I’ve been inspired by a recent blog I read to write a “year in review” post. I’ll divide the year into three categories:
- What went well
- What didn’t go well
- The plan for 2016
This is mostly a tool for my own reflection–it will be fun to look back on this when we reach 2017!
What went well
#1: Book publishing
This is my first year as a published author. And what a journey it’s been! After a long, hard think while hiking in Patagonia last February, I decided that I had reached the point in my life when entertaining-yet-stressful restaurant work wasn’t going to cut it. I had to start properly pursuing my life’s work.
I set the launch date for The Natural Order, my debut YA fantasy novel, on June 1st, and then scrambled to put all the necessary building blocks into place. These included:
- A website
- A blog
- An author page on Facebook
- A print run of The Natural Order
- A Goodreads author page
- An Amazon author page
- …and so on
I would never have started building my platform without a book deadline in place, so this was the perfect excuse to work on it.
I sold a few paperback copies (around 100), got the book into bookstores all over New Zealand…and realized I wasn’t selling a single ebook copy.
Then I started investigating the tangled, murky world of ebook publishing. It took a long time to figure out what I was doing, and longer still to start making money online, with many false starts along the way. But, two more ebooks later, I’m finally starting to figure it out. And it’s been a fantastic experience and a real eye-opener.
And as 2017 dawns, I finally know where I’m heading. I have a plan, a process, and a goal. It’s wonderful.
#2: Creating a full-time writing schedule
I always used to worry that I wouldn’t be a very good full-time writer. I got distracted when writing at home, and had to escape to cafes to get any work done. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for the past seven or so years, and each year I’ve struggled more to write 50,000 words in a month.
But in August, I moved to a small town called Greymouth for three months, where my partner was studying and I was working two hours a day at the hostel he was being put up in by his school. I didn’t have a job, and our expenses were extremely low, so I was able to devote almost all of my time to writing.
Hoping to make the most of the experience, I enrolled in a self-publishing course, which gave me direction and spurred me on to meet my goals. And for the first time, I was able to write thousands of words a day without losing concentration.
I enjoy the writing, the publishing, and the marketing–the whole package. For the first time, I realized that full-time writing is a lifestyle I aspire to.
#3: Hiking for 2 months straight
In the year of realizing impossible goals, this is one that I’m still amazed we saw through. In September, my fiance and I realized we had two months between his graduation and our wedding with nothing to do, so we decided to take the plunge and hike the length of New Zealand’s North Island.
We cheated a bit, hitchhiking a few roads to reach Wellington by Christmas, but in all we hiked for 52 days and 1,000 kilometers.
It’s been a long-standing dream of mine to do a through-hike, and this was both a major challenge and a fantastic experience that proved I really could do whatever I set out to accomplish.
#4: Getting engaged and preparing for the wedding
Daniel proposed last February, and our wedding was scheduled for January 2016, so we spent a lot of time organizing the wedding last year. It was equal parts stressful and fun, but in the end, our wedding was a complete dream.
What didn’t go well
#1: Making a consistent, workable book-marketing plan
I experimented this past year. A LOT. I tried everything from book tours to selling at bookstores to ebook promotions to Goodreads giveaways, and a whole lot more. The unfortunate part is that a majority of my efforts produced nothing in the way of results. I spent quite a bit of money without seeing any return on investment.
The good part of this is that I was able, after much work, to sort out a few strategies that did work.
Going forward, I’ll ditch the useless strategies and work to make the useful ones more successful than before.
#2: Earning a decent income from my books
In total, I made $900 from book sales last year. That was mostly generated from paperback sales–in bookstores, at the launch party, and during my book tour. As far as ebook sales were concerned, they amounted to less than $200.
2016 is already on track to be a better year, financially speaking, but it’s still going to be a long slog. Even if I do start earning more, it won’t be anywhere close to a proper income for the next year or two. At this point, I just have to keep working towards my goals and reminding myself that the payoff will come someday.
#3: Saying no to emotionally draining commitments
Part of my motivation to devote myself wholeheartedly to writing and publishing stemmed from the drama and heartache I experienced while working in the restaurant business.
I tried to quit my job as a chef in February, hoping to move into a writing-related industry, but when I came back from traveling in March, I reluctantly agreed to return part-time. Unfortunately, this turned into constant demands on my time, and I was unable to accomplish much outside of work.
This year, with the support of my wonderful husband, I’ve decided to devote myself full-time to writing. I’ve reached the point where I could probably start making a good income from my writing in the next year or two, provided I dedicate all of my time to it, and any part-time or full-time jobs I take on at this point will only prolong the process.
The plan for 2016
#1: Get on track to start earning a proper income from my books
Again, I won’t genuinely start earning good money for a few years, but there are many steps I can take towards building up my writing career.
One of these is to start building up a list of subscribers who are interested in my work.
Another is to work on turning the Natural Order series into a reader funnel–drawing readers from the free prequel (the teaser) through the series, potentially to the purchase of a boxed set.
And another is to simply keep publishing as many books as I can.
#2: Publish as many high-quality books as possible
I’m aiming to publish between 4 and 6 books in 2016, some of which are full-length novels and others which are shorter nonfiction books. However, in the pursuit of volume, I will not let the quality of my work decline. I’ve scheduled the year to allow for multiple revision drafts for each of my fiction works, and I have a fantastic set of critique partners who can keep me on the right track.
Another part of publishing high-quality books is ensuring the whole package surrounding the books is as good as it possibly can be. That means never settling for “good enough.”
I plan to revise and update my book descriptions and author bios until I write the best ones I can, and I’ve already embarked on refreshing the covers of my Natural Order series with the help of a cover designer.
If I want my books to compete in today’s market, they have to be as good as–if not better than–their traditionally published competitors.
#3: Build my newsletter to 1,000 subscribers
As I mentioned above, this is a huge component to ebook success. The problem with most marketing and publishing platforms is that they’re highly subject to change. When Amazon and Facebook and Twitter change their rules, authors suffer.
But if you have a large, active email list, you have direct access to the very people who are most interested in your books. If the platform changes, it doesn’t have to destroy your career if you can still keep in touch with your readers.
#4: Continue hiking and exploring our new home in Wanaka
We just moved to the beautiful mountainside town of Wanaka, so in between my writing work, I’m going to keep hiking and traveling and getting to know the area as much as possible. I have a South Island travel guide in the works, as well as a photo calendar, so I can write our travels off as research!
What are your goals for the year? Let me know in the comments what you thought of 2015…and what you have in store for the new year.