Before I announce my 2017 New Year resolutions, I wanted to take a few hundred words to reflect on my author journey up to this point. This is one of those posts that I’m writing as a time capsule for myself, but I hope you’ll find it useful or inspiring for your own creative life.
While 2016 has been a difficult year personally, it’s been my best year as an author and independent publisher. As I wrote previously, I’ve made some great accomplishments and done much more than I expected in just a year since I published The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1).
I’m not going to rehash those specific achievements. Instead, I want to outline my growth in a more general way. The Smarter Artist (aka Self-Publishing Podcast) guys talk about their years in terms of themes. Each year, they have a word that drives their creative decisions and business, and takes them one step further in their journeys. (For more, read Iterate & Optimize: Optimize Your Creative Business for Profit). By modeling this practice, I can review how far I’ve come and where to focus my efforts in 2017.
This was the year in which my author journey began. I learned about independent publishing, graduated from college, and wrote the first draft of my first novel.
While I had a manuscript written at the end of 2014, this year marked my steepest learning curve. I researched every aspect of independent publishing, learned several new skills (e.g. formatting), and finally hit “publish.”
Even though I’d been a published author since September 2015, it still didn’t feel real. This past year has been all about confirming things to myself. Was that first novel a fluke? (Nope! I wrote and published a sequel.) Is this really the career I want? (Yup! Each little milestone reminds me.) Is long-term success realistic? (Well, I’m not doing too badly so far … and I’ve got a plan in place!).
Instead of researching the logistics of publishing itself, my focus in 2016 switched to marketing and business planning. While I love my Desertera series, it’s a beast to market, as it doesn’t fit perfectly in one genre and it’s difficult to summarize in an “elevator pitch.” For my next series (which I hope to start drafting in 2017), my goal is to make an idea I love fit within an established genre.
On the business side, I went back to my (rather shallow) accounting roots. One of my 2016 New Year resolutions was to make $1,000 in royalties — which I did! These payments are not profit (as my book production and other costs exceed my revenue), but I’m willing to spend a couple years in the negative like most small businesses. However, I finally sat down and started tracking my gross profit margin (aka income minus expenses), which gives me my break-even and go-full-time years (assuming I stick to my budget and hit my royalty goals). If there’s interest, I’ll talk more about my financial plan in a future post.
Overall, 2016 was also my most consistent year in terms of creation. While I did not write as much fiction as I intended, I kept to my nonfiction production schedule and felt a burst of inspiration from my Fiction Ideas writing prompt booklets. As much as I enjoy writing nonfiction, I intend to make fiction a greater priority for 2017.
I’ve come a long way in two-and-a-bit years, but I still have a far to go. For me, 2017 will be all about growth. You can read my specific goals here, but in general, I want to diversify the assets I have (aka finally make the leap into audiobooks!), focus on my writing craft (Story by Robert McKee is top of my TBR), find more readers/writers who share my passions, and of course, write more books (my new motto: Always be creating!). It’s a lot to take on, but I think I’m finally ready to make a major shift in my author life. And it starts today!
My final goal? I want to be more transparent with my writing process, business growth, and other aspects of this journey. I really admire indies who do this (see Joanna Penn’s recent post), but they are often already hugely successful. While this is inspiring, it can also be discouraging. It’s difficult to imagine that we’ll ever get to their levels, and their experiences don’t show how other creatives at “our level” are doing. By being more transparent now, I hope to provide a “realistic” look into independent publishing, as well as an example of growth (there’s that word again!).
I hope you’ll stay with me for the journey!
How was your 2016? What broad goals or hopes do you have for 2017? Share them below!