New year, new resolutions: 2017

Another year is gone, again! I think that it happens to everyone, and increasingly as you grow older, to have the impression, at the end of a year, that it passed a bit too quickly. We had just used to this 2016 and now we have to reset our minds with a new figure: 2017.

I have to tell the truth: for once, the year now drawing to a close did not seem short to me. When I think of everything I’ve done, how much I’ve been working, these twelve months seemed to never end. Maybe it’s because for once I was waiting for this end, as it corresponds to the almost total completion of all my projects in progress, but also to the end of my first five years as self-publisher.
On 3 January, it will in fact be the fifth anniversary of the day when I started the first draft of “Red Desert - Point of No Return“ (in Italian) with the clear intention to publish it independently.
Actually, this anniversary should be celebrated on 7 June, the official release date of my first non-free book, but for this reason I decided to use the five months between these two dates to do a better analysis of my self-publishing experience and define which way to direct my future efforts. And it was perhaps the impatience to begin this particular period to make me feel like 2016 were a really long year.
Just to confirm my tendency to never be able to stop at all, my wait will still last for another two weeks, which is the time I need to finish the first draft of “Beyond the Limit” (original title: “Oltre il limite”). This time it’s not my fault: the book is coming out a bit longer than I thought (it’s my characters’ fault!), which I do not mind at all.

Anyway, back to 2016, let’s see what I’ve done:
- I completed the revision of the translation for the first part of “Saranythia”, the next novel by Richard J. Galloway;
- I have translated and published “Kindred Intentions;
- It wrote the second and the third part of “Ophir. Living Code” (in Italian; for a total word count of about 90,000, in addition to 45,000 of the first part written in 2015);
- I prepared from scratch a University course, entitled “Self-publishing Laboratory in multimedia systems”, which I then taught on May at the University of Insubria (Varese) within the scope of the degree course in Communication Sciences;
- I edited “Syndrome (in Italian), the second book in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy, and I published it in Italian on 21 May;
- I edited “Ophir. Living code”, the third part in the Aurora Saga and the chronological sequel of RedDesert, and I published it in Italian on 30 November;
- I wrote about 90,000 words (of which 50,000 during NaNoWriMo in November, which I won) of “Beyond the limit”, the final book in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy, which I will publish in Italian on 21 May 2017;
- I participated as a guest to four more events, beside the course in Varese: a conference on self-publishing and science communication at Journalist Profession Festival on 19 March in Bologna, a conference on the future of publishing on 3 May, again in Varese, a presentation of my books (the Detective Shaw Trilogy and “Ophir. Living Code”) on 2 December in Iglesias and a conference in Rome on self-publishing on 10 December as part of the Italian small and medium publishing fair titled Più Libri Più Liberi. In these situations I had the opportunity to meet again some old friends, colleagues, and readers, but also to make contact with new interesting people;
- I read 52 books.

The above includes nearly all the resolution that I had listed a year ago, plus one of those which did not depend on my will (the course at the University of Insubria) and the offline events, which however I hadn’t expected.

What wasn’t I able to do?
Well, I didn’t finish the first draft of another novel (“Beyond the Limit”), but this is not a failure, because it’s just proving longer than expected (I assumed that it had a length of 80,000 words, but I wrote about 90,000 so far and it is not finished yet). Indeed, in 2016 I wrote more words than in 2015, although not an entire novel in twelve months, because I finished one and started another, both very long.
I managed, as always, to set aside a lot of notes for new future novels, whose list continues to grow, but I have not prepared any specific outline. This is due to the fact that last June, while feeling overworked and stressed, I made the decision to not start any new project, until I finished all those in progress, in order to wait for the first five months of 2017, which among other things will be dedicated to an evaluation of these five years and the identification of new goals. For this reason I don’t consider this a failure either, but rather a reasoned change of my plans.

Finally I really wanted to work hard to keep an upward trend in sales.
Certainly I worked hard, and among other things I’m very glad of the experiments done during past summer with new series of articles on my blog (this is referred to my Italian blog, but I’m now translating the articles here too), which had an interesting return in terms of sales, and various short discounted promotions carried out at the same time on Google Play and Amazon. I also tried a number of paid promotion techniques, which have been less satisfactory as return on investment, but they have allowed me to understand what is worth doing and what is not.
Moreover I committed to optimize the work I do to ensure my presence on the social networks, in order to maintain it constant or even more assiduous, but reducing the time employed in doing so (no, I haven’t succeeded in altering the space-time, or maybe I have?).
Concerning my incomes related to self-publishing, unfortunately they didn’t increase if compared to 2015, but however they are better than in the previous year, so I’m not complaining, also considering that in 2016 I have not been able to take any special advantage from external promotions (even if I had some of them with my non self-published book, “The Mentor”) and also that I have been busy with too many things, which didn’t leave me the time to have any more good ideas and to put them into practice.
In spite of all that, I have always maintained a minimal base of total sales, independently from everything else, also in the periods in which I did just nothing, which still induces me to ponder on finding the best way to manage my efforts.

