It's that time of year when we all reflect on what we have achieved in the last 12 months.
I'm much more of a fan of January – I love new starts!
But it's important to look back and celebrate the wins, and try to learn from mistakes or why things didn't work out.
Here's my goals post from 1 Jan 2015. I'll round up each section below, and as ever, thanks for keeping me accountable! I'll also keep it real and cover what I didn't achieve.
I'd love you to add your comments at the bottom with what you've achieved and whether you hit your goals.
(1) Creating new things in the world
- Gates of Hell, ARKANE #6 – ebook, print and audiobook
- One Day in New York, ARKANE #7 – ebook, print and audiobook. First novel written from male POV and audiobook narrated by male voice
- Deviance, London Psychic #3 ebook, print and audiobook
- Risen Gods, co-written with J.Thorn, ebook and print
- How to Make a Living with your Writing ebook and print, which was listed on Inc.com as one of the top 100 business books in 2015 (very exciting!)
- Co-writing a Book: Collaboration and Co-creation for authors, co-written with J. Thorn, ebook only
- Successful Self-Publishing: How to self-publish an ebook and print book. Free on all ebook stores.
Plus, I released 3 box-sets:
- ARKANE boxset #2 – with books 4-6
- London Crime Thriller boxset – contains Desecration, Delirium and Deviance
- Writer's Toolbox – 3 books for authors boxset on Kobo, iBooks and Nook as they allow higher royalties. This is not on Amazon as it caps 70% royalty at $9.99 price point.
- Profanación in Spanish (Desecration) in ebook and print with Alexandra Ferrie
- Comment publier un livre in French (How to Market a Book) in ebook and print with Cyril Godefroy
- I narrated my own Audible audiobook of Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur. This was a much bigger job than expected!
- In April, I rebranded my first 3 novels, re-titling them and re-covering them. I'm really pleased with the result!
- I redesigned my JFPenn.com website with a new theme and expanded my fiction email subscriber list.
I made my first multimedia course in 2009, then I did some alongside CJ Lyons and Roz Morris in 2011, which I retired at the end of 2014 due to the changes in the EU VAT law which made direct sales difficult.
But this year, multimedia online courses have really taken off in the author world. Many of the online services now handle the EU VAT for you, so it's not so much of an issue if you sell through a compliant site as opposed to selling direct on your own website.
So I now have two courses:
- Successful Self Publishing: How to self-publish an ebook, print book and audiobook. Aimed at those new to self-publishing or want to increase their success.
- Creative Freedom Course: A step-by-step guide to making a living with your writing. Aimed at those who want to move from writing as a hobby to building a business with their books.
I'm really pleased to have training for both new authors to self-publishing and those who want to take their author business a lot further. I'm looking forward to helping more people in 2016!
It's been a good year for international speaking – I started the year in New Zealand, spoke in Charleston in March and New York City in July, plus the Shetland Islands and Loch Fyne, Bristol CrimeFest and several times in London.
I met lots of my online friends and writing heroes. You can find more pics on Flickr here.
In 2016, I want to speak for travel purposes rather than income, because although I really love the live events, it is exhausting and a drain creatively.
Filling the creative well, education and creative habits
I'm constantly reading books on the craft and business of being a writer, but this year I have also taken some courses:
- WMG Publishing books and courses – with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. As soon as I finish one course, I start the next as I am learning so much from both of these amazing writers and teachers. If you want to take your writing to the next level, I highly recommend these courses.
- James Patterson Masterclass. As well as learning how Patterson outlines and an insight into how his marketing brain works, this convinced me to do co-writing, which directly led to Risen Gods with J.Thorn, which I'm really proud of.
- I've also seen Elizabeth Gilbert speak about Big Magic and attended Robert McKee's Storynomics, plus I took a ton of notes at Thrillerfest 2015.
