Round-Up Of 2016 Goals, Lessons Learned And What Changed

As the year draws to an end, it's important to look back and celebrate what we achieved creatively, as well as understanding why we didn't hit the mark on some of our goals.

Life happens, things change and so do we.

2016 has been a roller-coaster year politically, but we can all find solace and expression in continuing to create.

Here are my goals from 1 Jan 2016. Here's how I did on achieving them.

(1) Become a healthy author

I achieved what I set out to do – completing the 100km Race to the Stones in June.

Walking at sunset on Day 1

I also used dictation to complete the first draft of Destroyer of Worlds. I spent a lot of the warmer months doing 10+ mile walks along the canal in Bath as well as some much longer adventures, including a week in the Alpujarras in Spain. It was awesome … but I have to admit to backsliding as the colder months took over, plus traveling in Oct/Nov and subsequently being sick has taken its toll.

But that's the truth of health and fitness, as well as creativity and writing. You can't just ‘get fit' once and then be done with it. You can't just do one writing sprint and be finished.

You have to make the practice an integral part of your life.

I have started a regular yoga practice and intend to get back to walking more when the weather gets lighter and warmer. Plus, we're spending February in New Zealand and Australia so will do some walking then. We've also booked a walking holiday for August, a much more challenging one than I've tackled before so that will drive me back to fitness.

I will also be getting back to dictation in 2017 and will utilize what I learned earlier this year so it won't be such a difficult change. But I'm happy to say that I don't get RSI anymore – thanks to a lot of the healthier habits – so it's not such an urgent shift.

(2) Create more, become a better writer and give J.F.Penn more time

I did complete Destroyer of Worlds, ARKANE thriller book 8 and also End of Days, book 9 (on pre-order for 31 Jan, 2017).

I wrote a commissioned short story for an anthology (out end 2017). I also wrote The Successful Author Mindset, which has resonated with many authors and is definitely my most personal non-fiction book.

I focused on developing my fiction craft more by doing a number of writing classes by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I didn't do the ‘Edinburgh' book or the Budapest screenplay, and considering I managed 6 books in 2015, it was less of a production year than anticipated.I intend to remedy that in 2017.

I did try several times to write a screenplay adaptation, but I've decided to focus on my core strengths rather than try to learn another craft. Collaboration is the way forward! So I am now working with a screenwriter who is adapting my London Psychic trilogy, and I'd love to work with other screenwriters for adaptation of my other works.

I didn't sell any other foreign rights, but I have been getting my rights back from translators and my German publisher, so this will be a focus for 2017.

In Israel for book research in Nov 2016

(3) Travel more and speak internationally

It's definitely been a big year for travel, including several trips to the US, as well as Spain and Israel. (Check out the video here for Israel.)

It's been fantastic … But that travel has also made me sick this year and so I am going to be much more careful with my speaking schedule for 2017. I want to create more and the downtime with sickness drives me nuts!

Of course, I say that but I am already booking flights for my next trips … 🙂 #traveljunkie

(4) Provide a ‘career path’ for authors on The Creative Penn

I've continued to blog and podcast, reaching episode 300 of The Creative Podcast, which is a landmark I never thought of hitting when I started the show in 2009!

I didn't redesign this site but I did produce How to Write a Novel, a multimedia course that I am super proud of. After 12 novels, I was ready to share what I'd learned along the way and provide a roadmap for those of you who are working on your first novel, or have written one or two and aren't seeing the results you'd like. If you'd like to know more, check out the free 7 Steps to Write Your Novel article and video here.

Unexpected 2016 events …

I absolutely believe in writing down goals and plans, but you also have to leave room for spontaneity and shifts into things you didn't expect. There have been two things that have been unexpected about 2016 for me.

I created this business plan in March 2009

(a) Hitting my 10 year goals … and then discovering my goals for the next 10!

