Where We’ve Been & Where We’re Going: A Review of 2017

I could die today. That isn’t likely, mind you. I’m not anticipating anything. Still, though, it’s a possibility that’s hard not to think about—when I cross the street, check my bank account, get mixed up by Google Maps and accidentally cross through the bad part of town at night, or use the escalator.

Especially when I use the escalator.

So. I could die today.

It’s kind of a morbid idea, but death–my death, and the deaths of other people–is something that colors my working process. I once tried to set my desktop up with the death gif from that one XKCD comic, but that turned out to be a little more trouble than I was interested in getting into at the time.

Anyway, for the first few months after I started publishing last year, I had a recurring thought that sang to the tune of, “If I die now, at least I put something out there for other people to do stuff with. At least I was a little bit useful.” It hasn’t really left, to be honest, just kept going long enough that it’s receded into the background of my awareness, like an alarm that you’ve heard often enough that now you just sleep through it.

It’s definitely unhealthy to approach this from a position that’s basically “This is the stuff that I’ve done that at least partly justifies my existence,” but that’s where I am right now and there are bigger fish to fry and, whatever the underlying reasoning, I feel pretty good about my accomplishments over the past year—

I wrote almost 140,000 words, released twelve nonfiction books and one short story, and managed two successful Kickstarter campaigns. I also picked up a few supporters on Patreon, and while I’m making nowhere near enough to support myself, I am making enough money to funnel it into further work. Even without future Kickstarter campaigns, I should have a steady revenue stream that I can funnel back into further projects.

Lessons Learned

  • It’s possible to get paid for a short story on Kickstarter. Or rather, it’s possible for me, and not just for people like Greg Stolze.
  • More generally, people care about supporting small projects, especially(?) those that are about paying it forward and supporting the Creative Commons.
  • I need to pace myself, especially on serial fiction.
    • I need to forgive myself when I fall behind, rather than, I don’t know, hate myself for falling behind and get stuck in a cycle that ultimately leaves me further behind than I would have been if I had been okay with the initial failure.
  • I do better sleeping days and working nights than the other way around.
  • Productivity apps that block distractions are really useful. It’s easier to make the initial decision to block something, and be done with it, than to decide to stay focused twelve times an hour.
  • The nice people at OneBookShelf had some good tips as well: part 1, part 2.

Future Experiments

I think that some of my prices have been set a little low. I may tinker with that, especially with my standalone resources.

With a baseline year to measure against, I’m going to experiment with banner ads, first on DTRPG (free, with the Publisher Promotion Points that we get) and then on RPG.net ($29.95 for 25,000 impressions). Depending on how that goes, later in 2018 I may experiment with deep discounts, as OneBookShelf advises.

Having funded a 1,600-word short story on Kickstarter in seven days, I’d like to see whether that success was a flash in the pan or something that I can do again. Expect to see a few more campaigns over the course of the next year, probably one every quarter.

Top sellers at DriveThruRPG include (1) in-depth explorations and remixes of standard fantasy races; (2) lists of random items like names, potions, and spells; (3) and monsters written out for games, especially Dungeons & Dragons. Expect to see this reflected in some of my 2018 projects.

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