Upon reflection, 2023 will be the year I’d like to forget. Many people thought that about 2020, but it’s been 2023 for me. The year started with great intention, with lots of attainable goals — at least that’s what I thought. But everything that could have hurled at it, was, and flung with velocity!
Someone said to me—jokingly, thank god — that the universe throws you only what it knows you can handle. Laughing, they added: ‘Just to see how strong you really are.’
Well, I already knew how strong I was. I didn’t need the universe throwing MORE at me, thanks very much.
We are now in December, and I can finally say adios to The Year of Setbacks, set good intentions for next year, and emit as many good vibes as I can in order for that to happen.
But before I get to next year’s goals (and all those good intentions), let’s do a little reflection on the year that I would like to call a complete shit show. I guess it wasn’t all bad…
When I started out this year, my goals for the year were straightforward. I had three very clear goals:
> Increase newsletter subscribers to 1000. — WIN
> Sell 1000 books by the end of the year. — FAIL*
Geezus, that looks bleak, doesn’t it? Let’s see how I did.
Publish one book:
The intention was: Publish one book, THE HOUSESITTER. Draft next book, FINDING THE WAY. And continue posting online for the DIARY OF AN AUTHOR.
Here is the reality check for 2023:
It was definitely The Year of Setbacks, mostly for writing/publishing.
I worked on THE HOUSESITTER and FINDING THE WAY, but neither novel was published. But I did publish a small non-fiction book titled: HOUSESITTING: A Beginner’s Guide.
Circumstances impeded writing, or they interfered with my concentration on the storylines.
I wrote the initial draft of THE HOUSESITTER in 2022, during NaNoWriMo. The book poured out of me during that month, at least the vomitus first draft did. It still needed a lot of work, so I continued working on it for a little while during December. I then took a bit of time off, then began again in January.
But by mid-January, my focus turned almost full-time to the Tassie Indie Author Book Fair, as one of two organisers for the May event. In February, I headed to Melbourne for a week to attend The Australian Friends of the Camino Conference.
It was immediately after the AFOTC conference in February when the setbacks began.
I won’t go into the details, as I have already written about that first event in this post: “They Said It was Menopause. It wasn’t.”
After July, I was working on THE HOUSESITTER off and on through the rest of the year. Not being able to be vertical for months on end set me back a LOT. So what’s happened since then? Why, you may ask, isn’t the book done yet?
Well, that’s where things pivoted. Things we didn’t see coming. (Not that I saw the emergency surgery coming!)
First, we’ve been dealing with construction next door for the last seven months. I wrote an extensive post about that as well. It’s quite the saga. But the short story there is the construction occurs from 7am—4pm every weekday, and by the time I have the mental capacity to write in silence, I’m too wiped by the noise impact (think jackhammers and diggers ten feet from the window, for days on end).
In late November, I planned to do a (travelling) self-writing retreat after the Camino Celebracion weekend (an event I heard about at the Camino Conference in February). Unfortunately, it was at the Celebracion weekend I contracted COVID for the first time. Having COVID meant significant fatigue and, adding in driving 1000km over a week (600 miles) on my own, didn’t allow for a lot of writing time. Especially when I was asleep by 8pm every night.
But the silver lining in contracting COVID while on the mainland meant that I caught it while away from my immune-compromised husband. In mid-December, I was returning home to my husband, who would be receiving treatment for an issue we thought had been dealt with two years ago.
Not all was lost! I published a Non-Fiction book: HOUSESITTING: A Beginner’s Guide.
This guide provides the basics of housesitting, from how to apply, to what questions to ask, its advantages and disadvantages, as well as links to recommended housesitting sites – and more! If you are looking to begin your journey into the world of housesitting, this resource is perfect for you!
I published a lot more blog posts than I intended.
At the beginning of this year, I set out to publish a post every other month. Sin doing so, I would publish six blog posts for the year. Robust ones, but I had only six planned.
