Sowing the Seeds for Your Writer’s Journey

For the past three years, I’ve spent the end of the year reflecting on what I’ve achieved as an Indie author. I also set my publishing goals for the coming year. In 2017, I set many writing goals that I didn’t meet. In my end-of-year analysis, I concluded that my goals were unrealistic because they weren’t informed by real experience.

This year, I feel far more “seasoned” as an Indie author. Well, at least I know how long it takes to write, edit, and publish a book. Don’t talk to me about launching my series, marketing, or advertising though. I’m but a babe lost in the woods in those areas. At the end of 2018, I still feel like I’m at the very beginning of my writer’s journey. And things are moving along much slower than I would like. So slowly, I barely detect my progress at times.

I was reading recently about futurist Ray Kurzweil’s “law of accelerating change”, i.e., the exponential rate of change, caused by rapid advances in technology. The rate of change we’re experiencing today arises from the Digital Revolution, in particular, increases in computing power resulting from our ability to double the numbers of transistors on microchips every 18 to 24 months. This is often referred to as Moore’s Law. Since the concept of exponential change is hard to imagine in abstract terms, I like to tell Joel Garreau’s story of the king and the peasant from his book Radical Evolution. It goes something like this:

Once upon a time, a peasant saved the king’s daughter from almost certain death. Eternally grateful, the king offered to grant the peasant any wish from gold bars to sacks of jewels to acres of land. The peasant surprised the king with a strange and modest request: a chessboard and some corn. The peasant asked the king give him one kernel of corn for the first square and double it each day for each succeeding square until they reached the final one (there are 64 squares on a chess board). The king, thinking the request to be a meager one, granted it immediately. What a bargain! 

The payout occurred as follows:

Day Three – 4 kernels
Day Four – 8 kernels
Day Five – 16 kernels
Day Six – 32 kernels
Day Seven – 64 kernels
Day Eight – 128 kernels
Day Nine – 256 kernels
Day Ten – 512 kernels
*This is still barely enough to make a bowl of porridge.
Day Twenty – 524, 288 kernels
Day Forty – 549 billion kernels
*Okay, we’re not even at Day Sixty-Four yet, and the king is heading for bankruptcy.

The king didn’t realize it, but he’d agreed to give the peasant his entire kingdom. Because he failed to understand the power of exponentials. Do you?

In some ways, an exponential growth curve is similar to sowing the seeds of the author’s journey. The beginning of the curve is flat, and progress is negligible. At first, there is little growth, and the journey feels endless. And then at some point, the curve begins to turn upwards. Plants begin to sprout, and we see some progress at last. But then, the momentum builds faster, and faster, and faster. The crops reproduce and spread beyond what we could have ever imagined. And we can’t believe we ever doubted it in the first place.

As much as I’ve accomplished in 2018, I feel like I haven’t made much progress, at least not on the sales side of things. And that’s okay. I’m sowing seeds for my writer’s journey and believing in the story of the king and the peasant. The efforts I sow today will bear fruit in the future. 

Last year, I set out to achieve the following goals:

  • Publish Bionic Bug on Kobo on 18 January. 
    • Outcome: Success. I published Bionic Bug, my first novel, as planned on January 18, 2018. I wanted to make the book available to friends and family who were interested in reading it, but also wanted the feeling of having put something out into the world–to be a published author. 
  • I made my book available for pre-order for a few weeks leading up to my release day and promoted it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn). On the day of its release, Bionic Bug made it onto the “Trending Now in Mystery and Suspense” on Kobo alongside some pretty amazing neighbors.  On the first day, I sold 9 ebooks. Yes, you heard that right (while I whimper in pain in the background). In the meantime, I’ve sold a whopping 26 e-books in four countries (which I’m super proud of). Better not quit my day job.

