Although I wrote my first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), nearly two years ago, this month marks the anniversary of its publication and what I consider to be my first year as a published author and entrepreneur. Is the writing life everything I thought it would be? Yes and no.
Before choosing independent publishing, I did extensive research into the field. I knew that one book (or two, or ten) is not enough to make a full-time living as an author. I held no illusions about being a break-out success or breaking even on my initial investment in one year (Across industries, small businesses take an average of five years to earn a profit.). While some authors reach these milestones within the first year, and while I have tallied many of my own proud accomplishments, short-term success has never featured in my goals. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can build my author career slowly. Currently, I’m 24 and a half years old. I want to be a full-time author on my 30th birthday. I think that is realistic and obtainable.
At this point, my career as an author-entrepreneur must be my second financial priority. With my husband in graduate school, I am the primary breadwinner for our family, and my day job must come first. In order to continue publishing books, I make sacrifices and set aside a budget for publishing expenses. Sometimes I miss those little luxuries (like binge-watching Netflix all Saturday, or dyeing my hair every three months), but the short-term sacrifices are worth the long-term gain. If I’ve learned anything from being an author-entrepreneur, it’s how to think days, months, and years into the future simultaneously.
When I first declared myself an author and established Boxthorn Press, I focused heavily on blogging and bringing together a supportive community of writers and readers. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Through writing and reading blogs, I’ve made some of my best friends, as well as many valuable business connections. I still want to provide helpful posts and engaging content for my fellow writers and readers, though I’m starting to realize that my blog needs to take a backseat to creation. Over time, my posting schedule has declined from five days a week to three to two, and I think this has been a healthy shift for my productivity.
Perhaps the most difficult experience I’ve had as a writer is dealing with criticism. I know my books aren’t perfect. On the fiction front, I have a long way to go as a storyteller (If I didn’t, that wouldn’t make for a very fun career!), and I’ll be the first to admit that my nonfiction booklets have been crafted on a shoestring budget. I know everyone will not like, understand, or appreciate my art, and negative attention is the price of exposure. Bad reviews and hurtful comments only strengthen my own self-doubt and internal editor, but luckily, I have the perfect antidote …
You. My readers and writing friends who are reading this right now. If you had told me one year ago the amount of support and encouragement and caring I would receive from the outside world, I would have laughed. But it’s entirely true. My readership is small but mighty. Those who enjoy my novels (and booklets) have shown an outpouring of support in reviews, social media shout-outs, and yes, monetary support. Without all of you, I would have a damn difficult time blocking out those negative voices and zero chance of achieving my dream of full-time authorship within the next five and a half years. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Without spoiling my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions, I want to wrap up this post by addressing my goals for the future. My creative mentor (from afar, that is), Joanna Penn, talks about measuring your life in Olympic periods (and writes an inspiring reflection post each year). If you judge your progress by one year, it may not seem like a lot has happened. However, over the course of four years, so much more can change.
From late 2016 to late 2017, I want to focus on creation and diversification. I’ll put out a new book (hopefully two!) in the Desertera series, but I’d also like to expand the novels I have into audiobooks and perhaps foreign translations. At the same time, I’d like to start planning and writing my second series in the background, so that it is ready to publish when it is time to wrap up Desertera. With my nonfiction, I hope to begin a full-length book and perhaps diversify the products I already have.
Over the next Olympic period? I’d like to have two complete fiction series under my belt and available in all English formats (ebook, paperback, and audiobook) and perhaps another language or two in ebook format. I would also like to have two or three full-length nonfiction books, so that other writers can learn from my mistakes and accomplishments. I’d also like to expand my author-entrepreneurship into other avenues, such as course creation, author services, or perhaps something more social like podcasting. Hopefully, Boxthorn Press will be making a profit and heading to a place in which it can replace my day job.
You know what the craziest part is? I don’t think this is all a pipe dream. I’ve researched the industry, studied successful indies, crafted a basic financial plan, and have picked apart my every strength and weakness. While success is not fully in my power (I’m still beholden to my readers, after all.), I hold 90% of the cards. If I keep learning and working, I know I can make my dream a reality.
Two years ago, I started scribbling down an outline in a notebook and praying that I could achieve my biggest dream of writing a novel. One year ago, I hit the publish button and achieved my new biggest dream of becoming a published author. Today, I’m telling you that I want to achieve my newest biggest dream of being a full-time author by age 30.
Can I do it? Well, stick with me and let’s find out together.