Although it’s kind of a cliche, 2020 has been an unprecedented year.
While you might be glad to say goodbye to it, you shouldn’t lose the opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months, no matter how they’ve been for you.
To grow as indie authors and book marketers, we need a solid understanding of our successes and failures. Understanding them helps us make the most of the upcoming year and to achieve our maximum potential.
If you’re ready to look back on your year as an indie author, these five questions provide a useful framework for reflection.
What was your biggest book marketing success from the past year?
It’s smart to begin your process of reflection on a positive note.
Just as the introduction to a piece of writing, or the first paragraph of a book, sets the tone for what’s to come, so does your first question.
By focusing on your biggest book marketing success, you prime yourself to feel positive and excited. You permit yourself to get inspired and approach the exercise from a place of confidence.
So, when you look back at your successes related to writing and book marketing in 2020, what stands out?
If you had a largely successful year, you might have a long list of possibilities. Write them all down so you don’t lose any.
When it comes down to it, your biggest book marketing success of 2020 is whatever you decide it to be. Because it’s your definition of success that matters most. Not what other people think, or what conventional success looks like.
Take as long as you need to figure this first question out. Once you have your answer, write it out boldly and clearly.
Now that you have started the exercise on an empowering note, it’s time to dig deeper into the past year.
What was the most useful thing related to writing or marketing you learned in the past year?
Hopefully, you made a conscious effort to learn and grow as a book marketer and indie author in 2020.
Acquiring the right knowledge might have been something formal for you, or something you did on a more casual basis. Anything from taking a full course through to regularly reading your favorite blogs is valid.
If you’re not used to reflecting on the things you’ve learned, they can be easy to overlook.
Just in case you feel a little stumped by this question, here are some prompts to get your reflection train rolling:
- Did you take any courses related to writing or book marketing in 2020? How would you sum up their contents if someone asked?
- What was the best podcast you listened to during the past year? Is there a particular episode that stands out? Why did it make a particular impression on you?
- Which books related to the science and craft of book marketing would you be most likely to give as a gift?
- Did you follow any video content creators in 2020? What did you learn from them?
- What did you find yourself sharing or liking on social media related to book marketing?
By taking the time to evaluate the new things you learned over the past year, you help to ensure the golden nuggets don’t get lost in the middle of the information we all receive daily.
After you’ve figured out the most valuable thing you learned, jot down all the ways you applied it. What kind of results did you get?
Finally, think about ways you could deepen that knowledge in the year ahead. Could you study the same topic on a more advanced level? Could you apply it to a new context? Or is it enough to consistently put it into practice?
Don’t leave your wisdom behind. Carry it with you and use it well in the year ahead.
How did your successes and failures from the past year compare to your expectations?
The reality of what takes place during a year is often a lot different from what we expect. That applies to any year on record, but especially 2020!
If you wrote down your goals and expectations for 2020 before the year started, take a look at them now. If you didn’t, try and think back to the start of the year and what your mindset was at the time.
Did you have specific, written goals for your writing and book marketing projects in 2020? If so, did you meet them? Did you end up switching goals as the year went on? Try and reflect on how you prioritized and the motivation you felt in different areas.
By taking some time to ponder this question, you gain insight into how you actually behave VS how you expect yourself to. Often, they are very different.
You can use this information to set better goals more aligned with who you are for the year ahead.
Let’s consider one quick example. Imagine before the start of the year that you decided to write and market several books, but ended up choosing to focus on one or two. This might suggest that you value quality over quantity, and you can use that principle when determining what you want to achieve in the year ahead.
Did you balance your writing responsibilities with proper self-care and wellness?
Although it’s become too commercialized and privileged for a lot of people, the concept of self-care shouldn’t be overlooked.
Mental health troubles are nothing new, but the pressure of the pandemic has made prioritizing wellness and mindset more important than ever.
Often, the type of mind that produces great writing is also susceptible to depression, rumination, and other negative ways of thinking.
We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live up to a certain level of success. This can be made worse by the world we live in where it’s easy to compare ourselves to others on social media.
If you feel like self-care was something you neglected over the past 12 months, here are some ways to bring it back into focus in 2021.
- Take care of the basics. When you’re in the middle of a writing or marketing project, it’s easy to indulge in unhealthy habits like not sleeping enough or surviving on coffee. Give yourself permission to handle your basic needs and remind yourself they will lead to better writing.
- Set manageable goals. Writing at a consistent pace you can stick to is far better for your productivity and wellbeing than binge writing inconsistently.
- Avoid comparison. While it’s fine to be inspired by others, remember that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. Judge yourself by your progress, not by comparing yourself to other writers.
- Give back. One of the best ways to help yourself is by helping others. This can be as involved as mentoring another writer or as simple as leaving a constructive review.
- Journal. As a writer, you might well find it easier than most people to start a journaling practice. Doing so has the double benefit of improving your wellness as well as tracking your writing progress.
If you can take the self-care and wellness lessons you learned in 2020 and put them to use in the following twelve months, you will be creating a valuable positive from a tough set of circumstances.
What are you most excited about for the year ahead?
Just as the first question in this exercise helped you to feel good about the process of reflection, the final question is intended to help you feel energized about the year ahead.
As important as it is to reflect, it’s also essential to look forward.
No matter how good or bad 2020 was for you, 2021 can be a blank slate. You can pursue new goals and learn new lessons.
The key here is to focus on what excites you. Excitement is powerful and motivational.
You might already have some exciting and inspirational goals for 2021. If not, consider brainstorming around these areas:
- New releases. Can you plan to self-publish a new book in 2021? If so, what would be the schedule you need to follow to make that happen?
- Learning. What do you feel most curious or excited about learning?
- Craft. Which area of your writing craft do you want to polish the most?
- Contribution. How can you give back to the writer and indie author community in the year ahead?
- Adventure. How can you have an adventurous spirit in 2021? Could you write something brand new, or step outside your comfort zone in some other way?
Above all else, take a moment to breathe. You made it through 2020!
2021 is an entirely blank slate. The world needs writers like you more than ever before. You have something special to contribute.
Now is the time to make it happen. I wish you every success in the year ahead.