What I’ve Learned (2019 Edition)

Nine years ago today (sort of), I sent my first story to a professional science fiction market. So every July 4th, I like to review my lessons learned in the past year.

And obviously, it’s all I find time for on this blog. Which is in part procrastination, but in part because I’m writing other work.

So let me see… What have I learned?

That’s a difficult question. This was more a year of applying what I learned.

My first novel, Today I Am Carey, came out from Baen Books. I had a great book tour, visiting 8 Barnes & Noble stores in Michigan (plus 1 across the border in Indiana). (There’s one thing I learned: how to do a great B&N book tour.)

The book has been very well reviewed, and the reader response has been truly touching. Sales have been decent. Though I have no official numbers yet, here are my BookScan numbers as of last week.

Now there’s another thing I’ve learned: BookScan numbers don’t tell you any more than they tell you. BookScan is sort of a rating service, focused on reporting print sales only. In the USA. At reporting stores only. One pro tells me he usually estimates that actual sales are 3 times what BookScan reports. Another says 10.

Those are guesses, not facts. Data unknown.

But it’s a fact that at least 413 of my novels are in the hands of readers. And I know that I have personally sold a couple dozen more that aren’t in BookScan’s numbers. I like to examine my writing career from the perspective of Five Years Ago Martin: if I could go back in time and tell Five Years Ago Martin how my career is going, what would he say?

And I have to tell you: Five Years Ago Martin thinks that selling 400 novels is excellent!

Five Years Ago Martin thinks that having an audiobook of Today I Am Carey is amazing!

Five Years Ago Martin thinks that selling another novel, The Last Dance, to 47North is really cool (since that’s the book he was writing back then); and the fact that 47North has already bought the sequel, The Last Campaign, blows him away!

(He didn’t even know there was a sequel!)

(There isn’t. Yet. I should be writing…)

Five Years Ago Martin thinks that having a story in Man-Kzin Wars XV… Well, now you’re just making things up, Future Martin. There’s no way I would get to write in Known Space! And share cover credit with Larry Niven! And Brad Freakin’ Torgersen!

So I guess what I’ve learned is: I’m pretty happy with my career right now. Five Years Ago Martin would call it an unqualified success. He wouldn’t have dared dream so many great things would happen.

And I’m just getting started…