This blog post is part of a series for aspiring authors who are in the process of writing a book, know they will have a book in the near-ish future, and are wondering how they can get their author platform started. While you may simply begin here to develop a strategic approach, you might find it helpful to read my earlier blog post about taking stock of your digital assets first.
I’ve designed this post so you can set your goals in an hour. (Add some of the blog post reading time to walk through the steps, and you’ll have carved out about 1.5 hours of your day.) 🙂
Without further ado, let’s move onward with setting strategic goals for building an author platform before your novel is out!
This moment is all about you, baby!
In this step, I strongly suggest stepping away from the content of your novel and its story. This is not the time to be thinking about your characters, potential readers, your competition, your friends and family. We’ll get to all those audiences (and more, probably) later.
1. Dream a Little Dream
Take out your trusty dollar-store notebook (or Moleskin) or any book you want to dedicate to your marketing strategy–and turn to the next fresh page.
My baby is born!
At this stage, I would like for you to write where you see yourself the moment you know your book is live. Approach this moment as if it were fiction in first-person narrative. Set your timer to 15 minutes and start free-writing! These are things you might write about:
- How you know your book is done. Do you receive an email telling you the link in Amazon is live? Do you receive printed advance copies in the mail? Be descriptive.
- Time period that you’re holding the first, finished product in your hands. I was pretty non-specific with this. I wrote “Spring 2016”. Other people might even know a month, a week or a day. (And if you’re one of those “other people” you’re probably an extremely driven A-type person, and more power to you!) If you’re like me and still actively writing your novel, don’t get too specific — a season, or a year is fine.
- The appearance of your book. Have you designed the book cover/interior yourself? Have you outsourced it? If so, who did it? Again, be descriptive–if you can.
- How seeing your book in “print” (digital or print) for the first time makes you feel. Why do you feel this way? (This part of my goal-setting was the longest because I found I had a lot of feelings ranging from excitement and enthusiasm to anxiety and a little angst.)
Maybe you’ll write 50 words, maybe you’ll write a full page. Anywhere in between is fine. Don’t reread your work, when your time is up! Just continue to the next exercise! (You’ll reread later, I promise.)
Even now, a year later…
Turn the page, and on this next blank sheet, begin to write where you see yourself and that book, one year later. Again, do this in first-person narrative. Write whatever comes to mind. Obviously, some things, like the appearance of the book, will have lost its “new” feeling to you, but there will be other impressions or feelings you have.
- Never in my wildest dreams would I have known that …
- These last 12 months have been a journey that I can only describe as…
- So much has changed, and so much has remained the same, since I published this book…
- If I hadn’t published this book, I would not have been able to…
- [Go ahead and fill in the blank here, or add your “year later” prompts in the comments below!]
Anticipate the Highlights!
Turn your page back one sheet, and at the top, write “Launch Goal”. (This title tops your page where you free-wrote about your new book going live.)
Set your timer for eight (8) minutes. Then, reach for your trusty highlighter and highlight those “facts” that clue you in to what would make that goal feel real. In fact, you are basically story boarding your moment of success, pulling out the main elements that will clue you in to the fact that you have, indeed, made it to where you wanted to be.
This is it! The moment I’ve been waiting for…!
You may have drawn some elements out of your narrative that will probably fall under these categories: time, manner, place, style. And you can basically jot down in one sentence all those elements. Here’s your prompt:
- “My goal is to have my book [manner: published/ represented/ printed/ designed] by [time] through [this place/ distribution channel: a traditional publishing house/ online platform/ paper print-out/ email newsletter/ whatever] and released on to the market with the [style: brand image — add words: ‘overall look and feel of a [fill in the blank]’ novel/book.”
The formal marketer in me always hesitates when I get to the part of “style” (brand image) because I want to start defining that right away. But, don’t worry, we’ll get to brand image in a couple courses as we define our strategic approach. For now, content yourself with the “overall look and feel of a proper suspense/ romance/ fantasy/ novel” if it’s fiction and if it’s non-fiction: “overall look and feel of a proper how-to/ self-help/ finance book”.
Besides, your timer should have rung by now.
My! How you’ve grown!