I hit my income and many of my long-term creative goals this year which was fantastic … but also left me strangely bereft. Probably because I am a goal-focused personality and I struggle without an aim for my energy. My friend Orna laughs at me, as I even set goals for yoga … apparently that's not the point 🙂

But between April (when I hit those goals) and November, I felt aimless. I love what I do every day, but continuing to write books/blog/podcast for the next 10 years with no next step or higher purpose felt a little empty.

So I went to the US in October with an open mind, and a stated desire to find the next step. I spoke at Digital Commerce Summit and sat alongside creative entrepreneurs running 7 and 8 figure businesses. Then I went to the Oregon Coast Masterclass and during an intensive week with Dean and Kris, I produced my next 10 year business plan. EXCITING!!!

with Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith in Oregon

I'll be sharing the details of that in the coming year as the plans unfold, but huge things are coming that will benefit the indie community as well as giving me more creative freedom.

(b) Working successfully with my husband

My husband, Jonathan, left his job in September 2015 to join The Creative Penn and it's been an interesting time learning to work together 🙂

In Spain, May 2016

There are many adjustments to this entrepreneurial life, as I noted in my first year as an author-entrepreneur. One of them is finding your own rhythm and community outside of the boundaries of a traditional ‘job' and office life. So he had to adjust to that and we also moved to Bath, in the west of England, leaving London for (yet another) reinvention.

We are equal partners in our life, so it was also hard to adjust to the business when I am so used to being the ‘boss' of The Creative Penn. But we have managed 15 months so far and are even happier than before so the experiment has been well worth it. We also more than replaced his salary, so financially, it's been worth it too.

Our roles have shifted in the last few months and Jonathan will be taking on a whole new area in 2017. Again, I will have to talk about that once we are clearer on the details, but it is a new direction for the business.

Income goal

I set a goal to double my income in 2016 – and I am just shy of reaching that. I'll take that as a win 🙂 I just checked my QuickBooks and my income growth over the last 5 years (in GBP) is below.


I wanted to share this as encouragement because I know how long things take. I started writing in 2006 and I don't have accounts for that year as I was still in the day job and writing on the side. I started this site in 2008 and left my job in Sept 2011 to go full-time so these are the full calendar years since then.

If you work backwards, you can see how little I made in the first few years 2006 – 2011.

It's been a 10 year journey and this year I broke through the income level I'd achieved in my last career.

I hope this is an encouragement for you in your author entrepreneur business. You could also compare it to income reports by other online entrepreneurs, like John Lee Dumas and Pat Flynn. I believe transparency is useful, especially for authors in a business that has so much smoke and mirrors.

If you're wondering how I achieved this growth, I'll be reporting more detail when I do my tax year accounting in May/June. Here's my report for May 2015 – April 2016 if you want to see the breakdown for book income specifically.

The main thing I would emphasize is creating multiple streams of income with your writing, and that includes going beyond books into products, speaking and affiliate sales if you have a website. For more detail, check out How to Make a Living with your Writing.

OK, how did you do on your 2016 goals? I'd love for you to share in the comments below and join the conversation. Let's keep each other accountable!






Joanna Penn:

View Comments (36)

  • Hi Joanna,
    Thank you. I look forward to your year end updates so much. I especially needed the reminder abut your 5-year income and how this is a long-term strategic investment in ourselves!
    This year I met the goal of writing my first novel (thanks to your course and NaNoWriMo). Just like you say--once you write the first one, it gets easier. I didn't meet my other goals of writing another 1-2 nonfiction books, but I made a major change in my life that has given me a large amount of creative freedom! I left my IT consulting job and am freelancing part-time. Since that change, I got more done for my writing business in the last 2 months of the year than I did the entire year. I'm looking forward to a fantastic 2017!

    • I'm so glad the income chart helped, Courtney - and you can imagine how the initial 5 years basically sloped down below the line :) Perhaps like any new business.
      Congrats on your first novel and also your life change. Freelancing is a great step to give you more time to build assets for that longer term. All the best for 2017!

