Reflections: 2022 was the Year of Learning!
2022 has been an interesting year for me. Things haven’t gone quite to plan with releasing new books, but that actually turned out to be a good thing. I’ve learned a lot this year about my business and my writing process.
In fact, that could well be the understatement of the year.
When I started out this year, my goals for the year were relatively straightforward:
- Be more engaged with my readers through social media and my newsletter.
- Diary of an Author. Create and publish consistently.
- Be interviewed on three podcasts.
- Double my (interested) subscribers for my newsletter.
- Add Camino Wandered into Camino Wandering as the epilogue and republish.
- Write and publish The Decisions We Make.
- Sell two short stories to online publications.
- Spend no more than $2500 on advertising.
- Double the number of books sold.
- Expand into new markets.
- Review tools – eliminate what’s not working.
- Review processes – where am I spending my time, and what’s most effective?
- Review and revise my websites to be more user-friendly.
So let me share how I did this year, with those goals in mind.
When I think of my favourite writers, like Colleen Hoover and Nora Roberts (writing as J.D. Robb), I think about how connected they are to their readers. Some authors aren’t as open to sharing their lives as I tend to be, and that’s fine. But I do think, as an indie author, you kind of have to be.
I’ll be honest with you. Going into the year, I wasn’t eager to spend a lot of time on social media, especially since there were so many outlets to post on. Between Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, Medium, Patreon,…. The idea of posting becomes too overwhelming, even if you do ‘repurpose’ content. I wanted to ensure my time was spent wisely. And I wanted that time to be engaging, not just posting for the sake of posting (quality over quantity).
I first asked myself whether I enjoyed being on whatever platform I was assessing, because it’s pretty obvious when someone is on a platform simply to sell books. Then I looked at what I was posting. Was it entertaining, educational, or enlightening to my readers?
Then I dug deeper and realised I was posting not to my ‘ideal reader’ but trying to satisfy a broader community. I needed to look at where my actual readers were. And they weren’t on TikTok!
What I determined was I didn’t know who you were, or what you liked. I was just throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping something stuck (translation: that what I was posting resonated with you). So, I sat with that for a while, then went through a process of questions to understand you more clearly. Granted, I didn’t post a questionnaire – and I may do that next year – but for now, I thought about who engages with my posts, who I think about when I’m writing, and why I’m thinking about them. Then I thought about what television shows you might like. What your guilty reading pleasures might be. What genres you like to read. What social media platforms you spent time on. Stuff like that.
Holy Toledo Batman – it was enlightening!
Not only did I come away with a clear sense of who you were – my ideal reader – but I also realised I was hiding from revealing who I was. And what I was sharing with you!
All of this helped me understand what I was putting into my newsletters. Since I publish a newsletter only once a month, the newsletters are pretty robust. I want to ensure they are providing those three things I mentioned above: “entertainment, education, and/or enlightenment.”
I also asked my subscribers in July whether they would like more frequent emails (with the information split) and overwhelmingly (78%) said keep them as is. So robust they remain.
I set out to double the subscribers to my newsletter, but I was challenged with how to do this. Because I didn’t want just any subscribers. I was looking for my people. My readers. And that’s not a simple thing to do as an author.
I’m happy to say that through perseverance and focus, the number of subscribers has not just doubled, but tripled! The engagement remains the same, which is the part I’m most happy with!
Diary of an Author:
Speaking of entertainment, education, and/or enlightenment, I began a new endeavour this year. I began posting every three days or so, in a journal post format, to shed some light on the self-publishing author world. I offered this only to my newsletter subscribers, to give them something extra.
Since I’m not getting a lot of engagement with it, which I’d hoped I would, I may not continue it past December 31st. But it’s been an interesting journey. Maybe I’ll convert it into a book, using some of the journal entries as prompts.
I’m going to spend time in January (2023) reviewing the posts to see what I can learn.
Now, this was interesting. This was the area where I took my scariest leap. Speaking publicly, even if I know the content extremely well, is a frightening endeavour for me. And you can tell. You can even watch the flaming red rash that crawls from my chest to my face every time I speak publicly. Add in my voice cracking? Yeah, it’s embarrassing.
But I knew that to expand my readership, I had to follow this path. So, I reached out to three podcasters who talk about the Camino de Santiago, because I figured Camino Wandering would be the best book to talk about since it’s my best seller.
I interviewed with two podcasters: Leigh Brennan from The Camino Café and Dan Mullins from My Camino. My Podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed these interviews. The one with Leigh was done late in the evening for me, and I was rather tired after writing that day. Afterward, I lay awake all night thinking what a train wreck it was. But, when I finally listened to it, it turned out to be a fun, engaging conversation. The conversation with Dan was fabulous too. He asked some amazing questions that really kept me on my toes!
I had another podcast scheduled with a Camino podcaster in the U.S. Unfortunately, life impeded it from happening–for both of us. I hope to do this podcast at later date.
I had a few goals. Some were easier to aim for than others.
The first was to add the short story epilogue, ‘Camino Wandered’ into Camino Wandering as the epilogue, then republish it as a second edition. (If you bought Camino Wandering before April 2022, and would like to read the epilogue, click here.) While I had some hiccups, they weren’t huge, so encompassing the epilogue into the second edition was a fairly smooth endeavour overall.
