Colin Dunbar

Thinker. Writer. Learner.

2018 in Review

Introduction

Although I've done annual reviews for a number of years, most have not been public. And the few I did publish, weren't in much detail - actually there was little detail in them.

This time I decided to share a lot more of what happened in 2018. Even though I wanted to be completely transparent and honest, I was hesitant to do so.

Thanks to three special people, I actually decided to pull back the curtain, so to speak. It was after reading the annual review (2017) of Chris Guillebeau, a newsletter from Mariah Coz, and a blog post by Kristen Kieffer that I decided to be transparent and honest in my 2018 annual review.

Without further ado, here we go...

Websites

I decided to shut down my site, thecompleteselfpublisher.com, and the reason for that was two-fold:

  • Writing and self-publishing takes up most of my time (with reading naturally in the mix). It's where 100% of my interest is. So, why have a separate site for this? Instead I can publish that info on my personal site.
  • I was struggling to find a topic/subject for my personal site.

Plus, cancelling thecompleteselfpublisher.com meant a saving of ZAR420 per year (I now, not mega bucks, but a saving nevertheless).

January was a month of struggling with the phone line provider in trying to sort out my ADSL problem (no internet for the whole month). I decided to change my service to Mweb's LTE-A wi-fi service. This also resulted in a monthly saving.

After reading Nick Stephenson's ebook, Reader Magnets, I compiled a draft ebook (for my subscribers), but I didn't finish it. Just another one of my unfinished projects for the year!

My son (BronsonDunbar.com) designed a new template for this site. He nailed the brief as to what I wanted. The new site went live in June.

Also in June I learned that my ISP was discontinuing the package I was on. This meant an increase in the monthly subscription, but one of the benefits was that I could run my site as a WordPress blog (planned for 2019).

Books

My book, How to Format Your Book in Word slowly chugged along with teeny monthly sales.

I cannot expect more than this, because there is very little promotion done: I only used Buffer (Twitter and LinkedIn), and a few direct tweets.

I am very grateful for the review Sandra Beckwith published for my book. Many thanks, Sandra!

One of the challenges of living in South Africa, as an Amazon self-published author: the check from Amazon takes 3 months to arrive via snail mail (no electronic payment options available for SA). And then it takes 6+ weeks before the money is available in my bank account. At time of writing, the last check from Amazon is already at 11 weeks since I deposited it. The reply from my bank: Our forex department have advised that the collection process takes +- 6 to 10 weeks depending on the drawee bank. Bank of America has advised that they have a back log on their side hence the reason it has not cleared as yet.

In order to get around the Amazon hurdle, I've uploaded How to Format Your Book in Word to Smashwords and Draft3Digital (ebook versions), but only 1 sale from Smashwords. My thought is that the book is not ideal in the ebook format.

I've not promoted any of my other books, but there have been a couple of sales.

Towards the end of 2018, Draft2Digital announced their beta program to also offer hard copy books. I will be investigating this in 2019.

I was extremely grateful to Carolyn Howard-Jones who contacted me on Twitter and suggested we do a joint promotion of our books. Unfortunately, I got busy and never followed up with her.

Writing

My writing did not go as I had planned.

I wrote 2 draft articles, but didn't finish them.

Hobbytrepreneur. I finished this book, but I wasn't happy with it. Although I was on target to self-publish it in 2018, there was something missing. It was encouraging to see bestseller, Josh Kaufman say, "I spent most of my time writing four drafts of a book that didn't work."

So, although I finished Hobbytrepreneur, it wasn't to see the light in 2018. It may be a rewrite, or at the very least, it'll be expanded considerably.

LWAD. I wrote the rough draft of this book and may work on it in 2019. I refer to it as LWAD as it is a controversial book, and I only have a working title at present.

EXTR. I gave fiction a try again and wrote 2 openings for a novella. I then had 8 people vote for the opening they preferred. The votes were 7 to 1. This is not a priority but more of a challenge, and for personal creative satisfaction. The rough draft of Chapter 1 is done, and the outline is almost complete.

CGGS. This is the book that I spent most of my time on, especially the last quarter of 2018. It's the next book in my Self-Publishing Success Series, and it's my aim to finish it early to mid-2019.

Other Writing Projects

Templates. I created Word book templates, to make it easier for self-publishers to format their books in Word. Although I finished the templates, plus the User Guide, I didn't release them.

Why?

I had 3 people test the templates and the example books were not correct. Even though it could have been human error, I was not happy. I decided that I would make video tutorials to accompany the templates.

WNFB. This is the third book in my Self-Publishing Success Series, and as I focused on CGGS last year, all I did on this book was work on the outline. It's my goal to finish the rough draft of this book in 2019.

Miscellaneous

Book Design Services. An old client (originally from 2007) of mine ordered an update (3rd edition) of her book. I began to receive the new material in April 2018, and the actual updating of the book ran from October to November. Her deadline for the new edition was 1 December.

I also received 2 enquiries for book designs, but no orders.

actionBuddy. This is a new project I'm really excited about. I don't want to share the details at this stage, but I can say it's an online productivity app for writers.

Ghostwriting. Some time in May, I watched a webinar on using ghostwriters to write short fictional Kindle ebooks. Even though I was sceptical, I decided to give his method a try.

Lo and behold, I had my first experience of being scammed. Details are available in my article, Scammed by a "Ghostwriter".

After the Fiverr scam, I researched other ghostwriting services, but decided to put this idea on hold.

