A Look Back At 2017

S. J. Pajonas December 29, 2017
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Hoo boy. Looking back at this year, I’m surprised I survived. The dumpster fire that is our country tried really hard to suck me in and distract me. There were many days when I spent hours on Facebook, scrolling and hoping for good news, and then the day was over and I had done nothing. John Scalzi wrote a great post about how hard it is to stay creative in desperate times (and here at the LA Times) and it really resonated with me this year. It was hard to stay focused, and oftentimes, I could not.

Still, it was a fun and fruitful year, and lots of my goals became clarified by September. I started out the year strong with lots of walking and writing. We went to Disneyworld as a family in the summer and had the best time. And I enjoyed the fall in my wonderful park. I made a lot of decisions about the course of my career to come and kept the boat afloat through some hard times. All in all, I think I did rather well!

Let’s take a look at what I managed to do…

2015 was “The Year I Say No,” 2016 was “The Year I Give No Fucks,” and 2017 was supposed to be “The Year I Have Fun.”

Did I have fun this year with my career? No. Not always. I struggled a lot with my path on this author journey. I listened to too many people who gave me the wrong advice. I let other people tell me that my advice was worthless because I wasn’t successful. I had doubts. A lot of them. It wasn’t fun at all. I remember walking home one day from dropping the kids at school and thinking, “This is not ‘having fun,’ is it, Stephanie?”

It was then that I decided to do something about it. I left the majority of the Facebook author groups I belonged to, places that didn’t add anything positive to my life. I actually started my own author group on FB and filled it with people I love, which helped me have more fun. It wasn’t much longer before many of the author groups on FB either imploded or folded, so I feel like I did the right thing there.

I decided to get rid of things that did me no good, like my traditional newsletter. Now, I blog and my subscribers get all my posts instead, which is a much happier place for me. I got rid of paying for newsletter subscribers or paying for constant advertising that wasn’t working. It was really freeing! And I finally feel like my money is going towards things that make a difference.

Looking back at 2016 and the “Year I Give No Fucks” I’m really glad I had that base to work on for 2017. I continued to not care about stuff like making a best seller list or getting involved in a high-stakes box set or doing newsletter swaps with everyone. I told my awesome crit partner, Tracy, at some point that “I just pretend like I’m the only person on the planet publishing. I’m the only one who matters.” No competing. No comparisons. It’s just me and my books and whatever *I* want to do. That mindset has done me a lot of good in 2017.

All in all, I did well this year. I think my net income did grow because, even though I did spend a lot of money on ads, my gross income is much more than it was the previous year. I’ll have to do the books and find out, but I’m pretty sure I made *some* money. Hey, it’s better than nothing!

Books and Writing Goals Accomplished?

(All last year’s goals are in bold, and my notes on what happened with each come after)

I WILL PUBLISH FOUR BOOKS THIS YEAR. This is a tricky one because I technically published only 3 novels this year but then I also published a few other things. Here’s what came out:

THE DAYDREAMER DETECTIVE OPENS A TEA SHOP Feb 27, 2017
CRASH LAND ON KURAI Jul 18, 2017
SUMMER HAIKUS Oct 1, 2017 (Re-release)
CHAOS IN KADOMA WARD Nov 15, 2017
OZONI AND ONSENS: A DAYDREAMER DETECTIVE NOVELLA Dec 7, 2017 (Previously only for newsletter subscribers)

I WILL WRITE ALL YEAR LONG. Nope, I didn’t do this. I even took time off! Why? Because this was the year I had fun, and there’s nothing that kills fun like working every damned day. I did find myself always in the midst of a first draft or revisions on something though. It was nice not to have a dry spell.

I WILL START UP A PEN NAME BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR. Nope, and I’m not sure I want a pen name now. I’m pretty sure I can do everything I want to do in publishing under this name. I don’t feel like starting over. That’s no fun.

