It’s the new year, so we always hear a lot about resolutions around this time. While I’m not going to talk about resolutions, I do think the new year is a great time for authors to think about the year ahead.
“The whole year?” you ask. Yep. The entire year.
“But I don’t think like that,” you say. You’re a pantser and you like to see what happens.
Well, even if you like to be a pantser with your writing, it’s a good idea to look back at what worked last year, and plan ahead for the coming year. When I say plan ahead, I don’t mean you have to plan out every detail of your year. I do mean, you should jot down a sort of authorial blueprint that will help you accomplish what you want to get done this year.
What might your blueprint include? It’s pretty simple — just four things: cleaning house, books, advertising/special projects, and personal life.
Cleaning house. Look back at the stuff you did/spent money on last year and get rid of anything that didn’t work or stopped working. While, ideally, you should take stock and clean house on a regular basis, the new year is a great time to catch up. For example, I signed up for some services that did well for me initially, such as Instafreebie, but that haven’t been getting enough of a return recently. So, I’ll be cancelling those services. If there’s an advertising site that absolutely didn’t work for you, be sure you add them to a “do not use” list so that this year, you’re not wasting your money with them. Just go through and jettison anything that isn’t working for your author life any more.
Books. Give a moment of thought to the number of books you’d like to publish this year. For me, that number is six. Two are mostly written, while four have very little written (a few pages, or a brief outline). If I’m going to get them all published this year, I need to think about what that timeline will look like and when I have to be finished writing them, when covers need to be commissioned, when editors have to be hired, in order to get them all out this calendar year. Once I have a general timeline, I can put important dates on my calendar, so I know if things are on track to meet my plan. While the plan isn’t set in stone, it helps me focus on what needs to be done. Now, this is just a blueprint. If you find your goal wasn’t realistic, or you face some significant life problems, or even that you’re moving faster than expected, you can switch things up.
Advertising/Special Projects. This is just to help you think about advertising in the year ahead. Ask yourself: are there any holidays that tie into your novels? If you’re a romance author, Valentine’s Day might be a great time to advertise and/or run discounts. Are you writing a book about the beach? Then, maybe you should push that up on the timeline, so you can advertise it as a beach read. Or maybe you can push it once winter hits next December, reminding people how much fun it is to be out in the sun. If there are special events or holidays that naturally tie to your book, jot them down, and make a note in your calendar to schedule advertising and/or sales during that event. Also, when you were cleaning house, you jettisoned stuff that didn’t work. Now’s a time to look back and see what stuff really did work. If you had great ad results in March, maybe try that again. Perhaps that’s a great time for readers to dive into your books. This is also the time to decide if you want to do any special projects tied to the holidays. Want to publish a Christmas novel this year? Well, think about how long it would take you to write that book and get a cover and edit, and work backwards from there as you plan out the year. If you want to write a Valentine’s Day novel, unless you’re very fast, it’s probably too late to get that one out this year, but you can always put it in your ledger to schedule for next February.
Personal Life. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right? Or maybe it makes Jack a murderous boy. Either way, Jack is no fun. If you know you have vacations or work trips scheduled, don’t include important stuff that you need to do during those times. If you host Thanksgiving for thirty friends and family, it’s probably not the best time to launch a book. If you want your blueprint to be realistic, be sure to mark out those things that you know will come up in your personal life. And be sure to know that some things will come up that aren’t planned (like the burst pipe my family had three days before Christmas).
That wraps up the major things I want to discuss for framing your blueprint. Let me know if you think there should be additional stuff in a yearly blueprint.