So it’s nearing the end of July and something big happened this week.
After 14 years working my full time job, I put in my notice. Starting August 20 I will be a full time writer.
It is an exciting and, at the same time, extremely terrifying decision, but it is one I have been toying with for a while. After the third book came out, we hit a benchmark where my wife was able to quit her day job. I was thrilled with being the lone breadwinner. At the time, I was riding high on book fumes and sales were going strong.
I then proceeded with the goal of both working and writing full time. In the past I had written the books at more of a leisurely pace, but I had high goals. When I put out Book one in may of 2012 I already had book two written and well over half of book three. I was conservative in my promises to readers, saying simply that book four would come out in 2013. But I thought I’d have book four in January or February and book five in June. I didn’t realize just how taxing my goals were going to be.
Book four was a monster. I had so many cool scenes and revelations that I had been waiting for years to write, but dividing my days between work and family and writing made parts of it a slow process. Hilt’s Pride wasn’t giving the series the boost I was hoping for and the sales numbers began losing steam. January was a major slowdown and fear of being unable to pay bills lit a fire under me. Most of the book was finished in February and March as my wife and I made sacrifices. She did everything else, (cooking, cleaning, shuffling kids off to whatever activities) while I toiled away in my office from the moment I left work until the moment I went to sleep.
I finished the book on March 29th, we did our final editing passes, and it was out on April 7. I had my fingers crossed, hoping that my readers hadn’t forgotten about me and to my relief, it worked. The book did well, hitting the Amazon rankings higher than the other books had. It’s presence in the top 50 in epic fantasy helped drag the rest of the books back into the light. Finally I could take a deep breath. I took a week off and got ready to head into the writing of book five with the same fervor I had in February and March.
Again, I underestimated the pressures I was under. It was a lot harder getting back into the rhythm of things than I expected. April – October are the busiest months for my day job. I often would finish working so mentally drained that the prospect of sitting at my desk for another 8 hours was overwhelming. As a result, things were moving slower than I had hoped.
All of these months stressing and watching the numbers had taught me something, though. There is a rhythm and flow to the world of independent publishing on Kindle. Amazon will push your book when it first comes out for maybe a month or two, but they will only promote you heavily if you are in the top rankings. As soon as that two month honeymoon is over, you are pretty much on your own. Most independent authors don’t have the reach or financial wherewithal to promote themselves, so inevitably sales fade and once you are out of the top rankings your only source of promotion is word of mouth. I noticed something else. A few independent authors with . . . let’s say ‘messy’ editing practices that would usually lead to poorer sales were still able to stay in the top ranks because they put out new books quite often, thereby always being in that promotion cycle and never falling out of the public eye.
I started wondering what I could do as a full time writer. Could I write enough during the day, that I could put out books in a more timely manner? Could I take that six or seven month writing time filled with stress and angst and narrow it down to a four month book release schedule, still keeping all my editing processes in place, and still spend time with my kids and wife so I don’t die of a stress-induced heart attack at the tender age of 37? It was a scary notion.
When I first brought it up, I said it in kind of a joking manner, but my wife knows me too well. Her face went white and I half expected her hair to fall right out of her head as if my words were laced with radiation. Her reaction convinced me that I was thinking crazy. All that was important was getting the next book out this year. Sales would slow down as expected, but at least we would have the comfort of knowing that no matter what, I still had that steady paycheck, even if it just barely paid the bills. I could wait. I was still confident that I could go full time some day.
Then my wife surprised me a couple days later by bringing it up again. What if I were to quit my job right away? At that moment both of our faces went white. It had been suggested aloud and not by me. We both backed out of the room with hearts racing. Could it work? My calculations began in earnest. I could have the book finished by late September or October, maybe even put out the next one in December or January. We agonized over the idea. We prayed. We talked to friends, some of whom thought we were crazy. What about insurance? What about Christmas? What if your writing suffers? But others were supportive or even excited by the idea.
Finally the decision was made. Here we are.
It won’t be easy. It will require a lot of sacrifices. I’m betting on myself and my writing ability. I’m betting on the characters and world that I have built up through my novels. Most of all, I am betting that my readers will continue to buy my books and spread the word. I’m hoping this gamble pays off.
So Mother of the Moonrat will hopefully be finished by October.
After that I need to decide what to do next. Should I finish writing my contemporary fantasy novel tentatively titled, Tallow Jones, Wizard Detective about a wizard from the world of The Bowl of Souls that ends up in our world? Should I finish another book titled Tarah Woodblade, a stand alone Bowl of Souls novel about a new group of characters? What do you think, dear reader?
Thank you all for your support, and once again, please spread the word. Tell your friends about these books. Tie them down and read it to them if you have to. I could really use the help.
Trevor H. Cooley