2016.
2016.

Need I say more? I know many indie authors and creatives in general who are looking at the New Year with emotions ranging from trepidation to outright anxiety. No matter what your situation is now or what looms ahead, just remember this: you can only control you. As Chuck Wendig advised, write despite.

Focus on the things in your control — whatever else is going to happen will happen, whether you worry and let it affect your writing or not.

2016 quick recap

From the outside looking in, 2016 would appear to be a step backward. I haven’t published a book since July (Golden Mane) and my only other two titles were the Swords for Hire Anthology (which I edited and published through Undaunted, but only wrote a single, 12k short for) and Into Exile, a 35k novella I wrote and largely revised at the end of 2015 then published this March. That being said, I took a step back from hectic production in past years to hone the non-writing stuff like pre-production outlining, research and planning, book packaging, my overall author strategy and trajectory.

luke balance

Basically, this was the year I slogged through the swamps of Dagobah, doing flips and pull-ups, the muse manifest on my back in the form of a creepy little green dude. I’ve got a game plan and I’m ready to take names in 2017. If you’d like to follow the journey, I’ll be recording the Bestseller Quest here on the Everyday Author in written and possibly audio and video form.

2016 by the numbers

  • Estimated rough draft words (for books only): 100,000+
  • Words published: 105,000+
  • Words revised: 175,000+
  • Books published: 3

What went well

Mailing list growth

This could also be filed under delegation because the biggest thing I did was hand over the reins to Author Platform Rocket. I have nothing but good things to say — my mailing list has more than doubled and I’m getting almost 50% open rates on my emails. I didn’t stay on the Instafreebie train for long, but I also found results there and know many authors who swear by it.

Miracle Morning for Writers

I’ve only been doing it for a month, but it’s still one of the most important changes I made this year. I’m soooo much more productive. Read the book and follow its advice, people. It’s a game-changer.

Co-authoring

I took a swing at this with Golden Mane. Overall, it was a great experience ( I think my partner in crime, Joseph Medina would agree as well). Although it’s not something I’m ready to do on every book I write, I’ll definitely be collaboration on more books in the future.

Anthologies

Although it didn’t get much fanfare, releasing the Swords for Hire Anthology was an amazing experience. I’ve spent the last three months gearing up for our next one, the Lone Wolf Anthology, coming January 2017. Yet another great way to collaborate with other authors.

Permafree book

Into Exile is my best-written book to date…and I haven’t made a cent in sales from it. The verdict is still out over the value of permafree titles, but I welcome any way people can get into my funnel, even if some of them never turn into true fans or buying readers. Exposure is the name of the game!

Smarter Artist Summit

I can’t say enough good things about this event. The #1 best thing I did for my career in 2016. Cannot wait for the 2017 Summit in April. There’s nothing else like it, folks.

Balance

I’m getting regular exercise, clipping on with my author business and also seeing success with some other side hustles. There’s a LOT on my plate, but I’ve finally settled into a groove (knock on wood).

Book Review 22

I’m very proud of this service. We’ve delivered tons of great results for authors. I’ll be the first to admit we can do better, though. We’re constantly monitoring the numbers and tweaking things. One of my goals in the next two years is to make BR 22 one of the premiere author services out there.

Delegation

As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, you can either spend time or money. We’ve established a top-rate team for Book Review 22 and have also assembled a number of professional editors and designers to work with through Undaunted. I hope to continue growing the crew in 2017. Cutting out tasks has helped me focus on what I do best and I’m starting to see major headway in all my pursuits because of it. 80/20, 80/20…

What didn’t go well

Golden Mane: The collaboration end was great, but Golden Mane as a write to market project failed. We failed to find our audience, but the people who did read it thought it was awesome. Unfortunately, they were few and far between. It didn’t help that I fizzled out around the launch and ensuing promoting, either. If I had hustled harder, I think we could have made a serious splash with this title.

The Swords for Hire launch and promotions: Another case of publishing a book and then basically doing nothing around the launch. I plan to solve part of this problem in the future by not immediately jumping into the next writing project after hitting publish. Building a backlist is great, but consistently missing launch opportunities is killing my business growth

Sales: I’ve seen a small trickling increase on sales, part of which is from being all over the board in 2016. I think ongoing sales will be determined in part by bigger, better launches (see above).

Reader quality: I mentioned mailing list growth as a positive, but I’m having a hard time getting my list to take basic actions like leave reviews, engage with my emails, etc. I recognize part of this is a numbers game, but I feel I do quite a bit of giving and relatively small amounts of asking, so when I do make an ask, I’d like to see a few more readers return the favor.

