Link to 2016 report here: http://www.ramosauthor.com/blog/2016-report
Two thousand and seventeen will certainly be a year to remember. It was my first year out of seminary and able to work full-time in a college environment. It was the year I founded my business (Faithspring Collective ltd.) and the year I completed a Certificate of Theology from Princeton. It was also another year I got to spend with my amazing wife, and watch as she continued to grow into a proud woman.
I am not where I thought I would be at this point in my career and writing, but I am somewhere good. The lessons God has been trying to teach me have been difficult. They’ve required patience, stamina, and surrender – none of which are my natural strengths. But He has reinforced in me a few key truths:
- He is good, even when my circumstances are not.
- He is building something immeasurably bigger than I can understand, but I am invited to play a part.
- If we do not walk forward in faith, we will end up walking circles in complacency.
Below are a few categories I want to share with you. First, I want to encourage those of you who are on your own journeys of calling. Second, I want to record my progress and remind myself of how far God has brought me. Third, I want to clearly outline the goals I have for the next year.
This was the 3rd full year of publishing my works and growing my back-list. Although I was not able to produce as many books as I would have liked (which I’ll touch on below), I was able to see some consistent growth in my reach as an author.
Here are a few things that made my numbers what they are:
- No Bookbub this year, which was responsible for 30,000+ free downloads. Aiming to land another one Q1 2018.
- Email and social media automation allowed me to connect with my growing audience in a consistent and meaningful way, which equalled steady sales for some titles.
- Spent very little on marketing. This will actually be one of my biggest growth areas for next year.
Digital Free: 611
Digital Paid: 47
Digital Free: 56085
Digital Paid: 670
Digital Free: 29773
Digital Paid: 575
2017 Successes and Failures
In this section, I want to briefly revisit my 3 goals for 2017 and how they played out; along with some other side ventures which came into the picture.
Goal: Launch Testament Heroes Podcast
This year I launched an audio version of my Testament Heroes devotional series in podcast format. It was a success because with very little promotion, it gained a steady listening base of a few hundred listeners – which was more than I intended!
As of writing this, 5 of my 6 titles are available to listen through with 1 title being read by my wife. Next year, as I add to my published catalog I hope to add to this as well.
However, this project did teach me that podcasting wasn’t my favorite medium. It felt very lonely and dry at times. I enjoyed the lesser technical requirements than video production. But I also had less joy putting out new episodes. I do plan to continue this format, but only minimally.
Goal: Write 5 books.
I started off the year with the ambitious, yet realistic goal of writing 5 more books. Unfortunately, I underestimated how much time Faithspring would take – and so my writing suffered because of it. I was able to produce 2.5 books (the .5 being a lead magnet for Faithspring).
This lower rate of production was also a big reason for my slump in sales and free downloads. Amazon, as with other platforms, rewards consistent creation. So as the time in between my published books grew further and further apart, it became more difficult to reach the same growing number of readers.
I’m hoping 2018 will allow me to re-gain some ground in this area.
Goal: Create Faithspring.
Reading back over what I envisioned Faithspring to be – it’s almost funny how different the final product ended up being – and how much bigger! For those of you who have not seen, Faithspring.org is a course-based membership site for ambitious Christians. It’s a platform for me to help others dive in the God’s Word in a deeper way, gain clarity on their calling, and join a community of other like-minded people.
I was going off of a lot of blind hope when I began the project. I had done some market research and testing and believed that the core of what I wanted to do would work – I just didn’t know if I could be the one to make it work.
So far, for the most part, it has. We have a small group of members who are truly learning and growing inside the platform, which I honestly can’t tell you how happy that makes me – and how hopeful that makes me for the future of this business. I want Faithspring to be an online hub for a wider Christian conversation. One that goes beyond just theological facts, and gets to the heart of the matter – what is God telling you to do, and what are you going to do about it?
I’ll touch more on the future of Faithspring in the Goals section below. But yes, this one was a great, albeit exhausting, success.
Goal: Create New YouTube channel.
This became my goal about midway through the year, once I realized that podcasting wasn’t my favorite activity. My frustration with the podcast caused me to reflect on what mediums I had truly enjoyed, and which ones I consume the most. It didn’t take long for the answer to become abundantly clear: YouTube.
In 2013 and 2014, I made occasional videos with my wife. Just simple daily-vlogging style videos. Going forward, I wanted to create a channel to grow my reach as far as teaching and sharing the treasures that are in my books. It’s still small, but I can say it exists! If you want to see what the channel looks like (and subscribe!) you can check it out here:
Lessons Learned in 2017
In addition to the lessons I have been learning from God, I wanted to share a few life and business lessons I’ve picked up along the way.
