So let’s get this out of the way first: 2020. Crikey bananas, what a year. I went into it full of optimism, but after March, things took a decided turn for the worst. But for all the terrible things around the world, business-wise at least, 2020 was my best year yet. I know. I’m not going to dwell on the pandemic, divisive politics and racism: 2020 had them all. This blog entry is going to see how 2020 was for me professionally. Did I hit my goals? Did I publish books? Did I survive? If you want to know the sticky details, read on…
Twelve months ago, my goals were as follows:
1 – Write a schedule.
How did I do? I succeeded. I rejigged as the year progressed, but I stuck to it 80% of the time. Win.
2 – Write four books.
How did I do? Mission complete! Before You Say I Do was a runaway success in 2020, easily outselling any book I’ve previously released despite being out for just nine months. It stuck at the US number one spot in lesbian romance for six weeks, scored Kindle Monthly Deals across the globe and garnered praise far and wide. I’m still bowled over and thrilled by its reception. I also penned a second co-write, One Golden Summer, with my friend TB Markinson. Plus, I brought out a well overdue festive romance, Christmas In Mistletoe. The fourth novel, Hot London Nights, was written in 2020, but will be released in 2021. At the start of the year, I wasn’t sure I would be able to write through a pandemic, and was worried I might get ill. As it turned out, work and routine kept me sane. Win.
3 – Invest in my backlist.
How did I do? I re-covered and reformatted my entire All I Want series, something that had been on my list for ages. It almost made me prematurely grey, but I did it. Big tick! I also boxed up my London Romance series into three boxsets and put them for sale across all platforms. Plus, I launched Love Happens Here, a series starter & short story boxset. All in all, as a publisher, I had a good year. Pat on the back for me. Win.
4 – Sink into story
How did I do? This one involved me doing courses, and going to the cinema and theatre more, as well as gigs. 2020 put paid to that. However, I have been watching more films during the pandemic. I also bought a story course, but have yet to do it. It’s going on my calendar for January. Not a win, not a fail.
5 – Invest in audiobooks
How did I do? Tick! A Taste Of Love, Made In London, Before You Say I Do and One Golden Summer were all released in audio in 2020. Two I commissioned narrators to do myself, two I sold to audio publishers. They’re all out there getting some love. Win.
6 – Re-learn advertising
How did I do? Three years this has been on my to-do list. In January, I took an Amazon ads class, then promptly failed to do anything with the new information I gained. Three years I have solidly failed to do it. I need to put it on my calendar as an item this year, or take it off completely. Ads and me are not friends. Question is, can we ever be? Or are they the person who loves parsley three ways and has to pile it on every single meal, and therefore I will never have anything in common with? I fear it could be the later. Fail.
7 – Plan time off
How did I do? Unlike many in 2020, I got to sit by a pool for a week in Mallorca in February. Never before has an early holiday been so cherished! I also slotted in a week-long writing retreat by the sea in January. All my other holiday plans went up in smoke, but my wife and I did still head to Devon in October, which was much needed. I took two weeks off over Christmas, but spent it at home. Here’s hoping time away will be a thing again later in the year. Win.
8 – Do some translations
How did I do? I signed four translation contracts in 2020, so go me! Three into German (Before You Say I Do, Nothing To Lose and A Taste Of Love); and Before You Say I Do into Portuguese. In November, my first German translation was launched: Bevor Du Sagst “Ich Will”. I was honestly giddy with excitement. It was a real, champagne-cork-popping highlight of the year. Definite win.
9 – Look after my body better
How did I do? My personal training and gym regime came to a grinding halt in 2020 when everything shut down. However, I invested in physio all year, got myself a proper chair, screen and ergonomic set-up and carried on exercising at home throughout the pandemic. I know looking after my body is good for my mental and physical health, and it was always top of my priorities. Win.
10 – Be kinder to myself
How did I do? Being kind to myself in 2020 wasn’t easy, and like most people, I could have done better. However, in not cutting myself much slack, I also kept myself super-busy and unable to dwell on the world falling apart. Swings and roundabouts! I showed kindness by moving the publication date of Hot London Nights to February. Well done me. I’m loathe to say it’s a fail as that’s not very kind, is it? Part-win.
Seven out of my original ten goals achieved. In a fucking pandemic year. I mean, that’s not bad. Almost good, I’d dare to say. However, one other thing I did in 2020 was to keep a track of my achievements. All those little things that need to get done, but you might forget to congratulate yourself. So, along with everything listed above, here’s a few other milestones I achieved in the 12 long months of 2020.
-Held the first Lesbians Who Write Meet-Up event in March, which was a great afternoon in a central London pub just before lockdown. I also attended the Self Publishing Formula conference, my lone publishing event of the year. I really missed conferences and author events the rest of the year, and hope to do some online events in 2021. I did manage two author events in November.
-Kept producing our weekly podcast, Lesbians Who Write with my friend and co-host TB Markinson throughout the year, which was no mean feat. Also continued with my monthly podcast, The Lesbian Book Club.
-Put my books for sale on Ylva Publishing’s website, widening my publishing reach. They’ve been available on Bella Books for a few years, as well as all the key sellers including Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Google and Barnes and Noble.
-Developed an unhealthy but delicious obsession with Iceland teacakes. One pound for four. Suffocate them in butter and eat with a strong coffee. Not many greater pleasures in life.
-Pushed my web shop as a venue for direct sales, growing its exposure with a half-price Easter sale and a couple of flash sales throughout the year, as well as selling all my new releases direct. It’s been a big success, and my web shop is now my third best platform for book sales, after Kindle and Apple.
-Signed up to the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. I also signed up to the Public Lending Rights so my books are now registered for library payments. This year I really did become a grown-up publisher. Hark at me.
–Wrote a lockdown novella, Try Me Again, that wasn’t on my list at the start of the year. I decided to put it free across all platforms. It’s now been downloaded thousands of times. I’m really quite pleased.
-Emailed my readers every other week with news, views, reviews and all manner of babble. It was a regular lifeline in an ever-changing world. I love chatting to you, and I hope the feeling’s mutual.
-Celebrated both my parents’ 87th birthdays. Having missed mother’s and father’s day due to the pandemic, it was good to spend their special days with them.
–Completed my first two Chirp audiobook deals with You’re My Kind and London, Actually. Both were big successes across all platforms away from Audible/Amazon/iTunes.
All of that meant…
-My income went up from 2019, my previous best year. Not at all what I anticipated when the pandemic hit, but something I’m very thankful for because who knows what this year might bring?
-Print sales boomed in lockdown as people got tired of staring at screens. It proved true for me – my print sales almost doubled in 2020.
-My ebook sales & borrows went up, too, while audiobook sales stayed consistent – no great change.
Suffice it to say, creatively, it was a hugely satisfying year, with my break-out book Before You Say I Do leading the charge. Things seemed to click as my backlist played a central part, and more readers found me than ever before. I can’t overstate it enough, but I really am so very grateful.
I also think having a lot on my plate saved me in 2020, too. I had no time to worry, mope and get down about what was going on around me. I had my wobbles like everyone else, but every time I did, I refocused because I knew I had deadlines to hit and books to get out. The outside world was out of my control. What was in my control was my job. Work was my saviour last year.
For 2021, I want to give back more, make sure I’m in tip-top shape physically and mentally, build in more downtime and write more great books. I’ll be doing my goals for 2021 next week. Stay tuned!