Oh hello. Hey, this isn’t a post-mortem.
NOPE. It’s a post-mortem of…Faery Ink Press. For May 2019.
I want to use this first post to establish:
- Why I’ll be doing these reports
- My 2019 Goals
- The systems I use to achieve goals
Why I’m doing these reports
With the successful reception of my post-mortems, it’s clear that a LOT of other creatives are interested in how I go about my business. How do I write a book a year? How do I write a book AND do freelance work AND travel to conventions AND somehow have a life?
Hint: it’s hard, and I don’t balance all of the above very well.
In the past six months, a blurry feeling has become a solid truth within me: conventions aren’t the be-all, end-all.
Yes, they’re great for getting your art in front of people.
Yes, they’re great for actually chatting with your audience and watching their reactions to your product.
Yes, you can make money doing them.
But they’re only one branch of the tree.
I’ve spent the first half of this year doing a deep-dive into my business: reflecting on what works, what sells, where I want to be in 3-5 years, and how I feel as a person—a creative entrepreneur—in the midst of a competitive, often unforgiving landscape.
For a long time, I’ve known I’ve fallen short on a lot of aspects of my business, especially the online stuff. I’ve thrown around a lot of excuses: I don’t have time. I’m too busy. It’s fine, no one cares about that anyway.
Now, however, IS the time, when I turn my powerful focus to this neglected part of my business and make it strong. I have the tools. I have the knowledge. Some of what I need to do for myself, I’m already doing for clients.
The time for progress is now.
In a lot of ways, my website, my online presence—it’s like a convention that never ends. But it’s hard to show or convey online progress in a regular convention post-mortem. Just like I used my post-mortems to track my convention progress (and I still will!), I’ll be using these monthly reports as a point of reflection: what I’m creating or working on, goal progress, what is and isn’t working, experiments I’m running, and where I need to improve.
I personally enjoy reading income reports from bloggers, even if I have no idea who they are or interest in what they sell. I find the reports inspiring, no matter how much they make per month. A lot of them seem to stop the reports when they reach $40K-$100K per month—not because they have stopped learning, but because they no longer feel comfortable putting their finances online.
I don’t necessarily want to stop writing reports nor do I feel comfortable disclosing my income, so the reports won’t focus on money earned or spent. However, I intend to discuss increases and decreases over time, and that may involve revenue and expenses.
This is just as much for me as it is for you. Writing down the goings-on of the convention helped me see where I needed to improve. It’s going to do the same for my online presence.
Also, as always—I enjoy writing them. That’s always the #1 reason to do something.
Goals for 2019
Later this year I intend to do a lengthy write-up on my B-school experience, which helped me refine the goals I’ve listed here, but for now, here’s the plan, Stan.
My ambitious goal—the MAIN goal—is to double my book sales from 2018.
From 2017 to 2018, I managed to double book sales by eliminating small shows, releasing an anticipated book, and becoming more strategic with my bundle deals.
Main Goal: Earn double 2018 book sales in 2019
To make that happen, I have devised the following sub-goals categories, or action goals.
- Publish 2-3 books in 2019
- Reduce client workload
- Create and Implement Online Marketing and Sales Strategy
Obviously one doesn’t just publish two or three books without a plan! And “create a marketing strategy” is vague at best. That’s why each sub-goal serves the main goal and has an action plan – several tasks and sub-goals nested within. Activities like growing my email list, increasing my social media presence, developing a paid ad strategy, are part of my marketing and sales goals – and as you can imagine, “Increase email subscribers by 5,000 by December 2019” has to have its OWN plan!
By marking off tasks within each sub-goal, I make progress on the larger mother goal.
But it’s not enough to create the goals, you have to create strategies and plans to make them happen. You have to nest your goals, pyramid style, to ensure that everything you do serves your main purpose.
Do I think I can double my sales again in 2019? At the time of writing, it’s hard to say. Theoretically, it is possible. I have crunched the numbers, made some predictions, and wrote down some hopeful guesses.
Most of my book revenue is from convention sales. A small percentage is from website sales and eBook distribution (Amazon, Kobo, etc). My overarching goal is to increase website and eBook sales over the next several years while maintaining and pruning my convention schedule.
Here’s what stands in my way:
- Most of my revenue comes later in the year. September to November are my biggest revenue months historically. I usually have 2-3 shows in September and Christmas/holiday shows begin in late October, continuing through November.
