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Wrapping up the year, business edition

Good morning; It’s Dec 30. Before you get distracted by New Year’s Eve preparations, please remember to pull out all your record-keeping files and folders, and create duplicates for 2019 – this way it’s easy, as the new year rings in, to start your recordkeeping on the correct foot even as you wrap up the last paperwork for 2018. This will also give you a little breathing room to consider if you want to change your record keeping, as well as split or combine any categories / files / folders to better reflect changes in your business over the last year (and anticipated changes coming up.)

Today is a great day to get caught up on your book keeping. This not only lets you start the new year fresh,  this is an excellent time to start pulling your preliminary numbers together for taxes, and for the fourth quarter tax payment due Jan 15, so it’s easy to get that out before it sneaks up on you. If you have your year-end files organized, then when you get the last round of December numbers, 1098’s, 1099’s, or other tax documents, it’ll be a whole lot easier to update and send the lot to the accountant than to try to pull it out of the messy pile of unfiled Nov – Feb records and receipts. (Don’t ask me how I know!)

As you look over your records, this is a great time to start pulling down numbers for the year, to give you a big picture. How many books did you publish in the year? How many copies sold, at what price points? How many manhours did you spend producing each book, as well as calendar time? How much did you spend on advertising, cover art, or any other expenses? If you know where you’ve been over the year, it’s a lot easier to plan where you want to go. If you realize there are gaps in your knowledge from things that you’re now going “I have no clue!”, this is a great time to set up a tracking system or objective for 2019.

Also, as you want to desperately find something, anything to do to avoid the paperwork, this is a good time to visit each of your books online, and check out the page on the vendor site and the look inside. Are your dead tree and ebook editions still linked? Are your reviews still there? (Vendor mistakes can and do happen. When is the last time you checked to make sure everything is still available for the customer to buy?) Is the cover still signaling the right genre, or does it look like it’s time to change it to match genre trends? Is the blurb still awesome, or with all the practice reading and writing blurbs, are you thinking you can do better? Is the price still in the sweet spot for the genre, or did you want to try any changes? Does the formatting still look good on the look inside?

…No, don’t hare off into spending the rest of your day looking for stock photos and leave the filing undone! Make a note of anything you want to change, and add that into your schedule!

Now, check your website and/or any social media pages you have. Does anything need updated? (Are your latest books available? Do your links to vendor pages still work? If you got an Amazon Associate’s account, are all of your links using it? Are there any sites you’ve been neglecting that you want to close, or to use more often? Make your notes and add them to your 2019 plans.

As you plan for next year’s expenditures, realize that many freelancers (and other businesses) use the new year as a time to change their pricing, so make a note to check with your cover artists, illustrators, formatter, etc. on their 2019 pricing. If you also offer services, as some of our artists/authors do, you may want to revisit your own pricing in lieu of the increases in skills and ability, and the decrease in available time, the past year has brought.

And this brings us to our final step for the next two days: planning next year, and writing down both your dreams and goals. The difference between dreams and goals is that goals are in your power to achieve, and dreams are not. You are in charge of whether or not you write 4 books (or 6, or 12, or 1) next year. You cannot, on the other hand, actually force your sales numbers to reach certain levels (unless you go out and stick a gun to the head of people and force them to buy your book. I really don’t recommend that approach!) Businesses, unfortunately, have to treat income as an expectation, so set those numbers anyway – and then keep in mind what you’ll need to do if you fall short, or if you wildly exceed (including upping your quarterly payment to the IRS!).

As for goals – the more specific you make them, the easier they are to see if you’re on track to hit. “I want to write more” is really, really vague. “I want to write four books next year” is a lot better. “I want to finish this trilogy by March, Put out a stand-alone fantasy I’ve been mulling over by June, Put another one in this series out by September, and another out in that series by December” is far better yet! That allows you to see if you’re on track, to know when to start scheduling your busy cover artist, budget for your copyeditor, and those other things we have to do to actually make this work like a hobby, not a business.

What did I miss? What else are you going to do?

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and successful 2019 for us all!

8 Comments
  1. 23 skidoo

    December 30, 2018
  2. One thing I’m going to do is take a hard look at what sells and what does not, in terms of my writing strengths. Since I will have less time and energy to write during the first half of the year, I need to focus more tightly on where I’m best (muse permitting) as well as what readers like the best.

    December 30, 2018
  3. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    So a dream would be finding someone to apprentice to for the next stage of the career, with the subsequent career objectives being likewise dreams.

    A goal would be looking for that someone to apprentice to.

    December 30, 2018
    • Dorothy Grant #

      Exactly. You can control how you define the next stage of your career, and then identify what you think you need to get from here to there, and then identify who can help you with which aspects, and how you’re going to contact them / what you’ll ask them to help you with.

      You can’t control, say, making Jim Butcher decide he wants to mentor you to be a better author. But you can decide that you want to improve your dialogue, and then make a goal to contact a list of authors saying “I want to improve my dialogue, and you’re awesome at that. Would you please take a look at this sample of my work, and suggest how to change it, or what resources you’d suggest I look at?”

      Maybe you get Jim Butcher, maybe you don’t – but in the asking for something discrete and specific, the fifteen people you contact can decide how much time that’ll take and if they have it available to spare, and you may get two or three answering back “I don’t have the time, but check out the following list of resources / do the following things to get better” or “Here’s a marked-up version, with suggestions.”

      Wash, rinse, repeat, and you’ll build a relationship (or multiple ones) that become mentoring and apprenticeship.

      (For things that still have a formal apprenticeship, it’s a little easier: You can identify places you’d like to work, so you can apprentice under specific people, and then go ask those people to hire you with the specific goal of apprenticing to them, and learning from them. Maybe they hire you, maybe they don’t, but usually in the process you can find out how you’d be more valuable to them, so they’ll hire you later.)

      December 30, 2018
  4. Mary #

    I think I’m sticking to month by month for next year, too. Maybe yearly after that.

    December 30, 2018
  5. Did you mean “work like a business, not a hobby?”

    December 31, 2018
    • Exactly! And making sure I get copyediting is of those differences between my blog posts and my books…

      January 2, 2019
  6. Stanley Miller #

    Look at your series books on Amazon and make sure each of them has a series page and each book’s page contains a link to it. Make sure the Kindle end-of-book page has a link to the next in the series too. Why send a reader away when you have more to sell them?

    Book with series (left side below the blurb) link: https://smile.amazon.com/Pride-Damned-Cochranes-Company-Book-ebook/dp/B07FBZLH2T/ref=sr_1_3

    Series: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FDSCGGC/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

    For me having the book’s placeor # in the series shown is a nice plus, in the title also makes it nice when binge reading a series and reading order isn’t obvious.

    January 1, 2019

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