Start with one goal. Make it a big one. Maybe you want to write a book. Maybe you want to write a novel. But more than just wanting to write a book, you want the book to sell. This is a big goal, especially if you haven’t written and sold your first book yet. So, how do you put a goal like that into motion?
You could just dive in and start writing. Many writers do, and some of them come out of the process with a finished, publishable manuscript. Some of them can even sell it the way they want. If you want to rely on luck that you’ll do the right thing at the right time and stay on task, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
If the very idea of just jumping in overwhelms you, you need a plan. But where do you start? You can start by thinking about your book and yourself as you’ll be when it’s all done. Imagine you’ve got the published book in your hands. Imagine you’ve got a check in your pocket for all the work you’ve done. Think of yourself in that place and in that time. Now, look backwards. What do you see?
You know you have to write the book in order to get to that moment. What else do you need to do? You need write the book, but you also need to research the material, craft and polish your prose, get feedback, revise your manuscript, and then polish again. You may need to take pictures, make graphics, and/or produce illustrations to complement the text. You will need to decide who is going to publish the book (you, a small publisher, a large publisher, ect.), how it’s going to be published (hard cover, soft cover, e-book, ect.), how much help you’ll need to get the manuscript into publishable condition (editing, copyediting, proofreading, legal counseling, graphic design, layout design, ect.) and who will provide that help. If you want a traditional publisher to publish your book, you’ll need a platform that’s strong enough to convince them to publish it. You may need an agent. If you want to publish it yourself, you’ll need a platform that’s strong enough to sell the book. How many copies do you want to sell? How many people do you want to reach? How do you intend to market the book after it’s published? You’ll need to have a marketing plan and marketing materials ready for the book’s launch. You’ll need media contacts. You may need to have talks or readings prepared, and venues located for speeches, readings and/or signings. You may need to have articles or short stories published throughout this process to build up your expertise and credibility, or simply to establish your audience. And there’s more you could do, perhaps more you should do.
It’s a long list and it’s not even complete. Writing the book itself is a relatively small part of the process, but it’s also the most essential part of the process. If you build your platform but never finish the book, what have you really accomplished? Nothing. On the other hand, if you finish your book and don’t build your platform, how are people going to get a copy? You need both. A plan can help you achieve both, so you’ll have that platform ready and waiting when your book is finally published.
My point isn’t that you should write a book. My point is, when you have a big goal you want to accomplish, you can determine what you need to do to by working backwards from its achievement. So, whatever your goal is you need to project yourself into the future and imagine your successful achievement of the goal. Now, look backwards and ask yourself how you got there. Don’t just look for the obvious steps. Look closely and see how much work you really have to do. Write it down.
Got it? Now, organize your list. Some of these things will be need to be done in an easily identifiable order. For example, you have to complete your first draft before you can have it proofread for publication. Other things aren’t going to be easy to place in a timeline. When do you start approaching magazines with excerpts from your book? Are there other ways to use your research to get published and build your platform? When do you launch your website, your social media presence, your blog? When do you put yourself forward to media personnel as a potential interviewee?
You can do some research and get some good advice, but there are no right answers to these questions. You have to decide what works for you. You have to make your plan. You’ll make mistakes and that’s okay. Learn from them, try something else, and move on. A plan isn’t written by super-gluing precious gems to a slab of stone. A plan needs to be flexible and changeable. As you implement your plan, you’ll learn and you’ll need to adjust your plan accordingly. But you’ll also know you’re heading in the right direction.
But you’re not quite there yet. Some goals can be planned by working backwards. Other goals can be better captured by weaving a web. I’ll show you how to do that on Saturday.