Thanks for reading the 44th edition of my newsletter. This newsletter tracks my research as I write a book about lumbar radicular pain, and another one about cauda equina syndrome!
Happy new year!
Let’s look back at the second year of this newsletter.
By far the most popular emails of the year was the three part series on 'Why would sciatica take a fortnight to kick in?' I really enjoyed writing these emails and I remember I even cancelled plans to clear out a few days, and worked into the nights, because I was so keen to focus on them. The most popular emails always seem to be like these ones, where I genuinely don't know what I'm going to say before I write them and I get to share the process of working it out. The second most popular email of the year was 'How rare is cauda equina syndrome', which was the same format.
The sciatica email mini course has been a success: 1,250 people have signed up and from what I can see most people are actually reading the emails, too.
The resources page on my website gets a lot of use.
More people keep subscribing, 2,567 of you now! Here's the subscriber graph since day 0:
In terms of popularity, none of 2021's emails reached the dizzy heights of 'Piriformis syndrome' and 'How bad are the dermatomes?', from 2020. (I think both of those were popular because they were about myth busting, which always gets attention because no one wants to be left behind and everyone wants to be in on the busted myth…)
Some of 2021’s emails got practically no response anywhere: for some reason, people aren't interested in cyclic sciatica. I tried writing about non-clinical topics a few times, and as expected people weren't too interested in that: The curse of knowledge and 10 pieces of writing advice basically bombed. Message received :)
Generally I haven’t posted as many good, substantial emails. There's been the same amount of emails, but more of them are very short, some have just been updates, and I've done fewer podcasts. This is actually a sign of me working more, rather than less, and of course of having baby Hannah in my life.
The 'sciatica newsletter mixtape' hasn't been much of a success, which is understandable as it only really re-works old material, and I think calling it a 'mixtape' was just confusing...
In February, I published my first book as a pdf on Gumroad. As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this newsletter since the start, the whole thing started as a passion project, building on top of an article I had written. I didn’t know it was going to be a book, just that I wanted to ‘make something’.
What started as a passion project has also become more professionalised. Thanks to covid, PT licencing trouble and the glacial pace of US immigration services, it gradually became clear that project was going to be one of my main sources of income.
Before publishing the pdf, my biggest fear was that no one except my mum would buy it. Thankfully, a lot of people did--over 1,000 of you. Not only that, but everyone said nice things about it and gave it five star reviews. For whatever reason it's not in my nature to enjoy successes like this, I just move on to the next thing, but I suppose this is the time of year to recognise that is a big achievement.
In terms of sales, I tell people this: the book made a good amount of money, but not as much money as I would have made if I'd spent the equivalent time working in McDonalds :)
Here's a line graph for individual sales over the year. If you squint you'll see that the line peaks on the left, for such a short time that it almost blends with the vertical axis. That's day one, which was a nice feeling. After that, for most of the year the line hugs the horizontal axis instead, which represents around 5 to 10 sales per week for the rest of the year.
On top of those individual sales, I sold two significant bulk orders (you might have seen the Physio Network promo). The book also led to some opportunities to give webinars.
Of course the biggest thing to happen this year was the birth of baby Hannah. She is just over three months old now and she's happy and healthy. She's so delightful and it feels like such a privilege to be her dad and look after her.
In a 2020 newsletter I shared some photos of our big trip across the States, from Michigan to California then back to Texas, as we relocated and stayed with family in between. Nothing like that happened in 2021 as we are still living in Houston. I like Houston much more than I thought I would, but my wife's postdoc finishes in the summer of this year, so we will likely be off again, to who knows where?
I also got my green card in 2021, finally, and a very handsome thing it is too:
Plans for 2022
I have big plans for 2022. I might as well write them here and we can all see if I will achieve them. In 2022, I will:
1. Re-publish the first sciatica book. I'm going to update it, re-write and re-illustrate parts of it and, if it's practically feasible, have a paperback version. I also have another exciting thing that I probably shouldn't tell you about yet but... it might have something to do with a co-author?
I've also been working with a designer to make a cover for Book 1. Here it is at the moment (a work in progress):
The covers for Book 2 and the CES Book will be similar, with different colour schemes. All together I think they'll make a great trilogy!
(If you have already bought Book 1, I will work something out so that you don’t have to buy it again in its republished form in order to see the updates).
2. Publish the CES book. I think it will ‘look like a book’ on my laptop in about a month, but we will probably spend at least another month or two working with test readers and subject matter experts to improve it.
3. Finish the second sciatica book and maybe publish it. I'd say about one third of a first draft is written at the moment.
One concern I have is that I don't want this book to be just my ‘voice'. I want to include different approaches to treatment including things I don't actually do like surgery and injections, and it's kind of crazy and arrogant that I would cover such a huge landscape as if I'm the expert on all of it. I also want to include the voice of some people with sciatica. The answer seems to do a series of interviews or to find some co-authors, or both.
4. Have a patient resource on sciatica in the works. At the moment I'm picturing a series of youtube videos, but who knows. I would see this as the end point of all my work on sciatica. Two books for clinicians (three if you count the CES one) and a library of knowledge for patients.
5. Have another project with Rob, on serious pathology, in the works. There is much more work to do here but we’ll finish the CES Book before we even start to think about what.
I hope there’s something in there that you can look forward to as much as I am. Let’s meet back here this time next year to see how I did…
If you’re working on something too, whether big or small, do let me know your plans!
Til next time,