The Art of Setting Goals: It’s Not Always “Go Big or Go Home”

This article was a guest blog post on The Book Designer in June. In the article I look at the goals that gradually brought my book to fruition, and I extract some wisdom at every step of the journey. If you would like to see the original article, click HERE. I hope you enjoy this re-post! Happy weekend!


The Art of Setting Goals: It’s Not Always “Go Big or Go Home”

Goals are the destinations to which we journey in life. Goals give us a sense of purpose when we are working—something to achieve or strive for.

Sometimes without even knowing, we set goals and achieve them, giving us that feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. Writing is no different from any other life or work endeavor and, therefore, goals are essential—a means to an end.

Have you ever started a writing project without an end goal? Maybe you didn’t realize you had a goal but somewhere in the back of your mind, you had a purpose for writing. It happens to me all of the time, so there’s no need to feel out of place.

When I started writing my book, I had no idea it would actually become a book, published on Amazon, and purchased by others. It was simply a story I had in my mind and I decided one day to put it down on paper.

My first time sitting down and writing, I truly didn’t have a goal for the book or chapters. I wrote three chapters at first and didn’t do anything else with it for a while.

It was never my dream to become an author. I never imagined that it was possible for me to write a book. This is where goals come in to play for me. I’m a goal-oriented, future-focused kind of woman. I set my sights on a goal and I work, work, work until I achieve that goal.

I did the same thing with writing a book as I did with running a half marathon. I set my end goal in the beginning and I worked towards that goal until I reached it. I’m going to do a bit of self-reflection and share with you my goals, show you how they changed over time, and how those goals led me to become a self-published author of a twenty chapter novel.

GOAL #1: Write a Book

My first goal, when I actually had it in my mind that I was going to write a book, was to write as much as I could each day that I had a chance to write. I didn’t have a set amount of words I wanted to write per day or a number of chapters I wanted to complete per week. I didn’t even know how long the book was going to be.

The problem with this goal was that it was big. I couldn’t see the end, which led to boredom. Because I grew tired of writing I took long breaks, sometimes even months at a time. With such a large goal, it was difficult to keep focused on my final destination.

  • TIP: Set your writing goals realistically, break your book into smaller goals, and find a style that works best for you. If you work well with word counts, then set a daily word count goal. If you work best with chapter completion, then set a weekly number of chapters goal. If you are not good with either one of those things, find what works for you and go with it.

GOAL #2: Publish

My second goal came when I was around chapter 15 of the book. I had now written more than I had ever written in my entire life and I had invested quite a bit into the story and characters. I started looking into publishing avenues and read a couple of “how-to” articles on traditional publishing.

During my research, I came across an article on self-publishing an eBook through Amazon. I hadn’t really given this much thought before, but the article was pretty convincing. I looked into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and decided that I wanted to take this route to publish my book. Once I had set publishing as my end goal, I had more motivation to write the remaining chapters of my book.

  • TIP: If you don’t want to publish your work, you don’t have to, but it is helpful to have an end goal in mind for your writing project. Maybe you just want to write a book without publishing it. If that is the case, then set your end goal as the completion of your book.

GOAL #3: Set Launch Date

I finished writing the book, all twenty chapters and an epilogue, and let it sit for a month or so. I knew I wanted to publish my book on Amazon but I had no time frame for publishing. The book needed editing but I had worked so hard to finish writing that I had no desire to go back and read over it.

I needed a break so I took one. When I felt up to the task, I sat down and read over the book. It had errors and plot holes as I had expected but it was a quality story overall. The editing and formatting process took time, and I didn’t know when I would reach the end. It was March and I finally decided to set my publishing date around the end of May.

  • TIP: If you are self-publishing, setting a launch date will give you a time frame in which to complete everything. From there, you can set due dates for different parts of this process. This will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed as you take on the roles of author, designer, formatter, and publisher.

GOAL #4: Format

Over the next month, from March to April, I researched best practices for self-publishing an eBook. I read about everything from cover design to formatting to marketing. I hadn’t realized how difficult the self-publishing route would be to do it all on my own. I had a deadline of the end of May to complete everything.

Formatting was a nightmare and it made editing look like a piece of cake. I tried templates and suggestions from blog posts and websites, etc. to get my book formatted correctly in Microsoft Word. It was a tedious process—format, convert to HTML, convert to .MOBI, test on Kindle Previewer, find an error, repeat.

I did this formatting dance countless times before I finally found Scrivener which made my life so much easier. The formatting was done, saved, and I was ready to produce the final product.

