Setting Realistic Goals (Part 1) – Treat Yourself like a Business

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Writing a book is no small feat. And you should be proud of yourself for all the hard work you’ve done so far. As exciting as it is to have a finished manuscript in front of you though, there is still a lot more to do after the typing has stopped and the pen and paper are put away. Some authors can afford to hire an agent or a publicist, but for others taking the DIY approach, marketing yourself and your book can seem pretty daunting. As much as you want to share your book with everyone and show them what you’ve accomplished, if you don’t set some realistic goals, you’re setting yourself up for some unnecessary disappointment and frustration. Planning how to market yourself and your work may be easier said then done, but the payoff – reaching more readers and selling more – is worth the effort.

Change Your Perspective

The first step to getting a better hold on your marketability is to change your perspective of yourself as a writer, to an entrepreneur starting your own business. You’ve done the writing, but now you have a product to sell. Whenever you take the time to put yourself “out there,” your ultimate goal should be to make a good impression on people so they’ll want to read your work, keep coming back, and recommend your book to others. You’re building your reputation – your own personal brand, and you need people to trust that brand in order to grow a loyal fan base. This is something that takes a lot of time, planning, and strategizing. Any successful business, big or small, starts with a list of goals and then creates a plan to achieve those goals. A successful business also remains flexible and responsive to its customer’s needs and the current trends of the market. You can do this by having backup plans in place for whenever one of your plans doesn’t work or you need to change something on the fly.

Research What Works

Think about successful companies you know of and research the components that made them that way. You’ll find that many businesses share common fundamentals that aid in their success such as mission statements, budgets, and timelines. You can adopt and adjust these to build your own business model and better market your book and your brand. Remember, though, that a business is an investment. All new businesses spend money to move forward and it typically takes about 3-5 years for a startup to become profitable. You must be willing to invest both money and time on your entrepreneurial venture and have a solid plan(s) in place that will allow you to break even until you eventually turn a profit or move large volumes of your book.

Come Up with a Plan and Follow Through

Once you have some clearly defined goals (such as getting your book on a retail shelf, or selling X number of copies, etc.) and a plan(s) (attending X number of book fairs, or creating a Facebook fan page, etc.) the next thing you need to do is come up with a realistic timeline to achieve those goals. I think one of the best practices a new author can do to gain traction on his or her book is to create a timeline that lays those goals and plans out with feasible deadlines associated with each one. I almost never get anything done unless I know it is due soon. Moving towards a goal with a deadline can greatly help to keep you motivated. Otherwise, you might find yourself flying blind and quickly becoming demotivated because you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything. It is also crucial to be as realistic with your deadlines as you are with your goals. Don’t expect to hit the New York Times bestseller list overnight, start with selling 50 copies of your book, then 100 and check off when you’ve completed a goal. If done correctly, a timeline with realistically achievable goals can reinforce your sense of accomplishment and will excite you as you continue to reach more readers.

Running a business isn’t easy, but none of this is meant to be scary. It is just meant to make a new author think about his or her approach in the journey to become the next bestseller. Be sure to check back for part 2 of “Setting Realistic Goals” next week when I’ll discuss setting realistic expectations and how your mindset can make all the difference with how far your book goes.

18 thoughts on “Setting Realistic Goals (Part 1) – Treat Yourself like a Business”

  1. I understand what it means to walk blind. Thanks for simple advice in making my direction clear. I look forward to reading your future comments.

  2. I would say the first step is to take an objective look at your product. Is it as good as it could be? Is the spelling nd grammar correct? is the layout and cover right for the book?


    Hi AJ,
    Greetings! The type of information you have provided is considered to be sound business advice. The DIY TIPS, coupled with the strength of the LULU Support Team will give to any new Author a drive to succeed.
    Thank You! Continue your good work!
    Jennifer E. Trotman Smith

  4. Hi AJ,
    This was a good article. Could you also address how to get your books into the Libraries? I have been met with much resistance because the libraries do not want to add titles that are self published. Please give us hints on how to overcome this.

  5. I was able to get my book into the Fairfax County Library by providing them with 5 copies. In these tight budget times, they were happy to get it. The library has a system for this and the information was available at the branch.

  6. Good business article. Writing a book is one thing,getting it circulated is another. Tips on libaries, contact the main libary in the area you wish to target, in other words start at the top.

  7. This is a great article. You are absolutely right. You have to treat yourself as a business. It all about the mindset and setting real attainable goals to reach. Thanks,this was a very inspirational post.

  8. I like this article!
    I realize that marketing is now my biggest project- I’ll have to GO TO TOWN and follow AJ’s advice!
    Thanks for the tips!

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