After considering whether to stop the podcast entirely, I doubled-down, moving to a weekly show which has dramatically increased the community around the podcast. Click here for the back-list of 249 episodes 🙂
I've made the personal intro longer, incorporating tweets and emails from the listeners which is great, as I now feel it is more of a conversation. I also added Patreon/thecreativepenn and the hardcore listeners can support the show, plus they get an extra Q&A audio every month.
I love how engaged people are and how we have more of a two-way interaction now. Thank you to all the listeners of the show!
I've become more active in International Thriller Writers, organizing two events in London, alongside Simon Toyne, as well as going to ThrillerFest in New York and making new friendships as well as renewing old ones.
I've also continued to be an active member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, doing monthly Q&As with Orna Ross and joining the fun at the Indie Author Fringe at London Book Fair in April.
Income and lifestyle
My income in 2015 is double what it was in 2014, which is quite crazy. My book sales income grew by 70%, but the main increase was affiliate income (commission on sale of other people's products), which is a function of the size of the audience/traffic to a site.
I believe this is because the tipping point for self-publishing happened this year and because this site is 7 years old with over 1000 articles, 240+ podcasts and videos on the topics people search for, the traffic and subscribers have significantly increased.
There are also more authors looking for premium services and education as the indie author world matures. I'm really thrilled to be able to help more people, as well as being happy about the income increase!
This meant that I hit a significant (and unexpected) financial goal and my husband was able to leave his corporate job to join The Creative Penn.
We moved out of London to Bath in the south west of England, for a healthier, more active lifestyle. As much as I love London, I have some fitness goals for 2016 … more to come on that in my new year's post 🙂
This increased growth in traffic meant that I also needed to make the site more stable, so we spent a couple of months sorting out technical back end stuff you won't even see! That took a lot of time but I now sleep more easily at night, knowing that the site won't crash as it did several times earlier on this year.
What didn't I achieve?
It's always good to reflect on what didn't happen and why. Not achieving goals can sometimes be as illuminating as achieving them 🙂
“I’m also looking at doing royalty split deals with other non-fiction authors and getting into ACX as a narrator as well as an author … Narration of other people’s non-fiction books on a royalty split deal will add another income stream.”
I seriously thought I would get into audio narration for other people but narrating one of my own books was exhausting for me. I am looking into voice training as I think it's a breathing issue, as well as the concentration needed for narration, but it's not something I will do for other people or consider as an income stream. I have a lot of respect for audiobook narrators these days!
“Portuguese underway for Pentecost [Stone of Fire] as Brazil is likely to be the next emerging market for digital … I actually want to sell more [foreign] rights rather than exploit them myself.”
Translations and foreign rights in general haven't been much of a focus for me this year. I've focused more on creating new products in English. It's still too early in these other markets to make self-publishing in translation a really good bet for most authors. I do have an agent, but no foreign rights sales have eventuated. We'll see what 2016 has in store …
“No apps or email before lunchtime … I’m also starting with Headspace for (once again) attempting to incorporate meditation in my life.”
Hmmm … well, I managed both of these for a few months and then fell back into old habits. I still don't have email on my phone though so that's a good thing, but I definitely check twitter too much 🙂 Headspace was good but I think my meditation is walking these days.
“The big change for me in 2015 is the shift away from online education and courses to income from books and live professional speaking, as well as affiliate income and sponsorship.”
Clearly, I changed my mind on this and went back into courses and actually did less live speaking than previous years. I can help more people through online courses and as above, it's hit a tipping point in the self-publishing space.
“I’m finally going to get into Google Play in early 2015.”
I still want to get into Play but there are still question marks over it since they shut down the new publisher portal in May. They did incorporate subscription service Oyster in September so hopefully something awesome will be coming in 2016.
Rounding up …
Overall, I feel like I have got the fundamentals of The Creative Penn under control now and provided a stable base of information and education through books and courses for authors at all stages of the journey. I've also invested time in becoming a better fiction writer and I'll be switching my focus more to that next year.
I'm looking forward to 2016 – and I'll be posting about my plans on 1 Jan!
How did you do with your goals in 2015? Please do leave your comments below and join the conversation.