- In 2019, I have four Christmas shows confirmed between November and December. That’s HUGE. One of them is the Butterdome Craft show in Edmonton, which I’m both terrified and excited for, as it is the mother of Christmas craft shows.
- I’m doing a minimum of two shows in September, one of which is Edmonton Expo, which is one of my top 5 shows.
- I’m sitting here in May, already discouraged about my goal—so I have to keep reminding myself that the money will come from the show I’ve booked, when it’s their time.
- Website sales can be unpredictable. For now, at least. Once I start enacting some of the strategies and projects on my list, I will have more data points and more failures to learn from.
- In 2018, I earned a small convention’s worth of sales from the website.
- This year, I’ve set a pretty high ideal goal (about 12% of my book sales). I don’t expect to reach it, but if I come anywhere near it, I’m going to be very happy.
- I’m only one person. I am not very good at delegating. That needs to change. I’ve gotten worse and worse at managing my projects (client and otherwise) because I try to do everything. I’ve come to accept that it’s in my interest to pay someone to help me with administrative and website tasks.
Related goal: Publish 2-3 Books in 2019
This is the first Faery Ink Press book that I’ve outlined from start to finish, before writing began. Gear and Sea had a detailed outline. The Emerald Cloth had a rough outline that held key plot points, world building, and ideas for character conversations. Prior to that, I only outlined difficult scenes where multiple plot points converged or I started outlining after I was halfway through the book. Meaning, I’d have a rough idea of the story and the characters, but not necessarily the nitty-gritty in how they were getting from point A to point B.
Now, I just have to sit down and start meeting my word count and chapter milestones.
Goal for the month of June: Have Darkness to the editor by the end of June.
The Midnight Tablet is mostly outlined—but I’m not happy with it.
Now that I’m more certain of where I’m going with the world as a whole (I want to do a sequel series at some point), I think I can bring everything to a close. It will be difficult, however, to do it in one book. The Violet Fox Series has always been easier to write than the Sparkstone Saga, but it also needs more time to cook in my brain. I’m not going to tackle it until I’ve got Darkness In Her Reach into production—then I can decide if I can bring this series to a close in one book, or if it needs two.
Related goal: Publish 2-3 books in 2019
There’s not much for me to report here at this point as my two books for 2019 are still in the writing phase. The book inventory numbers I’m keeping an eye on are The Silver Spear and The Emerald Cloth, as I’m down to my last couple of boxies for each title. I will have to reprint them within the next couple of months, certainly before September rolls around.
In terms of Wingtorn production, though, I need to follow-through and improve the production process itself.
Wingtorn – Weekly Content Strategy
Related goal: Online Marketing & Sales Strategy
Wingtorn is my weekly fantasy serial—it’s a continuous story I’m writing and releasing in podcast form. Each week is a new chapter. You might like it if you’re a fan of Once Upon a Time. There’s also Star Wars: A New Hope DNA in there too.
From a business perspective, this is part of a weekly content strategy I’m implementing. As it currently stands, I release one product a year. Even if I up that to two or three, that’s not a lot! I wanted to release shorter works my readers could consume each week in between full-sized novels.
In the month of April, I committed to the idea of weekly content, created the plan, and executed it. I released the first chapter around Calgary Expo (end of April). The only reason it happened at all was because of an intense, three-hour planning session I did at the beginning of April.
First, I asked myself, “If I were to do a serial, what would make it the best serial of all time?”
This was the best question I could ask because it temporarily freed me of responsibility and allowed me to be creative. I had tried serials in the past, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but I never felt good about them. Mostly because I didn’t care about the story as much as I could have, I didn’t outline anything, and because I had lofty expectations about their impact.
I had a list of wants: I wanted the serial to look professional, I wanted an audio version, and I wanted to experiment with video from a promotional angle. I wanted there to be music and potentially sound effects in the audio version. I wanted to be able to promote my titles within each chapter. And, most of all, I wanted to be excited about the story.
Now, I achieved a lot of what was on the list, but my biggest problem now is getting ahead of my weekly schedule. I don’t want to have to worry about getting content up every week. I need to work smarter than that.
One of the biggest problems in my business as it stands (besides Doing It All) is I suffer from a loss in productivity from task switching.
What is task switching?
