Year 10 of My 5-10 Year Overnight Success Plan

by | Mar 2, 2023 | Checking in | 0 comments

Well, it happened. Ten years ago January, we released Firehurler. It was the first book in my first series, with the second well into its draft, at the time. The Twinborn Trilogy never became a blockbuster hit, but the series did OK. The reception was reservedly positive, and with a little help from some promotional sites, sales were … acceptable. At the very least, it was enough to motivate me to continue writing novels.

I expanded on that series with the Mad Tinker Chronicles, which I later rolled into the Twinborn Trilogy to become the 7-book Twinborn Chronicles. They were more fun, faster paced, and more tightly plotted and outlined than the first three, but actually performed worse in the marketplace.

Then I wrote A Pilot’s Pilot, Mission 1 of Black Ocean. Most of you probably know it by the modern title that we changed it to after we tried to have covers redone and the graphic designer balked at the duplicated word: Salvage Trouble.

If we’re being honest, it is among the weakest titles in a series whose titles I often love (Stowaway to Heaven being the pinnacle), but I could see the designer’s point.

Black Ocean is where things took off a bit. Not initially. In fact, it was a good 6 books before the series started gaining a little bit of traction.

Black Ocean was also our first foray into audiobooks. We auditioned a ton of narrators who applied through AXC (Audiobook Creation Exchange, the creator’s end of Audible), and selected Mikael Naramore to be the voice of the series.

SIDE NOTE: Best. Decision. Ever!

Listening to Mikael’s narration helped me refine the voices of the characters. It also revitalized the stories for me, listening to them for QA purposes, as it was a fresh way to experience the words I’d written on paper and only ever heard in my own head.

Sales of the audiobooks were doing ok for a while. We grouped them up in 4-packs (the Mission Packs so many of you know and love). Those sold better than the individual books, and by a wide margin.

Then, something magical happened. When Black Ocean wrapped up it’s initial 16-mission run, we bundled them ALL together into one giant omnibus: the Galaxy Outlaws collection.

Circling back to my initial premise that I could become an overnight success within 5-10 years of publishing my first book, I think this was the closest I’ve come to realizing that goal. To date, more that 100,000 copies of that collection have sold.

I’ve written upward of 70 books by now. None of the rest has achieved that level of reach. Plenty have earned their keep. They help pay the bills.

But what IS an overnight success?

I’ve struggled with that question throughout this journey. There’s no set definition. There’s no arbiter. I could run a poll, but popular opinion’s hardly a good way to measure anything but popular opinion.

So here’s a couple criteria:
1. Become a familiar name beyond the author community and my own dedicated fandom.
2. Become universally known within the writing/reading community.

For either, it would be contingent that the rise was considered somewhat sudden, with a large number of people having heard of me for the first time within an undefined, yet short, window.

By those criteria, I don’t think I got there. Not within these 10 years, at least.

On the other hand, I’ve gone from writing in my spare time after work at an engineering job, to unemployed and scraping by, to supporting myself with writing as my sole income. That has to count as some kind of success.

Doesn’t it?
But at the end of the day, I’m my own judge and jury (hopefully, I’m merciful, and we don’t get that third guy involved). I’ll have to weigh the evidence.

  • I haven’t worked an office job in 10 years
  • My books have reached something like a quarter million readers
  • I think most avid sci-fi audiobook listeners on Audible have at least heard of me
  • I have met, I believe, 3 people “in the wild” who already knew of me as a writer (to be fair, I don’t meet that many people)
  • None of my books are optioned for TV/film adaptations
  • I have had meetings with more than one producer
  • Black Ocean: Galaxy Outlaws was bought for Spanish translation in audio
  • I have not been nominated for any awards (not that I particularly care, but it’s contrary evidence, at least)
  • I haven’t had to hire someone to manage my social media for me or filter calls for interviews/blurbs/appearances

There’s stuff on both sides of this argument. In the end, what answer is going to motivate me? What conclusion will drive me to continue striving to do better, to push limits, to try new things?

The carrot is still tied to that string; I’ve just got to make the pole longer.

Maybe 20 years is enough.

Maybe in the next 10 years, I’ll hit it big.

Mark your calendars for 2033.

We enter Year 11 of my New and Improved 20-Year Plan for Overnight Success!

Anyone who is interested in this whole 5-10 Year Plan for Overnight Success can check out earlier entries to see the journey unfold.


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