Upward trends, hard work, and big dreams for 2016

Hi, everybody!

After a 20-hour trip and an 8-hour “nap”, I’m finally home. I was going to finish a draft post about Vietnam, but it’s just not happening. Maybe I’m simply not cut out to be a travel writer. I do have some interesting stuff in the draft, so I will finish it eventually, just not now.

Instead of uploading photos, I’m inspired to reflect on the year that just ended and maybe to daydream a bit about the year that just started. One of my favorite things to do, especially when I’m feeling a bit down, is to think where I was a decade or a year ago, and then project a trend a year or a decade into the future. It’s fun, because the trend is persistently upward, even with a few bumps along the road (if running away from an abusive ex-husband can be called a “bump”, that is). It kinda helps to start from a low base, say being born in a third-world country. Everything seems better and brighter since I’d managed to sneak out from under the Iron Curtain…

So, instead of uploading more photos, I found myself thinking where I was a year ago in the writing/publishing journey, and where I may be at the end of 2016, if everything goes according to the plan. I was actually surprised at the difference – it helps to look up from the grinding stone every now and then and get some perspective.

In terms of writing, at this time last year all I had was a final draft of Shizzle, Inc – with just one structural edit, done mostly out of desperation for someone to tell me it’s not a complete waste of time. Today, I am 20K words into a sequel, and at the end of the next year I plan to have two sequels polished and published.

In terms of publishing, last year I was persistently, some may even say obsessively, sending out query letters in hopes of getting a traditional publishing contract and then methodically crossing out those that bothered to send me a rejection letter. I gave up on that in May last year and have since self-published Shizzle, Inc in paperback and e-format. I take it for granted now, but a year ago I did not know anything about the self-publishing option. Over this coming year, I hope to create so much buzz for my three books that agents will be fighting over me. In fact, I will not deviate from the self-publishing route unless I’m offered enough to quit or put on hold my regular job. Can it be done in a year? There’s only one way to find out!

What about social media? Twelve months ago I already had a year-old Twitter account, which I’d started without any plan. I was happy to just post jokes and loved the fact that my three thousand or so followers retweeted them. Today I am much more strategic, and (after lots and lots of daily grind) have 36,000 followers on Twitter. Hey, quite a few of them have actually bought my book! My spreadsheet tells me that I will have over 100,000 followers by next Christmas, and my spreadsheets never lie.

And those are very active followers, too! I couldn’t post a graph for the entire year, but here are the last 3 months of “impressions” – crazy numbers! The light gray columns at the bottom are the number of tweets – you can see that as I fell off the radar in December, so did my stats.

TA trend

Not only that, the blog stats say that 1,710 visits to this blog last year came from Twitter, so it has helped me grow the blog following as well.

Speaking of the blog, it is bursting with activity now, but would you believe that it was dead in the water last year?

Blog stats 2015

Almost 30K views! That’s more than 3000% increase in visitation in just one year! It was a lot of work – as you may know, I post at least 2-3 times a week, answer all comments, comment on other people’s blogs, etc. I don’t think I could (and frankly, shouldn’t) invest more time next year, but let’s just see what happens :-).

Ah, but what about sales? And reviews? Well, of course, a year ago there were no sales, as the dream of publishing seemed to be out of reach. Again, I can only post the last 90 days of sales, which are all over the place due to the various promotions I’d run:

sales over 90 days

I’ve learned a lot about sales and promotions, and I hope you have too, if you’ve been following my testing of promo sites, complete with posting live stats on Twitter. I have even bigger plans for the next year, as my first 50 paperbacks have arrived from the US, and I plan to take them to stores and radio stations in hopes of getting some exposure. I’ve tried emailing those same stores and radio stations, to no avail, so it’s time to just show up and win them over in person.

I hope you stick with me, and I would also like to pass a message to the free cover contest participants that currently have only few votes – get to work! Writing a great blurb (or a great book) is only half of the job. Unfortunately, you have to market your work, so that people find out that it exists, and hopefully like and buy it. View this contest as a practice in both aspects of self publishing: first you had to write the best possible blurb, now you have to get as many people as you can to vote for you. Use this as an “excuse” to grow your social media, to try every possible marketing gimmick to get people to vote for you. Your reward will be a free design and a confidence that you will be able to do the same when it comes to marketing the actual book.

Ok, that was it for the “Deep Thoughts with Ana Spoke”. Thank you all for my best year yet, and look forward to sharing 2016 with you!

