A couple of months ago I decided to get serious about writing. I'd just finished another day of talks for primary school kids, where I told them you only had to write 250 words per day (less than 10 minutes typing) to complete a 90,000-word first draft every 12 months.
got me thinking about my own pitiful output over the past 12 years. I
completed the first Hal Spacejock book in 2000, and the fourth in 2008. I
had plenty of time for writing, and yet I managed just four novels?
when my series was picked up by a publisher in 2004, I rewrote the
first three books. Even so, it's always taken me a year or two per
title, and eventually I accepted I was a slow, steady writer.
Then came Hal 5, which took me almost five years to write, with
four false starts along the way. I wasn't slow and steady at all, I was
just slow. (Let's just ignore the fact I finished NanoWrimo six times.
Each of those efforts was another Hal 5 in the making.)
So, after my talk, in which I told everyone else how to
write a book a year in ten minutes a day, I thought it was about time I
started listening to my own advice. I started with 250 words a day, and
quickly upped it to 500. (Hey, two novels a year. Can't beat that!)
After a couple more weeks I upped it to 1000 words per day, and
in that mode I started - and finished - the Hal Junior 3 first draft in
the month of June. A 31,000-word novel in a month, which only needed a
light edit for publication? It was like the curtains had been drawn
As we entered July I decided to write 1500 words per day. It was a
bit tougher this month, because I was in the middle of a large
programming job, I went on a week's holiday with the family in the
second week of July, and I also prepared and published two novels and a
short story collection in ebook and print editions - including doing all
the layouts, jackets, etc.
Despite that, after 24 days my word count sits at 30,370
for the month, which is just under 1300 per day. That's almost eight Hal
Spacejock novels per year, or fifteen Hal Juniors. That's not so slow,
and could almost be called 'steady'.
In the old days I'd have said sure, but what about the three
months of editing for each book? Fortunately, the faster I write the
easier it is to keep the plot and characters fresh in my mind, and I've
become ruthless about ignoring 'better ideas' and 'yes, buts ...' which
involve rewriting half the novel. If it's that clever I'll save it for
the next book, or the one after. I'm also writing a shorter length,
which means fewer subplots to clutter things up.
So, what prompted the renewed vigour, apart from heeding my own advice? The speed of ebook publishing, that's what.
For two-three years I suspected Hal Spacejock 5 would be
released, and it would sell a handful of copies to people who vaguely
remembered Hal 4 from 2008. With that gloomy prognosis in mind it was
hard to stay motivated. However, as sales of Hal Spacejock 1-4 continued
to rise on Amazon and Smashwords, I began to realise Hal 5 might find
an audience after all.
And it has - I've no idea whether it will last, but Hal 5 has
pulled in $250-$300 a week in royalties since its release. A midlist
author with a publishing contract and a $10,000 advance would laugh at
that, until they multiplied $250 by 52. And they'd probably cry real
tears when they realise I get paid monthly.
"Oh sure," you say. "But Hal 5 has just been released. Sales will drop off."
no. That's how trade publishing works - you release a title, make a
splash, and a couple of months later your book has disappeared from
stores. With ebooks, you go the other way. An ebook is released and
sales climb as time goes by and the book makes it onto 'also bought' lists.With trade published books if you don't get buzz and instant success on release, you're almost certainly a goner.
With ebooks you can take a much longer view, slowly building a career
over several releases. It's a bit like bookselling used to be, before
mega-chains and computerised box shufflers took over.
Can I prove the sales won't fall? No, but I have data on
another of my titles. Hal 2 is outselling 'new release' Hal 5 by 10-20%,
and Hal 2 has been out on Kindle for almost 12 months. Sales are still
climbing, too, and all my books got a nice boost after the new release.
Even if Hal 5 drops back to the sales of Hal 4 (Approx $100/week), by
then I should have Hal 6 out and it all starts over again.
Incidentally, one of the reasons I'm no longer trade published?
Stores weren't interested in carrying the earlier Hal books. They would
have put Hal 5 on their shelves without any of the earlier titles, an
insane move driven by accounting rather than smart business sense.
That's why I'm a new writer. I'm this close to being able
to support my family and write full time. I can see a future, maybe just
one or two years down the track, when I'll be able to sit at my
computer and type my silly novels, and I'll know I'm not just chasing an
Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)