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.


Filed under science fiction, Self Publishing, Writing

11 responses to “Flops, Failure and Learning Experiences

  1. Tony R

    Sorry to read this edmond I really enjoyed your nameless war series but had to say I did decide to give this a miss due so many other books I have lined up and prefering war stories. Sincerely hope your next book is more successful

  2. Nebris

    I am a quarter of the way through The Last Charge. Please, Please, Please return to that universe and give us more.

  3. Nebris

    Well, sir, I have finished “The Last Charge” and I repeat my previous request with even greater urgency. It is clear you have at least one more trilogy left.

    I suppose you may be reluctant to deal with the logical outcome, Genocide. But such is the nature of the universe you have created…

    That said, The Nameless Trilogy is some of the very best Military Sci-Fi I have ever read, right up there with David Weber’s “Honorverse”. I have been studying military history since I was nine years old [sixty six now] and your work ‘rings true’ across the board. Been reading Sci-Fi just as long, wrote a bit myself.

    I did see things like Operation Kite String being a take off on Operation Pedestal, with the later ‘tip of the hat’ to the tanker SS Ohio.

    If I may toss a suggestion or two in; cybernetic implants for future Battle Fleet crews and a higher level of ship automation. That would allow BF to offset The Worm’s numerical advantage.

    So, once again, Please Please Please, return to The Nameless Universe.


    • Hello Nebris,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the series. I can say that my current WIP is going to see a return to the Nameless Universe, although this time round I’m planning to wind things back to the earliest days of Battle Fleet. I have had thoughts about how a second war with the Nameless would go, certainly those are some directions to go in. Watch this space as the saying goes!


  4. Flor

    Nice book about the solution of the Hhar problem would be a nice little summer read too.

    • So many possibilities… so little time.

      • Steve

        Hi Edmond,
        I’d really enjoyed the Nameless War series. I read an awful lot of books ( sci-Fi, fantasy, fiction) and I have to say that the Nameless War is one of the best series that I have read in any genre. There is a nice gritty feel to the technology that makes it believable.
        I’d love to read more in this series so I hope that you are not too discouraged by your experience with Out of Era ( not my cup of tea but I never liked time travel fiction).
        Either way, you have a gift for writing well so keep it up.
        Steve (Cork)

      • That’s fair enough. My next book is going to see a return to the Battle Fleet setting and will – hopefully – be out this year.

  5. Jones

    Echo all the statements here about the Nameless war trilogy; it is easily my favourite military sci-fi.

    I found it via Amazon Unlimited where there is a *lot* of self-published military sci-fi that is very underwhelming and Nameless War was my diamond in the rough.

    Bought all three books and the ships of the fleet supplements. (Don’t suppose there are any pictures / designs of the Statesman class floating around? Would love them as source for a picture of the Fast Division)

    I am thrilled that you didn’t give up on writing and are thinking about going back to the Nameless universe, hopefully we go the star wars route of a prequel series followed by a sequel (just well done this time 😀 )

    • Hi there, sorry about the slow reply. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the Nameless War, work is still in progress on the first of the Contact War books. I’d hoped to have it done for August. But sadly the rest of life keeps intruding into writing time. I’ve never done a model for the Statesman class, figured on a beefed up Myth Class, with the engine power to keep pace with Warspite. If you come up with a picture I’d love to see it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s