I WILL MAKE SOME BOX SETS THIS YEAR. I did make a boxed set of the Nogiku Series and put it everywhere it needs to be. I also have a pre-order up for the Kami No Sekai Short Story Series that publishes in February. I’m not ready to box up The Daydreamer books yet. Maybe next year.

Marketing, Promotions, Advertising, and Social Media Goals Accomplished?

I WILL SPEND MONEY THIS YEAR. I did spend money this year on advertising. I bought Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course and I used it to make effective FB ads which I will continue to do more of in 2018. I continually spend money on Amazon ads every day. I did spend some money on growing my mailing list, which I won’t be doing anymore.

I WILL INCREASE MY MAILING LIST TO 10,000 SUBSCRIBERS. If anything, I went backwards on this goal. I realized that growing my mailing list was only costing me money and not gaining me the fans I was hoping for. My open rates plummeted and only a few people bought books when I had new launches. So now I’m not even using MailChimp anymore and I’m just using my blog, something I wanted to do from the beginning but many people told me that was a mistake. I’m not listening to those people anymore.

MY SOCIAL MEDIA WILL NOT CHANGE. This is the one goal I stuck to like glue. I said, “My Facebook personal profile is a place for me to be personal. I will continue to talk to people via my Facebook Page. Twitter is where I put stuff I’m interested in. Other than that, I will share my work to Google Plus and LinkedIn. My Tumblr is still doing well, and I will continue to post to Instagram every day.” And yeah, I did all of that, and that’s what I plan on doing next year too. Next year, though, I will spend less time on Facebook, more time reading.

Personal Goals Accomplished?

I WILL WALK 1000 MILES THIS YEAR. Yay!! I accomplished my goal in early December and I loved having that goal to work towards all year round. It kept me sane and centered. I can’t wait to get back to it in January. I’ll be doing it again.

I WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE AUDIOBOOK CHALLENGE. I did this and posted about it to the blog yesterday. Check out the post here.

I WILL KNIT MORE. My yearly goal actually panned out this year! I finished off the shawl I had been working on for years and started a new shawl, which I’m almost done with!

I WILL USE MY INSTAPOT AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. This definitely happened and I’m still very happy with it.

What else happened in 2017?

We did a fair amount of traveling in 2017 including visiting my family in Charleston, we went to the indoor waterpark, Kalahari, in Eastern Pennsylvania, and then our big DisneyWorld trip in June, which was my favorite family vacation of all time.

I redesigned the blog this past summer. I was ready for a change and wanted something more flexible and easier to keep up to date. I also redesigned my header images and the images that share to FB for all posts going forward. I’m happy with the design and I plan to keep this design for three or more years.

We had that cool eclipse! The solar eclipse was so much fun. We made our viewing boxes and talked a lot about the science behind the eclipse. I really enjoyed it.

After kicking butt on my walking goal all year and then crossing the finish line, I got really sick in December. The head cold finally morphed to an upper respiratory infection and sinus infection and I needed antibiotics for the first time in over two years.

I saw lots of wildlife in the park! Deer, ducks, geese, herons, kingfishers, and a fox are at the top of the list for my favorite encounters.

I started doing monthly videos during the summer, and I love them. It was hard to remember to always take video every day, but after a month, it became habit. Some days I take extra videos so that I have some back-ups in case I forget one day. No big deal. I cheat a little. Lol. Haven’t seen my monthly videos? They’re on YouTube, and I post them every month in my goals posts.

I gave up going to the gym. At some point during the summer, I got so tired of waiting for the men in the gym to share the weight machines that I gave up and stopped going. There was one day when one asshole was using two machines at once, and he got mad at me when I sat at one of the machines. Of course, all of these guys are huge and intimidating, and I just didn’t want to go through the trouble of giving them a piece of my mind. I plan to do more weight lifting at home in 2018.

