A Year and Decade in Review

Welp, we’ve passed the Winter Solstice, and in just a few hours we’ll be saying goodbye not just to 2019, but to the 2010’s. I’ve never been a resolution maker but I do like to look back on what I’ve done, what I wanted to do etc.

So where are we (the royal we)?

The 2010’s saw the birth of my professional writing career. Technically I’ve been paid for my writing for years, as a copy and tech writer, a resume writer, etc. But fiction, that’s new. Plus I stopped selling my non-fiction writing services years ago. If you’d asked me ten years ago if I thought I’d be a writer that makes money I’d have laughed. If you’d asked if I thought I could ever make a living as a writer, I’d have laughed harder. But here we are.

On top of my writing the 2010’s were a pivotal and volatile decade for 360|Conferences.

On a personal level, Nicole and I moved from our downtown townhouse in the “Hottest ‘hood in Denver” (Blech) to just outside downtown to a neighborhood that doesn’t suffer year ’round construction, unannounced music festivals, and other nonsense. I haven’t had to step around vomit once, and it’s frankly glorious. Suck it RiNo.

We love our home and the neighborhood, we actually get out more to the nearby arts district than we did in RiNo where drinks came with a loan application and snobbery.

Nicole and I also visited some amazing places.

The Netherlands. We got to visit our dearest friends Mike and Judy in their awesome adopted home of Amsterdam. We’re overdue for another visit as they’re now homeowners!

Germany. We did Oktoberfest! The real one! It was amazing. We had a big group which was tons of fun, drank and ate lots, saw a ton of things. Did NOT snort menthol (which we thought was cocaine and that Australians gave zero fucks). We’re planning to go back in 2023.

Egypt. To close out the decade (sorta) in 2018 we spent 10 days in Egypt, visiting all the things, drifting down the Nile river. I wrote a large portion of Space Rogues 4 on the deck of a Dahabiya watching the Nile drift by. It was an amazing trip!

We Renovated our house. Thankfully we were in Egypt for some of it. But the house we moved into had a few less than perfect things about it. Namely, a kitchen that was too small, a dining room we didn’t need, and a master bathroom that was anything but masterful. So we gutted. We have an amazing open kitchen now that we love. We have a master bathroom that’s stunning and we couldn’t be happier. The house is much more ‘us’. It was neat to see the house torn back to studs and in the case of the first floor, the original brick. I’m so bummed we had to re cover it but someone in the past through you could nail plaster and lathe to brick… Same for the original hardwood floors (no I’m not Karen from the 80s, we put down new wood #carpetsucks).

And we will likely never do a renovation project again. That shit is stressful. But I did find a wizard staff hidden in the wall, so there’s that.

A few 2010s Numbers.

Number of Space Rogues books released: 5. 7 if you count the two short stories.

Number of non-Space Rogues books released: 0

Number of non-Space Rogues books written: 1

Number of eBooks sold: 23,197

Number of Paperbacks sold: Not many, Hard to break out past about 90 days, but about 200.

Number of eBooks given away: 46,552

Number of Books put to Audio: 1

Number of conferences created: 3

Number of conferences put out to pasture: 2

Number of moves for Nicole and I: 1

Rogue Publishing LogoWriting.

I’m pretty excited that writing is going so well. People seem to really like the Space Rogue series. The 5th book was just released with the highest number of pre-orders yet. Book one has been hanging around the top 500 or so free Kindle books for the last two months (It’s going back to full price 1/1 if you haven’t grabbed it yet!). In 2019 I made about 5x more than I did in 2018. I don’t want to jinx things but can see “Full-time writer” as my occupation in a few years if things keep going well.

Mid-2019 I wrote what I hope is the first book in a new series. It’ll be released sometime around the first of the year, in addition to Space Rogues 6. I’m excited to try something new, to branch out, and I HOPE, add a new revenue stream to my business.

I decided in 2019 to start putting myself out there more in person, so I have been applying for author alley’s or paying for booths at conventions. I’ve written about that already so won’t rehash it here, but I’ve signed a couple of dozen books now for people, which is pretty fucking cool, even if I still haven’t found “my thing” when signing. I’ll be doing more in 2020.