    rank

  • Conduct a crowdfunding campaign for Project Gecko on 18 February.
    • Outcome: Success. On February 18, 2018, I launched my first Kickstarter campaign to crowdsource the third novel in the Lara Kingsley series. I invited backers behind-the-scenes into the editing process for Project Gecko (Book Two in the Lara Kingsley Series). About 18 backers became members of a private Facebook group where they enjoyed direct access to me as an author and to early drafts of my stories. In this forum, I crowdsourced ideas on names, settings, character arcs, and storylines. In this way, backers got to shape the story in Project Gecko and my journey as an author.
    • My primary goal with the Kickstarter campaign was to begin cultivating my first 1,000 super fans. My campaign concluded successfully with 48 backers and $2,467 raised. As part of my campaign, I sold another 23 copies of the Bionic Bug e-book and 36 copies of my limited edition hardcover.
  • Attend the Smarter Artist Summit on 26-27 February in Austin, Texas.
    • Outcome: Success. I attended and made many new writer friends. I made some good contacts, which led to new opportunities. 
  • Complete the first draft of Project Gecko by 18 March. 
    • Outcome: Success. I was a few weeks late, but who’s counting?
  • Attend ThrillerFest in July in New York City. 
    • Outcome: Success. I attended and made many new writer friends including Pam Stack of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network (stay tuned for an exciting announcement). I got to meet George R.R. Martin and had a book signed. I also met with nine agents during PitchFest. Six of them requested chapters. Five of them sent me very nice notes of rejection. I heard that it’s quite rare to receive personal emails. I call that a stunning success. 
  • Publish Project Gecko eBook on 18 September. 
    • Outcome: Success. I published Project Gecko as an ebook on Kobo on October 30. Since I already sold many copies during my Kickstarter, I didn’t expect it to do better than my first book. I sold one copy, but I barely promoted it. It’s there for people who are interested until I launch on Amazon in 2019.
  • Complete the first draft of Genomic Data.
    • Outcome: Success. I completed the first draft in November and am in the editing process.

I achieved all of the goals I set for 2018. But what surprised me the most this past year was how much more I accomplished than I expected:

  • I did two podcast interviews. In March, I was thrilled to do my first two podcast interviews. Of course, I was very nervous to have my voice recorded LIVE for all posterity and uploaded to the Internet. I wrote extensive notes to prepare for both interviews.In my first podcast interview, I spoke on the Book Editor Show with my story editor Clark Chamberlain about why I think it’s important to hire professional editors as an Indie author. During my second interview, I spoke with long-time self-publishing industry guru Mark Leslie Lefebvre on his Stark Reflections podcast about crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and reader engagement. I wasn’t as nervous the second time around. I mean what could possibly go wrong? Then this happened…
  • I started my own podcast! After the cat blooper, I felt that there was nothing could stop me. So why not launch my own podcast? Actually, this has been on my mind for some time. In March, I decided to combine my interest in podcasting with content marketing for my fiction and launch the Bionic Bug Podcast. Each week, I kick off my podcast episode with a technology news headline (or headlines) that has caught my attention. Then I read a chapter from Bionic Bug. I’m using Patreon to gain support from my audience. To set up my podcast, I’ve purchased a Blue Yeti microphone, a Jabra headset, intro music from Pond5, audacity recording software (free), and blubrry hosting services. So far, I have 2 patrons, 36 episodes recorded, two bonus guest speaker episodes, and 2,354 downloads. 
My podcast art
  • I had my first book launch party. As an introvert, I had to be convinced to host a book launch party. Thanks to a persistent extraverted friend, I did. And it was worth all of the anxiety. I hosted my book launch party at Wicked Bloom, a bar located in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington D.C. It happens to be the setting for the first chapter of Bionic Bug. The owner and manager loved the fact that I wrote their bar into my novel and were extremely gracious hosts. They even had mixed-drink specials for my event and printed posters for me.
  • I wrote a guest blog post for the Creative Penn. On May 4, I published my first guest blog post on the Creative Penn. For any of you who are writers, this is Joanna Penn’s blog. She’s a widely acclaimed self-published author and industry guru. My post is titled “How To Build 1,000 Superfans When You’re Starting From Zero.” I offer some lessons learned about building a reader audience from my experience as a new author. I also had the opportunity to interview David Gaughran about his new book From Strangers to SuperfansI learned almost everything I know about self-publishing and running an author business from Joanna’s blog and weekly podcast.
  • I attended Writer’s Police Academy in Green Bay Wisconsin. On August 9-11, I attended the Writer’s Police Academy to learn about crime solving and law enforcement from real police officers and detectives. My proudest moment of the event was pulling off the perfect Pursuit Immobilization Technique (my first time!).
  • I published paperbacks and hardcovers of Bionic Bug and Project Gecko on Amazon. I used KDP Print for the paperbacks and Ingram Spark (Global Distribution) for the hardcovers.
  • I produced my first “Bionic Bug On Location” video. The Lara Kingsley Series takes place in Washington D.C. I enjoy using real locations for the settings of some of my scenes. I thought it would be cool to take readers behind the scenes on a virtual tour of locations from Bionic Bug. This is the first in what will be a series of videos.

Can you believe I feel like I’m not making progress? When I review my accomplishments in 2018, I definitely see the effort I’m investing in my future of the author. I hope this post inspires you to sow the seeds of your author’s journey. If you do so consistently year after year, you better strap on your seatbelt and prepare to ride the wave of your exponentials.

Happy New Year! I wish you all the best in the coming year.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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