Special New Year’s episode! I intend to make this an annual episode, and I loved recording this because it made me sit and really think. In this episode, I go back over last year’s goals and whether I hit them or not. I talk about my goals for 2017 (big! awesome! also do less!), including some open, frank talk about financials. Enjoy!
Listen above or subscribe on:
Sign up for Rachael’s FREE weekly email in which she encourages you to do the thing you want most in the world. You’ll also get her Stop Stalling and Write PDF with helpful tips you can use now to get some writing done (free).
Transcript after the jump:
Welcome to How Do You Write. I’m your host, Rachael Herron. On this podcast, I talked to authors about how they write, what their process is, and how their lives fit together. I’ll keep each episode short so you can get back to writing.
Welcome to episode number 29, the first of 2017. And I’m super excited about this episode. There will be no interview in this episode. So if that is what you listen for, good on you. Love you for it. Go back and listen to some old ones. Wait for next week’s.
But, today, I’m just gonna be talking, not too long, but I do wanna go over last year, my first, not full year, as a fulltime writer, and my goals for this year, because I love January. I think it’s completely exciting that an arbitrary line in the sand means that we get to kind of think about everything anew. We get to take stock. I know that it is an arbitrary thing. This “calendarization,” as I like to call it, happens. None of this is really real. But it does give us time to stop and think.
So let’s stop and think for a minute.
And if you’re watching on Facebook or YouTube, you’ll notice that I chopped my hair quite a bit. I’ve got the long and short going on. I could do a little bit of flock of seagulls. I like to say this side…wait, this side is arty, and this side is party. So new year, new hair, new us.
Let’s talk about goals.
I wanna tell you a little bit about the goals I had for last year and then move into this next year.
Last year, I had one goal, one huge goal.
I had a bunch of big goals and one huge goal, which was to quit my job by July 1st. I was trying to get all the money in place, pay down debt, get some savings. And I was doing that. That was going great. We paid off the debts. We were saving money.
And then early in the year last year, a family member got sick.
And I realized, wow. I was holding on for a few more months of pay when I was going to jump ship in a few months. If I couldn’t make it in a few months, I wouldn’t be able to make it then. And so instead of gripping tightly and holding on, like a lot of sensible people would do, I jumped ship early. And I’m so glad that I did. I cannot think of something that’s ever scared me more, besides, obviously, you know, existential crisis and loss of loved ones.
But I can’t think of anything that scared me more than jumping ship from this job.
I am a super-responsible person. I have always worked for someone. I had always worked, actually, literally, for the man, either for the police department or the fire department, for my entire 17-year career. I always paid the bills. I got everything done. This seemed flighty. And this seemed risky.
And when I jumped, and the nets started to appear, because I was frantically knitting them myself, I felt really lucky.
I felt like it was a miracle. And I talked about this before. I felt like I didn’t deserve it, which is some crap. I do deserve it. I saw somebody on Twitter recently quote someone else. So I cannot attribute this. But, basically, the quote was something like “I am not the luckiest person in the world to have my dream job. I worked my ass off to get here,” which is exactly what I did.
So that was my big goal. And I did it. I quit. One of the best days of my life, even though I loved my job. Getting to do, full time, this job that I love so much more has been wonderful, absolutely wonderful. It’s been nine months of sheer bliss. And I can say that unequivocally, even though the bliss has been pocked with moments of fear, despair, anger, loss of courage. And, you know, 2016 sucked for a lot of people, including myself, and, more importantly, including people that I really love. And so I’m glad to see that year go. Although, it will always be the year that I went full time as a writer. So I will always be fond of it for that.
Other goals last year included…let’s see…I needed to write the second Songbird in the “Songbirds” series. That’s a romance. And, oh, I needed to write the third book in that. And I wanted to write the first two books in a new series also set in the same small town.
So last year, all I wrote were romances, which is fun and difficult, and I love it. But I did not write any women’s fiction or anything mainstream last year. So I’m missing that. I can feel that in myself.
Now we’re going to talk about things that I did that weren’t actually goals, because I didn’t know I had them as goals. I started two podcasts, this one and one which I could not continue with the time commitment with this, sadly. But I loved doing it. This podcast, I’m keeping and loving. And there might be another quick, short podcast that I might be on soon and able to announce pretty soon that’s gonna be fun and short, and I don’t have to manage a bit of it. So that’s great.
I started a writer’s group on Facebook. If you have not joined that yet, I would love you to. It’s called Onward, Writers!
You can request to be added. Please do. We’re having a good time talking about goals over there right now.
