This is what happens when you don’t give up

The Wasteland Chronicles passed its 5,000th sale yesterday. [Note: writing “th” after 5,000 doesn’t seem like it should be a thing. I guess it is, though.]

How do I feel about that? In a word: flabbergasted. Absolutely flabbergasted. I’d always dreamed of being read by this many people, but now that it has actually happened it seems completely friggin‘ unreal. Like something that would happen to someone who’s not Kyle West, because I can’t ever remember anything this crazy good happening to me.

I’m glad I took the chance back in December and published Apolcaypse and never gave up. And I’m glad for the readers who took a chance on me. I know the majority of my readers found the first book for free, but you still invested the time to give this crazy Kyle West guy you’ve never heard of a chance.

Apocalypse barely sold 50 copies in its first month (and sometimes sold much less in following months). Most of my reviews came from family and friends. I had no idea what the heck I was doing and I made A LOT of mistakes.

But I kept writing. I kept learning. I didn’t give up. I started waking up at 5 in the morning every single day, and sometimes even earlier, to write, before leaving for my warehouse job where I’d often work for 10+ hours a day. I wrote in the evenings and gulped black coffee like it was the elixir of life. I immersed myself into my world and story and cut out the TV and everything that distracted me from writing. I read really good books by my favorite authors and got inspired. In short, I had nothing going on in my life except succeeding at this, whatever the cost, win or lose.

I scoured the Internet,  researching for hours, following successful writers’ blogs and soaking up knowledge on Kindle Boards. I implemented any new strategy I found, and did my best to make it work. 9 times out of 10, I failed. But every time I succeeded, I remembered what worked, and kept going. I kept writing. My craft improved. Every time I finished a book, I got a little faster, a little better. The stories started becoming more fleshed out, the characters more real.

I released Origins in April, and things picked up the teensiest bit. Instead of selling 50 books a month, I started selling 100 or so.

When Evolution came out last August, it was my biggest month to date with about 225 sales. I was over the moon.

Then came September…1,244.

Then October…2,794 (so far).

Did S*** just get real!?

It’s so amazing. I can’t believe this story I wrote has been read so many people all around the world. And Amazon and self-publishing allowed me to do it. If anyone can write a good story, commission good cover art and editing, then there’s a chance their story could take off like The Wasteland Chronicles did. Really. Self-publishing might be “mocked” by people who don’t really know what they’re talking about, but I think the numbers speak for themselves. If you do everything right, then there’s a chance your story could be read, too.

If you’re a new author, go the self-publishing route. Do everything right. Make your book professional, because the minute you hit publish to Kindle, you are a professional. You have a better chance of getting discovered by self-publishing than spending months – perhaps years – querying agents, who in turn go to editors, who then will most likely give you a bad deal – and in all that time it takes for your book to be accepted by agent to the time your book is actually published (probably two years later), you could have been selling your book (and any other books you’d written in that time) on Amazon and making more than whatever advance they would have offered you.

Some of my success is luck, but I’ve also worked really, really hard. I’ve poured hours every single day into doing this. No joke. Because that’s what it takes to succeed in writing.

I’ve had great success so far, but my goals are changing. I want this to stay sustainable. I want this to be my full-time job. And I finally feel like, after months of working out this formula like a mad scientist, I’ve figured out exactly what it takes:

Hard work. Not giving up. Writing every single day. Pushing myself every minute past the pain. Writing new books, making the stories better, making myself fly higher than I ever dreamed possible.

I want to be the very best I can be. I’m not there, yet. Not by a long shot. I still feel like I have so much potential. So much I’m still learning.

The biggest joy for me is just hearing from people that they liked it. It’s crazy awesome that people are reading something I’ve written. And liking it. It’s unreal. After writing crappy stories and crappy books since the age of eighteen or so, I’ve finally found something that works. I’ve found a story to tell, one that people actually care about.

It’s really, really amazing.

I know I would have never gotten this far from without self-publishing. Had I submitted to an agent, I most likely would have been rejected (and perhaps even dejected). Even if accepted (alright, I’ll stop rhyming), I would have been offered a paltry advance of $3,500ish dollars and would have signed away my rights for years. Maybe I would have gotten luckier with a better deal, but that’s doubtful.

Just the fact that this story has taken off and made that advance back and more gives me so much hope and confidence to make stories out of all these crazy ideas I have.

Even if everything dries up tomorrow, I will always have this to look back on. I will never stop writing, because it’s who I am. I never expected crazy success doing this. I expected a lot of hard work and a marathon. I’m only on mile four right now, and I’m doing good. I just have to keep it up.

This was long-winded, but if you want to succeed at anything…you have to bleed for it. You have to want it more than anything and work your ass off to get it. I think that’s the most important thing I’ve learned with this writing business. I believed in myself and believed in this enough to get here, to log all the hours, sometimes in complete darkness.

But that’s the way it always is – the way it should be. It’s always the journey, and never the goal…and the journey is far from over. I think that’s what I love most about this writing thing – there’s always a new goal, a new mountain to climb, a chance to get stronger and grow and become more than I was yesterday.

Thanks for reading.

Comment Section

  • You are incredible Kyle West! It’s amazing to see what you have accomplished. I myself have started THREE books and finished zero. I’m wanting to dedicate November to writing. I’ve debated whether I should cut out TV and other activities, but I don’t know if I can be as committed as you are. Having a full-time job is tiring enough, not to mention adding hours of writing on top of that!! Congrats man!

    • Hi Sara! Great to hear from you.

      Even starting books shows you’re on the right track. I have LOTS of books I started but never finished. Like anything, it’s just a lot of practice and trying. If you keep at it, you’ll eventually get the hang of it. It feels like banging your head against the wall for a while but everything will eventually start to click. That’s what happened to me after I finished Apocalypse back in December. The pieces of the puzzle that was writing started to come together.

      Cutting out the TV helped a lot, but I do go through phases where I’ll watch four seasons of a show in like three weeks. It’s quite sad. As far as the energy thing – yeah, it was tough to push myself past my limits. When I wrote Apocalypse, I had a horrible job that drained me emotionally and mentally. Coming home to write after that was no bueno, but somehow, I forced myself to just do it. I think what helped me, and this might seem counterintuitive, but I forced myself to become a morning person. I started waking up at 5/5:30 which completely shifted my habits/life. Instead of coming home tired, I started writing 1,000-2,000 words a day before I even left for work. That gave me the motivation and confidence to keep going, because it was a great feeling to have those words down before even going out the door. At night I would be too drained from work to do it, and if I had already done it in the morning, I wouldn’t feel guilty about it at night. Also, mornings you’re almost guaranteed to be alone, which is golden if you’re trying to write something. Maybe this could work for you, too?

      Anyway, thanks for the comment and hope life is treating you well.

  • I for one am thankful that you kept it up. I downloaded the free book prior to a trip a this last week, and have been soaked into the Wasteland ever since. I actually started purchasing two at a time, so that in case I finished one — and was nowhere near a hotspot, I could keep my fix going.

    So on the eve of me completing this fine series. I just wanted to give big kudos to you for building the perfect world to devour my time and interest. Keep it up.

    • Thanks, Dusty. Always good to get a comment like this. Stay tuned for my next series. My feeling is if you liked Wasteland Chronicles you will like it as well.

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