Predictions

Audiobooks will continue to grow in popularity and become a larger income staple for authors.

Along with podcasts going mainstream and the audio-only version of Facebook Live coming next year, I expect audiobooks to take another leap forward. Average people just don’t have/make the time to sit down and read anymore and audio is easy to consume on the go. The cost of production will be a barrier for many authors, but those who bite the bullet will be glad they did a couple years down the line.

Foreign sales will become a larger income staple for authors.

And already are for authors like Joanna Penn. The ebook market in India is primed for an explosion and the German market is only a few years behind the U.S. in terms of size and growth. Like audiobooks, translations and foreign marketing will be a barrier to entry for many, but those authors who hop on board in the next couple of years can establish themselves early on with massive numbers of readers.

Authors writing shorter books on a faster production schedule will see increased success.

Say what you want, I think shorter books will become more popular across all genres (this is coming from someone who reads and writes fantasy, too). Aside from uber readers, people prefer content they can consume in smaller slots of time. There’s something about reading on a digital device that makes long books feel like they drag out — it’s just a different user experience. Reading time now competes with thousands of other entertainment options and people want to burn through their to-read piles without setting aside 2+ hours every day. I see trends shifting to shorter, punchier books in the 20-50k range that allow people to do what I’ve just described. (Speaking of 20to50k, if you don’t believe me, check out the success Michael Anderle has had with this model). Authors benefit because shorter books make the entire publishing process is quicker, meaning they can build up a backlist faster.

$4.99 will be the new $2.99.

In fact, I’d argue it already is. Indies are realizing they don’t have/want to charge $2.99 or less to sell books. As traditional publishing lowers prices of ebooks into the $5-9 range, indies who make their books look just like they belong in the big league will be able to charge these prices too. There will always be freebie seekers and bargain hunters, but building a career solely on these types of readers isn’t feasible.

Traditional publishing will reclaim more of the ebook market share.

According to the latest Author Earnings from October, they’re well on their way. (look up and verify) Scoff if you want, but I believe the big war machine is slowly churning to catch up with the times, as evidenced by the number of traditionally published books in Bookbub and the lower ebook prices of traditional titles. This doesn’t mean indies won’t be able to make a living, but the bottom-end authors will have to up their game. We also have the advantage of being infinitely more adaptable and savvy indies will always be at the forefront of publishing. Improving quality across the board is good in the long run. too.

The 2017 Smarter Artist Summit will establish itself as THE indie author conference to attend.

This isn’t just lip service. If you know anyone who attended the 2016 Summit, you’ve probably listened to them gush about it for past 9 months. In ten years, this could be the indie publishing version of Sundance.

Authors in KU will still be able to make loads of $$$.

I’m going to try very hard not to go on a rant here, but here’s how I see it: 1. You’re potentially missing out on a ton of money by not being in KU. 2. Ride the wave while it’s hot and save your money for when the so-called Amazon apocalypse comes. Don’t let fear be the reason you go wide. Strike while the iron is hot and get yours! 3. Saying that you distribute wide because you don’t want to rely on one income source is a little (cross this out) ridiculous. The book industry is one income source. Outlets are not industries. If book sales tank, they will across the board, not just for Amazon. I’m willing to bet if Amazon stops selling books for some reason, we’ll all have bigger worries, like World War III.

Amazon ads will be the new Facebook ads.

Meaning DROVES of authors will jump on them as a way to make money, most will waste their money and time and a few, savvy advertisers will make bank because they put in the time to learn the system. Amazon ads have the added advantage of being able to generate a positive ROI on individual titles, something that Facebook has been pretty awful for.

BONUS predictions that will most definitely come true:

Dave Wright moves to Austin and the Self-Publishing Podcast/ Smarter Artist community rejoices. Then he’ll promptly skip town to Alaska without telling anyone and break all the hearts.

Chris Fox begins experiments to assimilate his consciousness with AI. By 2020, his goals will switch from writing million-dollar books to world domination. As a side note, this will also be the year Platt/Truant announce their presidential campaign for 2024.

Joanna Penn is hired by Oculus Rift as a virtual storyteller. She then gets sucked into the Rift (was Chris Fox to blame?) and writes a bestselling Lit RPG book based on her experiences once she returns to reality.

New father Bryan Cohen sleeps through at least one Sell More Books Show episode then cancels the show due to broken heart when… Jim Kukral goes MIA in February and resurfaces in December as the Head of Publishing for Google Play, immediately declaring war on Kindle Direct Publishing.

Kevin Tumlinson becomes the first person to cross the Atlantic in an RV. He tragically strikes an iceberg on the return voyage but lives long enough to publish his memoir: Pants on the Ground.