Now, turn your sheet one page forward. At the top of this page, write the header, “Long-term Goal”. This title is at the head of the page where you free-wrote about where you see your book a year later.
Set your timer for eight (8) minutes. Then, reach for your trusty highlighter and highlight those “facts” that clue you in to that goal being accomplished. This is another story board for your moment of success.
You will probably find that your image of success takes on a different hue than in the earlier example. That’s because your long-term vision is a bit more general, more over-arching. If you’re writing a book, you’re in it for the long-haul, and your motivation has a more enduring hue to it.
Here are some prompts:
- A year after launch, a number of readers have been contacting me to find out what happens to Mr. Protagonist next! I’m already wrapping up the sequel to…
- A year after launch, I have not only entertained a large number of people, but I have also inspired them to take up writing too.
- A year after launch, I have learned so much about the writing process that I am being asked to speak at public events.
- A year after launch, I am committed to writing full time…
- A year after launch, I have more clarity on how I can work for myself full-time as an author-preneur.
Everybody has a different motivation for writing a book. Your long-term goal needs to speak to that motive. You need to be able to recognize your success when you get there, because — well, a year down the road, you’ll have forgotten that where you are then (in the future) is where you wanted to be. (You may even surprise yourself and notice that it didn’t even take you a full year to achieve your wildest dreams!)
2. Holding Yourself Accountable.
Goals and dreams are nice and all, but they don’t really mean much, if you don’t attain them — or don’t even come close — or don’t even know if you did. (We can be pretty forgetful.) In the remaining 20 minutes of your hour, we are going to set a couple objectives with you.
Now, that you have your two goals in mind (the first describes what a successful launch/announcement looks like, and the second is where you’d like to see yourself a year from that moment), you can establish clear milestones for getting to both.
- The word “milestone” helps me define the difference between a goal and an objective. People tend to use the words interchangeably, but really they are different, because a milestone is a measure of distance.
So let’s get to it!
Measurement is key.
Remember how we brainstormed our digital assets last time? And we drew quadrants for each of those assets? You can get the PDF version here and print it out, or just doodle it into your notebook.
Let’s turn back to the very first page in our notebooks and take the top three digital assets in our notebooks and create milestones we would like to reach for each of those three. Set your timer for 10 minutes.
- Label the bottom-left quadrant, “Sociability Objectives”. Then write a few engagement objectives you’d like to see improve or change in that platform. We’re going for your gut feeling here. Things you think might need to change to begin promoting your book. You’ll find this exercise easy by refering to the quadrant immediately above it. I’ll dovetail on the Facebook example I included in my earlier post about Taking Inventory:
- Establish a Facebook page where I can keep my private (friends and family) connections and public spaces separate.
- I need to think about the tone of my social engagement messaging — after all, I don’t want to sabotage my current employment situation.
- I should review what kind of posts seem to encourage positive feedback and mirror those posts on my (new) Facebook page.
- Just like I find out about hurricanes affecting my friends and family, I think some of my page followers would like to learn about things I’m learning.
- I might switch Facebook with Twitter in my engagement ranking. I end up wasting too much valuable time in Facebook. (I actually wrote this last one in my Sociability Objectives.)
- Label the bottom-right quadrant, “Statistical Objectives”. In this quadrant, write three measurable, time-bound objectives. At this stage, because you have a small platform (and no sellable inventory–yet!), keep it simple, and refer to the stats you mentioned in the quadrant immediately above it. Here’s what I wrote in some of mine.
- Current Facebook Page status: Zero Likes. Grow this Facebook Page to 300 Likes by December 2016. (I started designing this in October, so all my objectives have a December 2016 end date.)
- Current Twitter Followers (October 1, 2015) : 480. Grow my Twitter followers to 1,000 by December 31, 2015. And to 2,000 by end of December 2016. (As I write this now, I think I might have been a bit over conservative, but it is written… And, hey, if I surpass this earlier! Success!! You can also see that I had surpassed the 1,000 followers a couple weeks early from the blog post linked above.)
