The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past and make ambitious, unrealistic exercise goals for the future. Welcome to 2022!
The last 365ish days mark my first year of publishing. It has been a joyous, stressful, crazy, and bumpy ride to say the least. I’m proud to announce that I made exactly 50% of what I needed to survive as an author. As such, I’ve had my legs surgically removed. Now I can be an author full time. Woot!
Jokes aside, I’d like to take this time to update you on my thoughts, my feelings, and my future plans.
Too Damn Long! Didn’t Read (TL;DR): I’m planning to publish four novels between Q2 and Q4: Challenger Sarah’s novel in Q2, Dinjon’s Adventure in Q2-3, Dungeon Runner the novel (and first book to its series) Q3, and Arachnomancer 3 in Q4. I want all of my books to be available as eBooks, soft/hardcover books, large print soft/hardcover books, and audiobooks.
I made a lot of mistakes in 2021.
(Feel free to skip to Exciting Plans if you don’t care about my failures and lessons learned)
I released Dungeon Runner as an insane newsletter magnet, intending to publish a free episode every month. This quickly became every other month, then every three months, then in-between Arachnomancer releases. I finally decided to hold off on Dungeon Runner until the Arachnomancer series was complete (this has since changed; read below to learn more).
Instead of Dungeon Runner, I should have written something related to Arachnomancer. This drastically reduced the number of newsletter signups I received and consequently hurt Arachnomancer 2’s release.
I let the negative and positive reviews go to my head. Growing up, I was the geeky, misunderstood kid that cared more about learning QBasic in elementary than being popular. I developed self-deprecating humor to make people laugh and for me to feel included. When they took my jokes and used them against me… well, it felt bad.
I used to say that it was only the positive reviews that I struggled with. These reviews raised the bar on my work impossibly high, which damn near killed my fun and silly creative voice, the thing that makes Arachnomancer special. Perfectionism is my very familiar enemy in life. Arachnomancer was my, “F*ck you!” to perfectionism. I wrote with abandon, had fun, and allowed myself to be less than perfect.
I’d be lying if I said the negative reviews didn’t hurt. They said my less-than-perfect self wasn’t good enough. The reviews that were especially hard to receive were the ones validated by many upvotes. I had no defense against them, no counter to their claims to show why they were wrong or how they misunderstood or twisted something that was unintentional.
I learned my lesson and have stopped reading my reviews. My creative voice is fragile and I need to protect it from others and myself. But it can be lonely not seeing how others react to the things I create. I write for you guys, don’t you know? I want to make you laugh and cry and just be in some crazy cool new world for a time.
To those who have emailed me, messaged me, left comments, or filled out my surveys, you are truly awesome. Thanks for being there for me. 🙂
Luck & Pride
I was insanely lucky to make the bulk of my income from my first novel. Most authors don’t sell hundreds—let alone thousands—of books as a new author with no newsletter or marketing budget. This luck, however, made it hard to remain humble.
I hope that, no matter how far I take this publishing adventure, that I remain humble at every step. I firmly believe that there’s no end to the numerous ways writers can improve themselves and the stories they tell. This first starts with attitude. I’m back to studying every day and looking to my peers for guidance.
It’s odd being proud and jealous at the same time, but I managed it. Maybe the two are not so unalike. To be proud places your self-measurement on accomplishment (also known as success), which can then be compared to others.
I will admit, jealously has been a hard thing to deal with. I imagine most authors have to deal with this eventually. When you write a book that you absolutely love for all of its silly quirks and see another book selling a lot more, it feels only natural to ask why (and feel a bit like a failure).
Here’s what I’ve learned dealing with these invasive emotions. The successes of others should be celebrated. We’re all at different points in our own journey, working hard. When one of us succeeds, that’s not a time to selfishly think, “What about me?” It’s a time to shout and cheer. A rising tide lifts all boats. Popular books bring in new readers, new readers buy more books in the genre, and everyone wins.
I worked such long hours on Arachnomancer 2 that, by the time it was done, I burned out. I didn’t even know that I was burned out. When I tried to write Dungeon Runner 3, my mind just wanted to do everything and anything else. This led me to cancel my Dungeon Runner plans, thinking I just couldn’t divide my attention between multiple projects.
I’ve since learned that I absolutely love writing on multiple projects at the same time. In fact, by writing on multiple projects, I tend to accomplish a lot more than had I focused on one project at a time.
What I needed was to not push myself to the point of breaking (15 hours a day for a month). I now write for five hours a day after studying writing craft and encyclopedias for an hour. I have time for a walk and exercise, time for audiobooks and games, and time to pursue other creative works: painting, music, narration, etc.
Lots of things to be excited about in 2022!
In addition to the below projects, I am working to create print and audio versions of all of my books this year. Noice!
I’ve been working on my new website for a long time now. My website being incomplete is a big reason why I haven’t written many articles. And since I don’t have any new articles, I have less of a reason to send newsletters.
I view my website as the foundation of my author career. You will be able to check on my progress on various projects, see their article updates where I talk about various goals or challenges, view art, listen to music or my narration efforts, and read bonus chapters related to current books (such as alternative point of view characters during the Arachnomancer 1 climax or Octoralis’s PoV in Arachnomancer 2).
I wanted to finish the site before the new year, but that didn’t happen. Back a month or so ago, I decided to change my website engine from Statamic to Hugo. Now, everything is hand-coded with very few dependencies. The site is rock solid and will work perfectly for my needs going forward.