12Q. Thinking about the method I've used with my goal setting, over the past several years, I came up with the idea to explain this method in short ebooks. I jotted down the basic idea, and made some notes. It'll be a project I'll take on further down the line.

Personal

On the personal front, 2018 was a bumpy ride. Again, my thanks to Chris, Mariah, and Kirsten for inspiring me to be transparent and share these stories.

The retirement age of the company I work for is 60 (crazy, I know). And last year was the start of my 2-year countdown to retirement. It's frightening. Added to this is that the first round of retrenchments took place in October (at the branches).

Last year I was busy, but didn't make any real progress, and that frustrated me. As Ben Hardy says, "Hilariously, they think being busy IS being productive. It's not."

I'm grateful that I was able to make a plan to deal with unexpected expenses.

Something that started about 9 years ago was confirmed in May. It started slowly: I began to feel tired more and more, and my interest in things I used to enjoy started to wane. To the point where I didn't feel like doing anything, except be a couch potatoe and watch TV (this for a person who watched about an hour's TV in a week).

Visits to my GP became a regular thing, and was something I wasn't used to. He prescribed medication, gave me vitamin B injections, recommended multi-vitamins. I went for x-rays and blood tests. Nothing changed.

And then the shocker came in May...

"I think you suffer from anxiety and depression."

Wow. That took the wind out of my sails. Big time.

Being a person that got by on 5 hours sleep a night, well into my late forties. For more than 6 years I had my 9-5 job, plus ran 4 side hustles. And now I heard this...

When I saw the subject line of Mariah's newsletter ("Depression is a b****") I could fully relate to what she said. And then I read Chris' annual report, and I didn't feel like a loser and a freak anymore. But it was still not easy to process.

After my GP's diagnosis I began to read - A LOT. I was actually fighting the news, and didn't accept that I had depression. After a couple of month's reading, I had to surrender and accept it. I then did a 7-week CBT program, which I can say helped me a lot.

Part of my reading was Richard Hawkey's book, Life Less Lived. I devoured this book. Phew. After reading his story I realised I actually had it easy. I completely related to what Hawkey said: "Throughout this time, I remained disillusioned and unsatisfied with what I was doing - I saw no meaning or purpose in most aspects of my work, but ploughed on because, well, that's what you do."

"Different people may experience slightly different progressions, depending on their genetic make-up, physiology, coping mechanisms, and individual circumstances. However, unmanaged negative stress generally leads to burnout, which if left unacknowledged and untreated can progress to clinical depression." - Richard Hawkey

This is something I fight every day, and some days are better than others. I will kick this thing's ass!

As a self-published author in South Africa, with your books available at Amazon is a challenge (to put it politely). Amazon (i.e. Bezos) do not make electronic payments to South Africa (Google does, Smashwords do, SiteSell do, and I can go on and on); they only make archaic check payments (sent through regular snail mail). My check takes 3 months to arrive, but that's not the end of it. At time of writing, it's been 3 months since I deposited the check into my account. And the response from my bank was: Bank of America has advised that they have a back log on their side hence the reason it has not cleared as yet. 6 months and I haven't received my money yet!

I am seriously investigating alternatives to publishing my books.

On the plus side I entered a short story I wrote in a contest. I didn't win anything, but it was something different that I tried.

I've been trying to get into the habit of writing on a daily basis, and started from 1 July, I journalled every day for 3 months. I can't explain it, but I felt a lot better for this period. And then my daily writing fell off the chart, with only sporadic writing. I'll give it a try again in 2019.

Another plus is that from September I felt my focus was better. And the last 4 months of 2018, my productivity was considerably better.

Why?

Obviously, I don't have any scientific proof, but the only two things I did differently was my daily journaling, and the 7-week CBT program. I'm keen to experiment in 2019 and see if this was the reason for my feeling better.

At present my "strategy" is fake it til you make it ;o)

What I Read

Outlining Your Novel by KM Weiland. Practical and useful book on outlining.

The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday (re-read).

One Minute Wisdom by Anthony De Mello (started in Jan & finished this month)

Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau **** (my review at Amazon).

Screw It Let's Do It by Richard Branson [this was a lunch time re-read]

The Astonishing Power of Story by Justin Cohen

Re-read chapter 4 & 5 of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon by Penny Sansevieri

How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book by Penny Sansevieri (I was asked if I would review this book. After several attempts my review did not go up at Amazon).

Life Less Lived by Richard Hawkey ***

How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson *** This is a very different type of non-fiction book.

Heist by James Patterson (Short story). Exciting story.

The Trial by James Patterson (Short story). Neat story.

Chase by Dean Koontz.

PDF Ebooks:

Launch Hacks by Tom Markes. Very brief, short PDF.

Reader Magnets by Nick Stephenson (short PDF, but with good advice).

The Challenge: Step-by-Step Depression Recovery Plan by J. Milanoff (some practical ideas in this little ebook).

How to Write Seductive Web Copy by Henneke Duistermaat ** (The reason I give this ebook 2 stars is because I didn't find anything new).

Goals for 2019

  1. Refurbish and sell our house.

  2. I want to convert my site to a WordPress blog.

  3. Finish How to Format Your Book in Word, 2nd Edition.

  4. Finish my CGGS book.

  5. Finish the rough draft of WNFB.

Conclusion

2018 concluded the end of a rough period for me, but I feel I'm now better equipped to handle things. Looking forward I will be taking things day-by-day, and will consciously reduce the pressure I put on myself. It's also my intention to focus on daily writing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this review, and I hope it was worth it.