I think that’s what it was.
In 2020, I was filled with an anxious energy that produced five books in one year, a new penname in a new genre and a LOT of thinking. Phew!
By 2021, things were getting too much. I had two fantasy series left unfinished, a new genre to write for and I just…couldn’t…get…the…words…out.
I was left with a fantasy book just sitting there, half written, staring at me, and something just wasn’t right with it.
The pressure to keep publishing, to make money, to crack the indie author code of success and meet the (wonderful) demands of my mailing list was just too much.
So, I stopped.
I stopped publishing in 2022. It was a conscious decision. Publishing is scary: getting reviews, seeing what people think, whether readers will like it, whether they’ll buy it. It’s terrifying.
Worse still is going through that when you know the book isn’t quite right, because the flow wouldn’t come, because there’s something wrong that you just can’t put your finger on, but you feel the pressure to hit publish anyway.
Stories need time to marinate.
Personally, I can’t just have an idea and then go write a novel. I need months, if not years, to figure out the characters and their stories, and then how it all fits together.
And I just wasn’t giving myself that time.
By taking away the pressure to publish, I was able to catch up on my writing and take my time. The book that just didn’t work in 2021 became untangled in 2022. The reason the story didn’t work was because I was telling the wrong one.
I figured out the plot, let it breathe, and the story fell out (it became Bewitching and is out on 4th April).
The other aim of taking a year off from publishing was to get ahead of myself. To have books ready to publish ahead of time, rather than writing and publishing in a panic.
During 2022, I slowed down, I let the stories stew. I published one book at the beginning of the year because it was ready to go, but I didn’t market it. In fact, I completely stopped marketing my books for a year while I concentrated on writing and getting ahead of myself.
Considering I have over ten books available on Amazon, it was interesting to see what would happen during twelve months away from the public facing part of the business.
Here are my main lessons from that year of not publishing:
- With more space, the stories are getting better
Now that the stories, plots and characters have time to marinate and develop, the stories are getting better. At least, I’m much happier with them, I’m excited about them and I’m comfortable sharing them with readers. I’ll find out if they’re actually better as time goes on!
Time really is important when it comes to writing.
In 2020 and 2021 I experienced, for the first time, writing a story, finishing it, publishing it and THEN having ideas that would have made it better.
By allowing the story to develop in its own time, I can be inspired organically and it all feeds into the story and characters much more naturally, leading to better books.
- I had time to develop my business
Much of the last six months has been spent researching. Learning about book marketing, book launches, the Amazon algorithm, going wide, different options and practices. I’ve watched ‘things’ happening at Amazon that are quite scary for authors and I’ve had the space to create a plan around them.
It means I’m coming into 2023 a lot stronger, with new books, new knowledge and more experiments to run in an attempt to sell more books.
- My mailing list didn’t suffer too much
When I came back to publishing this year (2023), I was petrified of contacting my mailing list of over 300 fantasy fans. I decided that after nearly two years of no contact, none would remember me or care anymore.
I sent them an email explaining myself and asking them to segment themselves so I could send more targeted campaigns and make it more worth their while.
Honestly expecting zero responses, I am thrilled to have over twenty people now on my mailing list.
Okay, twenty isn’t as good as 300, but it’s better than nothing and these are the hardcore fans. These are the people who aren’t just after freebies, they’re genuinely interested in what I have to offer. So interested that even after two years of nothing, they want to stick around!
I consider that a huge win.
- It took 12 months for my Amazon ads to die
I started running Amazon ads in 2020 and my book sales increased massively. They’re my main form of marketing and I left them all running for those twelve months of no publishing. I didn’t create any new ads, I only did the admin to keep them running and keep tabs on how much it was costing me each month.
The results were interesting. I expected them to start making a loss pretty quickly, but it took a year for that to happen. And by that point, I was already gearing up for a new release and preparing to dust them all off and start creating new ads again.
- Life still gets in the way
My plan was to write loads during that year off from publishing. I wanted to come into 2023 with three, four, maybe five books ready to go.
In reality, I had two books ready. But that’s enough.
Stopping for the year was not just good for my writing, it allowed all of my mental health issues to come flowing out. I spent quite a few months in the depths of a depression, not able to write. Another few months were spent working solidly on my editing/proofreading business, not able to write.
Add to that a failed house move, some health scares and the beginning of a 40s crisis, and…yeah.
The lesson from this one is that no matter what you plan, life will also happen. So it’s good to create a contingency plan alongside it.
I’m still going into 2023 with two books ready to publish and time to continue playing with stories.
- I’m not (quite) as stressed
I’m no longer in a rush. There’s still a pressure but it’s much less of a pressure.
And thanks to the less stress and more time, I’m able to enjoy writing again.
Which was the whole point.
All in all, it was worth it.
Sure, it was scary to hit pause on the publishing and watch my income begin to dwindle little by little each month due to the lack of marketing.
But boy, am I coming back with a splash. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t allowed myself the breathing space to work through life things, develop my stories and gather my business legs ready for a new leap.
Moral of the story?
If you need a break, TAKE IT.
It’s scary, yes, and you might lose in the short term, but I bet you’ll win in the long term.
We’ll find out.
I’ll do another post like this towards the end of the year and let’s see how my writing is going and what my book sales are doing.