Author Toolkit – Setting Goals to Stay on Top of Your Writing Career
If you’re an author who wants their writing to become their career, not just a side-job or a hobby, then you need a plan to achieve it. Planning your releases, your marketing, and your writing are all important steps to help grow your career.
Of course, how a writer’s career progresses depends on exterior factors, such as readers’ opinions, but as long as you believe there is a group out there that will enjoy your stories, you have an audience to target. Unless you want to write books for your close friends, you’ll need a plan to grow your career so that your books have an easier time reaching your intended readers.
What’s a Good Strategy for Setting Goals?
Setting goals as part of your planning is a great way to boost your productivity. When you think of goals you want to achieve, it’s important that you challenge yourself without it being overwhelming. The goals shouldn’t be a breeze to achieve, but you shouldn’t feel like running away when you think of them either. Whatever you do, make sure all goals are quantifiable and have set expiration date! Your plan might be to publish more books, but a quantifiable, easy to track goal is “publish x number of books each quarter.”
A strategy many recommend is to set up more goals than you can achieve, and consider it a win when you achieve a certain percentage of them. For example, set 10 to 20 monthly goals and strive to achieve at least 50%.
My personal strategy consists of setting daily goals that lead to building habit. The main focus is on these daily goals, and making sure I do certain things every day. I use that for my career, my personal life, and my health.
As these goals are overwhelming enough, I try to give myself the illusion of less pressure: I don’t have a set in stone word count for my daily writing goal. I do however have an ideal monthly average that I aim to achieve. I also try to take it one month at a time. If I start worrying about things that need to be done in a month or two, then I won’t ever sleep at night.
Setting Goals – What Should You Focus on?
First off, think of your goals’ time frame. Your first thought will be to start with overall goals for half a year to a year, and that’s great. You can think of releasing more books in a certain period of time. Or increasing your sales. Or getting more reviews and author interviews. But if you think long-term goals, the volume of work can be a little overwhelming! So make sure you split those into more approachable chunks.
What works best for me, is a mix of quarterly and monthly goals. You might prefer one of these, or, like me, you might like a combination of them. I set traffic and sales goals for each quarter because it’s easier – there are huge differences form one month to the next, but over a quarter, things even out and you can compare this quarter to the previous one and see how you’ve improved. I use monthly goals for writing and editing activities, and compare them against my quality and quantity requirements.
The second important factor is how you correlate your goals. Sales goals depend on your promotion activities. To have a book to promote, you have to first release it, and even before that, you have to write it. Make sure your goals are sustainable by paying attention to how they influence each other. For example, I have my monthly drafting goals, which influence my release schedule, which in turn is correlated with the promotions I run.
How to Track Your Progress?
Setting goals is the easy part. I start with my yearly plans–sell more books, publish more books, write every day–then plan out the entire year month by month. I correlate my drafting with how long it takes to edit and prepare a book for release, then decide on promotional time frames.
The more laborious part is to track said goals throughout the months and quarters and full year. I have some simple tools I use to achieve that:
- for writing – Excel (of the MS Office Suite). I use a simple Excel file to track daily word counts for each month. I write the number of words and the draft it was written for at the end of every day. At the end of the month I sum it all up to get a monthly word count and to calculate my daily average.
- for publishing and drafting – simple notebook. I have a 2017 Plans notebook that has a detailed monthly outline for the books I am supposed to draft and release. At the end of each month, I go through the lists and cross off everything I’ve accomplished.
- for promotions and submissions – same simple notebook. I have a monthly plan for discounts, promotions, and special events outlined in the same notebook as above. I also have a list of what books I want to submit where.
- for sales – Book Report and screenshots. While I am totally addicted to Amazon reports and refresh them a gazillion times a day, I much prefer Book Report for an overall view of how my books are doing. It’s easier than switching between the many Amazon sites. And it helps that it estimates your Kindle Unlimited income as the pages are read. I have a folder where I save screenshots of monthly sales reports for when I just want to go quickly through them, but usually, I just use their options to switch between days, months, and quarters.
How Do You Stay Accountable?
Tacking your goals is one thing, holding yourself accountable is another. You might hit or miss your monthly goals, but who will know about it? I might be my harshest critic, but sometimes, knowing I have to present my results to the world (or a few people) pushes me to achieve more.
So what I do is talk to a few author friends about all the plans and results quite often. I am also part of a larger author group that’s geared at helping us all achieve our 2017 goals. Once a month (or more often sometimes), I post my results there, along with my next months’ goals.
I also have a less consistent, but a lot more public approach – my Monday Progress Report series, right here on the blog. It’s supposed to be a weekly feature, and I hope to achieve that goal soon. Otherwise, I post once or twice a month and share my achievements and my failures with my fans.
Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a group of authors, it’s important to hold yourself accountable. This is not about shaming yourself. It’s about being open about your progress and having someone to pat you on the back when you succeed, and help you do better when you fail.
What is your strategy of setting goals for your author career? What tools do you use to track your progress and how do you deal with the accountability issue? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
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