Consistency is King
I’m convinced that this idea/practice is the foundation for success I have been missing. I see it all over the place – the ones who are consistent (and consistently excellent) are the ones who win. You can be an all-time great at whatever it is you do. But if you don’t do it often enough, no one is going to pay attention.
I saw this in tangible ways with my audience. My writing consistency fell, and my book sales followed. However, my email consistently became a major focus, and my email list as nearly tripled in one year.
This is the mindset I will be heading into 2018 with. I don’t need to be perfect, but I do need to show up- over and over again.
Bigger Bets Lead to Bigger Wins
I took a huge time and financial risk with Faithspring. I gave up about 7 months of my writing time, and several thousand dollars to bring this idea to life. This was the biggest bet I’ve made in my business thus far, and the results – although less than I hoped, were 10-fold what I could accomplish with a single book.
If I want to reach serious growth and really take the passion God has given me seriously, then I need to take serious risks. It’s cliché to talk about risks and rewards – but its cliché because it’s true. The things we want yet don’t have exist outside the realms of our comfort. We have to move to reach new things, and that movement is called risk.
Less is More
I do a lot. I read a lot of books (50+ every year). I try to tackle a lot of projects. I am pretty much always moving, consuming, or creating. I don’t give myself much room to breathe – which might be why when I hit a wall or get sick, I’m completely out of commission for a good while. This year I lost pretty much the entire month of November to some virus that my body just couldn’t shake (and is still fighting against).
Next year will be different. I plan to limit my consumption: reading 1 book a month instead of a week, cut the number of podcasts and lectures I listen to in half. And also to limit my creation: fewer but more strategic goals.
I’m hoping this will help me achieve not just more ”success” but more balance. I want God’s voice to have room to lead me. When my schedule is packed to the rim, it’s difficult to hear anything other than the anxiety to move faster and do more. But I’m convinced Scripture calls us to a different pace, and I want to obey that.
What’s To Come in 2018
Alright, last but not least, my favorite part of these report posts: future goals!
This upcoming year I plan to have 1 “results” goal and 3 “production” goals. The results goal I have very little control over, but this will be the driving force behind all of my production. The 3 production goals will give my work shape – in terms of structure, deadlines, costs, and so on.
Goal 1: Grow Faithspring to 1,000 members.
Right now, Faithspring is nowhere near that. In fact, hitting this goal would mean multiplying our member base by 30 or 40 times! However, I whole-heartedly believe this is where God has been leading me. It combines so many of my strengths, and allows me to serve His people in a truly meaningful way. As I said above, this results goal will be fueled by the production goals, along with some other financial commitments I’ve chosen to make (hiring freelance help, advertising, etc.). Yes, this is a big goal. But it’s a possible one. And when this is reached, so many of my other “result” goals will simply take care of themselves!
Goal 2: Create and Release 2 courses on Faithspring.
This goal represents a commitment I want to stick to. I want Faithspring to follow an almost academic schedule (like Fall and Spring semesters). Releasing 2 courses a year would help institute this rhythm and give members a host of content to consume and grow from.
The two courses will be:
- Human Christian: A Story of Becoming
- Hearing God Like The Heroes of Scripture
I’m so excited to share these, and I pray our members will get as much out of taking these courses as I will from creating them.
Goal 3: Write and Publish 2 Books.
My Testament Heroes series has been without a new addition for almost a whole year now, but I plan to change that. I plan to add two 30 day devotionals: one on Moses and one on Solomon. The Crowned with David book has received much positive feedback, so I feel like Solomon is a natural follow up. And no Old Testament series would be complete without touching on the towering figure that is Moses.
You should expect these titles somewhere in the late Q2/early Q3 of 2018.
Goal 4: Publish 100 videos on YouTube.
As of writing this, my channel currently has 18 videos available for the public (with another 20+ available only for Faithspring members). I want to have a minimum of 100 publically available videos (and somewhere around 50 member-only videos) by the end of 2018.
One hundred is an important number of YouTube. Once I get 100 subscribers on YouTube I can improve the searchability of my channel. At 10,000 views, I can make the channel an official YouTube partner (as my previous channel was). And at 100,000 subscribers, our channel will become a member of a very small, important group of creators – which will open the doors to many other opportunities.
But all of those results can only come through consistent production, which is why I’m aiming to create 2 videos a week for the entire year of 2018. This will be a heavy burden in addition to consistently writing. But I believe I can make the two work together, instead of against one another.
I hope you enjoyed the deeper look into my work. I offer these behind-the-scenes opportunities to my audience because I believe transparency wins. If you can see why I do what I do and what I hope to accomplish, I believe 2 things will happen. You’ll gain clarity and direction for your own goals, and second, we’ll each go further together.
Thank you for being on this journey with me. Here’s to an amazing 2018!