2015-05-17

Quick Update

I was catching up on so much stuff this morning I nearly forgot I needed to put out a blog post. Dragonverse Origins (at least what has been written so far) has been sent to my content-editor for his review. Lee is very good at pointing out areas where I've messed up, where I should write more or less, and scenes that could be done in a slightly different way. Although I have the final say (after all, it is my novel) most of the time Lee has a very valid point and I take his advice.

Lee Dilkie is not a "professional" content-editor. He's a fan who just happens to have a knack for doing the job of a content-editor. Note I don't say he's a copy-editor or a proof-reader. Content-editors are more like beta readers except they get more into the details of the novel. Lee is one of those people who wrote me concerning issues he found in my past novels and I asked him to be a beta reader for Peacekeeper 2. He did more than just tell me it was good or not--he pointed out where I needed to improve. Thus, a long-distance relationship was established and I'm pretty sure we'll be working together for quite a long time.

This brings up a couple of interesting points. Writers must learn to listen to their readers. Sure, if you're under contract with a large publisher they'll provide you with an editor to go through your book with a fine-tooth comb. This type of editor combines the function of content-editor and proofreader. They typically have a degree in English. But, does that mean you should ignore the feedback you get from your readers? NO. There are some authors out there who refuse to read reviews and are unreachable via email. I can see someone like Stephen King wanting to keep his email private--having to respond to several thousand emails would prevent him from doing any more writing. But for writers like myself, the feedback is like gold.

There's no doubt you will get some very negative feedback. Don't take these to heart. There are people out there who get a kick when they slam someone. They're cowards who hide behind the anonymity of the internet. I have read novels I didn't care for. Perhaps it was the author's style or the story itself. If I didn't like it but the story is put together well, I will give a good review and state why I didn't like it. I am entitled to my own opinion and so are all readers, but that does not mean one should write a horrible review just because you didn't like the story. I don't like seafood, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give Red Lobster a horrendous review because they serve seafood. There are times though when the story does deserve a bad review. Poor grammar, a plot that makes no sense, characters who do things a normal person would never do, etc. Give it a low mark--but explain why. Be detailed. The writer needs to learn--the reviewer can become a teacher in this instance.

I like to engage my readers. If someone writes me - I write them back even if only to say thank you. I read every review and I take what people say to heart.

Dragonverse Origins is going to be a challenging book to write because it combines Medieval people with advanced alien technology and is a link between two previously unrelated novels. So far, its been fun to write. The challenging part is about to begin.

2015-05-10

Events

The editing of Dragonverse Origins continues. I'm about 3/4 done but after yesterday's author meeting I might have to do some rewrites to the chapter I just finished editing. Seems I'm not as good about thinking like a 12-year old as I thought. But, then again, it is MY work and I can accept or reject the comments from the group. Then again, when more than one person has the same opinion, it's time to reconsider.

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is being able to accept criticism. After all, you spent a lot of time working on your budding novel and now a bunch of mystery and romance novelists are going to tell you that you need a rewrite? Two of our members have MFAs. Several of the others may not have been published yet but they've been writing for quite awhile. All of them are readers and it's the readers that a writer needs to listen to. When you go to a writer's group, the feedback you are getting is generally not the feedback of an English teacher correcting your work, it's the feedback of readers who just happen to be writers. Listen to them. And that's what I'm going to do.

I leave for Laramie in 3 weeks, heading off to Launch Pad. I've been going to this event since 2012 and I've met a wonderful group of people each year. This August, I will be attending WorldCon (Sasquan). A good number of my Launch Pad acquaintances will also be there as well as an equal number of people from Launch Pad's I did not attend. I made some inquiries and I have a room reserved (401C) to hold a Launch Pad reunion as well as to allow anyone interested in applying to come and speak to those who have been through the course. It will be good to see those I've met before again and it will be fun to meet the others I've never met. If you are attending WorldCon, and you are available on the 21st, stop in and see us.

The other event I'm attending this year is the first-ever Schrodinger sessions. This event is being held at Joint Quantum Institute just North of Washington DC. Ever since traveling through the area several years ago, I swore I would never go through the DC area again. I hate traffic and it was horrendous. But, I could not pass up this opportunity. This event is modeled after Launch Pad but is only 3 days long. I am close enough to drive to this event. ($0.47/mile tax deduction too). Unlike Launch Pad, I've not had the time to research the people who are going. Perhaps I will do so this week. But, everyone has introduced themselves through email and I'm going to be in good company. Several people I know from Launch Pad will be there. If you've ever seen the movie "Earth to Echo", I will be meeting the person who did the screen play for it. I'm looking forward to having a great time.

