December 19th, 2010.
That was when I published my first book, The Digital Sea. I’d shopped the novel around to agents and editors, receiving lovely rejections along the way, before deciding to jump into the indie pub revolution with both feet. There were a lot of reasons for my conversion: control over the end result, speed, the possibility of hitting the literary jackpot. But those paled against the thrill of seeing my book on Amazon, holding a shiny paperback in my ink-stained hands, reading reviews—good or bad—about my stories.
I was there. I’d made it.
Like an addict, I’d taken a hit of the good stuff and wanted another shot. Sure, the money in the beginning was small—a nice dinner once a month—but it was like packing a snowball together, then rolling it in the deep snow. It was a lot of work, but eventually that thing started to grow.
There were a lot of things to learn back then about the mechanics of the process. How to find a good editor. What makes a good cover. How to price books that sell. It was wonderful heady stuff that even when I got wrong was fun. The reality is that I’m still learning those things, fine tuning my understanding, adjusting as the market adjusts.
In 2012, I was waiting in line for my hotel room at Chicon, the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, IL. It was my first convention. I was nervous and since I’d driven up from St. Louis, I’d over packed, including a cooler of food and a bag full of my books that I’d brought with me. I was trying to drag my many containers with me when the guy behind me struck up a conversation. It was some guy name Hugh Howey. This was before the print deals and the Data Guy stuff. I knew of his books, how could you not notice them back then, but not a lot else. He was generous enough to take me to lunch, and I realized in talking to him how little I knew about indie publishing. He was a gold mine of experience and perspective. And besides, he’s a sweetheart of a guy. That persona that you read in his blog, or see in his videos, that’s the real deal. We also shared a mutual friend, Annie Bellet, who I’d spent years going to workshops with, and discussing this indie pub revolution with on a regular basis. She’s done fantastically well since then with her 20-Sided Sorceress series. I bring them up not to name drop, but to point out that the reason the indie publishing scene has done so well is because so many writers have been generous with their experiences, either in person or online. Even if I hadn’t met Hugh at Chicon, he would have influenced me through his blog and frequent FB posts.
In the years after, my little snowball has grown. I’ve published over twenty novels. I’ve sold over 50,000 ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks. Some of my books have spent time in the top 50 on Amazon. Many of them have been #1 in their category at one time or another.
I’ve been having a ball writing. I get to pursue the job of my dreams. I’m making a five-figure income that’s climbing faster than I expected. I’m not quite to full time, but I’m getting there, close enough that I can see it happening in the next 2-3 years after the kids are both in college, which by-the-way, is being paid for by the writing job.
There are other benefits. The writing gig earns enough that I go conventions, or get to spend a week with other writers in a fabulous lodge while we workshop our novels with each other. Technically, these things are work, but I look forward to each and every one as if it were a beach vacation. I’ve also gotten to meet and learn from a lot of amazing people along the way. This hasn’t just been a business, but a lifestyle. I cherish the friendships that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
2,119 days. That’s how many days it’s been since I published my first book. It seems like a lot now, but in some ways I feel like I’ve just begun.
My latest book was published on September 27th, 2016. Trials of Magic. Just eight days ago.
Without a doubt, it’s my best book. After twenty-something novels, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing, and none of that learning would have been possible without Amazon. Amazon has been a silent, but strong partner in this business since the beginning, providing a platform to sell my books across the world and receive a timely payment. This writing business isn’t easy, it takes a lot of work to write a quality book, but at least I know the publishing side of it will be smooth and reliable, thanks to Amazon.
This is extraordinary. Well done Thomas. Your trajectory is admirable. As one who began not long after you – 2011 – but with a relatively horizontal trajectory, I’m in awe. Think I’ll need to pump you for some pointers. 🙂 Congratulations.
While I’m here, I should mention how much I enjoy The Dashkova Memoirs. Unique, memorable, entertaining, mysterious. No wonder you have a wide audience.