And so the year ended and we come to the point where I need to look back on 2011 and draw some conclusions. 2011 was a roller coaster year. Both my husband and I dealt with health issues, we also had to deal with sudden unemployment and loss of income and insurance, I had a death in my family, and then there was Clarion, which disrupted the entire summer as well as being another unexpected expense.
I’m going to do the writing stats and talk about that for a bit, then I’ll get to the ebook stuff. This year was not the greatest year for my writing. I spent a lot of it feeling very unsure of my skills and where my writing was going. Part of this was because I think I took some pretty big leaps in skill, but inconsistent leaps. In April, I attended Dean Wesley Smith’s Character Voice workshop, and afterward everything I’d written before it looked weak and terrible. I’m not sure that was Dean’s intention, but it is, in the end, a good thing. I learned more during that 8 days about craft and writing than I’ve learned in the last 20 years. I took that study forward into Clarion and I think it helped a ton. Let me put it this way: last year I got very frustrated because I kept getting “this is beautiful writing but” rejections and I wanted to know what I had to do in order to hit the next level of skill, to get past that and sell.
The Character Voice workshop showed me. I’m still working on getting the stuff I learned in that workshop through my fingers and into my unconscious writing brain so I can do it automatically. But this year, I sold stories. Two of the sales came directly from stories written at Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith workshops. Of all the learning experiences I had in 2011, those workshops were definitely the most valuable. I believe that having Clarion after those didn’t hurt, of course. It gave me a chance to network, meet awesome people, and put the learning into practice while I had the captive audience of 19 or 20 first readers.
So, the writing stats with my 2011 goals and if I met them:
Word Count: Goal was to write 900,000 words. Total actual words written: 438,777. I beat 2010’s word count, so not terrible.
Of that 900k, 240k was supposed to be novels. That goal was met. In fact, most of my 2011 wordcount was novels or novellas. I only finished 20 short stories in 2011. I finished 3 novels and 80% of a 4th novel, plus more than half of two novellas.
Other 2011 goals included writing consistently, which I failed. There were weeks in 2011 where I didn’t write at all. This is a goal I will carry forward to 2012, along with not deleting entire sections of work, and finishing everything I start.
Short stories sold in 2011: 6 plus 1 reprint. This is what makes me happiest when I look back on the year. I feel that this is an indication that what I’m learning has started to show up in my writing and that my skills are actually improving.
Rejections: 97, over half personal. Less rejections than 2010, because I submitted fewer stories this year and sold more of them on their first or third tries. As I move forward into 2012, I’m focusing even more on longer work, so I think my submissions to magazines will fall even more. Oh well.
Other notable achievements this year: I sold too many pro stories and disqualified myself from the Writers of the Future contest. My final entry sneaked through the door right before the disqualifying publication. Here’s hoping it is the magical Hollywood finish and I win, right? *grin*
I also qualified for SFWA membership, though I haven’t joined yet. I’m still debating if it is worth it at this point in my career with what I’m doing and where I’m going.
So… on to the publishing side of things. One of my goals for 2011 was to dip my toes more fully into e-publishing. That goal, I met. I wanted to put up at least 15 more works as ebooks. At the start of 2011, I had 3 short stories up under another pen name and the results were just enough to convince me to try with more work.
I ended 2011 with 18 works available in three different categories/genres (and under 3 different names). Two novels, two mid-length (what I’m calling novelettes and novellas), four short story collections, and ten short stories published as singles.
Total ebook sales for 2011: 1174 (*these numbers are not final, because Smashwords hasn’t reported for some of the places it distributes, so I only have some December numbers)
Of those 1174 sales, 657 were sales of short stories, 94 were from mid-length, 167 were from collections, and 256 were from novels.
Amazon accounted for 1020 sales, Smashwords Distribution Channels and Direct accounted for 89 sales, and B&N accounted for 65. I also sold 6 paperbacks of the one novel available as a trade paperback, bringing total self-published sales to 1180.
How did sales distribute by month? Let me show you! (I did promise a graph, didn’t I? Click image for bigger picture)
This graph shows some interesting trends. One is clearly that sales grow when you put up more work. As my husband was helping me put together spreadsheets, he asked “What happened in May?”. Well, I put up three new short stories (one of which went on to be my best and most consistent seller). Other things that boosted sales were offering something free for a short time (a week to ten days). As far as I can tell, interviews, reviews, blogging, all that stuff does very little for sales. New work and offering free work for short periods are what boost sales noticeably.
Of course, there is December, which broke the trend of up in my sales. I was doing well the first couple weeks, and then sales fell off a cliff. We’ll see if they rebound in 2012. I’m trying new things this year, including putting up many more novels and putting up books in series, as well as putting out work in three more genres.
As for the money, well, my total earnings from my writing in 2011 came to just shy of 3,000. A nice bump from 2010, for sure. I have not been paid on ebook earnings for November or December yet, so that is not in the 3k. Nor are two of my short story sales, which have not been published yet and the magazine pays on publication. I only count money when it is in my hand.
2011 was an interesting year full of surprises and a lot of learning experiences. I hope all of that will carry forward into 2012.