Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

2016 Year-End Reflection

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.

kate-m-colbyWhile 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.

2014: Discovery

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.

2015: Learning

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.”

2016: Confirmation

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.

2017: Growth

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!

31 thoughts on “2016 Year-End Reflection”

  1. Great post and thanks for sharing. I agree that it’s encouraging to hear from people who are just starting out and not just those who are already way ahead. I too intend to focus more on writing in a clearly defined genre because I’ve also found my books difficult to market. I wish you all the best for 2017 and look forward to reading about your progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post, Kate! My goals are to grow what I call my second career: writing. Teaching preschool remains my #1 and will be for a few years. My blog has spurred me to finish writing that book. Book #2 is in the works, meaning written in my head- just need to put it to paper. I have bravely started a traditional publishing route, and so far so good. Time will tell. So, here’s to you and your journey of writing in 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Deanna! I actually haven’t done much marketing yet, and I believe most of my revenue came from existing customers and organic traffic on Amazon. I did do a free promotion in August with several other authors that gained me some visibility, two ads with Fussy Librarian that broke even, one ad with Bargain Booksy (that did not break even), and a few author interviews here and there. However, paid marketing is something I intend to pursue more heavily in 2017.


  3. I love the enthusiasm and optimism in your post. Knowing that you got your book out and have had success as an indie author is inspiring to me. I would love to hear of your financial plan as well. As for me, I am setting a goal of indie publishing my first YA fantasy novel before 2018. I have a draft done (which has gone through several revisions) but I’ve struggled with the beginning which I think I finally have nailed down. With a full-time job, I am trying to set realistic goals for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Kate. Not sure if you subscribe to Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers newsletter, but he’s offering a giveaway for free audiobook production (up to $4000 in production costs) from now until January 14th for a single title. I haven’t signed up for the giveaway myself yet because I don’t feel my existing novels are exactly where I want them (learning the skills on how to edit for genre has been eye-opening to say the least), and I’m sure there are plenty others out there who are more ready to dive in. But it seems like a good thing for jump-starting an audiobook publishing track, especially since the market isn’t saturated with millions of competing titles at the moment, and your covers are good enough to stand out, I think. I don’t see it on his actual site, so you may need to sign up for the newsletter, or I could PM you the official link if you want to look into it without signing up for anything. I haven’t done the research on audiobook production, so I don’t know how much is actually required to do one well. I’d imagine turning the book into a screenplay would be priority one. I also don’t know how much it *should* cost, so covering $4000 worth of services will either make it free or cheaper, not sure which. Anyway, thought I’d pass some knowledge on. They’re giving only one away, so the odds of winning are low. But if you’re the winner, then the odds don’t matter. 😉

    Passing this along since you say you’re looking into audiobooks for growth this year. Let me know if you want/need the direct link. If you subscribe to Nick Stephenson’s newsletter, then you probably already have it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome. Thanks for the heads up! I’ll return the favor with a resource: check out Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler. It’ll answer all your production questions (when you’re ready) and last I knew, it was permanently free on Amazon. Good luck with your own writing goals!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good luck in 2017! Congrats on everything you achieved through . Hope can keep growing. Please if you have sometime, please check my blog. I just started and I would love a little feedback. I also write. And as part of my bed year (2017) resolution I started a blog where I can speak the deepest of me… and many other things.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love your transparency, Kate! As you say, there are a lot of posts about successful authors, but no so much about the middle stage in the process, which is often the most difficult point and where many indies plateau. I know I have similar goals for this year, and will also be looking at more reading, learning and increasing my audience. Might even get some writing done too, haha.

    Wishing you a happy and successful 2017 – may it bring all that you wish for xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Kate, I’m thrilled to find your blog. Talent and skill set aside (which you have in spades), your sense of self-reliance and your attitude of “I can do this, if I apply myself” blows me away.

    Thank you sharing your process and progress. You validate the worth and importance of pursuing these endeavors as an independent.

    I assume that many people (certainly myself included) carry not only the nagging thought that the writing industry is impenetrable without inside connections, but also an assumption that any writer worth reading will be published by a major house. This leads to a tacit assumption that those writers who are not being distributed by a major house must not have anything worthwhile to say.

    Despite being a compulsive writer, I’ve never presented my pieces to an audience since my college years. It excites me to learn that hard work can payoff in the literary world. Hard work is one thing I can do!

    I created my blog a few days ago with goals to
    1. put myself out there & face my perfectionist tendency-a trait resulting in never completing anything
    2. Become disciplined in my process
    3. Practive setting and meeting deadlines for completing works
    4. find out if there is an audience for my areas of interest
    6. Allow myself to have a dream goal-failure trumps never trying, no matter how implausible the goal.

    DREAM GOAL : Be to the social sciences what Carl Sagan was the hard sciences
    A nerd with a deep passion for anthropology, ‘hard’ science, and mathematics, I left Academia disillusioned with the way the scholarly world interacts (or more directly, does not interact) with the outside world-the world that it purports to benefit. Reconciling my personal faith in science with my disappointment in its application and contribution to the real world resulted in copious essays written for specialists and non-specialists alike.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congratulations on starting your blog! It sounds like you have some great goals, and I’m sure it will be a productive way to reintroduce your writing to the world.

      And you’re right. There’s definitely a negative perception about independent authors, but I know plenty of us who are working hard to change the stereotype and prove that writing is a viable career choice. Hopefully, I can do my part.

      Thanks for stopping by and for all of your encouragement. I really appreciate it!


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