I stopped dyeing my hair. Yep. I decided to go gray and stop dyeing my hair. I may do some funky colors again like I did in 2012 and 2013, but otherwise I just didn’t want to deal with the hassle of it anymore.

I bought a PC. This is a true shocker. I basically bought a PC to be my dictation machine. So far, so good. I don’t hate it, but I only use it when I’m writing a first draft. Otherwise, I use my Mac all the time.

And finally, I switched over to Vellum for all of my ebooks and print books. I’m very happy with the convenience of Vellum and I love the design of all of my books now. This is one of my favorite purchases of 2017!

My Favorite Blog Posts

These are my favorite blog posts of 2017!

Patience Is A Virtue – Good things come to those who wait… Yes, it’s true.

On The Merits Of Author Dreams – An essay in which I talk about dreams, success, and keeping going.

Losing (And Finding) My Way – I changed how I wrote and lost my way. Now I’m back to where I started.

The Results Of My Reader Survey – Here are the results of my reader survey! (Video)

Neon Beast – I finished this knitting project I had been working on for almost three years! Meet Neon Beast!!

Happy 4th Anniversary In Publishing! – It’s my fourth anniversary of being a publishing author! Here are all my positive and negative takeaways from this year and what to expect in Year Five and beyond…

Why I’m No Longer Using A Mailing List – I’m making the transition to using my blog with a notification system to reach my readers and here’s why.

Let’s Make Salmon Hot Pot! – Recipe – This is my favorite thing about winter! Enjoy this hot pot treat and fill up your belly with salmon soup and lots of veggies. You’ll love it.

Japan Tea Shop Inspiration – Tea is an important part of Japan and my books! Let’s look at some inspirational photos for Mei’s tea shop from THE DAYDREAMER DETECTIVE OPENS A TEA SHOP.

And That’s It!

Come back on January 1st to hear about my goals and aspirations for 2018!



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  • It’s great to look back at the year and see what you have accomplished. And how you had ups and downs. That’s good you realized you weren’t having fun and did something about it. And while receiving advice can be handy at times and giving advice can fall into the right hands, other times it’s better to ignore or not give advice. I certainly have noticed that a few times in my business as well.

    I didn’t know you had your own author Facebook group! What’s the name? I like to join some author groups, but after for love and money closed I haven’t found many good ones.

    I like how you swapped out your newsletter for the blog. I like receiving the e-mails and it seems this works a lot better for you.

    Sounds like you did well on most of your goals for 2017. Here’s to a great 2018! I can’t wait to hear what you’ll be publishing this year!

    • Tha author group I started has turned into a group of authors who needed a place to vent. Lol. Nothing like SKQ’s group in that we rarely talk about author things.

      I did well enough on my goals for the year that I don’t feel like I failed. I definitely learned enough and I’m going to take all of that into 2018!

  • sjhigbee

    I’m fascinated to hear that you have taken the decision to close down your mailing list and stick with the blog… I’ve been blogging for a number of years and feel very comfortable with the process – but everyone is telling me that I need to build a mailing list for my fans now that I’ve started self publishing. It sounds as if this is really working for you and I wish you all the best in 2018:)

    • As long as you can deliver content to readers via email, you don’t need a traditional newsletter. I’ve been to your blog and I think you have JetPack running on the backend right? If people can subscribe to your blog, and you make that a priority AND you can own that list of people, then you’re good to go. I use MailPoet to run my blog subscriptions. I own that list of people and I can back it up and take it with me if I need to. That’s my biggest asset as an author. If you’ll want to offer something exclusive to newsletter subscribers, you’ll need a way to contact them directly that’s not tied to your blog. My plugin allows me to send welcome emails and regular newsletters too. You’ll have to do the soul searching on what works best for you. ☺️ Thank you and happy new year!

