2015 Writing In Review (plus a shameless plea and a peek at 2016)

Last year was a banner year for me in terms of sheer accomplishments. 2015 was definitely my best year as a reader, my wife gave birth to our son (OK, so this is more her accomplishment than mine, but I'm at least 50% responsible for her enduring 9 months of morning sickness, back aches, heartburn, and the random thumping, kicking, and punching of various internal organs, that all resulted in our little bit of awesomeness that is a tiny, hilarious human who deprives us of much-needed sleep), and I was at peak productiveness writing-wise. It's this last part I'll be writing about today because this is, largely, my silly little author blog. So, 2015 in terms of writing - I was in three anthologies, released a solo novel, and published a short story that originally appeared in one of these anthologies.

I also finished the manuscript for a novella, tentatively titled Mass Hysteria!, of approximately 50,000 words. I'm estimating this brought me to about 180,000 words of fiction written across the year. This is an awful lot of writing for me! I also wrote 141 blog posts, figure those are about 500 words each, a nice conservative estimate which gives me an additional 70,500 words written. *Phew!*

In terms of sales, 2015 was a definite improvement over my first year as an author-publisher, but still fairly insignificant in terms of income and paid sales. Income doubled over 2014, but not enough to off-set expenses put toward self-publishing my work, which means my indie career is still a far-cry from being a successful endeavor and I'm starting off 2016 heavily in the red. Expenses in 2015 were also double those of 2014 thanks to larger promotion efforts and editing (Emergence is a bigger book than Convergence, and more words means more money spent to edit).

A successful writing career is built on hard work, talent, and a whole lot of luck. Although I've got a few dedicated and devoted readers (thank you!), I haven't yet gotten lucky enough to really break through. Although, in its first week of release, Emergence outsold the entire previous year's worth of sales for Convergence, it was not enough to break-even on the expenses generated by editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing. I did run a couple free promos for Convergence, which were pretty damn successful in terms of volume, but had little impact in terms of carry-over toward more sales of Emergence or my other works. I gave away about 7,000 copies of my first novel, which is awesome, but I suspect a very large number of purchasers were simply collecting a free title. I saw little in way of new reviews and only about 4 percent of those 'buyers' went on to pick up my other titles. It's a bit distressing, but also a lack of simple, pure luck. I just haven't found my audience yet. That said, the word of mouth surrounding the solo release of my controversial short story, Revolver, generated a good amount of interest and sales, but it's definitely not a best-seller by any means. Furthermore, Revolver is a very unsubtle and highly polemic work that may not exactly be the best entry-point for my work; I have to expect that title to maybe turn off a lot of new readers, actually. The good news is, those that do like it seem to be enthusiastically supportive of it, which is freaking awesome!

Unfortunately, all this means that a lot of the big stuff I had wanted to do in 2016 will likely have to wait. This comes down to easy economics, since I can't spend money on making more art without that art making money to spend. One project I had wanted to tackle was producing audiobooks of my DRMR novels, but this is a very expensive undertaking and could easily set me back several thousand dollars. This would be on top of getting Mass Hysteria cover art and edited. And I've begun working on another sci-fi novel that I should be able to finish sometime this year, but finding the time to really sit down and write is getting more difficult (psst - having a kid can be a huge time drain! Who knew? But seriously, he's awesome and it's worth it. But still.), so everything is still kinda TBD on that front.

This means that some plans for 2016 are being shifted around a good deal. I'm seriously considering shopping around Mass Hysteria. If I can hook even a small publisher with this title, it'll save me a lot of money in terms of editing and artwork. It's an apocalyptic horror story, and there's a few horror houses that I think it would align pretty well with. Kindle Scout could also be an option, but kind of a last resort for now since they require a completely finished book for submission, which still leaves me on the hook for editing and cover design costs. So we'll see what happens there.

I'm determined to get Mass Hysteria released in 2016, but the when of it all is very, very murky at this point. Those two December anthologies have also given me two more short stories that, in about six-months time, I'll be free to release as stand-alone titles, which means The Marque and Preservation will need an extra bit of work to get ready for their individual debuts. Again, though, I have zero idea what kind of timeline I'll be able to operate on with those, and that's a little bit scary and disheartening. I wanted to have a solid timeline to plan out releases for this year, but the financial aspects are seriously cloudy. So, hey, if you want more books from me, get buying them! Tell your friends to buy them! Buy copies for your friends, family, loved ones, enemies, neighbors, pets, dolls, future readers, strangers at the bus-stop, pantsless subway riders, your reading club, whatever.

One bright spot, and I need to keep in mind that it's still early, but my inclusion in The Cyborg Chronicles, the latest release in Samuel Peralta's acclaimed series of The Future Chronicles anthologies, looks to have given my profile a slight boost. In 2015 I went Kindle exclusive and have stayed there for a while. In the wake of my Chronicles story, it seems a few more readers are borrowing my DRMR books, so that anthology could be a nice entry point for new readers to find me.

Diversification is key, really. Readers weren't finding my solo works, but look to be discovering it a bit more now that I was fortunate enough to get invited into a release as large as The Cyborg Chronicles. I may be appearing in a couple more anthologies in 2016, but the ink isn't dry enough for me to discuss those details yet and anything can happen. For instance, I was slated to be in a fourth anthology last year, but the publisher dissolved before the book could be released. So, for now I'm only focusing on my cli-fi novel currently in progress. I've got a good 5,000 words built up there at the moment and plenty more on the way.

Cli-fi, sci-fi, what is this? What's this about? Again, too early to discuss, but it's a future-Earth story set in the days after humanity has firmly wrecked the world and climate change has significantly altered the geographic landscape. It's a bit of a seafaring story with rogue military squads, pirates and salvagers, and mermaids. Wait, mermaids? Maybe mermaids. We'll just have to see about that.

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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