As I said a year ago, in fact, the most important thing as an author is that creativity stays active and you always manage to write something of which you are proud.
2016 was marked by periods when my desire to write bordered zero, despite I never stopped doing it to keep up with deadlines (a friend I met at the event in Bologna in March called me military, in reference to my iron discipline!). But I’m very pleased with the results, specifically for “Ophir. Living Code“, which has exceeded my wildest expectations (I refer to my personal liking of the finished book). Moreover, the fatigue I suffered showed me that, if I decide to write, I just do it. For a writer, who lives barely keeping afloat in a sea of ​​doubts, having such confidence in their own ability is a great consolation.
In addition, over the past two months, during the writing of “Beyond the Limit”, thanks to NaNoWriMo, which prompted me to write a new book even if I did not think I was ready yet to do so (nor I had any desire), I rediscovered the pleasure of living inside the characters and let them show me the story. I’m still with them right now and I’m a little sorry at the thought of abandoning them forever at the end of this journey, since this is the final book in a series.
So, no doubt, I’m concluding this year with great optimism.

You may wonder: what about the money?
In 2015 my publishing activity had been my main source of income.
In 2016, although for obvious reasons I didn’t gain the same figures as the previous year, when “The Mentor” was on the first positions of the Kindle Store on Amazon.com, the total royalties I received were such as to allow me to say that I’m still making a living from my writing.
The real challenge will be to succeed with it again in 2017.

There are two resolutions that I wasn’t really able to achieve in this year, but they depended on factors and people outside of my control.
The first was to have one of my books published in another language (beside “Kindred Intention”) or to sell the translation rights for a publication in the next year, but I’m still working hard to achieve this result and waiting for some developments that still require a bit of time. It remains one of my long-term goals.
The second concerned being able to exploit “The Mentorto maintain a certain financial security for the foreseeable future. It got it for this year, but not enough for those that will follow, because the previous resolution didn’t become true and the book is now too old to allow me to earn directly from it in the future.

But now let’s see my resolutions for 2017. They are few (so to speak) for the moment.
Here they are:
1) Complete (within the first two weeks of January) the first draft of “Beyond the Limit” (in Italian), edit and publish it on 21 May 2017. I want to give my best for this book and to do so I decided to not write any novel until its publication (save sudden inspirations, the kind that leave no escape, accompanied by free time, which is completely unexpected and therefore equally unlikely);
2) Reserve four weeks of total rest from any publishing activity (starting from mid-January) to recharge my batteries, after years that I do not stop, except for short breaks;
3) Teach again the course of self-publishing, in a version updated to the latest changes in the market, at the University of Insubria (save for bureaucratic problems not depending on my will). I’d like to teach a version of this course in other scopes, to give even more my contribution to raise awareness and grow self-publishing in Italy and educate new self-publishers, and perhaps I could have the opportunity to do so, but for the moment I avoid any anticipation;
4) Commit myself to participate in multiple events to promote the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy. I love these three books and I want to reach a larger number of readers, but I especially realise that they did not receive from me all the attention they deserved to achieve certain results, even “The Mentor”, which has sold very well. This has to change. So far I have written so much (I’m finishing my twelfth book). Now is the time to give more space to what I have already published. I owe it to my characters. And this is especially true from my non science fiction thrillers, which I tend to overlook if compared to the books on the genre thanks to which I’m popular here in Italy (science fiction);
5) Dedicate more time to FantascientifiCast (it’s the most important Italian podcast about science fiction), to which I owe my popularity in science fiction in Italy and that should be the means to continue to let my voice (literally) be heard in this context and reach new potential readers;
6) Read at least 52 books;
7) Schedule enough posts on my (Italian and English) blog early in the year, so that I don’t have to write them all at the last moment, when I have little time;
8) Arrange my time so I’m more efficient when I work, thanks to the fact that I devote a greater amount of time to rest, physical activity, and leisure (mainly cultural one, in all its forms, including knowledge obtained with travels);
9) Write much, possibly more than I did this year (say, about 200,000 words), but only what I wish to write, like in the last weeks;
10) Analyse the work of these five years and focus on my own unique way to be a self-publisher, not force me in any way to search for and copy alleged winning methods by others (as I always say: there are no magic formulas) since everyone has their own way to get readers and to reach their own definition of success. It’s one thing I know and that I try to teach others, but sometimes I tend to forget it, when it comes to myself.

Well, I think that’s all. What do you think?
I have been deliberately vague on some aspects, because I will have a better idea in the next six weeks, so I’m not able to put any more items in this list.
In general, as I already expected a year ago, it’s time to make an evaluation of my activities as an author and self-publisher, but I’m happy to do it, because I know that they will generate the embryo of new interesting goals and adventures to be lived in order to pursue them.

Again, at the end of this year I want to close this post thanking my family, my friends, my team, and my readers, who continue to stand by me as indispensable companions of my business and personal journey.
Thank you all.

And as always, I ask you all reading this blog to reveal your resolutions for the new year, here in the comments or on social networks.

Has 2016 been as you wanted? What do you wish for 2017?