  • TIP: Formatting an eBook for Amazon may not be a problem for you. There are people out there who will do it for you for a fee. If you don’t want to spend any money, invest in Scrivener. It changed my life and made the daunting task of formatting much easier. I’m pretty computer savvy but formatting apparently isn’t my forte. You can find the Scrivener application and even try it out for free at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

GOAL #5: Sell Book

I had a discussion with my husband a few weeks before my launch date about my goals of selling the book. What I wanted was to publish the book but I hadn’t thought about what happens after I publish it. I didn’t have a big following of readers who were anxiously awaiting the launch of my book. In fact, I didn’t really have a following at all.

I decided that it didn’t matter to me how well my book sold, so long as I could sell at least one book. The end of May came and I launched my book, The Last Navigator, on Amazon Kindle. I can’t even begin to explain how good that felt to have accomplished my goal of publishing a book.

Once it went live, I sent the link out to family and friends and waited for the purchasing to start. In the first few days, I had 5 purchases which would have been really great considering I had a goal of selling at least one book.

Somewhere in between the time I set my original selling goal and the time I started selling, I had let my imagination run wild with the possibility of becoming a best-selling author. This was a mistake. The 5 purchases I had in the month of May were as follows: my husband, me, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my dad. I hadn’t thought about the fact that all of the purchases might be family members who were just trying to support me. I was discouraged about my book sales even though I had technically accomplished my goal.

  • TIP: To avoid getting discouraged, set your goals smaller. It isn’t very likely that you will become a best-selling author overnight if you aren’t well known in the world. Don’t let this stop you from dreaming big, though!

Defining Goals and Starting Small

I shared my story with you as an example of real-life goal setting by someone who isn’t a professional writer or experienced author. I fell into the trap of “Go Big or Go Home” and I want to warn others that it’s easy to fall victim to this notion.

If I could have gone big, I would have certainly loved to do so. It isn’t a reality for me, at least not yet, and I needed to set my goals to reflect my current circumstances. After a week of severely slow sales, I came home and cried to my husband. I was a ball of self-pity and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I was fully prepared to take my ball and go home when he gave me this nugget of advice.

He reminded me of my original goal to sell just one book. He told me that if I had changed my goal, I needed to come to terms with that and work harder to reach my new goal. He advised me to try to set realistic goals for myself and not expect to become a best-seller overnight.

I reflected on this for a while and came back to him later on in the night. My goal had indeed changed and it was an unrealistic goal that was only going to lead to disappointment. When I told him this, he smiled and told me that I just needed to sit down and define my goals—starting small and celebrating the little accomplishments.

With a deep breath I embraced his advice and set my first real selling goal as follows: to sell my book to one person with whom I am not related and have no relationship. I got a call from my dad the next day who told me that one of his former students (with whom I have no relationship and I am not related) bought the book. Goal accomplished! I set my next selling goal to sell at least 10 books during the month of June and have made it almost half way already.

  • MY ADVICE: Start where you are in life and make changes as your circumstances change. If you go big, you may end up going home.

The Last Navigator Featured on PubSmart Author

The Last Navigator [Kindle Edition]

The Last Navigator is the featured book today on PubSmart Author! After a bit of link difficulty, I finally got everything worked out and am able to share the link with you (get excited!).

Here it is:

http://pubsmartauthor.com/the-last-navigator-by-j-g-mcnease/

It’s a great feeling when your debut novel gets featured on a website! Check it out and stop by Amazon.com to get your copy of The Last Navigator today. Read and enjoy!

“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere.” ― Hazel Rochman

Until next time…

J. G. McNease

Featured Interview on Pubsmart Author

My author interview is featured today on Pubsmart Author! I’ve included a small snippet of the interview below for your enjoyment. Visit the Pubsmart Author website to find out more!


J. G. McNease

J. G. McNease Author Interview (A Snippet)

 Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected? (What was it?)

I did learn something from writing my book that was unexpected. I learned that I am capable of writing a book from cover to cover. I never thought that I could do something of that magnitude before but as the chapters continued to flow through my typing, I realized that I actually had it in me to write an entire book.

Where do you want to go with your writing career? Where do you see your writing career in five years?

I don’t know where I want to go with my writing career. I have hopes and dreams for my writing but you never know where life will take you. Just a year ago, I had no idea I would be a published author. I didn’t know I could write a book either. Now I have written a book and it has been published. In five years, I hope to have a couple of books published and I would love to see my name on a bestsellers list.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.

