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Year in Review: 2016

Yep. That’s my summary of 2016 in general, and also, my year in general.

I don’t think I can recall a single year in my entire life that’s taken so much from me in pretty much every aspect: my career, my day job, and my personal life. I lost my furry best friend of 12 years, my book sales tanked, and the entire country went absolutely insane in the meantime. I think like most of you, I would be happy to strike 2016 from the history books and pretend it never happened, although the damage that it did can’t be completely ignored no matter how hard we try.

However, as rotten a year as most of us had, there were some good things. For me, this tops them all:

Yes, ICYMI, that is indeed your friendly neighborhood author Kyoko M wrapped in the sinewy, perfect arms of Captain America himself, Chris Evans. Recap here. I won’t bore you with the squee-worthy details in the meantime. However, that was my Treat Yo-self 2016 trip, and the good things that happened for me in 2016 career-wise are actually still connected to conventions.

I was able to attend the State of Black Science Fiction convention in Atlanta, GA, where I was able to be on two different panels with some incredibly talented, smart, funny, dynamic authors. It was such a fantastic opportunity to break bread with people of a similar genre and just relax and talk about writing and making a living off of this crazy thing we do.

I also was able to be in an all-new boxed set, where I met other awesome urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors. I learned some new marketing strategies and advertising opportunities along the way, and started to realize that even though the writing world is highly competitive, a lot of authors have figured out that we can help each other up the ladder one rung at a time instead of always climbing over each other. I really have come to encourage new authors, or veteran authors seeking more readership, to collaborate and find their niche with people who are like-minded. Sometimes you can bust your hump as hard as you can, and still not meet your goals, so it’s great that if you search hard enough, you can find a way to break through the next barrier and find new readers by sharing the spotlight.  I am elated to see that so many authors are willing to pull together and get ourselves out there. This is one of the most labor intensive jobs on the planet, so it’s nice if one can find a way to share the load.

I won’t be boring you with a calculation of how many copies I’ve sold this year. Frankly, all you need to know is “not enough, but at least I’m not dead in a gutter somewhere.” After all, it could be much worse, and the main reason that my book sales fell to rancor is that I spent so much time putting my energy into my new first-in-series Of Cinder and Bone that I sadly started to neglect marketing the Black Parade series. It’s hard to juggle two series at once and that is the goal I have set for myself in 2017: to learn how to adequately balance marketing and promoting both series to new readers.

I sort of forgot how hard it was getting any traction with The Black Parade, and so I’m going to take a good, hard look at the last two years that have been profitable and identify what works best to get OCAB into the hands of as many readers as possible. Sometimes when you have a good year, you take for granted what got you there and forget that it’s easy to slip back down to the numbers you were at before. Hopefully, 2017 will see us back up to where we were in 2014 and 2015.

As always, I couldn’t have done any of this without you, readers. I know it’s been hard, but there are 352 new opportunities to kick ass waiting for us and if we pull together, we can make our dreams come true again.

Thanks for everything. Stay tuned. We’ve got plenty of things comin’ atcha in 2017.

Year in Review: 2015

Kyoko M, summed up in one image.

Yep, that’s my year, basically. Me, deliriously happy and trying to cling to my dream.

2015 has been a year of drastic change for me, as cliche as it sounds. I know people say that a lot during these yearly recap posts, but for once, it’s based on fact. I’ve been afforded opportunities in 2015 that I never imagined were possible, and in some ways, it still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve managed to achieve some pretty big goals.

Formally, my 2015 New Years Resolutions went as follows:

  1. Reread and write reviews for The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  2. Finish writing and publish my upcoming YA high fantasy novel
  3. Publish The Holy Dark as well as a box set for The Black Parade series
  4. Sell 500 paid copies of my books
  5. Try to get to 500 Facebook likes
  6. Read at least ten novels

See what I mean about change? I only accomplished three of three, and only one of them I couldn’t pull off due to my own shortcomings (sorry, Harry Dresden, I got kind of busy…and lazy…) because my situations all changed. The YA high fantasy novel I had intended to finish and publish in 2016 has been shelved because I had a beta reader read it and she found so many complex, deep-settled issues in the unfinished manuscript that I decided it wouldn’t be ready in time for summer 2016. Instead, I’ve decided to shelve it for a year and then come back to see if I can more clearly identify what went wrong and how to dig out all the problems. I didn’t get to 500 Facebook likes, but that’s because I didn’t run any ads or push for it hard enough over the course of the year. We’re clocked in at 469 likes, and since my page activity is pretty much in single digits, I’m not even going to add it as a goal for 2016.

“So,” you ask. “What has changed for you in 2015, Kyo?”

Well, for one, my work started to take off. Most indie authors describe the discovery process as a boulder that you push and push and push uphill like Sisyphus until at long last, you reach the top and it starts to roll downhill. It starts at a slight incline, slowly, and then hopefully gathers speed and momentum until it’s rolling. 2015, for me, was my first incline. Thanks to the Secret Worlds boxed set and curious readers who grabbed The Black Parade as a permafree title, I’ve begun to see sell-through on the series. I wish I could give you an actual number, but Amazon for some reason refuses to put together a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet of both copies sold and money made for the whole year. Instead, it’s broken down by the month, and then by the title itself, and then by 35%/70% royalty, so it would take me at least a couple of hours to read every single spreadsheet and total it up with any sort of accuracy. Instead, I’ll try and go by monthly sales.