The Decisions We Make
Publishing the second edition of Camino Wandering coincided with finishing writing, editing, and proofing the next book in the Life Upended series, The Decisions We Make. While I had hoped to publish this book in May, the date was pushed back while I took some time off because of a death in my family.
By August, The Decisions We Make was out into the world. Woohoo!
Finding The Way
I went into the year with a quiet goal of publishing the third book in the Life Upended series, Finding The Way.
The novel is still not fully drafted as I finish out the year. The main character in Finding The Way deals with the memories of a challenging upbringing. Problem was, I was dealing with memories of my own challenging upbringing, and the combination was just a little too intense for me to move forward. Eventually, I lost the joy of writing because the book became a slog. The main character wanted to reveal all in the first half of the book (a big no no), and I was unsuccessful in controlling her! I needed to put the genie back in the bottle and deal with my own emotional intensity before picking it back up again.
I changed my focus for NaNoWriMo. I went into October thinking I would work on Finding The Way during NaNoWriMo, the annual 50k word writing challenge. But, I had signed up earlier in the year to be a Municipal Liaison (ML) for NaNoWriMo for my region of Tasmania. Turned out, there were only two of us taking on the role, which meant a lot more responsibility to bear than it had been in previous years. (Little did I know how much it would end up being!) To further complicate things, I helped my daughter move to a new city on the mainland in early November, so my time was limited.
So, I decided to work on something new for NaNoWriMo. I’ve had a storyline niggling in my head for a while. One that has been inspired by my own house-sitting experiences. (I was a housesitter for three years, staying in some amazing places, looking after gorgeous animals … but that’s where the comparison ends between my experience and this book.)
Once I began writing – this time without a detailed outline – the story poured out of me. I was excited by what was happening, but never did I think I’d finish the challenge and make it to the 50k goal. And yet, I did! I found the joy of writing again, which made me extremely happy (and relieved)!
So now The Housesitter, my next suspense/thriller, is now three quarters drafted. If you’re still reading, you’ll note that writing another book was not a goal for this year! Yay me!
Between writing two half novels (Finding the Way and The Housesitter), being an NaNoWriMo ML, and a death in my family, the two short stories I’d planned to write were… not. Oh well.
Now we come to my least favourite subject. As much as I want to make a profit and have a sustainable income, this was a year of learning, not earning.
Advertising budget – BLOWN!
$2500 on advertising? Yeah, no. In hindsight, it was an unrealistic goal.
This year, I knew I wanted to apply for a Bookbub deal, which I did in June (and was accepted on the first try, which is rare apparently). I chose ‘International Markets’ mainly because it was $400 rather than more than double that amount if I wanted to focus only on the U.S. market. While choosing the U.S. may have resulted in better results, word on the street is that Bookbub deals may not reap the rewards they once did, no matter what market you choose. So, for that, I’m relieved to have saved some money. I did make a small profit from deal, but what was more valuable was the fact that it opened my eyes to other markets.
We also contracted a third-party company to help us with Amazon Ads. We trialled them for two months, but it was a bust. We learned quickly that we were doing better on our own, and we had deeper insight into what was going on.
Over the last year, we’ve far exceeded our budget of $2500.
At the end of 2022, we have determined that this is the year of learning with advertising. But learning can be an expensive endeavour.
The good news is, after two years of being an author, I feel like we’re finally getting a hold on the business side of things. We’ve learned a lot about Amazon and Facebook marketing in particular. And that has been a key factor in the sale of my books.
Double the number of books sold
If I take into consideration that I published an extra book this year, it’s easy to say I increased the number of books sold. But that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to double the number of books sold. I didn’t reach that goal. I sold 50% more.
What skews the number slightly is that Beneath the Surface was in Kindle Unlimited for several months during the year. KU is based on page reads, not on books sold. We pulled Beneath the Surface out of KU in July after limited success.
Now you’ll notice I haven’t set a goal of earning $x amount per year.
That’s because at this stage of my writing career, it’s unrealistic. If I were to put a number on it, I’d aim toward the average income that Australian authors were surveyed to make in 2022. Which, just to give you some context, is half the MINIMUM wage in Australia. Then I’d aim for minimum wage. 😉
Expand into new markets
I was excited to see what other markets my books might do well in. I focused on four markets: U.S., U.K., Australia and India.
As long as I’m running Amazon ads and engaging in Camino Facebook groups in the U.S., Camino Wandering sales are consistent.
Doing the Bookbub Ad in international markets helped a great deal with expanding into other markets, since it targets the U.K., Australia, Canada, and India.
I received mixed messages about selling online into India, but I tried it, nonetheless. While the impressions were very high, sales were non-existent. If you’re in the Google Play marketplace, it’s reported you’ll have better luck. But my books have never done well on Google Play.
I moved my attention over to U.K., and at home in Australia. In the latter half of 2022, I can confidently say the U.K. is my most successful market.
Overall, it’s been an enlightening year.
I’ve learned a great deal about my writing process, my business practices, but overall, what’s most important to me: Time spent well.
I look forward to continually learning more next year, and I’ll keep sharing as I go!
If you’ve like to read my reflections on last year (2021), check out my post here:
December 26, 2022 @ 11:24 am
I love how frank and open you are about your process as an author. Thanks for sharing!
December 26, 2022 @ 5:06 pm
Glad you like it!