How about instead of posting lofty goals, let’s look back at 2014 and assess the success of our business? Most of us [on this blog] have been writing long enough we’re used to thinking of our writing as a business, but have you set up a balance sheet? Assessed your inventory?
Sidebar – my tag line is “mystery with a financial twist.” The interviewer for an online magazine’s (I’ll add the URL later) first question began: Finance is boring. Why would anyone read a financial mystery? Ouch! I hope I finessed that question.
So back to our assessment.
Step 1: Create your balance sheet. List your titles – your primary asset – plus any other writing you have to offer, including WIPs and blog posts – your inventory.
I’m leaving your income statement alone. J
Step 2: Your 2014 goals (can you actually find them?) Did you accomplish your goals from 2014? (And how did you do versus 2013?)
Most likely your first goal was “write/publish X books.”
If you wanted to write, sell, or publish four books this year but you only managed two – why did that happen?
Setting lofty goals is simple and wow, but do we know the best-laid plans can go sideways. What happened that kept you from writing X books? Did your son or daughter make that traveling gymnastics team and carpooling/chaperoning bounced your writing time? Were you responsible for an elderly parent? Or like my friend Julie, did your daughter expected you to be the babysitter for her child? Family usually takes precedence over our plans. (Hmm…huge topic for another day.) Did your day job change (like mine) and all of a sudden you’re a road warrior with a huge project dumped in your lap? Or did you simply run out of steam—why?
Step 3: List the things that prevented you from accomplishing your goals.
Maybe 2014 was amazing! You wrote and sold more than your goal; you hit Amazon category, USA, or NYT lists! Yay!
Step 4: List what went right in 2014.
Beyond the “no one really knows” why a particular book will hit is a lot of hard work. Did you commit to X words a day and set a time to write? Did you work harder to release those books? Harder how? Even if you aren’t certain why 2014 went better, list what might have been a factor. Did your blog receive more traffic? Did you prepare and turn in guest posts? (All those posts and guest posts should be on your inventory list, by the way.) Did you spend more time tweeting? Employ certain ads/promotional campaigns? Did your publisher help promote? How? Take a wild guess if you aren’t sure.
Congratulations. You’ve just created your business plan for 2015!
You know what you have or don’t have in terms of inventory to offer. You know why you did or did not succeed in reaching your goals in 2014. You know the personal-life elements you have to consider, even if it’s how to work around obstacles. You know what your obstacles are.
Now you can make your 2015 resolutions, except you’re setting business goals.
As you list each goal, add what it will take to achieve them.
Your business plan will be the driving force behind your dreams and aspirations. Stick to your plan unless there’s a major alteration—and adjust the plan to accommodate a new obstacle.
Don’t just make this words on a piece of paper. As the cliché say, Just Do It.
If you commit to 300 words a day, write them. If you miss a day, a week, instead of wasting energy beating yourself up – jump back in. Try to catch up, even if you add only 25 extra words per day.
Keep your goals reasonable. We’d all like to sell two million books this year. Is it realistic?
Break the goals down into manageable pieces. If you sold fifteen books a day in 2014, it’s reasonable to set a goal for 25 or 30 in 2015. Releasing your next book might mean you’ll start selling 50 a day. The writing business can change in the time it takes Amazon to launch a new program or Smash to ink a new partnership. Don’t be afraid to adjust your goals or your plans for how to reach those goals.
Print your goals and put them somewhere you’ll see them on a daily basis. Above your computer monitor—or taped to the bathroom sink. Stay focused.
Remember, you are the CEO of your business no matter how big or small it is. Act successful, keep your chin up, and maintain a positive attitude. Success will come.
A limited version of this post appeared earlier in January on our group blog, Not Your Usual Suspects.