Prep for Publishing: Know Your Author Goals by Kristi Tuck Austin

Why knowing your author goals should be your first step.

As you prepare to publish, name your goals before you do anything else. You have dozens of decisions ahead of you: how you’ll publish your book; how you’ll promote it; where you’ll put your time and resources; how you’ll determine if your efforts are successful. You’re going to spend a lot of time researching options and you’ll hear many opinions, but ultimately you’ll have to take control of your book’s destiny and make some choices. Writing your goals now will be your North Star by which you navigate the decisions to come.

Benefits of Naming Your Author Goals

1. You’ll save time.

Judge every task by which goal it will help you achieve. That way you won’t spend time on worthless tasks that take you nowhere.

Judge every task by which goal it will help you achieve. @KristiAustin #85K90 Click To Tweet

2. You’ll save money.

Publishing a book can be expensive, and if you don’t carefully budget for tactics that will accomplish your goals, you could end up spending thousands of dollars with little return on investment. (My post on October 12, 2017 will talk about budgeting: why you need a budget and how to set one up.)

#ampublishing? Budget in a way that will accomplish your goals. @KristiAustin #85K90 Click To Tweet

3. You’ll save your sanity.

Some authors get overwhelmed by the quantity of advice floating around at writers conferences and on the internet. You’re less likely to get lost in the noise if you evaluate each piece of advice based on its ability to accomplish your goals.

Evaluate the advice you receive based on your author goals. @KristiAustin #85K90 Click To Tweet

4. You’ll save yourself from being a bystander in your own life.

Get in the driver’s seat of your career. Like the best characters, we need to be proactive rather than reactive.

When preparing to #publish be proactive rather than reactive. @KristiAustin #85K90 Here's how. Click To Tweet

IMAGE: Outline drawing of a typewriter

Are you a career or hobby author?

Do you want to have a writing career or a hobby? Sure, you say, everyone wants to make money off their writing. That might be true, but there’s tremendous value in writing and publishing even if you don’t want to have a second career as an author. Never underestimate the importance of self-fulfillment, communication, and creating an heirloom for those you love.

I’ve seen authors who aren’t honest with themselves about what they want. They say, “Sure, I’ll have a second career,” but several months after publication they’re miserable. They wanted to enjoy a quasi-retirement with time for tennis and boating, not viewing spreadsheets and scheduling events. Or they want to write on the weekends and see their work in print, but they don’t want to spend hours each week on marketing and publicity while juggling another full-time job, family, and civic responsibilities. Writing and publishing can quickly become a full-time commitment . . . often without adequate compensation . . . so be honest with the time you’re able and willing to devote.

You might not want to determine if your writing is a business or a hobby, but if you’re selling books, you’ll need to report income to the IRS, and the IRS designates business vs. hobby. It’s a good idea to talk with your accountant before you publish your book.

Is writing your business or hobby? Read the IRS post on the implications for tax deduction. @KristiAustin provides a link to what you need to know. #85K90 Click To Tweet

If you want writing to be a second career, you must view yourself as starting a small business. It’s a different mindset with different requirements, such as financial investments, record keeping, and marketing. My upcoming posts presume that publishing will be a business for you. It’s okay if writing is your hobby, but be aware that not all of my advice will apply to you.

If you make a decision early in your writing endeavors, you’ll set yourself up for success. You can always change your mind later.

Please remember that we’re all starting at different points. Some writers in the challenge are writing their first books, and some have been writing for years. Some writers have been published, and some have not yet been published. Even if we’re on the same career track, some people are in a train car a little farther ahead. They might arrive first, and that’s okay. Enjoy your own unique journey and make the decisions that are right for you.

Are you a career or hobby author? Learn how author goals differ in this post by @KristiAustin #85K90 Click To Tweet

How would you define success for your book?

Consider each of the following benchmarks.

  • Storytelling craft
  • Relationship with readers
  • Copies sold
  • Income
  • Personal fulfillment and productivity

A note about awards and bestsellers lists . . .

Authors often write that they want to be a New York Times bestseller. If that’s your goal, be aware that self-published books have a more difficult time making the list because it’s curated, not simply a report of the top-selling books as many assume. It takes a lot of work and a lot of luck to get on the list, and I’ve met authors who’ve found it to be a hollow victory. Bottom line: don’t allow awards and bestseller lists to be your sole measure of success.

Admit to yourself what you want for your ego. Writers, like everyone else, want validation and affection. Sometimes we exhaust ourselves pursuing affirmation because we’re a bit insecure. What you want for your ego might not be the best goal for your career or your blood pressure.

Focus on personal fulfillment and productivity because you can control the outcomes. You can’t make people buy your book or give you awards. (Okay, maybe you can force them but it isn’t ethically or legally the best bet.) You can control your actions and emotions. Be honest about what is in your control and what isn’t.

Focus on personal fulfillment and productivity because you can control the outcomes. Tips from @KristiAustin on the #85K90. Click To Tweet

What’s most in your control? The book you’re writing right now. Every writer’s first priority should be the story—the human needs and emotions that inspired it and the craft of telling it in the best possible way. If the story is your bedrock goal, you will weather every neurotic storm and every upheaval in the publishing landscape.

Look to the future.

Take some time this week to write down answers to the following questions. Come back to these questions and review your answers a couple times a year.

IMAGE: Hand writing a list of three priorities on chalkboard

Note your three highest priorities.

Where do you want to be in ten years?

1. ________________________
2. ________________________
3. ________________________

Five years?

1. ________________________
2. ________________________
3. ________________________

One year?

1. ________________________
2. ________________________
3. ________________________

Ask yourself:

1. Why do you want these goals?

2. What is the biggest challenge you must overcome in order to meet your one-year goal?

3. What is the biggest hurdle to reaching your five-year goal?

4. What is your biggest problem at this moment?

5. How are you currently addressing these challenges? Is it working? If it isn’t working, is it time for a new approach?

#Amwriting? #Amediting? #Ampublishing? Questions to ask as you prepare for your future. @KristiAustin #85K90 Click To Tweet

I recommend grabbing a cup of coffee (or tea) and spending some time on this brain work. We’ll come back to your goals many times during the 60-Day Prep cycle. I look forward to seeing you next week for a discussion of comparable titles.

– Kristi

Download the Author Goals Worksheet

Use this handy worksheet to record your goals and track your progress.

Additional Helpful Resources During the 60-Day Prep

About Kristi Tuck Austin

Kristi Tuck Austin waded New York City sewers, ran from trains, and slid through a water pipe to the Harlem River while researching her novels. She’s celebrated Thanksgiving in the Paris catacombs, hiking, crawling, wading (again), and dining by candlelight. In her daily life, which is dry and above ground, she’s founder of Tuck Austin Associates, a literary and media services company that helps authors connect with readers.

As a member of the 85K Writing Challenge Editorial Board, Kristi Tuck Austin is a weekly contributor to the site during the 60-Day Prep cycle. Enjoy Kristi’s posts every Thursday throughout August and September. Connect with Kristi in our Forum and on Kristi Tuck Austin’s Member Profile Page on the 85K Writing Challenge. She’d love to hear your author goals!

Julie Valerie

Julie Valerie

85K Writing Challenge: Embracing the writing life by advancing the practice of productive writing from first word to first reader.

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