1,000 Days

Not too long ago I passed the 1,000 day mark since publishing my first novel back in 2011. I thought I’d recap some of the finer points of this experience and where I think the next 1,000 days might take me.

I’m a better writer.

I’ve put in about a half-million words and I’m getting better at this whole fiction thing. I’ve read maybe a dozen books on the craft and I’ve received some great critique from beta readers and fellow writers (and occasionally reviews). I’m not where I’d like to be (will I ever be?), but I’m getting closer and each book (I think) is better than the last.

I spend most of my time writing now.

With all the research I had to do in the beginning on publishing to Kindle, marketing, book cover design, editing, starting a small business and more, I spent less time writing. With so much of that administrative legwork done, I’m spending upwards of 80% of my time creating & polishing new content. This is where I need to be if I want to build a backlist.

I stopped reading reviews.

I rarely got anything valuable from them as to how to better write my books. The problem is that every bad review seems to negate all the positive reviews (and my books tend to rate 4 stars or higher). I know it’s just me, but my skin isn’t really thick enough for it. I’ve since adopted Kathleen Hanna’s stance: You’re still going to get criticized, so you might as well do whatever the fuck you want. That’s exactly how I see it. I take feedback from those I trust to be honest, critical and supportive and fuck the rest. I sleep better and the work I produce is better for it.

Positive reviews are no different. As much as I love them, they don’t help me to be a better writer. They do, however, gauge reader satisfaction (which I’ll get to later).

I turned off the news.

A year and a half ago I just stopped watching and reading it. I haven’t looked back. Same with Facebook. I’m better for it today.

I track my sales monthly, not daily.

And sure as shit not intra-day. That made me crazy. I check sales rank a few times a month, mostly out of curiosity. I do not let it affect my attitude, confidence or creativity. I have a bunch of reporting that gets the monthly treatment, but I don’t spend much time analyzing it these days.

I’m working toward a five-year plan now.

I’m mostly foregoing marketing until I have a proper backlist. I’ll be finishing up my Badlands series and writing some more novels in the horror and thriller genres. Within five years I should have eight novels (at least), so I figure I can then shift some of my focus over to marketing. Until then I’m plugging away at the keys and writing new words. That’s actually been pretty good for me.

I don’t focus on other writers’ successes.

Not that I obsessed too much over it, but I rarely ever look at it these days. Too busy writing and focusing on my own work.

I’ve rolled with market changes.

The market has cooled since I started this back in 2011. The temporary sales growth was nice, but it’s not reality. I’ve come to terms with this and I’m just working that much harder to produce new content. It never really was about the money anyway.

I’ve learned that I’m just as much of a writer as anyone else.

I sit in a chair, by myself, and pour hour after hour into a manuscript, just like any other trad-pub mid-lister. We both go through editing, proofreading and critiquing. We both get our books sent out into the world with no advertising (aside from what we do ourselves). And like other mid-listers, I do it all while working a full-time job.

By foregoing traditional publishing, I’m not shortcutting anything. I do as much work as any other writer and by publishing myself I incur all the costs and take all the risks. Hell, I’m actually creating more work for myself.

So if you need a publisher to tell you the work you do is worthwhile, so be it. While reader reviews don’t help me as a writer, they do help me as a publisher to gauge satisfaction. If the readers are generally happy, then I’m doing it right. I don’t need a middleman for validation.

In conclusion…

A couple of years after the “Kindle Gold Rush” I’m still writing. I’m here to stay. Where will the next 1,000 days take me? A few more novels, another quarter million words and hopefully a thousand (or more) fans. It’s been a wild ride these past few years, that’s for sure. Now that much of the dust has settled, I’m digging in for the long haul and writing away (and having fun while I do it).

Let’s you and me catch back up again in 1,000 more days and see where it all went. Until then, I’m back to writing.

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4 thoughts on “1,000 Days

  1. TAWilliams June 30, 2014 / 3:07 pm

    I laughed out loud when I read the “I check my Sales Monthly, not daily.”

    I officially published this last Sat but the book has been out there since late Thursday night & i was VERY guilty of checking my sales SEVERAL times a day. And you are right it does drive a person crazy.
    Earlier today I realized that if I obsessed over my sales then I wouldn’t be doing the one thing I enjoy doing, writing. Then I read your post, your a wise man!

    Good luck to you, & I’m looking forward to several more 1,000 day updates.

    • Brian J. Jarrett June 30, 2014 / 3:22 pm

      When I published my first book I was checking sales multiple times in the same hour! It took me months to figure out that wasn’t healthy. That said, I totally understand (and I think it’s normal at first).

      I think we all have to settle into a routine and adopt practices that work best for us. What works for me might not work for someone else, but I think sharing our experiences is valuable.

      And I don’t know about being wise, but I’m definitely getting old. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment and good luck on your sales. I hope you post some follow ups on how the book does.

  2. J. A. Cipriano July 1, 2014 / 10:03 pm

    I hope that when I reach 1000 days, I’ll have a similar outlook. I think that quote about criticism is spot on.

    • Brian J. Jarrett July 3, 2014 / 7:24 am

      Constructive criticism is great…from people who are honest and supportive and want to see you grow and improve. Readers don’t necessarily have your personal well-being in mind; they bought a product and they rate it accordingly. Not faulting them, it’s just the nature of the relationship.

      I think there might be *some* value in looking at the reviews in aggregate. Like how Amazon groups statements together and says how many reviewers had the same general sentiment. If lots of people are saying the same negative thing, then there might be something to it. But even then I think you have to take it in stride and work on addressing it in the next book. Don’t quit over it, unless writing just truly isn’t making you happy anymore.

      These days all I track is the average star rating and the quantity of reviews (how many in all and how many for each star level). I consider 4 and 5-star reviews positive, so I calculate an average per title at the end of each month. I stopped reading the content of the reviews a good long time ago. That’s the way I do it, at least; not saying it’s best for everyone.

      I should post some of the reporting I do each month. My day job is all about reporting, so it comes naturally to me. Might be valuable to others to give them an idea of how they can measure their business metrics (and all self-publishers are in the publishing business, whether they know it or not). Maybe I’ll work on that this weekend.

      Take care,
      Brian

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