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.
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.
(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.
(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!!!
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 🙂
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.
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!
Wowee! Love your honesty, Joanna. I look forward to learning more from you in 2017.
Joanna Penn says
I try to keep it real around here 🙂
Jessica Aspen says
Great year, Joanna. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Courtney Kenney says
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!
Joanna Penn says
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!
Carla Conrad says
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.
Joanna Penn says
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.
Joanna Penn says
Great goals, Holly! Happy writing 🙂
Henry Hyde says
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!
Joanna Penn says
I hope it gives you some inspiration, Henry!
Christopher Wills says
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.
Joanna Penn says
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.
Sacha Black says
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 😀
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!
Joanna Penn says
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!
Marcia Richards says
That’s a lot of great and encouraging info, Joanna. I think you’re the hardest working and most innovative author I know.
I don’t have your personality, youth or good health. But I do need to create an income of at least $40,000 a year.
If we suppose my books will do nearly as well as yours, that I do as much promotion as I can manage (book blogs, website, tweeting and FBing, Pinterest and other things you’ve recommended), and work at self publishing 2-3 books a year, do you think I have a chance at reaching my goal within a couple of years?
I can’t do public speaking but I could do podcasts. I can’t afford to go to conferences but I could find local groups to interact with. I realize your answer would strictly be a guesstimate but I think, considering your experience, it might be as close to accurate as it could be at this time.
Joanna Penn says
Yes, I think you can hit $40,000 a year without doing a lot of what I do. That’s about $3500 per month. If you can make $2 – $4 profit per book (novellas & novels/short & full-length), let’s take $3 as average per book, you need to sell 1166 books per month. Or 39 books per day. That is pretty hard with one book these days – but what if you 10 books, or 21 books as I have now. I’m making 6 figures USD with 21 books- so I reckon you need 10 to be making 40k. Obviously that is ballpark, but if you focus on creating books people want to read, the other marketing stuff is gravy. You can definitely do it! Go, Marcia!
Kate M. Colby says
Thank you for your transparency, Joanna. It’s really helpful to see how your income and processes have changed over time.
The biggest goals that I hit this year were publishing my second novel, publishing a short series of nonfiction booklets, and making my first $1,000 from my author business. It’s still pennies, obviously, but I’m thrilled at this first step and have what I hope is an attainable five-year plan to full-time authorship.
I look forward to following your journey and learning even more from you in 2017! Happy New Year!
Joanna Penn says
Congratulations on that $1000 – it truly is the beginning and if you keep on with your 5 year plan and consistently produce, you will be so far from where you were! I look back 5 years and it seems like a different life!
Valerie Leroyer says
Thanks again Joanna for your honesty, and your achievements are very encouraging for us, the beginners, very early in our writing journey. Wishing you and your husband a very happy, healthy and productive year 2017, with nice discoveries and little pleasures!
Iso Rivers says
This is so inspiring! Thank you Joanna. In September I started my author journey and set a goal to make $1000 a month by the end of the year. That ended up a little lofty as I have yet to publish and sell a single book. But I have lost 40 lbs this year and learned so much about the independent publishing world, marketing, writing, etc. The webinar yesterday will help me make more realistic goals this year!
Joanna Penn says
Losing 40lbs is impressive and shows you have the ability to stick with habits for the longer term – this will help a lot with your writing 🙂
Meg Cowley says
Jo, this blog post makes me grin. I am so happy for you!
2016 has been a great year for you in terms of health and meeting your long term goals – well done.
Even though you didn’t write quite as much as you have liked, and are still to perfect the balance with not overworking yourself (heck, aren’t we all chasing that balance!) you have instead laid a ton of groundwork in the business for future success that more books will only build upon.
You continue to be a shining beacon of encouragement and a fantastic success story to motivate us. I’m excited to see what your 2017 plans are…. Good luck (not that you need it) to you and Jonathan in 2017!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Meg – and I’m looking forward to what you create in 2017 as well!
Sukhi Jutla says
Thanks for sharing so honestly and for showing it IS possible to make a great life and living doing what you love! That chart had me jumping up and down! It’s incredible to see your growth (which is due to the non-stop continued effort and hard work you continue to put in daily).
