2011: A Year in Review

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese, displayed in store window of Malaprop's Bookstore, Asheville, NC

A buddy of mine is fond of saying, “I’m fascinated by the passage of time and the aging process.” Um, me too. I especially like looking at my calendar and desk diary at the end of the year to see what I actually accomplished in the year just ended. I just did that today and 2011 frankly amazes me.

In the last 12 months, I...

  • self-pubbed two books (Scientist and the Sociopath; Jersey Heat)

  • had another book released traditionally

  • was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal for the very first time

  • got a starred review in School Library Journal

  • wrote a “Bible” for a TV show based on a book I hadn’t yet written and watched as it was actually bought

  • wrote a proposal for a ghost-writing project and sold it for six figures

  • wrote one book proposal that went nowhere

  • “conferenced” with a half dozen potential ghost-writing clients about projects that went nowhere

  • contracted, wrote, and shipped a short history book that will be out in spring

  • wrote a children’s picture book that’s making the rounds

  • recorded a hilarious podcast for a presentation we did for International Freelancers Day

  • gave 7 talks at various bookstores, historic sites, and conferences in the U.S.

  • did my first TV appearance

  • did more than 30 radio interviews

  • did one school visit

  • did more than a dozen Skype visits with classrooms for my children’s book

  • wrote, finished, and submitted to our publisher on a “Big Think” book with a collaborator overseas

  • made numerous out-of-state trips with my wife to help her interview sources and do research for her upcoming history title

  • visited Monticello for the first time ever and signed our books in their bookstore

  • taught myself how to format an ebook (ongoing)

  • conceived a new fiction book series

  • conducted weeks of interviews with a co-author whose memoir I’m ghosting

  • wrote and created a hilarious book trailer

  • made some wonderful new friends in the world of self-publishing

  • donated books to the troops

  • had our books featured in two major catalogs and the holiday gift list of a major city magazine

  • mentored a high-schooler who wrote a children’s book

  • wrote a novel that I’ll self-pub this spring

  • saw some Broadway shows

  • saw a ton of movies

  • lost an uncle

  • Facebooked, Tweeted, blogged, Google-plussed

  • discovered many new fascinating writers who blog

  • ran a local group for freelancers

  • hugged and drank with local booksellers

  • threw a couple of parties

  • wondered where the year went

  • wondered why I never have enough time to do the important things.

Professionally, the biggest change this year was jumping into the world of self-publishing. Despite all the good things I experienced this year in the world of traditional publishing, I am more excited every time I sell even one copy of my indie-pubbed ebook. The future is there, and I hope to do more books this way in 2012.

Part of my and my wife’s success with traditional book sales is that we’ve always been willing to hop in the car and drive somewhere to give talks, meet booksellers, and do conferences. We firmly believe that this one-on-one contact is important and ultimately helps us. But there’s no denying that it’s exhausting, and we’re hoping to reduce the number of trips we do in 2012 and focus more on writing.

Self-publishing has the potential to increase earnings and allow us to build relationships with readers directly, without having to hope they stop by at the next signing.

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