The First Seven Years: 2013-2019 in Review, and the Journey Ahead

Hello readers! No, there’s no Being a Better Writer article today, since I’m still on break. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any content to be had! No, as we’re about to head into a new decade, 2020 now just two days away (less, depending  on when you read this), it’s the perfect time for a look back. Two looks back, actually! For one, we’ve got 2019 to look at, to see how it stacks up against 2018, but we’ve also got the decade as a whole. Well, minus seven years, as my first book—One Drink for those that have joined us since then—was only published in 2013. But as we look back today, I’d be remiss not to look over the decade as a whole and see where it’s taken both myself and you readers. To see the growth of this grand adventure as it continues to build!

So then, let’s dive right in and talk about the year! How’d 2019 stack up?

Jungle CoverObviously, the big elephant in the room is Jungle. The titan (literally, check out that word count) of a Colony sequel that landed in November. Jungle was 2019’s only book release but … what a release!

Jungle was a titanic effort, taking months upon months of work from myself and dedicated Alpha and Beta Readers to polish and prepare. But in the end?

Jungle has been a titanic success. Though only out for the last two months of 2019, it’d be impossible to talk about the state of things without it. While not quite reaching the pre-order and high-burst numbers  Colony did at its release, Jungle has instead remained a steady seller, even as it garners reviews with greater speed than Colony ever did. Reviews which have so far entirely been positive. As of today, Jungle is still sitting with a perfect Five-Star score across Amazon and Goodreads, with a lot of praise lauded on it in its reviews for how it moves the story forward while taking it in surprising new directions!

Of course, this means good things for sales as well. Jungle catching eyes has only brought a renewed resurgence of interest in Colony as well, which has seen a nice sales increase as a result of Jungle catching reader’s eyes and then going on to read both.

Okay, so what does that mean for total book sales? Well, as 2019 closes, it’s only a little higher than 2018 was insofar as sales go, but there’s two catches to that. First, it is higher. Sales were up. But even more importantly? They’re more even. Most of 2018’s sales were clumped around June’s release of Shadow of an Empire (a stellar book, by the way) and then quickly fell after that. Which does back the model that, so I hear from other authors publishing independently, Amazon is pushing for: One book, lots of sales, no tale.

2019, however, is telling a different story. The sales across month to month are much flatter and more level. More even from month to month. The tale is longer by far for Jungle so far in its two months than either Colony or Shadow of an Empire before it, both of which had good spikes on their release but dropped quickly thereafter.

Okay, this is all well and good, but I can also source the cause of some of those sales as well: Word of mouth. 2019 has become the year where more readers have started talking about ColonyJungle, and other works of mine. Where 2018 saw its sales coming from advertising campaigns (something that continued into 2019), 2019’s biggest shift has come from readers talking about Jungle and my other works.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Word of mouth is the most powerful driver of author sales there is. Readers are what make an author a success. 2019 marks the time, with a little urging, readers of my work hopped onto a Reddit thread looking for Indie Sci-Fi books to recommend Colony and Jungle … and sales for that day quintupled the average that week.

2019 seems to mark that shift, when my works attracted either new readers that open to sharing them with others, or those readers I had found their voices in saying “Hey, I really like these books, you should check them out!” Which resulted, ultimately, in steadier sales and lots of new eyes.

Keep talking, readers! The more you talk, the more sales arrive, and the easier time I have it getting more books out!

But that’s books. What about the site itself? After all, Being a Better Writer is an important part of this too! How’d the site stack up in 2019 compared to 2018?

Really well, actually. In fact, this one I’ve got encouraging numbers on. In 2019, Unusual Things had almost as many unique visitors as 2018 had total views. Total views, following that, were almost double what they were in 2018.

In other words, 2019 was a banner year for Unusual Things, doubling the amount of readers. Search traffic has risen substantially as well, newcomers often finding the site while looking for writing advice on specific topics and sticking around to read a lot more.

Ultimately, Unusual Things is seeing more traffic and more visitors, recurring and new, than ever before! Which is a great note to end 2019 on!

Where it all began ...Now, before we look ahead, what about the decade as a whole? Or, at least, the last seven years of it? One Drink was released in February of 2013. What’s happened since then?

Well, my covers have gotten a lot better for one. One Drink is a far cry from terrible, as is its sequel, the much-loved Dead Silver, but they’re not exactly great either. But a look at the covers for Colony or Shadow of an Empire shows a marked improvement over those early attempts.

But here’s a fun one for you. As if to poetically close out 2019, One Drink found itself with another review just yesterday. A good one too. Turns out that seven years later (almost), One Drink is still delighting readers.

Seven years has brought a lot of work too. After One Drink, there was Dead Silver, Unusual Events (still my least-popular work by a large margin), Colony (most popular), Shadow of an Empire, and now Jungle.

Dead Silver FinalSix works in almost seven years. A grand total of 1,382,000 words published, give or take a few hundred. That’s a pretty respectable schedule!

