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This blog was featured on 07/09/2018
Tips for Building a Successful Career as an Author: Week Two - Goal Setting
Written by
She Writes
July 2018
Written by
She Writes
July 2018

This is the second installment of Jamie Beck's series for authors. Be sure to check out her latest novel, When You Knew, and tune in every Monday in July for her can't-miss advice on She Writes.

I’m back with the second installment of my series of writing posts offering tips to help you build a successful career as an author. If you’d like to read these posts in order, you can find the first post about craft here. As that one notes, throughout July, we will be discussing craft, goal setting, perseverance, networking, and luck. If you’ve already read the first post on craft, let’s dig into another important element of success: goal setting.

What is your definition of success?

You want to be a successful author, but what exactly does success mean to you?

From a macro perspective, do you want a hardcover deal with international distribution and multicountry translations, or is digital-only publication enough? Are you more interested in awards or are you focused on making money? Is your goal ticking off a bucket-list item and maybe getting a piece of fan mail? You can’t cross a finish line if you don’t know where it is, so you need to answer those questions.

Next, dig into micro details, like how much time can you dedicate to this goal? How much money (for workshops, books, and marketing) do you have to invest in reaching the goal? How thick is your skin (are you ready for rejection and negative reviews)? What are you willing to give up to reach the goal (time away from family, binge-watching TV, etc.)?

Once you generate honest answers, you can then formulate a plan to work toward your goal.

Formulating a Plan

By way of example, let’s use my macro-goal (getting an agent and a traditional deal). With that in mind, I set achievable goals and timelines to keep moving toward that goal:

  1. Join a writing association and learn the craft (immediate and ongoing);
  2. Write (rearrange schedule to accommodate a set word-count goal based on contest deadlines and other criteria);
  3. Self-edit based on critiques/beta reads/workshop feedback;
  4. Enter writing contests (if you final, you can note that in a query letter, which helps);
  5. Research agents and draft query letter (get feedback from chapter mates on query);
  6. Work on next book while waiting to hear back about submission; and
  7. Repeat all of the above until you get a publishing contract.

Sounds simple, and in many ways it is. But once you get to step four, you need to develop strong perseverance and patience muscles (which I will discuss in the next installment).

Once I reached these goals—secured an agent and publishing contract—I had to go through the same exercise for new goals. This was harder because “selling well” is not a clear line and means different things to different people and publishers. Nonetheless, I did my best to identify actions I would need to take to help my publisher sell my books. This included:

  1. Creating a professional website and social media presence;
  2. Blogging;
  3. Create a newsletter;
  4. Joining online writing and reading groups;
  5. Networking (the subject of a later post in this series);
  6. Learning to create ad graphics and copy for use on Facebook and other platforms; and
  7. Staying abreast of industry news and trends.

Each of these items can be broken into more detail, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. I can tell you that, depending on your budget, your technological ability, and your attitude, you can farm a lot of this out or dig in and learn to do it for yourself. There are thousands of articles on each of these topics, and many terrific blogs for writers. Some of my favorites include writersinthestormblog.com, janefriedman.com (and sign up for her hot sheet service), writerunboxed.com, and a monthly subscription to Publishers Marketplace.

I hope you’ll return next Monday for a discussion about perseverance and patience!

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