Instead, I’ve published fifty-one blog posts, including several posts under the umbrella of two new series I began this year: Interview of an Author and Interview of a (Camino) Pilgrim. Both series seem to be a hit, which I’m glad to see, as I’m really enjoying doing them.
But these fifty-one posts aren’t the only posts I’ve published!
So, the year wasn’t a complete bust with writing. I kept my business running, write a LOT of blog posts, and published a non-fiction book. Outside of that, though, not much creativity was happening.
Increase newsletter subscribers to 1000. – WIN
I spent a lot of time focused on my subscribers this year.
I worked not only on increasing the number of subscribers in a more organic way, but also communicating with those subscribers in a more authentic way. I hate reading emails that are just a clear sales pitch. When I get an email from an author, or someone I’ve given my email address to, I want to be sure what I’m receiving in return is worthwhile. I’m one of those people that if I’m not getting what I want from those emails, or at least being educated or entertained by them, I’ll unsubscribe. No hesitation. Life is too short to have an inbox full of crap.
And rather than just landing anyone through false promos, I was picky about what promos I signed up for. I thought specifically about the reader I wanted to attract to my email list, then went out and found them. I began the year at 557 subscribers. At the time of writing this (mid-December), I am around 1580 subscribers. That’s just to my email list. That doesn’t include social media followers. Remember – my goal was to increase the subscribers to 1000. I accomplished that goal. It’s not a huge list, but everyone on that list wants to be on that list. And, at the end of each year, anyone who hasn’t opened one email from me in that entire year is culled from the list. So, around January 1st, I’ll drop some people from the list, but I’ll still begin the year over that 1000 goal.
I focused on engagement.
The social metrics around engagement are interesting too. Because while I don’t have huge numbers, they hold steady and increase gradually. Sure, I’ve had a LOT of bots follow me and it’s almost a full-time job turning down Keanu Reeves, not to mention the doctors who love Jesus, and the military guys who are just looking for love. But with those deleted and blocked, there are a solid number of people who follow, like, share and comment and I LOVE the community I’m building. Especially given people are still hanging on, even though I haven’t published a novel this year. That’s incredible to me.
I LOVE the emails I receive from you.
Emails from people who’ve read my books and want to tell me how much they loved them, how touched they were, asking when the audio versions will be here, where they can buy directly etc… but also their stories. I just love them all! I have a few emails saved. Those are the ones I pull out, now and again, just to remind myself that the writing process is worthwhile, especially when the words just aren’t quite flowing.
So, if you want to know if I read your emails, trust me, I do, and I try to respond to every one of them, too.
This year, I made some changes with my subscriptions.
After reviewing my paid subscriptions with Patreon, I switched over to Substack. I appreciate what Patreon has done for early adopters, but I found Patreon to be clunky. Despite it being an app for creatives to connect with their people, I found it restrictive. I found Substack to be more intuitive and easier to share, build, etc.
Not all of my Patreon subscribers followed me, but I’m happy that I have a small audience that’s slowly building. Sometimes I share the posts I publish on Substack, but not always. On Substack, I share thoughts and ideas that I can relate to as a 50+ year old woman. Things like menopause, relating to my twenty-something daughter, life as an author, observations, etc. But the thing I post only to Substack is my DIARY OF AN AUTHOR series.
DIARY OF AN AUTHOR is something I’ve been publishing for two years now. I may stop after this year. There’s so much I’ve revealed there, it’s like a crazy rollercoaster. Funnily enough, it’s been suggested I publish the series as a book. I never thought of that before, but yes, it’s something I’m considering.
I like Substack. I’m just not sure if I’m using it in the most effective way. It’s on my list for next year to dig into.
3. Sell 1000 books by the end of the year. FAIL
I have a caveat to this goal. When I set this goal, I intended to have one new novel published this year. Because of the Year of Setbacks, that didn’t happen. If I had published THE HOUSESITTER as planned, I would have easily met this goal.
Still, I’m happy with how I did, considering the lack of publication. Keep in mind, I published my last book in July 2022. Turns out, I wasn’t that far off my goal, as it stands mid-December. I sold over 700 books this year.