I have a few works in progress at the moment. One of those works is the companion novel to The Last Navigator called Through Ryan’s Eyes. It is the story of The Last Navigator from the perspective of the human character, Ryan. It gives a bit of background into his life and what leads up to the last part of The Last Navigator. Another work I have in progress is a fictional book about real life events that happened in my life. For now, I’m calling it Adoptee Anonymous and it is telling a story of a character named Lynn and her journey to find out more about herself. My hope is that it will be an encouragement to any adoptee who struggles with similar issues in life. My last work that I have in progress is my collection of short stories. I have two short stories written already and I’m working on the third right now. The third short story is called “Waltzing With Raindrops” and it is about a woman and her relationship with her aging father who is in the hospital after having a stroke. It is a story for all of the “Daddy’s Girls” out there.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

When I’m not writing I spend my time working. I have a full-time day job as an administrative assistant so writing isn’t my primary activity. I also spend time with my husband watching TV shows on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video…

 To read the rest of the interview, click HERE.


More news…

  • The Last Navigator will be the featured book on Pubsmart Author tomorrow, July 10, 2013.
  • I have three (3) reviews for The Last Navigator on Amazon. If you enjoyed the book, feel free to write a brief review telling others about it! I appreciate the support!

Until next time…

J. G. McNease

My Success with KDP Select

“It’s a funny thing about life if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

When I first decided to publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, I was on the fence about enrolling in the KDP Select program. I wanted the benefits of being able to offer free days for my book but I didn’t want the obligation of selling exclusively from Amazon.com. It wasn’t until this first free event that I was sure about my decision to enroll.

Why am I sure? It’s simple. I TRIPLED my sales goal for the month of July by offering The Last Navigator for free for two days. I surpassed my goal of 15 free downloads/sales for the month in just the first day of the free event. At the end of July 3rd, I had 16 downloads which was more than I had anticipated having for the entire month, more than I had for the whole month of June, and more than my goal for downloads during the complete two day free event. If you read my post about Exceeding Expectations, you will see that my goals were reasonably set and I was optimistic going into July. I NEVER expected to have 47 downloads at the end of my free event. The decision to enroll was indeed a good one, and I would encourage others who are unsure about the KDP Select program to give it a try. I mean, anyone can do something for 90 days, right? If it doesn’t work out for you, then don’t re-enroll. It’s as easy as un-checking a check box. You will have to fulfill your obligation of 90 days but when it’s over, you are free to sell wherever you want. This experience has taught me several things:

  1.  More people than I thought are interested in reading my book.
  2. People are more likely to download a free book written by an unknown author than pay any money for it, even if it’s cheap.
  3. Scheduling free events on holidays is a good idea because people are already on the prowl for holiday discounts and deals wherever they can find them.

I haven’t decided if I want to simply change the price of my book from $2.99 to $0.00 for a few months to build up an audience. It seems like a good strategy and I’m going to mull it over for a few days before I decide. If I don’t change the price, I will definitely be featuring it again for free in early August as a Back-to-School Special. If you didn’t get your free copy and don’t want to pay for it, be on the lookout for this event coming up soon. For those of you who did get to download The Last Navigator, I encourage you to write a brief review on Amazon.

Until next time…

J. G. McNease

Exceeding Expectations

“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.” ~ Mark Twain

When I wrote the guest blog post about goal setting for The Book Designer, I set a personal sales goal of at least 10 book purchases for the month of June. I hoped for the best but expected the worst. I never imagined that I would exceed 10 sales since I am a new independent author with a small following of mostly friends and family. It was a reasonable sales goal for me and I figured I would probably get 10 sales in June but nothing more.

On June 20th, I checked my total sales for the month and found that I had reached my goal of 10 book sales. What the screen actually read was “11 Units Sold” but one of those resulted in a return which left me with “10 Net Units Sold”. On top of the 10 net sales, I had one borrow in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Great! I thought to myself. I had met my goal and it wasn’t even the end of the month yet. It gets better, though. Once I had met my monthly sales goal, it was all uphill from there. Unless every person who purchased the book returned it before July 1st, I would only exceed my sales goal. To my delight, I did exceed my sales goal! The final count at the end of June was 15 Units Sold, 14 Net Units Sold, 1 Unit Refunded, and 1 Unit Borrowed. I would say that is an accomplishment!

My hope is to continue to exceed my personal expectations as time goes by. The month of July is going to be a big one because of the “Freebie” event coming up in a few days (July 3-4, 2013). I’ve set several goals for July in terms of sales, free event downloads, and reviews:

  • GOAL #1: At least 15 total sales for July.
  • GOAL #2: At least 10 downloads during the Fourth of July Freebie event on July 3-4.
  • GOAL #3: At least 5 total reviews on Amazon.

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