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
I wanted to release 6 new books in 2015. I exceeded that goal, although some books are small 🙂
- 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.
First, congratulations on all you achieved! It sounds like you’ve had a great year. 🙂
It was very much an up and down year, but I learnt so much that I’m happy with how it all worked out. I’d planned on publishing three books this year and starting a new series. I only published one book in that series, and decided to shut it down. I did however publish over sixty serial episodes and demonstrate to myself that I can earn a reasonable sum from my writing.
I’ve written five full books this year (on top of the serial episodes) and read over a hundred. It’s been a year devoted to learning, growing, and healing, and now I’m confident that my new series will be bigger, better, and launched from a much stronger base.
I hope you continue to grow and have a successful and happy 2016.
Jason Bougger says
Looks like you had a great year! I think it’s a great idea to do a post about achievements and goals and the end of the year. I do it as well.
Our lives are so short in the big scheme of things, so reflecting on our yearly accomplishments helps remind us that we haven’t been wasting the time we’re given.
Joanna Penn says
Exactly right Jason – it’s so important to celebrate what we have achieved as well as looking forward 🙂
Courtney Kenney says
Fantastic year, Joanna! I’m inspired by your achievements. I hit several of my big goals this year: self-publish an e-book (I managed three) and start a website/blog. I’m thrilled with what I’ve been able to accomplish this year mainly as a result of finding your website and podcast.
I love the way you organized your goals and I’ll follow your example when I plan 2016 goals. All the best!
I don’t usually do a yearly review because it’s usually “This year – sucked. Next year – must be better, please God.” 🙂 But this year I am doing it because it’s the first year I’m taking myself seriously as a “business” and professional writer. Seeing how much you accomplished, and reading what you put out there has helped me a TON. Thank you for what you do and what you share! And good luck to you in 2016 🙂
Margarita Morris says
Wow – well done you! I was hoping to publish my third novel this year and I didn’t achieve that, but I did write it and I’m very happy with what I’ve got. I’ve also started on the sequel, so hopefully I’ll be able to publish both of them next year. Happy New Year!
JA Andrews says
Joanna, I don’t usually make resolutions, (just posted about it at http://www.jaandrews.com/a-resolution-for-future-me/ ) but I am really pleased at how much writing I got done last year. I committed to really working on my first novel which was ROUGH. I’m still far from finished, but I joined a critique group and have accomplished so much this year I’m very motivated to keep going. I’m planning to self-publish the book next year and appreciate so much the information you share with all of us about publishing.
And I NEED to make the resolution about “no email before lunchtime”. I should include no blog reading, too. I homeschool and it’s so hard not to get off on bunny trails hopping down the internet holes if I start before school time. I may need to make a “put phone and laptop downstairs until lunch” rule. The afternoon has more me-time and I’m way less likely to waste that precious time aimlessly surfing.
Happy New Year!
Derek Murphy says
Congrats on doing so much! It’s fun to see what you’ve accomplished and been working on. In 2015 I learned how to grow email lists and traffic quickly with giveaways, and got comfortable with video, which means I can start making courses… but 2016 will be all about writing and publishing fiction for me. Exciting to see everything come together!
Monna Ellithorpe says
Your achievements in 2015 are both amazing and inspiring. I’ve had some struggles with being caught between writing and marketing; not really sure how to work the two together.
I’ve been following your blog for quite a while now and I see that you are offering Author 2.0 Blueprint which I look forward to reading, however, the email I received did not have a visible confirmation link to click on.
Wishing you a safe and Happy New Year and some goals of my own to post about next year.
I pretty much feel that you are a trendsetter for self publishing. Your energy is quite evident in this website & it feels great to know that the tipping point is right here. I live in India , but will be very soon moving to Berlin and I am hoping to learn many new things about publishing & writing which will help me grow the community that I have painstakingly created for the last 6 years. A new and more professional website will be launched later in Jan and that will be my biggest milestone for last year.
Will keep following your updates & hoping to find ways to collaborate soon !
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Priyanka – and I loved India AND Berlin 🙂 I hope you’ll be happy there – it’s super entrepreneurial!
Jenni Wiltz says
I’m always inspired by what you write here, Joanna. Thank you for keeping my spirits up all year long! 🙂
This year, I made two hard career decisions – I realized I can’t quit the day job yet, and I had to give up writing my Tiara Tuesday blog posts because they took too much time from salable writing work. But I also published my first literary novel and wrote both the sequel to my thriller and a bonus thriller novella I finished just last night! Despite the day job, 2016 is the year I’ll finally focus on building my series. Maybe that means 2017 will be the year I can devote myself to writing full-time…
Thanks again for an inspiring year and I look forward to seeing what you do in 2016!
Joanna Penn says
Sounds great Jenni – and not quitting the day job is usually a good idea until you have several years of proven income. All the best!
Meg Cowley says
This is amazing to read! Wowee. Congratulations on a fantastic 2015! Well done for everything you’ve achieved – 2016 is going to be an exciting year for building on everything here! It’s great to hear you’re reaping the financial rewards for years of hard work sown. 🙂 It’s also reassuring to hear you change the goalposts when it’s needed and don’t stick to the original plan. It’s important to adapt… (I’ve dropped a few projects this year too. Needs to be done sometimes!)
I had a great 2015 – originally wanted to publish 1 book (my second full length YA fiction). I ended up publishing 7! The YA fiction, plus 2 colouring books, 2 companion books for the colouring books (a diary and a notebook) and 2 children’s books!
Income has soared by 2357% (thanks to the colouring books). I’ve out-earned my dayjob from writing (which is still poxy but a milestone I never thought I’d hit!). For the last 2 months of 2015, have made enough money to pay all our bills and made several times my usual monthly income.
Determined to go full time in 2016 now I know it’s so doable. Going to get at least 20 titles out (mainly colouring books and companion notebooks/diaries/etc as these are great ways to diversify income streams for that type of book I’ve discovered!) and work my socks off to make it happen! 2016 is the year of learning how to market effectively too so I can achieve this. 🙂
Good luck for 2016!
Joanna Penn says
OK, an income surge by 2357% is pretty amazing!!! Go the coloring books – and long may that fascination last! A surprise for everyone I think, but well done you for jumping on the trend. Let me know when you go fulltime!
Jim Wilbourne says
You really kicked ass this year! I’m so very proud of you and what you’ve done! You’re an inspiration!
I love that your show is weekly now. It’s always been one of my favorites ever since I discovered you and the podcast a few years back when looking for information about using Wattpad.
Writing is my second creative career (I did music for awhile) and in July 2014, I kicked it off. I still haven’t published a book (and I really want to because everyday I feel like I’m being passed in the left lane), but I’m trying to take the advice of having a fee books in my pocket.
I’m doing something similar to you: I’m doing fiction and Non-fiction. My fiction is epic fantasy. My non-fiction is about general creativity (not specifically writing).
I did write a lot of blogs on creativity. About 80k words worth. And I have 50+ weeks of blogs outlined for the future.
I also did a monthly development Diary for my fiction. I talked about the production process and shared my world building and illustrations.
Anywho: I could go on forever, but I’m proud of what I’ve done and I’ll be ready to rapid fire my work by 2017.
Jim Wilbourne says
Oh! Maybe I should have said passed in the right lane? It’s left lane in America 😉
Joanna Penn says
Fantastic 🙂 You can always turn those blog posts into a book!
I’m always inspired by what you published here, Joanna. Thank you for keeping my spirits up all year long! thank you for your lovely photography.