  • Congratulations, Joanna. You've given us an extraordinary year. So sorry all your work made you ill. Remember we expect less of you than you demand of yourself. Make one of those goals of 2017 to stay healthy.

    By the way, my husband and I worked together successfully for many years by keeping our "jobs" separate in our small corporation. By handling separate tasks and activities, we managed to collaborate rather than collide. I'm sure you and Jonathan will make a wonderful team.

    • Thanks Carla - I find my 'boss' (i.e. me) is super hard on me! I just love what I do so much that I can't stop until I hit the wall. But this year, as you say, it's time for less doing, more living :) Thanks for the advice on working as a couple and that's what we're doing this year - Jonathan has a different role, I'll be sharing more of that on 1 Jan and over the coming months. Happy 2017!

  • Congratulations on achieving your goals!

    I did well this year with my goals. I managed to get an extra book up on Amazon (for pre-order) as well as publishing the planned quadrilogy. My income is strong enough that my books are paying for enough of the household bills that my husband can take a bit more time off away from his editing.

    I want to carry on growing in 2017 and increase my husband's downtime by increasing the income from my books. I plan on releasing five more books and starting two new series in 2017.

  • Well done Joanna. A remarkable achievement. If I manage to get anywhere near your 2012 income from writing in 2017, I'll give myself a gold star!

  • Well done for 2016 Joanna. I like the shape of your income graph and it is a testament to your hard work and the fact that you appear to have made the right choices. I hope you can continue for 2017.
    I am retiring on January 6 to become a full time author so 2017 will be the first full year I can devote to writing. My income graph will need a very small scale for the y axis for the forseeable future but I am going to concentrate on output for the first two years because you can't market nothing. I like your eclectic approach and I will be looking at speaking opportunities and non-fiction books and other avenues for income generation as I explore.
    Thank you for your openness and your podcasts, non-fiction books, courses, blogs, webposts etc which has helped people like me learn skills that will be helpful in my attempt to make a living as an author. So I wish you every success for the next steps in your plan for 2017.

    • Thanks Christopher, and I think the eclectic approach is definitely the best way for personalities that enjoy different things - as well as protecting multiple streams of income. I know that the various money streams go up and down with the seasons and the market, so it's good to have other options. All the best with 2017.

  • What a lot you have acheived you are quite an inspiration, thank you for sharing it also us students future goals down the line. I agree with the above comments . Thanks for being so human and down to earth, your info and course really make the process acheivable.

  • Definite inspiration. Think I'll have to make myself accountable and blog my own goals for next year, usually I keep them to myself, but I'm feeling ambitious next year. Thanks for the honesty and openness. Oh, and by the way, you smashed it this year :D

  • Hi Joanna, thanks as always for your honesty and encouragement. I'm curious about what changed for you between 2014 and 2015 that lead to the spike in income after three years of steady and slow growth. Is it something you did differently or was it simply the long term payoff of the first three years.

    Can't wait to see what you do in 2017!


    • It was a number of things
      (a) use of paid advertising to grow my list - I had relied on attraction & content marketing prior to that
      (b) moving to bigger box-sets and promotional opportunities on sites like Kobo and iBooks which grew my book income
      (c) number of products - I put out 6 books in 2015 and also combined a lot - got into audio and generally expanded my 'store'
      (d) the acceptance of self-publishing in the US and UK markets which led to my blog traffic growing massively (and hence my affiliate income also grew) - so a cultural shift - and suddenly, the blog that I started in 2008 when self-publishing was vanity and unpopular was one of the leading blogs in a new industry - 6 years of howling into the wind paid off :)
      (e) the growth of online courses in the author space - previously online education had been pretty niche - and I re-started my own courses and started being an affiliate of other courses
      That pretty much covers it :) Thanks for asking the question and happy 2017!

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