Is writing your career? Or is it a hobby you hope will someday turn into a financially rewarding line of work? Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of "becoming an author," you need a plan for your business. And, believe me, treating your writing like a business will help you make more of it than just a time-sucking hobby.
Let’s turn this into your year for publishing. First, you need a strategic plan.
What is a strategic plan?
Think of your strategic plan like the GPS map on your smartphone. It shows you how to get from your current position to where you want to be in 2019. Your strategic plan helps you figure out the steps you need to take to make your dreams a reality. It breaks down your vision for the coming year into actionable, do-able tasks much like your phone’s GPS map shows you all the turns you need to make to get to your final destination.
Use your strategic plan as a roadmap for the next year, 24 months, or even five years. Once you see where you want to be in those timeframes, you can figure out how to make it happen.
Start with your vision
What does your ideal writing career look like? For some, it may be to publish that first novel. Others may want to be more prolific.
Whatever your dreams of the best writing life are, write them down. Let go of inhibitions and silence that devil on your shoulder who says, "You can’t." Dream big, my friend.
Let’s focus on the next 12 months. Now, complete these sentences:
This year, I will write _________________________. (This could be the number of books you want to write and the genre or type of writing you want to do. For example, someone might write, "In 2019, I will write two fiction novels, three novellas, and a poem a month.")
This year, I will earn ____ from my day job and ____ from my writing. (Or if you’re a full-time writer, just list how much you want to make from your writing.)
Over the next 52 weeks, I will work ____ hours a week at writing.
Next, depending on if you want to self-publish or go the traditional route, fill in these blanks:
I will land an agent by this date: _________
I will have a publishing contract by this date: _________
I will self-publish ____ eBooks by this date: _________
I will sell ____ copies of each eBook per month, earning $____ a month.
Determine your strategies
How will you reach your dreams and goals? While creating your vision was a fun, pie-in-the-sky exercise, determining your strategies needs to be realistic. For example, if you want to write four books in the coming year but have yet to complete a full novel, you may find it tough to write, edit, polish, and publish that many.
But let’s say you’ve already written a novel and know it takes you about three months to draft. You could shoot for the following schedule:
Date 1: Book 1 drafted and sent to an editor. Hire a designer to create your cover, and write the front and back material.
Date 2: Book 2 drafted and sent to an editor. Get cover created and write front and back copy. Then, rewrite/polish Book 1 and set it up to sell.
Date 3: Book 3 drafted and sent to an editor. Get cover created and write front and back copy. Rewrite/polish Book 2 and set it up to sell.
Date 4: Rewrite/polish Book 3 and set it up to sell.
This is just a rough strategic outline of how you could conceivably write, edit, and publish three books in 2019. You’ll have a lot more strategies than these high-level ones, like how you’ll advertise and market your books, will you do any interviews or readings, etc.
Creating your strategies is about taking your end goal—writing a book—and working backwards step by step. There are a lot more steps than the few covered above, like figuring out how many words you must write each day, researching and writing a synopsis and query letters, hiring an editor and cover designer, and finding beta readers.
The key is to drill down in as much detail as you can so you have an actionable to-do list for the coming year. Try to get do-able steps attached to a milestone or deadline that you can put on your calendar.
Part of strategic planning is mindset
When you dream big, get a firm picture in your mind of what that looks like. If your goal for 2019 is to be a best-selling indie author, get clear on what it looks, feels, sounds, even tastes like. Once you’ve solidified that picture, figure out how to make it happen.
When you create the mindset that you are a best-selling indie author, you strive intentionally toward that goal. Your thoughts guide your actions, and your actions determine your future.
Henry Ford said it best:
Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.
A visual representation of your strategic plan can be just the push you need. Print out a timeline with your action steps and pin it up where you’ll see it every day. Or make a vision board with milestones you can highlight when completed.
The most important part of your strategic plan, however, is putting it into action. You must do more than merely look at it—schedule each strategy and action step on your calendar. Commit to doing something each day to help you reach your goals. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to live into your dreams by creating the right plan and taking action on it every single day.