Yes, I know this year has been … different. That ancient philosopher who said “may you live in interesting times” needs to just shut up now. The ‘featured image’ sums up what a lot of people think about the year just gone.

But that doesn’t stop me from doing my annual roundup – a look back to last New Year at what I said I was going to try and do during 2020, and what I actually have done.

Let’s start with books, shall we? Since I had a huge back catalogue of first draft and part-complete manuscripts, my partner [ Anita ] suggested that I try to publish one novel per month. It sounded like a splendid idea. I selected a handful of those which were, to my mind, ‘more finished’, and set to with my plans. I had a spreadsheet, and everything.

After a great start – [ DECEIT ] was published before Christmas 2019, [MELTDOWN] was published in January, [CORRUPTION] was published in February, and [WILDFIRE] was published in March. So far, so good. Then – you know what happened.

The virus which was a news story about China came to visit, and not only were we (eventually) put into a lockdown to stop the spread of the virus in the UK, many many people died. Even those of us unaffected, medically, were affected in other ways. Many of my creative friends reported a lethargy and lack of drive. When the country went into lockdown, over-achievers were all about new skills they were going to learn, and families gathered around the TV to follow Joe Wicks exercises. Ugh. By the end of the year, people were eating chocolate and drinking wine to counteract the virus. Trash TV and Netflix ruled.

My next novel didn’t come out until December. It wasn’t just the virus – it was a break from Jack Warwick thrillers into crime, written and published under my own name. And I needed to work harder at my red herrings and tying up loose ends, ensuring all story threads were wound up. So now [BODY ON THE BEACH] is out, and being well-received.

My Dark Christmas collection also failed to make an appearance this year. I didn’t quite have enough time to bring it out before Christmas. Maybe next year!

A quiet year for my non-fiction. My only work this year was on my NaNoWriMo book. I updated the text, added new information and advice, re-organised it in a more logical fashion, and gave it a new name: [NANOWRIMO – MEETING THE CHALLENGE] which is a much better title than any involving ‘winning’.

I participate in three businesses. The main business, [writer.support] has been moderately busy, doing website design and book formatting throughout the year. Not enough business to provide a full-time income, but it helps. We have added a new and simpler editing offer, reducing the confusing multiple terms for ‘editing’ (manuscript appraisal, developmental edit, structural edit, copy edit, proof read, line edit, etc).
One of the other businesses, [HARD PRESSED BOOKS] has been working, publishing our own books. However, we now have a publishing offer to our clients – a full edit, design and publish package, with the author receiving full royalties, for only £750. [LINK]
The multi-author signing event in Southend in February was interesting, and it was great to catch up with writers I knew and some I only knew online.
Due to lockdown, many of Anita’s in-person workshops were cancelled, although some school sessions returned in the autumn. Our joint ‘Full-Time Author in the Gig Economy’ workshop at [SWANWICK SUMMER SCHOOL] was cancelled, along with the whole summer school.

This year, my websites received a full overhaul. My main website is a pretty static, ‘here are my books’ website, with full links and descriptions [GERALD HORNSBY]. I also changed the look of my blog site, giving it more white space, and focussing a little more on graphics to accompany the posts [GERALD HORNSBY BLOG] (which you’re currently reading, obviously).
Most of my marketing this year has centred around social media, although I did enter into the world of Amazon Ads for my [THRILLER BOX SET], which was successful in gaining page reads in Kindle Unlimited.
I also published some Facebook ads, too, with reasonable engagement. Hard to track those through to purchase, although it’s possible, and something I should do next year. There’s no point in ‘open loop’ advertising without some feedback.

Our first “Afternoon Tea from Bookends” went live on September 15th on YouTube. [FIRST EPISODE]. Bookends is the name for our wooden hut in the country where we spend some time, and I borrowed the idea of a British Afternoon Tea from another podcast I follow. Since then, we’ve recorded and produced a total of 12 episodes, covering such topics as themes in writing, efficient planning of novels, rejection, and questions for authors. We will be continuing this through 2021.
I also experimented with [OPENING PAGES], a series analysing the first pages of successful (and not-so-successful) novels, and what works and what could be improved. I’m not sure whether to continue this, as it could cause upset for some authors if I am critical of their writing. One to think about.
I also started a series called [LONE STAR REVIEWS] – a humorous read-through of one-star reviews. We all get them, and for the most part, they are ridiculous. But some are just hilarious. It might make the reading on one-star reviews a little less painful.

So, all in all, and despite being in various states and styles of lockdown over the year, we’re still here, still working, and trying even harder to find ways of making a living from our writing-related businesses. We’ve had a busy time, and despite some plans not coming to fruition, we’ve been successfully running our businesses and will continue to do so.
In other news, I was asked about my total book sales. Without revealing numbers, 2019 showed an increase of 33.5% in royalties over the figures for 2018. 2020 showed an increase of 41.5% over the royalty figures for 2019. So that’s progress!

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