Every time you stop working on something and start working on something else, there’s a mental shift, like changing gears in a car. Sometimes, it’s like slamming on the breaks after driving at 100km per hour. For two hours, I might be writing my book. Then, I’m interrupted, because I have a pressing web design deadline or there’s a client I have to attend to. Oh, and there’s that invoice I have to pay. Oh dang, an email just came in; I have to respond immediately.
Besides eliminating distractions, I really need to batch my content.
Batching, or mega-batching, is a concept I learned from Amy Porterfield and Michael Hyatt, online marketing and leadership experts respectively. Batching is a productivity system where you schedule and complete like tasks within one-time chunk. So, you take one afternoon or one day to only record podcasts—say, five episodes at once. Then another afternoon, you edit three podcasts.
So not only are you taking advantage of “getting in the zone”, you’re also creating a lot of content in one sitting, or making large strides on one area of a project—handy when you have a weekly release schedule.
This is a concept I’m going to attempt to implement going forward. The biggest problem with it is my client work doesn’t lend itself well to batching—I often have days where I have to drop everything and serve my client, and by the time I’m done that, half the day is gone! So really, my goal going forward is to be more intentional with not just scheduling time in my calendar, but choosing to keep the appointments I make with myself.
Website Traffic & Updates
Here’s the website traffic for May:
Total page views: 1,099
I want this to serve as a jumping-off point for my future reports. I have quite a bit of SEO going on (many, many years of having a website and posting content does that), so that accounts for some of the traffic. The two largest spikes in traffic were when I published my Calgary Post-Mortem and the Monday after Ottawa Comiccon. I guess people were looking me up! Sending out a regular newsletter attributed to some increase in traffic, but not as much as I was anticipating. I’m only doing biweekly broadcasts right now as I ease myself into that routine.
I unveiled a new website design in April and I’m still cleaning up some of the old design remnants and making tweaks to layout.
I don’t have specific website traffic goals right now. I think setting goals like “Increase traffic to 5,000 page views per month!” is counter-productive for me. As I get more granular with my online marketing and sales activities, like paid advertising and email list development, that number will increase naturally.
Increased traffic is helpful, but I don’t just want more traffic. I want quality, focused traffic that is interested in what I have to offer.
Complete list of content published on the website in May 2019:
- Wingtorn: Chapter 2
- Calgary Expo 2019 Post Mortem
- Wingtorn: Chapter 3
- Ottawa Comiccon 2019 Post Mortem
- Wingtorn: Chapter 4
- Wingtorn: Chapter 5
- Wingtorn: Chapter 6
Newsletter & Social Media
I sent two broadcasts to my newsletter list in May! I’m proud of myself for that, as previously, I’ve been extremely sporadic with email outreach. My goal is to get on a biweekly newsletter schedule and maybe upgrade to weekly, if I think the list can handle it.
I also laid the groundwork for some newsletter strategies I’ll be carrying out in June! I’m switching from Mailchimp to Convertkit, and I’ll talk a little bit more about what that means next month. Essentially, I’m levelling up my newsletter game.
For social media, I didn’t do anything special, though I did try to post more often than I had previously. I’ve had a mental block with social media for a long time. It’s not that I don’t know how to use it effectively. I just don’t love it. Yet it is a necessity for outreach in my business. I’m planning on posting a lot more in June – maybe that will help change my attitude about it!
What did I learn?
In my convention post-mortems, I end with, “Will I Go Back Next Year?” Here, it’s appropriate to reflect on the month as a whole.
The biggest lesson from this month is, if you plan it out and schedule it in, it’s more likely to happen. I’ve published six chapters of Wingtorn so far—that’s six weeks of straight posting! I’m not sure if I’ve done this much weekly content…ever.
In June, my focus will be on finishing Darkness In Her Reach, finishing my Convertkit migration and implementation, and rolling out my social media strategy. I also have the Winnipeg launch for Gear and Sea at FanQuest, so I’ll be travelling for the last week and a half of the month—so we’ll see how that plays in with my to-do list!
See you next month!
Will she be loyal to her people, or her heart?
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my young adult fantasy novel, The Violet Fox, draws from Cinderella at its core. The protagonist, Kiera, disguises herself as a noblewoman and infiltrates the castle to retrieve a stolen magical artefact...but ends up falling in love with the prince!
If you like, I can send you the first 3 chapters for free.