New Year, New You: 5 Resolutions for the Serious Writer

Happy New Year

Happy 2017, SEers!

I don’t know about you, but I hate making resolutions. There’s a good chance it’s because I always set huge, nearly unattainable goals and get frustrated when I haven’t achieved them in the first week of the year. Yes, I know that’s ridiculous. No, I can’t seem to help myself. I’m doomed to fail before I even get going. This year, though, I want to try to do things a little differently. Maybe you’ll join me…

It goes without saying that smaller, incremental milestones are much easier to reach. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with lofty goals. Without them, our society would never improve.

But while we’re reaching for the stars, we need to first worry about building the rocket, launching, breaking orbit, and traversing the galaxy. (Believe that? Click here to tweet it.)

If your goal this year is to become a NYTBSA, I wish you all the best. In fact, I wouldn’t mind joining you. But first, we need an action plan. Online, you can find a lot of templates for business plans for authors. And having one is a great idea. But if committing to creating one is too daunting for you, let’s just hit some of the highlights that will get you on your way without formalizing a business description or financial statement. Below are five items that, once completed, will help you focus your efforts toward your best year yet.

1. Mission Statement

This can be as simple as your goal for the year or as complex as the operating philosophy for your entire career. Either way, it’s a fluid statement, changing as your accomplishments grow.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your goals small and attainable. (Not “become a New York Times best selling author” but rather “sell 100 copies at launch and maintain a 30 copies/month sales rate”.)
  • Keep your goals you-centric so you’re in control. (Not “increase web presence” because what does that mean? The control is out of your hands. Rather, “reach 5 new viewers a week” because then you know what you have to do.)

2. Yearly Writing Goal

I find this works best when broken down into large works and the timeframe to accomplish each.

Things to keep in mind:

  • A backlist is one of the most important criteria to growing your fan base. There’s nothing more frustrating to a reader than finding a new author, loving her work, and then looking for other work and finding none. So you need to be constantly putting out new content. Let me amend that. New quality content.
  • You shouldn’t just arbitrarily pick a number that’s bigger than the year before. Perhaps last year you wrote 6 works. You can’t say this year you’ll write 8. What if your 6 works were shorts and novellas and now you’re writing novels? It’s far better to focus on word count than works counts.
  • Speaking of word count, you need to determine how many days of the week you’ll be writing and how many words you need each day in order to meet your deadlines. I use Scrivener, which has a great daily-tracker as well as a project-tracker built right in. But even if you use a regular word processor, you can track your progress (daily and project-wide) in a simple table or spreadsheet.

3. Project Timeline

There are many more parts to writing fiction than the actual writing.  Don’t forget all the other components, like outlining, editing, revising, proofreading, distributing to beta readers, and finalizing the content. Then there are the publishing criteria…

Things to keep in mind:

  • There are several stages to the editing process. Don’t forget to factor those stages into your timeline.
  • It’s also important to budget for downtime. It’s really hard to edit your own work, but it’s even more difficult when you try to do so right after completing the first draft. Allow yourself a couple of weeks away from the document so you can approach proofing with fresh eyes.
  • When planning for publishing, consider whether you’re contracting out or doing the work yourself. It’s a matter of time versus cost, provided you can even do any of these parts yourself.
    • As I mentioned earlier, it’s really hard to edit your own work. So consider hiring an editor, or trading editing services with a writer you trust.
    • How much time and money do you have to invest in a good cover? Are you even able to design one yourself?
    • eBook and tangible books both take time to design. Do you know how to lay out books for electronic distribution? What about for print?
    • The book blurb is arguably just as important as an appealing cover. Do you know the industry standards for writing one in your genre?

4. Marketing Efforts

Every work requires a marketing machine to reach its audience. Without one, even the best book by the most popular author on the planet won’t gain traction. Part of your goals for the year should include your marketing efforts.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Your website is the central hub—the one place where readers are guaranteed to find information about you and your offerings. You are in sole control of this content. Keep it professional, but keep it fresh.
  • Make sure you are collecting email addresses for your newsletter. Direct communication is your best sales channel, and if a reader trusts you with her email address, then you’ve already converted her to a fan.
  • Social media can be your friend or your enemy. Make sure to post on different platforms, but also remember:
    • The majority of your posts should be about others, not your latest release.
    • Different media work in different ways/target different audiences. Find the ones that work for you, but don’t overdo it. You want your messages on different platforms, but only if you can maintain your presence on the platforms you choose.
    • Create and follow a posting schedule (use apps to help you, but don’t abuse them) so you can manage your presence and time effectively.
    • Make sure to reply to people who share your content. This is all about cultivating relationships, not (as you might think) generating sales. Grow your following, and sales will follow. Focus on sales, and your platforms will go nowhere.
  • Consider guest posts, blog tours, giveaways, and ads. Some of these options are free, some inexpensive, and some quite costly, but all allow you to reach audience members you wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s up to you to do a cost analysis and decide if the money spent will be made back in sales.
  • Also think about marketing materials. Graphic teasers are much more eyecatching than straight text, and one of the only ways to grab a reader’s attention in a sea of scrolling messages. Can you create them yourself? Do you have the budget to hire someone to make them for you?