      • sjhigbee

        Thank you so much for your generous suggestion – my gut has always told me that my blog was my strength. I’ve spent years building it up while spreading the word about books I love reading – so I do feel reluctant to pull away and start rebuilding another type of platform. And you’re right – it will take some soul searching, because the one thing I’ve gathered from listening to authors when they discuss marketing and how they build up a readership, it’s that everyone has a different route to getting there…

  • Yikes, sounds like a good thing you left those author groups if they were saying stuff like that. And hey, seems like you did good with a lot things and made some choices that really worked best for you!

    Oh yeah, the eclipse, I forgot about that! That was pretty cool. I still don’t understand how pinhole viewers actually work, but they do, and that’s cool too lol.

    You know, I’ve never liked gym gyms. I preferred to either work out at my gymnastics gym, or at home. Not intimidating, and it saves you money and the time it takes to drive there and back! And there’s almost no muscle that you can’t work out at home with a few different types of weights and maybe an elastic band.

    Ooh you should totally dye your hair crazy colors. I dyed mine a couple times some years back but just haven’t had the energy for that recently. It’s fun though!

    Glad to hear you had some good stuff going on this year 🙂

    • I will definitely kick some butt at home with weight lifting. I have these awesome DVDs that I’ve digitized and put on my iPad that I can use and I plan to do them twice per week. That, combined with my walking, should keep me in shape!

      I have been thinking about dyeing my hair purple for the summer. I have some great, bright vegan dye that I bought so I may experiment with that come late spring. I used to dye my hair blue but that always lightened to green. Blech. Not as nice as blue.

      I’ve got some good things coming up this year that I’ll highlight in my Jan 1st post. 🙂

  • Cara Bristol

    From the photos, it looks like you had a fun year. Hope you have a fun and prosperous New Year.

    • It was a lot of fun this year. I’m glad I have a habit of posting to Instagram every day because it means I have plenty of photos to choose from come year-end! Thanks and I hope you have an awesome 2018 as well!

  • What a great look back. I would love to knit, but I am all thumbs. I agree this was a stressful year and watching the news and seeing feeds about the shitstorm was not good for my anxiety. Hope 2018 rocks!

    • My anxiety was also really high this year. Now I feel a little numb to everything, so I’m hoping I can weather 2018 with fewer issues. Hope your 2018 is awesome!

  • I’m really glad that you’re figuring out which groups etc. are good for you and which ones were just bringing you down. I’m looking at having to do that in my life as well (not having to do with writing, but just life), and it can be scary! Here’s wishing you a fantabulous 2018!!

    • I’ve had to prune things in life too on occasion and it’s hard as well. This was a year when I shed a lot of the bad vibes and I’m excited to go into 2018 with few things to bring me down. I hope your 2018 is kick ass! 🙂

  • This is a totally awesome wrap-up! My inner OCD beast rejoices at how perfectly you structured everything! All in all, it seems to have been a good year after all, no? And publishing 4 books, wow. That’s a lot! I’m amazed when people publish more than 1 or 2, and you did a solid 3, plus other stuff. Congrats!! Oh yeah, and let me express my personal respect about not dyeing your hair anymore! I’m starting to very slowly develop some gray strands myself, and so far I just don’t see myself putting all that nasty allergy inducing stuff on my hair. So I really respect women who decide to just stay the way they are 🙂

    • Ha! Thanks. I have an inner OCD beast as well (it’s the Capricorn in me) and I enjoyed putting this post together. All in all, it was a good year if I just ignore everything going on outside of my work and home. Probably the hardest personal decision was giving up dyeing my hair. For now, I’m cool with it. I’d like to give myself a few years off from dealing with dye at the very least. I reserve the right to change my mind. 🙂 But so far, I like it! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Wow, this is a very in-depth post. I love all the photos. Walking 1000 miles is amazing, and I need to learn to stop working every day and have fun.

    • Thanks! It was fun putting together all the photos from this year. Gotta thank Amazon Photos for making that easy. 🙂 I hope to walk another 1000 this year as well, but January has already started out rough. Gotta pick up the daily walking again soon!