I don’t know how much longer the website will take, but I’ll let you know when it’s done!
Unfortunately, there will be a bit of a wait for the third book. I’m looking to publish Arachnomancer 3 in Q4 of this year. Why? There are a few reasons, so let’s get into it.
First and foremost, the second book hasn’t sold nearly as well as the first. In the publishing world, if the book doesn’t have a readthrough rate of at least 50%, there’s a problem. I know quite a few authors who would abandon the series for a new one at this point.
Arachnomancer 2 (a book that’s 50% longer than the first) is currently sitting at 32% of the revenue of Arachnomancer 1. If we compare the first 90 days of each launch instead, the second book is at 48% but will steadily decrease with time. This matches the review counts being lower (164 vs 346). With that said, the book is rated higher than the first (4.7 vs 4.6).
These numbers are based on revenue. If we compared units sold (and estimated units sold from page reads), the percentages would be lower. It’s disheartening to see since I poured everything into this book, a book that took twice as long to write.
That said, out of 43 magnificent readers—not a crazy high number, granted—who took my end-of-book survey, 40% of them want more than 9 books, 16% want 9 books, 37% want 6 books, and only 7% want Arachnomancer to be a trilogy. That’s a lot of books.
Here’s the deal, I love both of these books, especially the second one. I’m disappointed in the numbers but excited for the story nonetheless. Both books are rated quite well, which tells me the problem is a marketing one.
I have a lot of marketing plans for Arachnomancer this year. The first is…
What was meant to be a free novella is shaping up to be a full-length novel coming in Q2. This is a standalone novel that takes place in the Arachnomancer world eight years before Dhane. Since I promised everyone on my newsletter list that I would be giving them this story for free, I’ll uphold that promise and distribute the eBook before publishing it to Kindle Unlimited.
This story has been a lot of fun for me to write. Sarah is a quirky character that will play a major role in the Arachnomancer books to come. With this book, we get to see who she was before and after she becomes a vampire. We get to explore her skills and progression through a very different Olindale welcoming ceremony, one that pits everyone against each other in a series of games to see who gets to stay and who will be discarded back to the Primordial Sea of Souls.
Since this book is a standalone, it is my hope that it will help garner more interest in the Arachnomancer series as a whole. This combined with audio and print editions (and various articles, quote graphics, and bonus chapters), will help build hype for the third Arachnomancer book.
In my constant battle against perfectionism, I randomly started writing a crazy book.
This book, much like the first Arachnomancer, was meant to be published under a pen name (and then I decided I liked it too much). It’s amazing how such a small distinction can radically change my writing. Suddenly, I was free to do whatever I wanted. I blew up a dog and pieced it back together (imperfectly…). I introduced stupid, off-the-wall monsters and scenarios. I have a fun, OP character who doesn’t do what he should or what he’s expected to do.
It’s just fun.
The idea of this concurrent project was to help keep my writing loose. And it’s working. It’s both practice and creative freedom. You see, if I am going to write 9 or more Arachnomancer books, that’s going to take years. I have lots of other stories I’d like to tell, so this concurrent writing process will help me from burning out and, ultimately, improve my writing for all stories involved.
This has been an odd project. The newsletter magnet didn’t work very well; the story was unrelated to Arachnomancer, so this makes sense. But it also wasn’t received well (barely staying at 4.0/5). The second episode (60% readthrough, which is decent) is rated 4.5/5.
The biggest complaint I’ve seen is that the story is a serial: the episodes are short. The second problem is how harsh readers can be when they get something free. I wasn’t anticipating that.
I promoted Dungeon Runner from newsletter magnet to loss-leader as a way to help advertise Arachnomancer. Unfortunately, I don’t think this helped a lot. While the episodes continue to get 10-15 downloads a day, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between downloads and Arachnomancer sales/page reads.
Moving forward, I’m going to unpublished the free episodes of Dungeon Runner and convert them into a full novel (about 100k words). It’ll be the first in a trilogy. This will allow me to also release print and audio editions that match what readers in the genre expect for a story’s length.
Similar to Challenger Sarah—and since Dungeon Runner was initially free—I’ll be giving this book to all newsletter subscribers before I release it to Kindle Unlimited. 🙂
Zombies & Misc.
The above four books are the extent of my realistic goals. With that said, my first completed novel (a few years before Arachnomancer) was a GameLit story with zombies. I’ve heard from readers who think I should release my earlier novels. I think this one would be fun to publish, but I’ll need to rewrite a lot of it to ensure it reads well.
I also have short stories and novellas that I’m thinking of publishing under the name D.D. Tigner. If I do this, I’ll probably move my two short stories over to that name as a way of building brands (Dustin Tigner is for my GameLit novels and humor, D.D. Tigner is for my short fiction and serious, non-GameLit fiction).
I’d also like to write bonus chapters for my books to be hosted on my new website. I think it’ll be fun to explore what it’s like to live in Olindale by other non-adventurer types. These chapters will help provide new insight into the locations and characters of Arachnomancer. 🙂
I hate to say it, but I told you so. This was a crazy long post. I’m excited for all my fun projects (and secret ones, too!). Thanks for being a part of my publishing journey. I hope to write awesome books for your entertainment. Reach out and say Hi from time to time. 🙂