You should also be on that. I know I tell you that every week. But it’s because, every week, I send out an email that only the subscribers of that email list get. I ain’t selling you nothing. I am just talking about writing tips and thoughts that I’ve had over the years. So I’m really enjoying writing that. The response from you guys is huge and just does my heart so good. And I didn’t plan to do that when I quit. But I did it.
I started the Patreon.
And thank you to the new patrons I’ve got, I think, three new patrons this week. And thank you so much for supporting me over there. Patreon readers get essays that I’m writing on the creative life. And I write them about every two months or so. And you only tip the tip jar when the essays come out. But that was income that I hadn’t known I could have and that has been so helpful in making this adjustment. And, yeah, so Patreon is new.
I taught a whole lot more.
That was a goal. But I didn’t realize how much more teaching I would be doing. And I have loved it, not only on my online class on how to stop stalling and get your writing done, but I’ve taught a lot more in person, which I’ve fallen in love with. And I won’t say “all over again,” because when I was 20 years old, 27-year-old with an MFA, I hated teaching. I absolutely hated it. But that’s because I was teaching Intro English classes. Now, I get to teach the good stuff. I’m just teaching solid, creative writing. And I’m watching people blow up with their own creativity. And there is nothing more inspiring to me than that, literally.
I taught fiction this year. But the thing that I’ve talked about a lot recently and the thing that blew my mind was teaching memoir, which I think is going to be my favorite wheelhouse. I don’t even really know what a wheelhouse is, but I have a favorite one, because I know how to handle trauma from my day job and from self-defense courses that I’ve helped assist with and teach. And traumatic events are easy for me to handle and help other people handle.
But memoir in and of itself has to be constructed like a novel.
It’s not an autobiography. A memoir has a clear arc. You need to use storytelling. It’s something that I really love teaching. So that was something absolutely unexpected that 2016 gave me. I love teaching memoir. And, in fact, that is leading right into some goals for 2017, but not there yet.
Let’s see. Those were all my goals. Those were the things that I did last year. Huzzah!
And heading into 2017, last year I used an app called Trello, which I liked. It’s an online task management platform app or whatever you wanna call it. I know a lot of people use Asana. I have gone back to analog in terms of goal-setting, because all Trello was was a good place for me to set up things that I should’ve been seeing more often. I should’ve been looking at my year plans more often. I did that. I don’t know if I had…well, yeah, kind of did it wrong, because I built the Trello things and used them for two or three months and then never went back and look at them.
So this year, I actually am just gonna flash my Midori journal at you if you’re on the YouTube. If you’re not on the YouTube, it doesn’t matter. So I just kind of gridded off two pages in my journal. I made 12 boxes. I wrote the months down. And I listed the things I want to get done, because when I did that in Trello this last year, that was really helpful to list by months. I loved looking at what I wanted, what I planned to do in each month, and what actually happened, because life happens. But I’ll walk you through my writing goals for this year. And then we’ll talk a little bit about money, because everybody loves to talk about money.
So January, February, March, I’m planning on writing the thriller that I’ve been talking about. I’m also publishing the second Ballard Brothers. That comes out later in March…no, sorry, later in January, this month. In April and May, I’m writing a book on how to write memoir, because I can’t wait. I just have so much to say. And I’ve been collecting. And I might try to write a little bit earlier on this. Like, while I’m writing the thriller, I might work on the memoir book. But we’ll see how that goes.
I’ve also got the Venice trip. It’s a writers’ retreat in April. And also in April, I’m publishing “The Darling Songbirds 3.” That one is traditionally published in Australia and New Zealand and self-published everywhere else.
Let’s see June and July, I have slated to write the third “Ballard Brothers” romance and post that in September or October. That is straight-up self-pubbed. So that’s easy, I can actually look at that and plan that. The thriller, my agent is actually gonna take out and see if she can sell. But because it is a new genre for me, it’s actually best if I write the whole book basically on spec, and then she takes it out into the world. The hope is that they will look at that as a fresh property. They can’t compare my sales to anything else, thriller-wise. So I have to have a damn good book in hand. I can’t just sell this on submission.
So those are my writing plans. I also want to teach more. I’ve got a bunch more teaching gigs coming up. I want to put up some more online classes, because I really like doing those. I think those are fun. They just take a really long time to edit. And while I’m good at editing, I’m good enough at editing to do them, and I don’t wanna hire them out, because that would be really expensive. It’s just something I need to find time to do.
The writing retreats are a new part of my income that I’m bringing in.
So I’ve got the April trip to Venice, which is going to be amazing. And, basically, it’s paying for my time and for me to have a week in Venice afterward, just on a retreat by myself, writing alone and getting paid to do so. So that’s amazing. I cannot believe that that is happening. And it’s gonna be so fun. And I’m already working on a curriculum for that.