Plus, on top of that we have to consider Being a Better Writer and the site. The site only went live in 2015, but even so, that’s a substantial number of posts. Even if one only counted Being a Better Writer, which hits around 2500 words each Monday, that’s still another 115,000 words or so per year.

And … I’m going to stop with the numbers game right there, because that’s not the point. There’s been a lot of content in these last seven years, but content is nothing without audience. So … how’s that looking?

Good. In fact, looking at the graphs of sales and visitors over these last few years, everything shows a steady and rising increase. In other words not only has the viewership, amount of visitors, and sales each year increased steadily, but they’ve also increased the pace at which they’ve been going up as the years have been going on. Unusual Things and the books both show solid increases in newcomers and returning fans alike over each successive year!

Unusual EventsBetter yet is the “tale,” the sales and views in between each major book release. A few years ago? Each book release saw a short spike—well, save Unusual Events) but everything in between was pretty low. Really low, actually. But in the last few years, and especially recently? The spikes have become far less pronounced, especially with Shadow of an Empire and Jungle, the sales between them staying much steadier and regular.

Just a side note, I’m kind of amused at how much Unusual Events slowly became a running joke. It’s not a bad collection, but it’s time and time again shown itself to be something that very few people wanted. It’s the only title with no spike, for starters, and I think a month’s sales for any of my other titles outdo Events’ lifelong sales at this point.

Anyway, the point here is that looking back on 2019, especially compared to the last few years, shows a marked increase an improvement in new readers, new fans, and steady, regular sales on a yearly basis. Which is really good news, and makes me proud. There’s been a lot of sweat, blood, and tears poured into making this all come together. It’s nice to take a look back and see how far it has come since that first novella was published in 2013.

colony-finalOkay then. So the site is doing well, with some massive jumps from the year prior. Book sales are up and have finally started to reach that mythical point where people are talking about them and spreading the word that way. So … what does this mean looking ahead? What’s coming in 2020?

Okay, well, even without some of the upcoming releases and whatnot, I’d still be pretty pleased. If current trends continue, both Unusual Things and my books will continue to gain traction. Colony and Jungle especially are looking really strong, and with a little bit of luck perhaps Shadow of an Empire will see a corresponding rise as well.

Granted, nothing is set in stone, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty with any attempt to predict the future. But based off of how things have gone for the last few years, and the gains that are all starting to add up? I think 2020, and the new decade, will be good to me. And the site.

Shadow of an EmpireSure, there’s a lot of work yet to do. Finish my draft of Axtara – Banking and Finance. Start Fireteam Freelance. Then Starforge. Past that? Well, there’s Tales from the Last Frontier to get to work on. A Game of Stakes features in A Dragon and Her Girl, coming out this February at LTUE (so readers take note, as that’ll be my next published release).

Beyond that? Well … I’ve got a number of projects that have been sitting on the back burner for some time. We’ve not seen hide nor hair of Jacob Rocke since last year’s Christmas tale for Patreon supporters, for example, and it would be nice to jump back into his shoes once more. And then there are a lot of fans who’d like to see the world of Indrim make another triumphant return, and I’ve definitely got plans and ideas there … Plus there’s that unnamed YA novel idea that’s been bouncing around my head for a while.

Let’s just put it this way: Unless I end up homeless, 2020 definitely has a lot of content I can work on before running out. I’ve got some fun ideas to play around with in my pile of concepts.

Jungle Cover2019 was a good year for writing. So was 2018. 2020? Well, I can’t say for certain yet. But when I look back at everything that’s come before it, well …

I think it has a lot of potential. If sales stay steady in their rise. If fans keep coming and keep talking. If A Game of Stakes takes my audience to new heights.

Seven years ago, I had no idea it’d reach this point. Seven years ago, I didn’t even know Colony would have a sequel. Sands, I didn’t know it’d be called Colony. I didn’t know about Indrim. I, and all my readers—really we—hadn’t pursued Aztec Blood Magic across New Mexico. We hadn’t yet seen what would happen when three different people from Earth were shipped out to a colony world that turned out to be a construct, a BDO with a lot of danger inside it. We hadn’t seen what would happen when a young girl made it her goal to be the first to interview her city’s superhero.

The last seven years have been a ride. For all of us.

I can’t wait to see what the next decade brings.

Happy  New Year, readers. Thanks for being there for all the adventures we’ve shared together. Thanks for reading, thanks for reviewing, thanks for supporting on Patreon, and thanks for sharing to those you knew would appreciate a good read.

From Jacob Rocke, Hawke Decroux, Samantha, Trill, Salitore Amazd, Meelo Karn, Jake Tames, Annalyne Neres, Ray Candy (to list a few), and last of all, myself, Max Florschutz—

Thanks for Reading, and we’ll see you in 2020.

Happy New Year, readers. Thank you for helping make this last decade what it was, and we’ll all see you in the decade to come, with a whole lot of new names, faces, and places to see.

It’s been an incredible decade. Ready for another?

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