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.
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