans. In most cases these were ex-soldiers who had fought in the Great War – a conflict with clearly defined sides in terms of a front line and uniformed enemy. In Ireland there were neither of these things, these forces were often poorly trained, weakly disciplined and in lot of cases I would guess frightened. My grandmother who was a child at that time and living in County Kerry remembered being told if she heard a lorry it was likely the Black and Tan and she wasn’t to run because they would likely shoot. Files I’ve seen indicate that this was good advice. Their actions during the War of Independence caused grievances that remain to this day and are the reason the Irish tend not to react well to calling anything ‘black and tan’.

In Manchester about a week ago a suicide bomber blew himself to the four winds. At time of writing twenty-two people were killed or have died of their injuries with a another fifty plus injured. It would appear the bomber motivation was Islamic extremism. It’s not the first terrorist attack by such individuals and unfortunately, probably won’t be the last.

His target and this is worth making note of wasn’t an army base, power station, government building or even a police station. Nothing that you could say would materially affect the functionality of Great Britain. His target was a music concert. One by a singer who’s primary fan base is teenagers and young girls. In other words the softest possible target. What was he hoping to achieve?

Retaliation

I don’t think the Irish Republicans of the War of Independence foresaw the creation of the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans but their actions which included reprisals, murders, beatings and mock executions did much to turn the population against the British Authorities. For the Islamic terrorists the ideal response would retaliations, restrictions, internment or best of all – as one foolish radio presenter put it – a ‘Final Solution’. Because each one would push more people into their arms.

There are individuals, some dishonest, some merely hysterical that claim that Islamic terrorism is a threat to the western world. They are wrong. Islamic terrorists are a threat to individuals but to be a threat to the western world they world need tanks, jet fighters, nuclear subs and ICBM. They do not have these things. They have weak minded individuals who are willing to commit suicide and the hope that we will overreact.

There is unfortunately no easy road against terrorism. We must stand the line and above all else, not do the terrorist’s work for them.

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