My bestseller of the year is estimated to be She Who Fights Monsters. The Holy Dark is right behind it in terms of sales, and it’s actually ahead of it in KU pages read. I typically sold between 35 and 50 copies of SWFM per month, and 30 to 45 copies of The Holy Dark per month after its launch in late April. The Black Parade came in third place since I took it off of its free status during the summer and fall months, so it probably sold 15 to 30 copies as a paid title, and 100 to 200 copies as a free title. My poor short story collection The Deadly Seven is straggling in last place with 20 to 26 copies. (Apparently, I love it more than the readers do. *sob sob*)

I’ve got a Bachelors in English Literature, so forgive me if my math is janky, but here’s a rough estimate of books sold in 2015, according to those rough numbers:

She Who Fights Monsters: 35 x 12 =420 minimum or 50 x 12 = 600 copies sold

The Holy Dark: 30 x 8 (it was published in April, so 12 months minus 4 months = 8 months) = 240 minimum or 45 x 8 = 360 copies sold

The Black Parade: 15 x 7 (it was removed from permafree May 1st, so 12 months minus 5 months = 7 months) = 105 minimum or 30 x 7 = 210 free copies sold; 100 x 5 = 500 minimum or 200 x 5 =1000 free copies sold

The Deadly Seven: 20 x 12 = 240 copies minimum or 312 copies sold

Summary:

The Black Parade: 105/210 copies and 500/1000 free copies sold in 2015

The Deadly Seven: 240/312 copies sold in 2015

She Who Fights Monsters: 420/600 copies sold in 2015

The Holy Dark: 240/360 copies sold in 2015

Total copies of The Black Parade series sold in 2015: 1005/1482

Man, this is why I’m a writer. Math is horrible.

My point beyond all that is that these numbers were not even a bare possibility in 2014. I’ve seen a tremendous up-rise in interest from readers. I’ve also found that I can dig deep and do something that I’d consider completely out of character for myself, like cosplaying as Lana Kane at Atlanta’s second largest convention, and hosting a panel at a convention on the total opposite side of the country. I’ve seen that even if it sounds ludicrous on paper and in my head, apparently I am capable of way more than I give myself credit for sometimes. And that’s a wonderful thing in and of itself.

2015 started off very difficult for me, but as I continued putting in the work and doing the best I could, I finally started to see desired results. That is all that I hope to continue to do for 2016. I want my boulder to keep rolling and gathering momentum. Thanks for tagging along for the ride. I am beyond grateful for all of you who have been there with me. Here’s hoping for a good year for all of us.

Year in Review: 2014

2014-graphic

Whew. It’s been some year, hasn’t it?

My friends and I had our annual end-of-the-year chat last night via Skype and one of them asked me how I felt about 2014 as a whole. I told him 2014 seems to be a year of extremes. It seems as if every good thing that’s happened has been counteracted by something horrible. I met my favorite author, Jim Butcher, but I had to quit my day job. I got a new car, but I also got a car payment. I’ve sold a lot of books, but I’m still unemployed. I bought some awesome new outfits, but I also gained a few pounds so now I’ve started the grueling process of exercising. It’s been a give-and-take from day one this year.

I think the most important thing about 2014 is the amount of knowledge I’ve now crammed into my head in just twelve months’ time. The things I know about writing, editing, marketing, and publishing would have served me extremely well this time last year, but there’s nothing to be done about it now.

I estimate I had only sold about 45-50 copies of The Black Parade in December of 2013 and now we’ve got 7,500 copies circulating on readers’ shelves. This year, I was able to launch The Deadly Seven, my short story collection, as well as the sequel to my first novel, She Who Fights Monsters. BookTrackr estimates I’ve got 5,600 copies of The Deadly Seven and She Who Fights Monsters out there. I also was lucky enough to be included in the Paranormal 13 box set with 13 other insanely talented authors. The set is free across all platforms, and last time I checked, we were well over 100,000 sales, so there are also a lot of people who will (hopefully) eventually see my work as they read through the set.

I consider my greatest accomplishment of the year to be simply getting my name out there. Yes, I am still a small fry, but I’ve actually met a handful of successful authors and I’ve gotten a couple of fans, which is incredibly humbling.  Last year, I was pretty much lying in a puddle of my own pity depressed about not selling, and now I understand that there is more to selling novels than throwing your work out there and expecting to be recognized. Readers have too many choices out. It doesn’t mean that my books are masterpieces or total garbage. It just means they haven’t found me yet. 2014 has proven that there is indeed a market for my particular type of storytelling, and nothing is more encouraging than knowing someone hears my voice and likes it.

I think it’s important for young upcoming authors to know that they aren’t alone and that the percentage of authors who are instant successes is far smaller than you think. Sadly, the mass media perpetuates the myth that there are millions of them and you’re a big fat loser for not selling, but that’s not true. There are some who hit the jackpot, but most authors take years to generate a following and start actually making money. It’s discouraging to know, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible if it just takes a long time.

I would say the lesson I’ve learned for 2014 is that you can only go up from rock bottom. My life still isn’t where I’d like it to be, especially since I just turned 26 (aka the age where you’re supposed to have your shit together, according to society), but this year has proven that I can meet my goals if I just keep my eyes fixed on the horizon and keep swimming. Dry land’s out there somewhere. There’s nothing left to do but sink or swim.

I hope 2014 has been good to you, dear readers. We’ve suffered some serious losses, but the important thing is we dust ourselves off and keep going. May 2015 be a better year to us all.

Happy New Year from yours truly,

Kyoko