Tuesday, November 5, 2013

If You're an Author Without Goals, You're an Author Without a Plan

Remember in the movie, Pretty Woman, when the homeless guy says, "Do you have a goal?"

Well? Do you?

A couple of weeks ago, I realized how important goals are. I was coming up on the release of the fifth book in my All the King's Men Series, and I was having "a moment." You know "the moment." It's that point when you start to panic right before you pull the trigger on a book release, when you don't feel like you'll never have enough time to get it all done, when the world comes crashing in on you? Yeah. That moment.

I called mine a mini-panic and talked with my hubby for about an hour as I "processed." What can I say? I'm a processor. Talking aloud about what's troubling me usually helps me resolve the problem. During the course of our conversation, which was really sort of a meltdown (poor hubby), my hubs said something that resonated with me the following morning. He said, "What are the three most important things on your list right now?" At the time, my answer was, "It's all important." The following morning, I changed my mind, took a seat at my desk, erased all the to-do items from the white board that hangs by my desk, and thought about his question for about five seconds before I identified the three most important things I need to focus on for the next eight months:
  1. Writing
  2. Getting my books in print
  3. Updating all my ebook listings and blurbs
BAM! Done. Who's da bomb? I'm da bomb. Those are the only things listed on my white board right now, and I've set monthly goals to achieve them.

Taking a closer look at my three primary objectives, here is why they made my top three list:

Writing. This is THE most important goal on my list. In the past three months, my writing productivity has been all but nonexistent, despite the fact that I retired from my day job in May and was cranking out almost 100,000 words per month at the time. I'm lucky to have written 50,000 words since July. This isn't good for a writer who has over eight books sitting in her mind wanting to be written. So, I'm starting to stress about not getting any actual writing done. And I haven't been getting any writing done because I've had to focus too much on administrative things and peripheral tasks that have taken my focus away from writing.

Getting my books in print. I've been saying for a year that I'm going to do this, but much like my writing, it keeps getting pushed off by other tasks. Well, no more. I need to break down and make this happen. Too many people have contacted me looking for my books in print, and I need books to take to conventions and to give away autographed copies of. This has to be a priority.

Updating all my ebook listings and blurbs. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but it's a time-consuming one. I need to update buy links for every e-retailer, add at the end of each ebook an excerpt for the next in the series, and update my contact links. And then I need to reload to all the sites where my books are listed.

Once I had these three goals in place, selecting what to keep on my immediate to-do list and what not to became easy. Basically, if it doesn't positively impact one of the above three objectives, it doesn't happen. This means that I won't be going to RT next year, and most likely won't go to the RWA convention, either, unless I get invited to sit on a panel. If that happens, I'm there. But I'll address such items on a case-by-case basis.

It also means that I probably won't run a blog tour for at least a year unless it's a small one that I hire a professional agency such as Orangeberry, Parajunkee, or AuthorBuzz to run for me. I've run three tours this year, and I simply can't take the months of time it takes to plan a tour and coordinate another one like the one I'm running right now until I've gotten through the next eight months or so. I love blog tours, but they don't impact my three objectives, so unfortunately, for now, I need to put them on the back burner until maybe this time next year, although I may reach out to a few close bloggers for an easy-breezy mini-tour once Trace's book is released. We'll see how it goes.

I also created a calendar (mine is in print...I'm a hard copy kind of person) through December, 2014, and marked down my deadlines for all my projects.This will help keep me on track and focused on meeting my writing objectives. And as I work with Amazon to allow me to post pre-orders (which only a tiny handful of indie authors are allowed to do), this publishing schedule will help me stay on track to meet their deadlines.

Why am I doing this? Why am I sacrificing conventions I love and blog tours I look forward to and creating publishing schedules for myself? Because I need to if I'm going to write all these books I need to write before I die. And I would like to publish Trace's book before the end of next year. If I don't get to writing it, that won't happen, especially because I want to make sure his book is awesome. There's high fan expectations for his book, and I want to ensure I meet expectations, which means I need to dedicate major writing time to his book.

To help free me up to write more, I will also be hiring a professional formatter for my books. No more formatting my own. Formatting for all the different platforms, e-retailers, and print can take a week or more. That's a week I could be writing, which is worth the small expense to pay someone else to do it...and do it better than I can...as well as for more platforms than I can, such as Apple. The formatter I want to use will also update ebook listings when new books come out for a small extra fee...and load them for me. Talk about getting my writing time back! 

So, if you don't feel like you're getting anything done in your own writing career, perhaps you need to do what I've done:
  1. Identify your top three objectives for 6-8 months.
  2. Slice out anything that doesn't positively impact those things.
  3. Find ways to delegate other tasks elsewhere to accommodate your goals. 
Do you have a goal? You've gotta have a goal.


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