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Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Year of What's New!

by M. L. Buchman

I have this thing that I do each year, I label the next year:

  • 2013 - The Year of Transition. Crossing over into being a full-time writer. It was a leap of faith, deeply motivated by my inability to find a job at the tail of the recession.
  • 2014 - The Year of Production. It probably should have been named the year of terror. My hybrid writing career was taking off, but would it be fast enough? We'd made a huge gamble, dumping a large portion of our savings into giving me a shot at a writing career. Thanks to the faith of my wife. It paid off in 2015.
  • 2015 - The Year of More Production. But I'll also call it the year of relief. We paid back our savings account.
  • 2016 - The Year of Transition. A different transition this time: from hybird to full indie. Could I make it on my own? Well, the numbers of my prior three years spelled that out clearly: ~70% of my writing time went to my traditional books, but they accounted for just 17% of my income. Still there were doubts. Were my indie books held up by my traditional ones? 2017 would answer that with a resounding NO. My indie income grew, despite having to abandon most of the money-making series snarled up in my traditional publications. 
  • 2017 - The Year of Marketing. At least that's what I labeled it at first. Except it didn't really work out that way. Instead, it turned out to be The Year of What's New. For the first time in a decade, I attended two national conferences as well as a pair of UnCons (top writers getting together and just talking business for a few days). That was on top of my normal networking, co-teaching a week-long Master Class on the Oregon Coast, hiring a consult or two, and four or five other events. Let's just say that my thinking evolved immensely.

So, here I sit with 150 published works (and 2 more due this month): 54 novels, 57 short stories, collections, 23 titles also released in "sweet" versions, and 10 titles in audio (with more coming soon). This doesn't count third-party bundles which number around a dozen.

Here are two particularly cool ones running at the moment:
An amazing Christmas Bundle of novels and three anthologies:

And an awesome collection edited by Blaze Ward:

With all of this published work, you think that I'd have a good grasp of what was going on in the industry. I can only say that I was utterly and totally gobsmacked at how much new I learned this year. Here's just a few choice pieces:

  • Focus 2016 version: That was the year I tried to do everything. I released an entire small-town contemporary series set on the Oregon Coast. ( as well as novels in four different series:
    • Firehawks
    • Night Stalkers
    • Night Stalkers White House
    • Delta Force
    • Might have thrown in a little science fiction while I was at it.
    • A few collections.
    • The 13 short stories that year covered 9 different series across 4 different genres.
  • Focus 2017: I narrowed that down and will continue to do that even more. I'm going to stop supporting the series that my traditional publisher still controls, because every time I write a story in those series, I make them more money, but not me. Am I abandoning my fans? Not even close. Focus is essential in order not to confuse your fans. See my next point for why.
  • The Fan Guide: No, it's not a book on how to get more fans. It's using them as a guide. What are they drawn to in my writing? What is less successful? What may sell a little less at the moment, but gets me an overwhelming fan mail response? This is any writer's single most important (and perhaps underutilized resource). I've started working very hard on thinking about my fans, much more than I did a year ago.
  • The Importance of Estate Planning: I started in on this one as a way to help my wife and kid better understand what they'd inherit someday. By the time I was done, I think this may be the most important work I've ever done for them. Intellectual Property belongs to me and my heirs until 70 years after my death. If poorly managed, it will equal zero (or soon enough). However, well managed, it could be supporting my great-grandchildren, even though my kid isn't even married yet. 
  • The importance of having fun. I somehow had lost sight of this one. Because, trust me, if I'm not having fun while I'm writing, my fans won't have fun while their reading. That's why on December 30th, I'm launching a brand new series called The White House Protection Force. It's the most fun I've had writing in quite a while! Sign up for my newsletter to make sure you don't miss it:
I'm thinking of calling 2018 The Year of Fun!

Booklist has selected his military and firefighter series(es) as 3-time “Top 10 Romance of the Year.” NPR and Barnes & Noble have named other titles “Top 5 Romance of the Year.” In 2016 he was a finalist for RWA's RITA award. He has flown and jumped out of airplanes, can single-hand a fifty-foot sailboat, and has designed and built two houses. In between writing, he also quilts. M.L. is constantly amazed at what can be done with a degree in geophysics. He also writes: contemporary romance, thrillers, and SF. More info at:


Judith Ashley said...

Thank you for sharing your journey and what you've learned along the way! I totally love the idea of naming the year with 2018 as The Year of Fun!!! I lost a large chunk of the fun part of the process in 2017 but am focused on creating more joy and happiness in my life right now. I really appreciate your comments on "The Fan Guide" as that makes total sense and would be a good marker to keep an eye out for.

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

You are such an inspiration, Matt! You have totally transformed into a career professional writer. And making a true success of it. Good for you! I have more modest aims as I grow older. But I love to write and a year of fun sounds like the perfect way to label the coming year. And launch the first three books of my series. I'm doing it for the fun of it. I love it.

Diana McCollum said...

You inspire me Matt! What an awesome niche you've created for you and your writing. Your word count alone each week is mind boggling. Good luck with the new series and your year of Fun!!!

Maggie Lynch said...

I love the annual summary. I'm going to take a look at that myself. It does help to put it into perspective. It also helps people to understand that nothing was overnight and there were a lot of leaps of faith. That's good to remember too.

I'm not quite to labeling a future year "The Year of Fun" yet. I do love writing my stories, but I wouldn't label my process as fun. Interesting, insightful, frustrating, and sometimes miraculous. But fun? Not really. I'll have to think on that one.

I'm thinking my 2018 will the year of balance. And a part of balance is finding ways to have fun away from writing. As always thanks for sharing your writing life with us.

M. L. Buchman said...

I'm still waiting for my "Year of Overnight Success!" It's bound to happen at some point. I'll write a title which will go big or get made into a movie or something that people can point to. "Look," they'll say, "he just popped up out of nowhere." Or they'll say, "I knew him when he was a little writer who had just fifty short stories and some books." We'll ignore that I started writing in July 1993 or was first published in October 1997. It will be the "Year I Was Discovered." Or, hopefully, "The Year I Snort With Laughter All The Way To The Bank."

Seriously though, I am trying really, really hard to focus on the Fun for 2018.

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Thank you for sharing your insights and journey so far--very interesting!

Barbara Strickland said...

I am so glad I read this post. Being new to all this and doing a great deal on my own the idea of giving up is always close at hand. You inspire.

Shannon said...

I caught your interview on the creative penn and the parts about setting up your heirs to know exactly what is there really got me thinking about all the stuff I need to update for my kids in other parts of life. Thanks!