And at the end of the year, in October, I’m going to New York, upstate, to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival. So I’d like to build a writing retreat around that. I’m right now looking into retreat places, like hotels and inclusive spas and stuff in the Catskill area, in the Rhinebeck area. So if you know of any place that is good, that would be a good host for that, let me know. If you’d like to come in October, that’s not very far for a lot of you, drop me an email to get on the early notification list.
And what else am I working on? Oh, coaching writing clients is a new thing as of last year and this year. And I’m loving it. I’m absolutely loving it. Editing is a relatively new source of income. So these are things I’m gonna be working on.
Another thing I’m really gonna be working on in 2017 is this phrase that has been popping into my mind, which you aren’t gonna believe by the way I’m talking, but should I do less? Can I do less? I want to do as much as possible and then do a little bit less, because I do tend to go hard until my brain throws a migraine at me, and I go home and get into bed and stay there for two days. And that’s a stupid way to work. It really is. I do not like grinding my body down until it throws me off the horse. I like to mix all the metaphors as usual. So I’m gonna try to do less of things. I’m gonna try to rest more, do more yoga.
I’m currently on a crazy hard elimination diet for allergies, because I’m trying to eliminate more of the migraines and some scary allergic things I’ve been having happening. So I’m eating basically like a sick dog. Right now, I’m eating chicken and rice for about three weeks. So I’m exceedingly bored already. And it’s day two. I will try not to take that out on you.
Now, let’s talk about money.
And this is the point at which I don’t know if I’m going to depress you or inspire you. So if you don’t like horror movies, you might wanna look away, turn it off now. But I also really believe in transparency. I believe there’s not enough transparency out there in this business. There’s a lot of people that we listen to that “Oh my god! They make so much money.” Or we hear from our friends, “Okay, I made $7 last year.” And we don’t know quite where we will fit into that, that graph, that pie chart. So I’ll tell you where I fit.
Last year, 2016, I made $57,000.
Let us break that down. I have made a lot more other years, and I have made a lot less other years. So I wanted to break it down and tell you where that money came from. Fifteen thousand dollars of that $57,000 was from traditional publishing. That was a couple of new contracts. There was the release of a couple of books. I did have four books come out last year. I had one mainstream, two romances. Those three were all traditionally published by New York houses, although the romances are only traditionally published in Australia and new Zealand. So that’s what’s confusing about that. The mainstream novel was published all over the world by Penguin. So that was three books. And then the fourth book I published was completely self-published that it just…the first “Ballard Brothers” romance.
So I also broke down what I have for people who are new to listening to me in the United States. Let’s keep it at those numbers, because that’s where I make most of my money. It’s hard to say, that or in Australia.
But in the United States, I have seven books that are traditionally published by New York publishers, and I have nine self-published books. Some of those were contracted by Random House Australia, but I own the rights for the rest of the world. So seven traditionally published on the market right now, nine self-published.
Going back to numbers, from New York traditional publishing, I include the Australia traditional publishing in this, I made $15,000. In self-publishing, I made $25,000. This is pre-tax that I’m telling you. So that doesn’t really sound like that much. And, honestly, it’s not that much. I would like it to be more. Next year, my goal is to have it be more.
Then other places where I got money, formatting, I did some books formatting. I made about $500 doing that. And then I kind of slowed it down. It’s easy for me to do. I like making beautiful interiors of books. But it’s really not that fun. Fifty bucks a pop is not…it doesn’t feel worth it to me. Teaching, I made about $10,000. That was from Stanford, Berkeley, and from an online course that I have. So that’s where that money came from. I made about $2,000 from articles, writing articles for different magazines.
From Patreon, I wanted to mention this, I made $3,000. And I only just delivered three essays. When I joined Patreon, when people sign up to put money in the tip jar…thank you, those of you who do. It makes my life…I said that I would to publish essays…I think I said every four to eight weeks. And the patrons only get charged when an essay comes out. It’s not a per monthly thing. It’s just when they come out. It can’t be any less than four weeks apart, basically.
And last year, I only delivered four essays. The fourth essay is getting paid out in 2017, which is why it isn’t included in that $3,000. But I only delivered three essays. I started in February. I could’ve delivered 10. I left money on the table, because I was scared of writing them. People tipping me money makes me feel, and I think it’s right, that I owe them a real good essay. But I’m disappointed that I didn’t deliver them more often. They’re actually saying that they want to read them. I get emails from people who want to read them. And I’m not delivering. So that was something I screwed up on. I will do better at that this year. I’m really excited about writing these essays. I love writing them. They’re one of my favorite things to do. But I do take them so seriously. So I’m gonna try to take them as seriously but do them more often.
