All joking from the one month update aside, I can tell you that I am still not writing from my private island while surrounded by my enormous piles of money. Bummer.
In my one month update, I talked about misconceptions I had and the realities I faced: not everyone is an overnight success, it does not mean instant popularity across social media, the hustle is both real and necessary, and I am not instantly or fabulously wealthy. But after three months, I’m starting to see the intangible wins and working on setting my goals for 2021.
First note, I don’t set New Years Resolutions; I set New Year’s goals. A resolution can be broken and, once broken, it’s done. A goal is solid. A good goal is specific, measurable, and achievable but still pushes you. So rather than bore you with some sad wheeze about why I didn’t achieve my goals in 2020 due to [fill in the blank], let me instead give you an update on those misconceptions and how I’m setting goals for 2021.
Misconception 1: My book will be a runaway hit! I’ll sell millions!
Reality: The average debut novel sells 250 copies—some as few as 5.
3 months later reality: The number of debut novels sold is almost irrelevant
2021 Goal: Keep cranking out the books!
In the last post, I noted that I wanted to beat the average and sell enough books to earn back my advance. After some forthright and honest conversation with my publisher, I’ve learned two additional things. First, making back my advance in the first year is unlikely as a new author. Second, getting my name and story out is of primary importance. I also don’t feel like my second or third books are on shaky ground either, even if I don’t make back my advance. I’ve been able to show that I am willing to hustle my rear off promoting this book. (More on the hustle later.)
Misconception 2: I will suddenly become very popular across social media
Reality: I’m a little bit more popular, but I hustled my rear end to gain followers
3 months later reality: Still working to build my fan base, but finding more avenues than social media
Goals: Build a loyal and active fanbase (Same for 2021)
In the two months since the last post, I’ve continued growing my Twitter, Facebook, and blog following. I’ve also started a mailing list. Partially because I want as many ways as possible to reach folks and because social media streams are so saturated that if a follower isn’t online as I post, they lose the potential to see a post within three hours; an email is ready for them at their convenience. I also came up with other creative ways to reach folks like Val’s Twitter takeover and a follow-up article on Medium about the lessons I learned from it.
The second aspect of this is people exactly like my spouse and me. That person who sees a book is part of a series and won’t bother picking it up until several books in the series are available to binge. Heck, I didn’t even pick up Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files until he’d produced three or four books. Knowing this helps me focus my goals on getting those first few books out a quickly as I can without sacrificing the writing or editing quality.
Misconception 3: I can take a breather now that the hard work is done
Reality: I have worked an average of 1-2 hours a day after work and an additional 4-6 hours on the weekend since the start of September
3 months later reality: Work smarter, not harder! I work fewer hours and more intelligently to build recognition and interest
Goals: Position myself to take advantage of opportunities as they come (Same for 2021)
I’m still working to position myself to take advantage of opportunities as they come up. An introduction back in the spring enabled me to get an excerpt of Pantheon published in Military Times. My connections and friends who advocate on my behalf have gotten my book in front of people who have enjoyed it and talked it up on my behalf. Or, maybe, lost a running bet and wrote a blog post about what Pantheon meant to them. The most delightful surprise was being added to the Modern War Institute’s 2021 Reading List under the category of “Military Fiction and Sci-Fi.”
Misconception 4: I will be fabulously wealthy from sales
Reality: I will be very happy to earn back my advance!
3 months later reality: See Misconception 1
Goals: As with the sale numbers, I want to sell enough to keep selling. If my book tanks, then I may not get another shot.
2021 Goal: keep producing quality military thriller and urban fantasy novels as well as short stories and blog posts about fitness on my blog
As many of you know, I have submitted the manuscript for Pantheon’s sequel, and my goal for 2021 is to get it out to you all. I hope to announce the title soon! What some of you don’t know is that I have finished the overarching five book plot for the whole series. And what only a few people know is that I have finished the primary plot arc of book three with several chapters written. I intend to finish all primary writing and edit this year and will strive to get the manuscript to my publisher before the end of 2021.
There was a new misconception I recognized that ties in with Misconception 2; social media isn’t the only thing that sells a book. In fact, reviews as probably the most important part. It’s how potential readers decide to buy my book if all they see is its page on Amazon. GoodReads and Amazon reviews were my primary source of reviews until the Modern War Institute and Military Times reviews came out. I have been very pleased with my rankings, but I’ve also discovered that the more positive reviews, the more the algorithms pick up my books. One quick plug, if you’ve read the book, please review it on GoodReads and Amazon so more people can be introduced to Pantheon.
The last two months have been as enlightening as the first month after publishing. Every month I learn something new: a new marketing technique, an area in which I can improve as an author, who my audience is and what they want, and what reaches people. This has all helped me shape my goals for 2021: grow my audience, keep producing captivating and exciting fiction, and keep hustling to achieve my dreams.
Thank you to all the people who have supported me. Thank you to every person who took a chance on a new author, to those who posted photos of Pantheon out in the wild, and who told a friend or wrote a review. You all have helped me build a dream for which I will always be grateful. For those who have read and come asking for more, I promise the next book is on its way!
2020 was a right bastard, but not everything was a dumpster fire and I hope to carry those good parts forward into 2021!
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