Failures of the Year

Much as it pains me to admit it, I’m not perfect.

Realizing this about the age of 35 came as a huge shock. Since then, I’ve spent time ‘looking back’ and ‘getting laser focused’ on what I did wrong (or, to be nice to myself, what I might have done better).

Below are my collection of thoughts for the 2017 calendar year. Laugh, cry, or ignore. And always, ever onward.


Health

I left the Death Star in January 2017, with a litany of health issues. My goal during 2017 was to get my shit straight. Sort out my body to become a new Adonis. Meditate daily to settle my head.

Turns out, no. While I’ve got my health back to what most people would call “pretty fit,” it’s not where I thought I’d get to. A variety of challenges caused me to stumble. I misunderstood the level of mental maintenance I’d need post two years of anxiety-inducing work. And I pushed myself too hard at my new career, starving time from myself to get out and move.

Fixing It

2018 continues with my new writing career, but with a focus on doing less. Specifically:

  • Spending less hours per week at the keyboard working (a cutoff at a 40 hour week, but aiming for a 30).
  • Building positive relationships with peers to provide a buoyant rather than soul-sucking group.
  • Not entering every promotional opportunity ever.
  • Set aside more time for ‘me’ activities — walking the dog, running, meditating, reading, and playing super violent video games where I murder all the people who deserve it.

I experimented with some of this recently to good effect. Deleting assholes helps. Working less actually increases my daily word output. Being specific about the people I engage with and ‘that’s enough for this month!’ style thinking isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I’m hopeful that I’ll continue to learn more tricks and lifestyle choices that work for me.

Wealth

When I left my last career, I figured that jump-starting my new one would be a breeze. Write more books, get more eyeballs, and then sit on my throne made of dolla dolla bills.

I invested cash and time in a variety of how-to-author courses that, while not promising riches, hinted that success was a matter of following a formula, and working at it. If I wasn’t successful, I clearly didn’t want it enough.

The surprising thing? Turns out building an audience of readers is hard. The tried and true methods … weren’t. The guaranteed outcomes … never came. I spent more coin on building the business than it ever returned, leaving me at a deficit.

I tried multiple approaches to gain an audience. I gave away two whole novels for a while (Night’s Favor and Night’s Fall). This never eventuated in sales for the third in the series, and after I spent the time digging into why, I discovered that most freebie readers collect but don’t consume. Which is … while not great, at least an upswing for me, as I initially felt people thought my writing sucked. The truth is people never read the books.

A couple people advised 99c was the gateway drug to fame, and I tried that, with some success, but not as much as you might expect. It wasn’t the money (some is better than none), but the audience (fuckall is only marginally better than zero); the readers weren’t coming in. I did more research — stop me if this sounds familiar — and learned that 99c shoppers often impulse buy, and won’t read the book for eons, if at all. Amid this it struck me that urban fantasy was a rough, tough market, and if my love was science fiction, maybe I should go that way.

More people said I should advertise on Facebook, and while this worked for a time, the more authors that did it provided a clouded space for bid-based advertising.

It’s not all gloom, mind: this is just the money side. I’ve had a great deal of fun, and met some amazing people. The win here is that I feel better about this than you might expect. I’m positive about 2018, in a way that surprises even myself. It seems weird for me to say it, but I’ve got fans now. And, I’d like to hope, some of them have become friends. My readership has grown, especially among my science fiction followers. People are reading Upgrade, a book I’d thought consigned to the archives of hell, and folks reaaaaally like my Tyche books.

Fixing It

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but being more sensible about business generation is the goal. 2018 will bring:

  • A hard cap on outlay, so I’m never spending more than the business generates. Ideally, I’d like to spend no more per month than 1/3 of my income, all up.
  • Continuing my focus on fans and friends, as it makes me happy to make other people happy.
  • Providing ‘fan pricing’ by way of my mailing list to give specials to those who are already readers.
  • Producing more stories, including co-authoring.
  • Advertise where readers are (BookBub, AMS, Book Barbarian, etc.).
  • Focus on science fiction, particularly cyberpunk and space opera.

While it may never rain cash on my author career, being sensible about marketing efforts won’t hurt. I’ll feel more comfortably if I’m, ahem, not spending money I’m not earning. Dig?

Tools

I lost a bunch of time with sub-standard software this year. And upgrades I purchased didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.

Scrivener moved from major version 2 to 3, and with it came a pile of fuckery around compilation that cost me time and head space. OneDrive, an old standard of mine, had frequent sync issues and lost me work. Gmail continues to provide a thorough reaming when dealing with calendaring.

The real problem here was how long I persevered through these issues because of brand loyalty. While tools wax and wane, being less pigheaded and obstinate would probably have saved me a lot of hand-wringing.

Fixing It

Exiting a platform isn’t straightforward, but it is probably worth the time investment. So:

  • Experiment with Vellum to see if it’s a salve to my Scrivener production woes. Either way, Vellum should allow me to make quality products in Word, or even TextEdit, should the need arise.
  • Experiment with Outlook.com Premium or Office 365 for mail, contacts, and calendaring. A couple bucks a month is probably worthwhile for the sanity alone.
  • Do not be one of the first dickheads to upgrade Scrivener.
  • Try and choose interoperable tools, so if disaster strikes, portability isn’t a huge bugbear.

If any of you see me being a huge dick and sticking with a tool just because, feel free to hit me.


That’ll do for now. I’m sure at least ten of you are thinking, “But Richard, you did these other things wrong too.” Maybe so, but I’ll save future flagellation for another day. Enjoy the picture of furries to make the pain of the article go away.

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