2017 in review: a surprising renaissance year…my best ever….

The year in review blog is my annual report to myself. Compiling and analyzing the data give me insight and direction to move forward. 2017 was a pivotal year for me.

It was a surprisingly great year. I’m calling 2017 the renaissance year. After hitting a three-year earnings plateau from 2014-2016, book sales took a quantum leap, earning 42% more than the previous three years. What makes it surprising is that I had expected a significant decrease in annual sales/revenue.  I had braced for the year of the Titanic.

I was so convinced  I wouldn’t earn in 2017 what I did in previously that I cut back on my quarterly tax payments to the IRS, and now I’ll probably be hit with tax penalties for underpayment.

A brief historical analysis: although I’d sold more books in 2016 than 2015, I  had to work harder in 2016 to earn the same amount as the previous year. And by the 4th quarter of 2016, sales began to drop. Sales declined every month until February of 2017 when they pretty much bottomed out.

Then I had seven record-setting sales months in a row. It was an e-ticket ride.

The turnaround demonstrates how unpredictable the book business is. I hadn’t predicted the downturn, and I didn’t foresee the upturn. (That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a reason for the sales slump, which I address at the end of this blog). When I saw sales begin to slide, I tried a lot of new things and worked my ass off to reposition myself. I spent more on advertising than I ever have and took a marketing training class. While those endeavors helped, what mattered the most was the books themselves. Some books get more attention than others, and I happened to have some attention-getters this year.  But it wasn’t random. I had a strategy for what I wrote & released and when, and the strategy worked.

So, this is the year that was….

Brand new titles published – 4

 Backlisted books re-released – 4

Loose Id had previously published the Breeder series. The rights reverted to me, and I re-released them.

Words written in 2017 – 229,376 

 Other highlights

  • Hit the USA Today bestseller list for the 2nd time (Pets in Space 2).
  • Doubled my newsletter subscription list organically
  • Got three BookBub featured deals (yes, this did contribute to my earning’s success)
  • Completed Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10K Readers online class (which contributed significantly to doubling my newsletter subscriber list)
  • I made Stranded with the Cyborg permafree and did two big promotion campaigns
  • Participated in two charity projects, Authors in Pink, in which I donated 10% of October proceeds from Terran to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and Pets in Space 2, which donated 10% of the first month’s proceeds to Hero-dogs.org, which provides service animals to veterans.
  • I started a new Facebook reader group, Chat with Cara, for fans of my books

Blogging Highlights

(I blog, therefore, I am)

  • Though you probably can’t tell it from looking at it, I completely changed my blogging strategy (after taking Nick’s class), which led to the increase in my newsletter subscription rate.
  • I started three new regular features: Backlist to the Future, a Throwback Thursday for guest author books; Authors in Space, photos of science fiction romance authors’ offices/writing spaces; and Freebie Friday, a prize giveaway on the 4th Friday of each month.
  • Blogs posted: 226
  • Blog hits/page views: 66,746/84,685 (an average of more than 5,500 visits per month)
  • Total lifetime hits/ page views (2011- 2017) – 580,042/886,717


  • Newsletters sent – 32
  • Subscribers: doubled
  • Implemented a regular newsletter schedule
  • Implemented an autoresponder campaign for new subscribers

Instagram followers – 900, an increase of 514 over 2016’s 386.

BookBub followers – 765, an increase of 732 over the 33 at the start of the year

Some final words

In the summer of 2017, in the middle of my e-ticket ride, I analyzed my book sales history. I wanted to know why sales had declined so much in the 4Q2016/1Q2017. Was it something I had been doing (that’s always my first assumption)? Was it a change in the market? What?

Historically, book sales do decline in the 4th quarter with the holiday season. October is the last good month in which to publish. November gets iffy, and December is the dead zone.

So, a 4th quarter slump is to be expected. But there were things that I did that made it worse.

It was a real head-thumper when I figured it out. Duh. I know that I need to publish one book per quarter to maintain my income level. But in 2016, my 4th quarter book (published in October), was an anthology. Authors do not make money on anthologies. By the time the proceeds are divided among 8, 10, 12 or more authors, the revenue is nominal. What I had expected, was a rise in sales on my other SFR books. I don’t know how the other authors fared, but I saw no sell-through as a result of being in the anthology. And that was my only new book in the 4th quarter of 2016.

But I hadn’t made the connection until the summer of 2017, so I committed to a second one because it was such a warm & fuzzy project (fun stories & a portion of the proceeds benefitted US veterans). And guess what? Same results! Because I didn’t have “my own book” in October, 4th quarter revenue declined (BTW, the contract did not allow authors to publish their own books during the anthology release period). This time, I did see a small sell-through on my other books, but not enough to make up the difference. However, what saved the fourth quarter  was getting a BookBub deal on Breeder in September and another BookBub on an old spanking romance in December. The sell-through from BookBub meant that I ended the year with a bang instead of a whimper.

Another contributing factor to the downturn in 2016 and the upturn in 2017 was that in the 4th quarter of 2016  I “went wide.”  Previously, I had bounced between Kindle Unlimited and “going wide.” I’d put books into KU, I’d take books out of KU. In the 4th quarter of 2016, I committed to going wide, did not review the KU contracts, and uploaded the books to the other sites. It took a while to build an audience at the other sites to replace the lost KU revenue, but it did happen. It took about six months. I’m now growing my readership at the other sites.

What hit home this year was the necessity to keep my eye on the ball. To make strategic decisions, weigh opportunities against potential and historical results, but also give a plan time to work. I have to make smart decisions, but also take risks. What goes up, will come down, but what drops, can go back up. I just have to stay on top of my game.

Coming tomorrow, Jan. 3: plans for 2018

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15 Responses to 2017 in review: a surprising renaissance year…my best ever….

  1. You’re an inspiration to us all. Congratulations, Cara!

  2. Lisa Medley says:

    What a great year! You are killing it 😉 And for damn good reason. Congrats and I hope 2018 breaks every good record!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thanks, Lisa. I learned a lot! You can learn a lot from mistakes, but that only teaches you what NOT to do. I much prefer learning from having things go right. Then I learn WHAT to do.

  3. Dawn says:

    Impressive. Your success is due in large part to all your hard work. Way to learn from the past and add new skills.

  4. Laurel Lasky says:

    Awesomeness! You worked your ass off and made great marketing decisions and it all paid off. Congratulations! Of course the books were faboulas!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you, Laurel for being on my team. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. It takes a village to publish a book.

  5. As always, great post! I love your year end posts so much. Thanks for being so open and sharing your ups and downs with us so we can all learn too. Now, to run off and research how I can get signed up for Nick’s next class. LOL

    • Cara Bristol says:

      You’re welcome. So many authors don’t share the nitty gritty, but I remember when I was starting out how helpful it was when other authors would share honest information about what they did and how they did it. Sometimes I think I overshare.

  6. Deanna Lang says:

    This post is eye-opening and enlightening. I think a lot of authors will benefit from your insights.

  7. Tasha Black says:

    Great blog! And congrats on the wonderful year! Here’s to an amazing 4th quarter 2018! 🙂

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