If you had asked me back in 2009 when I put my first book up on Amazon what my life as a writer would be in 2015, I would have responded with something like, "I don't know---sitting around writing, collecting a few hundred dollars a year in royalties and continuing to work at the power plant." I would never have guessed that I would be an honorary member of the Launch Pad team, traveling to Laramie once a year, traveling to events such as the Schrodinger sessions, being a member of SFWA, and being asked to sit on at least one panel at WorldCon. My life as a writer is not nearly as boring as I thought it would be. I still have my job at the power plant but it's one that allows me to work a flexible schedule and I'm doing what I absolutely love to do--write code.

This only goes to prove that if you are persistent, listen to your readers, interface with the right people, and work hard at being a writer, you can achieve your dreams. I'm living my dream right now. Time to get back to writing.

2015-05-03

Writing Income

Before I get into the material linked to the title of this post, I want to give you an update on Dragonverse Origins. Yesterday, I went back to the beginning and I'm re-editing what I've written so far. I added about 200 words and the total now stands at 29,887 words. I'm doing this at this point for two reasons:
   1) My re-edit notes have gotten too large and I need to make changes to what's there before I move on.
   2) I want to send the partial manuscript to my content editor--Lee Dilkie--for his review. I want his take now on what I've written so far because getting it later will mean another heavy rewrite. I prefer to have my manuscripts nearly ready by the time the first draft is complete.

I'm about 1/3 of the way done. If I can get this post written and out in a timely manner this morning, I will have time to make even more progress. I am back to normal working hours and weekends are once again free for me to write in the morning. There will also be some evenings where writing gets done (as long as I don't have an episode of Agents of Shield to watch).

I went to see Ultron yesterday. Marvel has--once again--created an action-packed movie that holds my interest. Of course, there are a number of major science errors throughout the movie, but this takes place in the world of comic books. I loved it.

Okay--time for the meat of this post. I've promised for several weeks to do this and now I'm following through on the promise. I was initially inspired by Jim C. Hines when he posted his own writing income. After seeing his post, I posted my book sales numbers but have withheld my business income figures. Others have posted their actual income: Kameron Hurley and D. Moonfire to name two.

I published my first novel on Amazon in 2009. I made a grand total of $66.00 that year. 2010 is the first full year of sales. If I recall, I had 2 books available early that year and I released a third toward the end of the year. My total sales that year amounted to $302.00. I had not yet declared the writing business as a business and so this income was just added to my normal income. 2011 marks the start of when I filed my writing income as a business. I had a gross income of $2,929.00. After expenses I had a net profit of $2,333.00.

The next year was the year of my amazing sales. I have never been able to say for sure what happened but I believe it was due to a one week promotion by Amazon. I have never been able to confirm this though. Sales of the Galactic Alliance trilogy skyrocketed putting me at #1 in several science fiction categories and getting me to at least #173 of all books sold on Amazon. That number could be better but 173 was the last I actually saw with my own eyes. Total sales that year amounted to $92,772.00. After business expenses this yielded an income of $87,819.00. I used the extra income to put a new roof on the house since I'm planning on retiring here.

Since then, sales have declined but have remained remarkably steady. Sales for 2013 as well as 2014 are included in the below table. In 2013, we took a trip to DragonCon which accounts for the high deductions. Here are the complete income numbers:

Year            Gross           Net
2009 $66.00
2010 $302.00
2011 $2,929.00 $2,333.00
2012 $92,772.00 $87,819.00
2013 $9,753.00 $3,223.00
2014 $8,528.00 $4,269.00

I've posted a comment on an SFWA forum asking other authors to be more willing to share their income from writing numbers. This could be done on an anonymous basis if someone is willing to set up a website where this type of information could be collected. It would be a great benefit to other writers.

One thing I want to point out before I close. Many writers might have been tempted to quit their day job if they'd had a banner year as I did in 2012. Don't do this! As you can see, my writing income did not stay in the clouds. This happens, and it happens more often than you might think. Just because you have a good run for a few months does not mean you've become a world-famous author and you can tell your day-job boss that you're quitting.

What the above numbers for 2012 don't show is how much extra I had to pay in taxes. The net income shows only what was added to my income after normal business expenses are deducted. Take that $87,819.00 and figure I paid about 33% of it in taxes. Actual, in-pocket take-home is significantly less. Don't forget--Uncle Sam will want his cut of your profits as well. Had I spent all that money on a fancy car or a frivolous luxury item I would have had to come up with the taxes at the end of the year. Plan ahead so you don't have to struggle to pay your taxes.

Time to get back to writing.