82 Comments

Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

82 responses to “Upward trends, hard work, and big dreams for 2016

  1. Wow–the upward trend of those figures is fantastic! I, too, have recently discovered that the writing bit is only half the battle. Here’s to a successful 2016!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Congratulations on a fantastic year! (And on pulling yourself out of a dangerous, soul-sucking situation.) Clearly your hard work paid off and will continue to do so throughout 2016. Here’s to a wonderful year ahead! I for one, will be following… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A great year indeed. Looking forward to the next. Happy 2016.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m stunned by your dedication. Hope it all goes great in 2016.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Having such a positive outlook, I don’t see how you can possible fail. Let it grow, let it grow…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Kudos, Ana. Thank you for sharing what you have learned with everyone and best wishes for your continued success.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Excellent work Ana. Out of interest, how did you go about increasing the Twitter following? I’m only just starting out on there myself really, so any sites or posts you can point me to would be most useful.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I admire your positive attitude, Ana. It is also a great inspiration to me, having only just self-published my novel and being an obsessive watcher of my sales graphs! At the moment, it’s equal pegging between the kindle and paperback editions, which has really surprised me as I thought the kindle one would win hands down. Having said that, it’s not enough sales and I think maybe I need to look more closely at the keywords I’ve chosen — even the categories, as it’s a bit of a hybrid novel which makes it that much harder to market. At least yours fits into an easily identifiable market.
    Wishing you the greatest success for 2016.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Sarah! Funny enough, the one time I managed to get an agent interested, the reason they did not proceed was because the novel was unusual and they did not know where to fit/sell it!

      I’m so glad to hear that your paperback is selling! I’ve inly sold 1 paperback copy! I did just get a shipment of paperbacks, and a major bookstore agreed to sell them on consignment, so we will see what happens 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m just trying to decide if it’s cost effective to ship some copies to the UK for selling in a bookstore. How many copies were in your shipment?
        Re people buying paperback editions of our books – my theory is that you have to target the older age groups with these, as a lot of them wouldn’t dream of reading on a kindle.
        I often wonder how many wonderful and original novels never saw the light of day before self-publishing became respectable! My very first ever agent rejection said “I applaud your imagination but this is too original for a debut novel!” Let’s hope she wasn’t right, as that’s the one I’ve chosen to publish first out of the five I’ve written. Am still submitting No. 5 novel to agents as it just about squeezes into the category of dystopian speculative fiction. It’s also very controversial and I’m a bit nervous about publishing it without an editor’s okay.

        Liked by 2 people

      • “Too original”?? Unbelievable…that’s what the public wants, something new, enough vampire love stories already!

        In Australian dollars, it cost about $8 per book altogether, and such books retail for about $20. I’m going to 2 bookstores in a few hours, will update on the meetings, and of course on whether I get any sales.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Best of luck with your meetings. Am interested to know how much of cut the bookstores will take of that $12 profit.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Will update soon – it will be on the shelf today in one of the stores! I’ve set the price at 14.27 AUD, and they put 40% markup, so I get a nice $6 per book!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That sounds like a good deal. Now fingers crossed for lots of sales.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sold a copy at a writers group yesterday! Will do a workshop in a month on how I’ve done it, hope for more sales then.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Now that’s an idea. There are 4 large writers groups in my town. Hopefully the person who bought that copy from you, will spread the word about how funny and eccentric it is. I got some annoyed looks from other passengers on a train journey for laughing, thanks to Isa Maxwell! I’m in England, for goodness sake. Nobody of my age does that sort of thing on public transport 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Omg, that’s amazing, thank you for telling me, Sarah!

        Fingers crossed – this group plans to advertise the workshop with several others, that will be an amazing way to build a local network

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Well done! You’ve already put in a full year of hard graft, I’d like to think it all goes your way from here on in!

    Particularly well done on leaving the bump behind- that takes more guts than we can possibly know.

    To 2016!! 🍸🍸

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Nia! I left the bump eight years ago, what I’ve done over the last year would not have been possible when I was that different person, scared and insecure. I’m so excited about the year ahead, and especially about the five months of full-time writing!

      Like

  10. Great motivational blog post. I’ve enjoyed watching your journey. May it continue to improve this year. And good move on the ‘bump’. Don’t need that holding you back.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Isabella! The “bump” was almost a decade ago, I’m a completely different person now. It’s probably partly responsible for the way I think now – anything is possible. And thank you for always being there for me in the bloggiverse and Twitter!