- This one is a must: “Email list”. If you have a measure on a list of people who follow your other work (a blog or a podcast, etc.) then you can start with that number. If you don’t, you can leave it blank for now. Essentially, your goal is to develop a number of email followers who are likely to be a key audience to your literature by a certain end date. I think in this case, it’s reasonable to assume that you’ll have three numbers:
- 1. The number of email followers you currently have.
- 2. The number of email followers you wish to have upon launch of your book.
- 3. The number of email followers you wish to have 12 months after launch.
What jumps out at you?
As you go through this process, you’ll see two things happen.
- One of the digital assets you have outlined in the earlier exercise will rise to the top of your priority list, because you’ll see that it responds more closely to your over-arching goal(s).
- In my case, it was Twitter. I have had a Twitter account since 2008, but I had a whopping (sarcasm here) 430 followers. So it was clear that I was going to have to switch gears in gaining followers on Twitter. (You can read about how I did that in this blog post.)
- But maybe you have a lot more engagement on Facebook. I have one friend who always poses a question that results in so many comments and likes, that Facebook as a social engagement medium is a no-brainer.
- I also didn’t have a realistic place for reaching out to folks on Facebook, so I’d be starting from scratch as far as a Facebook Page was concerned.
- I did have a decent friends and family email list though. But I knew that it would be whittled down to maybe 1/10th of its size as far as attracting truly committed email followers.
- Establishing your marketing goals and objectives becomes a pretty personal experience, because it’s based on a blueprint of baseline information that is uniquely yours. One person might build their author platform by having a weekly podcast, and another might do so by posting to Wattpad once a week. In fact, from this point forward, your marketing strategy is developing its own appearance and establishing its uniqueness — and it will continue to do so through the next couple strategy-defining steps.
3. Now, for the final touch: Setting Your Goals & Objectives
- “My goal is to have my book [manner: published/ represented/ printed/ designed] by [time] through [this place/ distribution channel: a traditional publishing house/ online platform/ paper print-out/ email newsletter/ whatever] and released on to the market with the [style: brand image — add words: ‘overall look and feel of a [fill in the blank]’ novel.”
Continue with the following language:
- “My top three measures of a successful launch and first year of my book being on the market are” (You’ll have to use your language based on your brainstorms):
- Grow X to this level by this date and this level by this date one year later.
- Increase Y to this level by this date and this level by this date one year later.
- Take my email list (dedicated author platform) from zero followers as of this date to this level by the launch date in (season or year, if you don’t have a date) and to this level one year later.
Wrap it up with the following language (or some version thereof) relating to your ultimate aspiration of dedicating yourself to writing literature:
- “My ultimate goal is to …”.
If you enjoyed this, maybe you’d enjoy all the exercises in ONE PLACE…
Dear Aspiring Author, Setting your goals is the second step to developing your marketing strategy… And You’ve Just Taken It!
Congratulations! You’ve just done something a lot of people neglect, and wish (later on down the marketing road) they had done earlier. You took stock of your situation in reading the last blog post, and now you have set goals. Both of these steps are necessary, because they not only give you serious clarity about your current situation, but they also provide a clear view of where you want to be.
You’re just beginning your book marketing journey — while you’re writing your novel or non-fiction book. You don’t have loads of time. So, you want to be smart while you start building an author platform, because every minute of your spare time counts!
I am cataloguing and sharing my process for setting a Marketing Strategy with you in (almost) real time
At the time of writing this blog post, I do not have a published work for sale on the market. [Editor’s note: The Aspiring Author’s Guide: Write Your Marketing Strategy is out and available on Amazon now!) In fact, I am currently editing my first draft of a novel that I know I want to launch as an eBook in the Spring of 2016. Besides getting to the finish line with my novel, my goal is to start with laying the groundwork on my marketing plan and even implementing those parts of the marketing plan that I know I can.
Feel free to join me on my book-writing and marketing journey. If you have any thoughts, tips or comments in general, please let me know via comment, Twitter @cynthiatluna or email at cynthia[at]livingincyn[dot]com!
If you are already a published author, any comments you have to impart on your experience(s) will be gobbled up and appreciated by the rest of us. Please comment, and certainly let me know if you think a “karmic exchange” from aspiring author to another aspiring author, or aspiring author to accomplished author might be worthwhile! 🙂