January of 2015 is when The Green Ember officially released. It feels like a thousand years ago and/or yesterday, but it was indeed five human years ago.
A part of me still hasn’t been able to process what’s happened. That has to do with the fact that I haven’t really stopped for very long to mull it over (I’ve written seven more books in those five years), and also maybe a kind of subconscious, low-grade shock or an inability to fathom the astonishing response to these books. In another way, it feels pretty normal now and so I don’t actively think about it much. It feels kind of important to me not to think about it too much. Press on and focus on the aim of the work!
I know that my gratitude is real, and my love for you who read and share my books is on my mind and heart daily. I have to keep on saying Thank You, because I mean it and I want you to hear it.
I do love that I have a job where I don’t have to pretend affection or appreciation or act a part. I genuinely believe I have the best audience in books and that, yes, some other authors have higher quantity of readers, but none have a better quality of reader. You should see the letters I get from kids all over the country—and the world! They are lovely, generous, articulate, and creative. Some of the art I get in the mail is astonishing. What an incredible privilege.
I seldom stop to consider the honor and fun it’s been over these past few years. But I’m going to. Right now. What has happened?
From fearing we’d never ever sell the first 1,500 copies we ordered in the original printing of The Green Ember, we have been basically reprinting non-stop ever since. Andrew Mackay, my publisher and partner in crime from the get-go has been a ninja. He is right-at-this-moment (as I write) ninja-ing the series finale, Ember’s End, into shape to be printed.
Sometime last year, we passed half a million copies sold in the series, and then went on to have our best period of sales ever. Part of our aim is to sell a higher percentage of copies through our store (redistributing coins from Jeff Bezos to us) and that happened in a big way.
Our overall strategy isn’t too scientific or cutting edge, but we do want to continue to make close connections with readers that don’t involve the middle-men of the new all-powerful tech behemoths like Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc. So our store, my newsletter, my own blog/site, are things we hope people will connect to. And that is happening. We have a large and growing bunch of cool humans who get my newsletter. A high percentage of folks actually look at them, and that’s good. A big goal for me is to improve that experience for readers and see if more readers will tune in. On big tech’s platforms, our attention and personal data is their currency (we are the product) and we want to be liberated from that and their censorious and often-sinister proclivities.
That sounded doomy, but my point is cheery—that our long-term aim to shift those percentages toward direct connections and less bloated technocrat middle-men is working, and I’m grateful to you for that.
Another huge blessing to me has been that two and a half years ago (midway along my journey), I was able to leave my job and do this work full-time. Now it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. I’m not sure I could do a “real job” again. I kid. This is a real job, and it’s often very hard work, but I love it so much. It’s an answer to prayer. And, compounding that joy, I get to work with my brother Josiah every day and that is a real dream come true for me. Josiah is the best.
Zach Franzen has created fantastic interiors, beautiful covers, has contributed to the shape of the stories in important ways, and has been a good friend I treasure.
I have had wonderful editors and beta-readers, among them my own family, and James Witmer and Carolyn Leiloglou.
Joel Clarkson’s narration has been a gift, as has his family’s friendship over the years. Joel’s performance of The Green Ember audiobook drew lots of attention and helped it become, for a few days, the bestselling audiobook on earth. The series continues to sell well and the addition of the talents of my fellow West Virginia, Eric Fritzius, who has performed the short novels, has been excellent. I love Eric’s narration.
I have had the privilege of speaking to thousands of readers on several different book tours (and am preparing for a new one this year—more on that soon). I’ve been on tours in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Texas, Colorado, California, and the best state ever, West Virginia.
All five years have been surprising and challenging and liberally leavened with joy. 2019 was another good one. A belter.
I was able to write the finale to The Green Ember Series, something I was so eager to do and prayed for often over the years. Part of me would like to stretch it out (sell more books), and go on writing it for years, but I have always hated bad (forced, over-stretched) endings and so I was keen to end it as well as I was able in reasonable time. I think I have.
I can’t wait for you to read Ember’s End.
I’m so grateful to you for these five years.
God bless and keep you. Here’s to five more, God willing!
P.S. I’m planning to share some news Monday in my newsletter. I hope you’ll tune in.