This year, my greatest accomplishments:
1) Making a committed decision to become an author entrepreneur. I managed to leave the corporate day job which was scary to do but I want to write more than anything else.- i just had to plan for it and take the leap which i did!
2) Wrote the first draft of my book
3) Spent time on learning about how to become an author entrepreneur (attended various courses, bought your course (which is excellent) and of course, getting to meet you again!!
I’m so happy for your success and can’t wait to see what you create in 2017. You work so hard, have the right attitude and mindset, so the end result will take care of itself. Please do look after yourself though, you are the creator of all of this success so you need to make sure you take out time to rest and recover.
A million thanks you for being such an inspirational role model and author-hero! You are simply the best 🙂
Joanna Penn says
Thanks as ever for your support and enthusiasm, Sukhi. I have every confidence in you reaching your goals as I know how committed you are!
Susan Jennings says
Joanna, thank you for your honesty, it is so refreshing and inspiring. Your income graph was most interesting and encouraging. I sometimes wonder if you are so far ahead of me and so committed to new ventures I can’t keep up. But then I look at your early days andI’m back with you. Congatulations on your accomplishments – Amazing, truly amazing!
I spent the New Year weekend writing, in long hand with a fountain pen-I love writing with a real pen. First Iwrote journal style, a review of 2016. I have accomplished a great deal in writing, two novels, one novella for a total of about 300,000 words, not too bad for a year, although I can do more. I designed two tracking journals and I contributed two short stories for anthologies. I taught myself to upload to Amazon, Kindle Createspace, Ingram, Kobo and Smashwords. changed my website and a few other marketing things, completed Creative Freedom and a couple of other courses. I am patting myself on the back for these accomlishment. However all this said I have spent a great deal of money on editing, covers and assistance and made very little money. I am ashamed to say I added my sales up and made $1000 and I think I am being generous. I had not done a business plan or anykind of plan for 2016, absolutley flew by the seat of my pants and the results speak for themselves.
I wrote my business plan and I use the term loosley, in the same journal style and it really worked for me, I have an aversion to goal setting, don’t know why but it just is, however, writing my plan this way did bring out the goals and I now have specific goals for 2017.
Briefly: I have set an income goal from my books of $7,000 from books broken down between titles and e-books and print,I did the numbers. I sell more print than ebooks at the moment. I know this may seem low but I can see me reaching that goal any higher and it becomes out of reach, in my head,, except there is a little voice inside saying “you’ll do more than that.” So we’ll see. My journaling method led me to write how I would achieve this and I have to admit it gave me a great visual of where I will be this time next year. Just the fact that I spent time this weekend instead of sitting back and enjoying the holiday, i was anxious to get started.
If anyone else has difficulty setting goals try journalling.
A couple more things and then I’ll go away–I have difficulty protecting my time, one big goal for me is to limit interuptions and people who feel it’s okay to steal my time. And, learn not to fall apart when criticised my skin is getting thicker by the day. 😉
Wishing, Joanna and everyone in the group much success for 2017.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks for sharing, Susan – and I know it can feel like we are ‘behind’ in some way – but the race is only with ourselves and we all have different goals and needs and loves. So aim high, but also be gentle with yourself 🙂 Happy journaling and writing and creating in 2017 and I hope you hit all your goals.
PS. the pain of criticism may never entirely disappear but we just need to keep our eyes fixed on our goals and let the haters pass us by …
Bonnie Lacy says
Love your posts, Joanna! Thank you for sharing your life with us! Happy for you!
My goals are for this year publish book 3 in my series. Hit a snaffu. My main reader caught a chapter out of place in book 2, so I feel I must be honest with my readers: go back and edit and re-publish. A little disheartening, but I pushed it out too fast. I am still learning!
Next, write the rough draft for book 3, let it smolder for a month while I write a nonfiction in a “blog a book” style. Then, back to book 3, keeping it slow this time–not releasing until I’m truly happy with it! All a learning process!
Goal for 2017 is to have 12-15 total products out. Then I can start an income chart!
Joanna Penn says
“I am still learning!”
Absolutely 🙂 and newbie indie authors become experienced indie authors only by going through these mistakes – happy 2017!