2014 in Review, Personally Speaking, Part 1
Happy New Year, everyone! Here at the Starrigger Ranch, we celebrated New Year’s Eve by watching Guardians of the Galaxy, this time on Blu-ray—and by completely forgetting to note the actual time of transition into the new year.
|Space selfie, from my vacation home on the Moon|
I thought I’d give a few highlights of the last year, from my own perspective. By and large, I’m going to ignore the big, public events, which you already know about anyway. (Okay, let’s get it out of the way. Politically it was a depressing year in the U.S., where everything that was already broken got even more broken. Overseas, the words ISIS, Ukraine, and Russia pretty well set the tone. But, the landing of the European probe on a comet was a breath of fresh, minty air, and so was the first test flight of NASA's new Orion spacecraft.)
It was a pretty good year for the family. Our older daughter made two trips to the Middle East, pursuing her interest in building bridges between the Muslim world and the Christian world. Our younger daughter accompanied us to London for the SF Worldcon, which was an adventure for all of us. (For me it was mostly an adventure in trying to enjoy a trip while gradually being brought down by bronchitis or pneumonia, depending on which doctor you believe. But my wife and daughter had a great time.) Our two furballs, Moonlight the cat and Captain Jack the dog, remain in good health.
|Julia with furballs Moonlight and Captain Jack|
Writing-wise, I continued to make slow progress on the rewrite of The Reefs of Time. It continues to be a hard book for me to write, and I don’t know exactly why, but I’m getting there, and God willing, I will finish it this year. After all, I still have The Masters of Shipworld to write when that one is done. And none of us is getting any younger, at least not that I’m aware of. People say that writing is a lonely business, and it is. But I get lots of support, for which I’m eternally grateful: from my family and friends, including my long-standing SF/F writing critique group, and also my writing and spiritual support group through my church, and also my fellow writers at Book View Cafe. I write alone, but I don't feel that lonely in it.
In 2014, a lot of my work time was devoted to issuing new ebook editions of my backlist, and I’ll still be working on that into 2015. It’s way more time-consuming than you might think (a subject I’ll explore another time), even with the ton of help I'm getting with the formatting. But it’s also a lot more rewarding—gratifyingly so. 2014 was a year in which many of my colleagues reported declining sales—battered by rising competition, changing sales algorithms at the retailers, new subscription models (especially at Amazon) that cut into sales, and who knows what all. I was more fortunate, thank you. My own ebook sales took a quantum leap upward, primarily owing to a steady series of successful promotions. This means not just more income, but new readers.
To give you a handle on what I'm talking about, let me throw out a few rough numbers. Here are some approximate totals of ebooks I sold in the last few years through my own imprint (there were additional, modest sales through various publishers):
2011 — 4000 ebooks
2012 — 8100 (including a big jump in the UK, for unknown reasons)
2013 — 7800 (the UK jumps even higher, while the US declines)
2014 — 22,000 (the UK craters, while the US vaults)
Let's put that into perspective. For guys like George Martin and Hugh Howey, that last annual total would probably be a disappointing month. For many equally talented writers, it's an impossible dream. Me, I feel blessed and thankful to have gotten here. I have no idea what caused the UK surge in 2012 and 2013, or what made it stop in 2014. But I do know what caused the big total upswing in 2014: my almost monthly promotions in concert with ads through places like Bookbub. Also, bringing more of my books under my own imprint, where I can design my own covers, set my own prices, do my own promo. Publishing direct at Kobobooks also helped, in concert with promotions Kobo sponsors. Many of those new sales were at steeply discounted prices. But the specials brought along waves of readers to other books selling at the regular prices. Bottom line: I reached more paying readers with more different books this year than in any year I can remember. And that’s good for the family budget. It's also good for connecting with whole new populations of readers. And that may be the biggest reward of all.
What about the arts in 2014? That'll be Part 2.