Looking at my 2022 Year in Review post, I didn't publish nearly as many books as I'd planned in 2023, partly because of a significant shift in lifestyle (see Retirement below), and partly because of some books sitting with the publisher.
Published in 2023:
On the plus side, most of what I'd planned to release last year will carry over into this year, making 2024 a science fiction extravaganza!
Planned for 2024:
- Q1 - Project Xerxes (A Lost Colonies Story)
- Q1 - Enigma (Lost Colonies Book 1)
- Q2/3 - Timeless Keeper Saga Book 3 (untitled)
- Q4 - Lost Colonies Book 2 (untitled)
- Q4 - Scavenger Knights (new standalone science fiction novel)
- ?? - Angels Adrift (The Z-Tech Chronicles Book 5)
- ?? - Angels Strike (The Z-Tech Chronicles Book 6)
This was a year of significant life changes and reflection. Read on to learn more!
2023 was my first full year of retirement. Okay, semi-retirement because I still worked part-time with some friends trying to get HyeTech off the ground. I expected with all this free time that I would do more of what I went out of my way to do when working my old job: WRITE!
Turns out I did less, not more, and it took a few months to understand why.
First, writing is my escape. I love the act of storytelling and all the steps involved in whipping the manuscript into a publishable novel. Except when I stopped working, I had nothing to escape from. I was free to play video games all day if I wanted, a luxury I'd almost never indulged because of all the "other" things I wanted to do, or walk along the beach, or simply spend time with my wife without seeing how much "living" I could cram in between meetings and around business travel.
Writing was also (I'd hoped) going to be a business to supplement my income and, if all went dazzlingly well, enable early retirement. Doing the thing I love so that I can spend more time doing the thing I love? Hellz yeah! That made it easy to justify dedicating daily time to the craft, and I did.
Of course, selling books is partly marketing, but also ensuring you have an adequate market to cater to (i.e. market fit). In other words: Do enough people like to read the sort of stories I like to write? Plenty of folks said they liked my writing style, pacing, characters, etc, for which I am eternally grateful. But how representative were they of the paying reader market?
Spoiler alert: not very.
But it turns out it didn't matter. By some miracle of finance, I was able to retire far earlier than I'd ever dreamed. The pressure for my books to be profitable had disappeared, and so too went some of my drive. In the best possible way, of course. =]
I've also found my groove in recent months and am at last writing at my old pace, which honestly feels great.
The shift to sci fi
It took years for me to come to grips with the reality that The Z-Tech Chronicles was far more science fiction than urban fantasy or paranormal. Yes, it has elements of each, but tech is at its core. So I worked with my publisher to rebrand the entire series. At the same time, I realized that all of the new story ideas that got me excited were also science fiction. I've been a die-hard fantasy reader since grade school, so it took some head scratching to figure out why I wasn't writing it.
To be honest, I'm still noodling that one. Part of it has to do with my work in and affinity to technology. Thinking tech is easy for me, so writing it is also easy. But the biggest reason only came to me recently: In fantasy, you're (usually) writing about the past. About a completely different world with different origins, often running on wacky laws of physics, about as disconnected from reality as you get. This is probably what I wanted as a youth: escape from the dreary reality around me.
I have kids of my own now. I'm more plugged into politics than is probably healthy. The stories I want to write aren't of completely different realities, but of hope for the future tempered with warnings from the present. In my experience, nothing conveys this better than science fiction, so 2023 began the earnest shift from urban fantasy / paranormal romance audiences to science fiction readers.
As I would soon discover, that might have been the worst time to shift audiences in reader history.
Marketing (anyone out there?)
Marketing: the least favorite part of any author's job, but a necessary evil if you want to actually, say, sell books. ("If you write it they will come" is some of my favorite fantasy: fun to imagine, but nowhere near reality.)
2023 found me in a position I hadn't been in before: plenty of time, a budget, and a decent-ish backlog of books. In theory, it was the right time to start investing in marketing.
So I did. I completed a well-respected course on Amazon Ads for Authors. I followed it to the letter. I invested. I experimented. I gave it a true College Try™.
I'm too embarrassed to say how much I contributed to Bezos' corrupt platform during that experiment, but it was a lot, and for all that money and effort, the total number of sales could be measured on one hand. How much of that came from science fiction book sales dipping to the lowest point in thirty years, and how much was specifically what I wrote not landing with readers, I may never know.
Thus, frankly, ended my dream of creating income from my passion. Depressing? A little, but it was also freeing. I hadn't realized how much pressure I was putting on myself to sell books. How much I used that as a measure of success. Right or wrong, I'd concluded that no, there are not enough people who want to read the kind of books I write.
The upside? I could now spend the time I'd planned for marketing to write. Those few who follow me on social media have probably noticed a downslide in my posts. Let me tell you, those posts took time and effort to create and yielded no appreciable engagement. Yelling into the void, as it were. Now I do an occasional post on Mastodon, maybe a funny cartoon on Facebook, but that's it. Unsurprisingly, my sales haven't changed one bit.
My only unwavering commitment is my newsletter. I worked hard to get my subscriber base, and have by far more engagement there than on any social media platform. To those who continue to read my blathering, thank you. I plan to continue publishing monthly newsletters this year, and to grow my subscriber list with Project Xerxes, coming soon, which will be free for newsletter subscribers.
2024 should hold a lot of fun for science fiction fans. Project Xerxes (A Lost Colonies Story) and Enigma (Lost Colonies Book 1) will hit the shelves in Q1. The Timeless Keeper Saga Book 3 (Untitled) is already underway and will probably be available Q2/3. Hot on its heels will be Lost Colonies Book 2, which has been demanding to be written for months now. After that will probably be Scavenger Knights, a standalone science fiction novel I outlined last month.
Angels Adrift (The Z-Tech Chronicles Book 5) and the series conclusion Angels Strike (The Z-Tech Chronicles Book 6) may also be published, but that unfortunately depends upon my publisher's bandwidth. At the moment I don't have dates (or even a year) for either of them.
On top of that, we plan on moving up to Eureka in the summer, which means getting the house ready for sale and doing the furniture shuffle to keep the house empty while looking for our forever home up north. Exciting, but also a lot of work!
Happy New Year! Wishing you a fulfilling 2024!