Friday, December 29, 2017

Lessons From 2017



This year was a giant year of change for me. Things got back on track, in more ways than one. Opportunities expanded. Readership has increased. Evolution imminent. All great things.

This post is to share the biggest turning points for me in 2017, and a reminder to head into 2018 with.

Create Something That Matters

This is something I learned from my own work. Sales of my books favor The Way of Wolves over Wildstar. Themes of anxiety and depression worked with people more than adventurous fluff. It showed me that appealing to more mainstream readers really wasn't worth it, because they liked my weirder stuff more anyways.

The more and more I looked at the things I'm attracted to, and the things that live on years after they release, I noticed something. I saw they came from a need that wasn't being met, and still not being met.

I think I would tell new writers, and a younger version of myself, to assume the worst case scenario for your story is possible. Assume it commercially flops. Does the story still hold up? Would I still be proud of something I created after nothing?

For The Way of Wolves and Wildstar, I am. Throwbacks to heroic fantasy and good fantasy drama is what I've been looking for, and if I could find it, I would be reading rather than writing. It made me think about future projects and how I want them to come out.

Remain Human

Any line of work, including art, means there is a lot micromanagment. Marketing, promotions, sales, year-over-year, month-over-month, sales graphs, inputting into your Excel document, daily/monthly/yearly goals. A lot of people get on Facebook and Twitter to extend their "brand". It's all about numbers, whether it's followers, buyers, or newsletter subscribers.

This is the opposite approach to be taken. So be human, or better said, stay human. Don't let reality break you down into another work drone. Don't put on a mask of who you would like to be. Be yourself.

I go to cons and meet with writers because it's fun. Thankfully, the vast majority of my sales take place online, so handselling is an excuse to go to an event. I always feel energized from folks. The fun is on the ground level. And this is why we got into writing in the first place. It's fun. Make sure it stays that way.

There is a lot of business going on, and it's easy to forget why we started.

Support 

Change is one of the scariest words to people. It means losing out on what they know. It means inconvenience. That's generally an emotional hangup. Support the people and businesses that need it the most.

My purchasing habits have been from Amazon-centric to diversified. That means dispersed capital to more businesses or people, or at least keep a healthy equilibrium of competition. I don't use Bing because I love Microsoft. I use Bing because a bigger Bing makes Google honest. I shop at Best Buy because orders go to the store instead of getting lost in the mail, plus Gamers Club Unlocked is a hell of a savings unmatched anywhere else. Barnes & Noble IS my local book store. I shop there because without them, the next bookstores are 45 minutes to an hour away. It helps that Barnes & Noble has great workplace equality practices.

After making these changes, I've experienced better service and prices. I still shop at Amazon, because some things are obscure/cheaper with them. I don't intend to stop with Amazon, but the majority of my money is spread around. I use December and January to buy ebooks from Smashwords, because it's easy to find indie authors and support them when they keep 80% of the sales price. It's a great way to end their year and begin the next.

Respect Your Online Real Estate

A blog is a terrible thing to waste.

The loss of Net Neutrality has energized this point. Digital real estate is just as important as physical land. What we own, from our content to our website domain, matters. A website is more than a portfolio. It's ownership.

I think back to Facebook. Facebook was the hub everyone went to, so individuals make Facebook Pages for their business. It was free, it was easy, and it was where the people were at. I saw some authors refuse having a website because they had a Facebook account. And in the blink of an eye, Facebook made their system Pay-to-Play. If you made a post, a single digit percentage sees it unless you pay to boost it.

So authors flocked to Twitter, because followers always receive tweets in a chronological order. And then that changed. YouTube's subscription box breaks all the time, so content creators have to fight chance and a stacked algorithm.

People did it to themselves. It didn't used to be like this. Hosting your own website, selling ads, driving people to merch shops, that used to be the norm. I mean, the 2000's was the web comic scene! And it matters more than ever now that gatekeepers to the Internet arrives.

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Tumblr. All these platforms come and go, but your work is meant to last forever.