      Like

  11. Raney Simmon

    Happy 2016! Hope it goes as well for you this year. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you that was inspiring my novel has been out a month. I had no twitter account or marketing plan and my blog was two months old. It’s so great to hear that hard graft has paid off for you and has reenergised my flagging morale. A very Happy New Year…sock it to them! SAM.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Fabulous strategy! And huge congratulations, and respect, for doing so much already. Tenacity is essential for becoming a successful writer, so I hear; sounds like you have this in abundance.
    I found an agent last year, and then froze. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why. I’d spent 6 months querying literary agents, and had expected to wait years before anyone contacted me. It happened fast, and the shock stunned me. Reading your post has reminded me I need to get my shit together and deliver the goods!
    Best of luck with your writing. Sounds like you have the right attitude to reach your destination. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jessalyn Cockrell

    It’s really inspiring to see how much everything has grown for you in such a short time! Thanks for sharing, it makes all my goals feel more possible. Have a blessed and super fabulous year!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thanks for sharing the look back and progress over a year. It’s really inspirational to those of us a year (or two) behind you to see what can be achieved when you work really hard at it. Best of luck in 2016!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. This is amazing. Good work! I hope you rewarded yourself in some way. It gives me hope for me. At the start of this year, I am much where you were last year. Thanks for being inspirational!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Sharon! I’m glad to see you’re using social media to get the votes you want – hope this contest inspires you to grow your base and go after what you want 🙂

      My huge reward will be the 5 months off office work, dedicated to writing. Looking at what I managed to accomplish part-time inspires me to give this a go full time, even if temporarily.

      Like

  17. Congratulations. Hard work does pay off. Gives me hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Wonderful post. I, too, am focusing on my blog in particular, and writing in general this year. I was very happy with my numbers after my first year blogging, but look for a bigger response this year. And while I hope that my readers find my posts interesting, evocative and at times just humorous, I need to be more consistent.
    Your blog is helping me remember that! And due to my efforts of shameless self-promoting, I am hoping that you can visit my blog at http://www.saneteachers.com Happy and Healthy 2016 to you and your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I’ve worked in Marketing for more than 25 years, mostly for publishers, and I’m really enjoying reading about the process of self publishing. I’ve learned a lot from your posts!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Peter! I’ve had no prior experience, so some of my methods may be Maverick bordering on silly, but I’m having so much fun with this all! If you have any advice for me, I would greatly appreciate it 🙂

      Like

      • You’re coming up with more creative things than I can think of myself, so I’m learning from you!

        Check out Dylan Hearn’s blog, he is another self published author.
        authordylanhearn.wordpress.com .

        Liked by 2 people

  20. Great post! I saw you followed my blog and decided to check out yours, I must say I am impressed. I am just starting out with my writing career and have a dismal following, but after reading this it gives me hope. It just goes to show that hard work truly pays off. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Those are some huge numbers!! 2015 was a fantastic year full of lots of milestones. I hope 2016 can be even better 🙂 I always enjoy your posts and can’t wait to see what happens!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I’ve only recently started following your blog and I just wanted to say “thanks for letting us share your journey”.
    I’m planning to self-publish a book this year, something I hadn’t even thought about until about 2 weeks ago, and it’s really interesting to read about your experiences.
    I hope this year will have good things in store for you!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. A travel book about Vietnam? That is difficult. The War destroyed much of Hue, a religious and ancient capital. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) is a nineteenth century metropolis. Hanoi was always there, but I don’t know how much it is a civic and cultural center.
    How do you write about a place time forgot? It is a beautiful country. Can you draw and illustrate because everyone recognized it was a wonderful place to visit.
    I read an old venerated history, DG Hall(?), and Vietnam seemed a land everyone forgot until the French moved in.
    I wish you well with that writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. This is brilliant Ana! congrats on 2015 and I’m sure with your drive and talent 2016 will be even better. It’s really encouraging and inspiring:))

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Good work, really impressive. Thanks for the inspiration

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Nice work! I, too, am experimenting with different methods of marketing (mostly which sites gain most sales for best dollar). It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this new year! Good luck with yours 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Thank you so much for laying out your journey so thoroughly! It’s super helpful. And it’s amazing what you’ve accomplished. I’ve finished a novel and am in the early stages of agent research. I’m just starting to be more public with letting the world know about my publications and Twitter and such. I do have a blog, karenhugg.com, and would love to hear feedback if you have any.

    You would make Gary Vaynerchuck proud, Ana! Keep going, good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Ana, you INSPIRE me! I just love how honest and open you are about everything that you do, and your passion and dedication really shine through. I honestly believe that at the end of it all, you will be an incredibly successful author, because you put in so much love and energy into what you do. I purchased your book on Amazon for Kindle! It only cost me .99 cents, and I felt bad paying so little, but I did by accident by it twice, however that is still so little! I must add, though, that as a college student, it was the perfect price for me 🙂 I look forward to reading it.

    I have 65 followers and I tweet silly jokes and opinions! If I had 3,000 or, even crazier, 36,000 (!!) I would feel like I had made it!! How do you amass so much followers? Any tips and advice?

    Best of luck to you!

    Indira

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s awesome, thank you, Indira – would love to hear what you think!

      As far as followers, the key word is “social” – think of it as a dance. Don’t wait be a wallflower, ask them to dance first. Follow and retweet, it’s irresistible – they will most likely follow you back 🙂

      Like

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