I also made a list of the ways that I make money. Everything else, that adds up to about $52,000, those things that I just told you about. The other 5,000 came from things like coaching, appearances, affiliate earnings. Let’s see if I’ve missed any other ways that I make money. I think that’s about it. The audio royalties I include in book publishing. That’s just in either the traditional publishing or the self-publishing.
So that’s what I made. I made $57,000.
I would like to…and I’m saying this here right now…I’d like to double that in 2017.
Wouldn’t that be cool? Doubling $57,000 to me sounds really hard. But doubling what I’m doing in all of those areas, that doesn’t sound hard. I can’t write anymore than four books this year. I don’t want to. I don’t think I should. So I won’t write more. But I will be continuing to expand the income streams from each book, make sure that there is an e-book, a print book, and an audio book. And then I’d collect into book bundles as well of each book. And that gives the different little bits of money coming from all the different income streams.
Oh, and I wanted to mention, for people who are curious as to what kind of following I have, I started something this year, which I think you should start.
A couple of things, you should go find Meighan O’Toole, if I haven’t said that before, M-E-I-G-H-A-N O’Toole and get on her email newsletter list. She provides the best content. I get so much out of her emails. And she really advocates for keeping track of all your social media numbers, which is something I wish that I had been doing for the last eight years. And I haven’t been. I’ve just kind of been juggling them in my head and knowing when my numbers get bigger or smaller. But I had no place to check on that. So I just started an Excel spreadsheet. And every month, on the 1st, I dump in all my social media numbers.
So the ones that are probably of most interest to you as a listener, I have 4,700 subscribers to my email newsletter list. And I have called those down into active subscribers. I did a big purge recently, people who were not clicking on anything, weren’t even opening the emails. So that’s 4,700 good subscribers. I have 3,800 followers on Facebook, on both my author and my personal profile totaled, and 4,000 on Twitter. I don’t think you sell that many books on Facebook or Twitter. But the email list, that’s what I’m proud of. That’s really help to me with my sales, because they’re on it because they wanna read me.
So, as an author, if you’re just getting started, don’t worry about any of this.
But when you do go live, have your email newsletter in place.
It’s the most important thing you have after you have a book. If you have a book, have an email list. If you don’t have a book yet, write the book. You can’t do anything with any of this until you have a product to sell. After you have a product to sell, you sell another product. And when I’m talking here, I realize that I’m talking strictly about self-publishing, because that is what a lot of people are doing right now and a lot of people are interested in. But all of this applies directly to traditional publishing if you want to go that route too.
You can hear all this, absorb it, drive in your car, think about your life as a fulltime author. But while that feels good, carve out the time to do your writing, to send those query letters, to look up the agents that you want to work with that you think might be a good fit with you. Don’t forget to do the work.
So I want you to do some goal-setting too, even if it’s just as simple as 12 Post-its, one piece of paper marked into 12 lines.
Fill in each month what your goal is. It’s so easy to say, “Well, I’d like to revise my novel by fall.” But what does that look like in concrete details? If you’d like to revise your novel by fall, what is fall? Are you going by October 1st? Great. That’s 10 months from now. How many words are you going to revise per month? Is it 100,000-word book? You have to revise 10,000 words a month, or you will not meet your goal. And I know that you want to meet your goal. You…if you’re not already a writer….you want to be a writer. If you are already a published author, you know that you wanna get more books out there. So make those goals.
This year, let’s try to hit ’em. Let’s talk about ’em. Email me, join the Facebook group. Tell us what they are concretely, none of this “I wanna write my first book.” That’s too big, too hard. How about your first chapter? How about your first five chapters? How about the last six chapters? You get where I’m going with this, right?
This is long enough for me to babble in your ear. I appreciate the time that you spend with me. The podcast has been one of the best things I’ve done all year. I love it. I love being here with you. I love hearing from you. I love your tweets, your emails. Please keep those coming. If you’re a patron, please know how much I value you. And I plan on getting you more awesome essays and being less scared. That is a big goal of mine. But I wanna write a lot. I want to be healthy. And I think everything else follows from that, right?
So for 2017, I wish you many words, much revision, and all the fun and happiness we can pack into those two things. Happy New Year! See you next week.
Thanks so much for joining me on this episode of How Do You Write. You can reach me on Twitter, RachaelHerron, or at my website rachaelherron.com. You can also support me on Patreon and get essays on living your creative life for as little as a buck an essay at patreon.com/rachael, spelled R-A-C-H-A-E-L. And do sign up for my free weekly newsletter of encouragement to writers at rachaelherron.com/write. Now, go to your desk and create your own process. Get to writing, my friends.
- end transcript
Encouragement, once a week. Free.
Do this for yourself, for the writer you want to be.