But… I could have sold more books. Some events I attended proved worthwhile. But I also put a lot of money into advertising this year. I have one more push with advertising, post-Christmas, as I do every year, but unless there is some viral post, or some magical list one of my books appears on, I am sure I will still fall short of the 1000 number.
The piece I’m excited to know about this year is the number of library-borrows – and to see if I will finally be paid on them.
My books have had waits on the library ‘holds’ for months in Tasmania, thanks for my dynamically, brilliant librarian. For that reason, it’s possible I may get paid on these through the Australian Public Lending Scheme. I don’t get paid on all international library borrows. I do for U.S. borrows if the library purchases through Hoopla. But I am hoping to see a payment come through for my Australian loans next year.
What else did I focus on this year?
Refining budget/expenses. WIN
This is an ongoing project. I went into the year with the intention of what I wanted to spend money on. Education had to be free, but if I found something that ticked multiple boxes, I would consider purchasing it. For example, INKERSCON was one such investment. I learned a great deal with that conference, and I will continue learning since there’s so much information there (so much so, it can be overwhelming.) My subscriber automation is one such class I took. My retention rate is high as a result. The emails I receive from new subscribers are also high – which I love. Overall, whatever I spend money on has to advance my knowledge, rather than placate or confirm my knowledge.
Moving forward, I’m going to continue refining the budget and identifying the necessary expenses.
I won’t stay with programs out of loyalty if they aren’t advancing my knowledge or network. I will make sure the tools I’m investing in allow me to streamline my process or enhance my writing process.
Looking at my overall expenses for 2023, I can probably pare it down by about $1200.
The expenses, including website hosting, domain registration, business registration, advertising, postage, etc… those are all necessary. Those I would need to keep. (Advertising, of course, I would have a close eye on). But there are expenses, like event paraphernalia, event registrations, office supplies, I could eliminate next year.
I doubled my income this year. WIN
I attended more events to increase book sales.
Some events were better than others. I found that any which were Camino focused did well – those readers are loyal to the community, and I have a book they love, set in a place they all adore.
But I also became more involved in some Facebook groups focused on women, and in doing so, increased sales.
Interviews and podcasts.
One trend that was clear was I saw sales increase directly after a podcast interview or shares by those I interviewed on my “Interview of an author/pilgrim” series. Most notably by Sue Swain and Carolyn Gillespie post their interviews. Sales increased after these two women shared their interviews.
I love telling my story to people, but I also love sharing other people’s inspirational stories!
And what I’m learning is, community (and subsequent sales) has everything to do with the power of sharing!
Advertising helped increase the income.
I spent a lot of money on advertising this year, but I was more targeted with that advertising.
Whenever I put ads in place, I saw a direct result in sales. Amazon ads went flat. Facebook ads, where I showed my face with the book specifically, did well. It was all a matter of trying to keep the advertising budget under control. That’s where I failed. I didn’t keep a tight enough reign on it.
So, what are my goals for next year?
I’m still defining those goals. All I know at this point is there will be a huge focus on content next year.
I will publish THE HOUSESITTER in the first half of next year. I’m committed to that.
I have FINDING THE WAY half written and, after my third Camino wander in April next year, I will have additional research to insert into the book afterwards. My goal is to get FINDING THE WAY published at the end of the year, but I’ll have to see how I go, post walk. I’m planning on taking three months to immerse myself in the walking endeavour, whether it’s all in Spain, or adding another shorter walk at the end. I’m not sure yet.
My “Write Your Camino Story” workshop in at the Camino Celebracion event in the Blue Mountains (Nov 2023) was a success, so I’d like to offer that elsewhere next year. I’ve been toying with other workshop ideas as well, so stay tuned for that.
Engagement with my subscribers will still be a huge focus next year. That’s the key to everything I do.
YOU are why I’m here, so I want to make sure everything I do brings you enjoyment, education and/or contentment.