The last bit of writing news is that I spun up a merch store. I’m still working on it, fine-tuning, but I’ve had enough readers ask about shirts and stickers and such that the couple hours it took to get it going, should be worth it. I mean I’ve already sold 2 shirts and a coffee mug so, ¯\_(?)_/¯ . I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to the day I see someone on the street in a Space Rogues shirt.

Lots of Eggs, Many baskets.

I’ve talked about being wide before so I will skip the details but here’s an update.

Amazon now accounts for ‘just’ 74% of my income. My hope is to move that closer to 50% or less. There are a few companies I trust with silos, Amazon isn’t one of them. My books are available on every device and in every store that sells ebooks.

While I dislike exclusivity, I am a bit locked in with Audible. Because I’ve set up a royalty share with my awesome narrator, I’m locked into Audible for 7 years. That’s unlikely to change, unfortunately.

Conferences

360conferences banner

360|Conferences had it’s oh shit moment during the 2010s. Specifically, 2017, where attendance at 360|iDev dropped by 50% without any warning. The hard part there is when you plan, and commit to 400 ppl, and only 200 show up, hotels and vendors aren’t overly sympathetic. It was made worse by having already taken a significant loss in spinning up a new conference. Thankfully the Grand Hyatt (Where 360|iDev has been for 3 years now) are actually really awesome partners. 2018-19 were years of regrouping and figuring my shit out for the conferences. I’m happy to report I might have finally kind figured this out. Still pretty upside down, but not in a way that it feels hopeless.

One big thing for me was that I realized that while being the ‘biggest’ was neat, it wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t really what I wanted. Being the ‘best’ is what I want, and think we’re doing pretty good there. 2018 was a record profit year for all three conferences, and 2019 was pretty good (a few stumbles). I’ve made some changes for 2020 that I think will be awesome. Of course after 2017, all this “record profit” and “best year yet” stuff is just digging out a pretty deep hole. I’m thankful I was given a chance to dig out vs. walking away from debt and hosing a partner.

I’m thankful that 360|Conferences is celebrating a decade of existing, not many conference companies get to say that. The communities that I’ve had the privilege of supporting are amazing, and I’ve formed a ton of friendships by doing these conferences.

A Few Highlights.

360|Flex was put to bed. This happened pretty early in the decade. I tried to rebrand, failed. Tried to bring 360|Flex back as more niche, didn’t enjoy it. So I pulled the plug 100%. A shady travel company managed to grab the domain, then lost it, the new owner then stole the twitter account, fun.

360|intersect was born and died. I’m still convinced intersect was just ahead of it’s time, but regardless, as much as I loved it and the content, not enough people were coming. While all my conferences are near and dear, 360|intersect brought together some really awesome people to tell their stories.

360|AnDev was born. Dave and Chiu-Ki approached me about doing an Android event here in Denver. I was hesitant since I’d said Android wasn’t really for me, but with their help on the community side, we’ve created a world-class event.

Chicago Roboto was born. Ryan and Jerrell reached out after 360|AnDev about doing another Android event, this time in Chicago. I still wasn’t sure, but again, they managed the community aspect, and I executed. Chicago Roboto has quickly caught up to its sister 360|AnDev in terms of size and speaker quality. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve done.

360|iDev has continued to lead the iOS developer event pack. A few more events have closed up shop (This ain’t an easy business!). I made the conscious decision that 360|iDev was a 200 person event. no more creeping up to 300, then 350, then 400. At 200 it’s sold out. The end.

AltConf is still THE community event at WWDC. I love working with Rob and Anna and the rest of the AltConf team. We execute a truly massive (Thousand of attendees, dozens of sponsors) event, that is free to attend whether you’re a WWDC ticket holder or not.

And of course (not 360|Conferences) Ignite Denver is still something I’m super proud of. The first Ignite event in CO, and the longest-running.

 

So…

That’s the 2010s for me. I’m exceptionally excited or 2020 and the decade it brings. I’m excited to see where the iOS and Android communities go. I’m excited to bring more stories to the world, who knows, maybe one day you’ll see Wil Calder on the screen (big or small).

 

Happy Holidays, Merry New Year, Successful Festivus.

 

By John Wilker

I'm a science fiction writer and conference organizer. In 2017 I published my first book, 'Space Rogues', a fun Sci-Fi adventure with a fun cast of characters. I'm also the co-founder of 360|Conferences, a conference and event logistics consulting company.

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