5. Market Research

The best way to know if you’re doing the right things is to stay abreast of trends in the marketplace and of your own statistics.

Things to keep in mind:

  • To know if your work will appeal to your intended audience, read your competitors’ works. Study them. If you’re way off track, reassess. Are you targeting the wrong audience or are you bucking the norms in your genre?
  • Visit other authors’ websites. Adopt strategies you like and get rid of time and space wasters on your own site.
  • Use headline analyzers, SEO tactics, a/b testing, and statistical analyses to optimize what’s working and change what isn’t.

Once you have developed your mission statement, yearly writing goal, project timeline, marketing efforts, and market research, you will be well on your way toward meeting your new year’s resolution to “be more successful” as an author. Narrowing your focus and targeting your efforts will go a long way in helping you reach your goals.

At the time I’m creating this post (December 28), I’m still honing my mission statement for the year and considering my word count goals. The other three categories won’t be dealt with until I’ve completed the first two. But like I said, these goals can and should be fluid, so as your year moves on and you reassess your progress, you might want to shift a few things. I’m not concerned that I don’t have the details nailed down yet. I’m just happy to have generalities to shoot for at this point.

What about you? Did you make any resolutions this year? How do you plan on attaining your new goals? Let’s talk about it.

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26 thoughts on “New Year, New You: 5 Resolutions for the Serious Writer

  1. Pingback: New Year, New You: 5 Resolutions for the Serious Writer — Story Empire | Arrowhead Freelance and Publishing

  2. Wow, I’m late in seeing this post, but I love all of the helpful information!. I’ve actually never created a business plan or plotted out goals, but I might give it a try this year, especially after the wealth of suggestions in this post. I’ve had a standard goal since I started writing: publish 2 works a year. Other than that I can of go with the flow. Maybe it’s time I changed that and set something concrete. Happy New Year, Staci!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was supposed to be my year to write a formal business plan rather than a goal statement, but I’ve been too busy to get it written! (I guess this is one of those do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do posts.) Wishing you a successful 2017, Mae. You knocked it out of the park in 2016, so I can’t wait to see where this year takes you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post Staci! Many wonderful suggestions for realistic writing goals, schedules, promotions and much more. A few of my goals this year is to complete my second novel, and to get several short stories out there. I will also be working on consistency in social media posts and updating my website. Thanks for the guidelines you have shared. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you found this post helpful, Cheryl. It sounds like you have a strong plan for the new year. Do let us know how you’re meeting your goals as the year progresses. And Happy New Year!

      Like

  4. Thank you for your timely and helpful post, Staci! Happy New Year to all! 🙂 I seriously need to set aside strictly writing time this year, lols. Onwards and upwards 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you found this post helpful. I, too, will be working off it in the coming days to try to refine my plan for the year.

      Thanks so much for the kind words about Bleeding Heart. I’m thrilled you liked it. Please consider leaving a review if you haven’t already done so. You know how important they are to us!

      Happy New Year, Julie. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love it, Staci. I just went through some of my own thoughts for the coming year. I’m not as strict as you, but have been in the past. I’m concentrating more on finished projects than word counts now. My writing time is too unpredictable. That and promotion, there’s always promotion.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Happy New Year, Staci! And best of luck with reaching your goals!
    An interesting post for authors, or how I like to call them “Creators of illusions.”
    I, for one, have given up doing such things for a while. You know the saying “Man proposes, God disposes.” Whenever I made plans in advance something, not always good happened, so I’d rather do what I can without feeling guilty for not achieving some predetermined targets. That’s me. I’m sure I’m the only one but that’s it. I admire people who plan in advance it and manage to do most of the things on the list.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Happy New Year! I understand the “let go and let God” philosophy. I’ve done a lot of that, myself. But I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with the outcomes and out of control of things, so I’m trying the “God helps those who help themselves” tactic for a while. If nothing else, I’ll be taking an active rather than passive role in things for a while. But to each her own. Wishing you success this year!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I like your philosophy, Staci. For me, it’s not about controlling what happens, as much as it is about understanding where I’m headed. Just like a car trip. I know I’m driving to a certain destination, though whether or not I make it there can be impacted by things out of my control. Still, I’d rather have a destination in mind, than to just start driving aimlessly. So, with your great ideas, I now have a Plan. But I’ve learned a lot about rolling with the punches, in case of roadblocks or other unforeseen issues. I can be flexible if my Plan goes awry. Or so I’ve convinced myself. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I’m glad to know that perhaps I helped you with your map for the year. You’re right; there’s no point in driving without a destination in mind, but we should always be ready to take a detour! Best wishes.

        Liked by 1 person

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