Irrefutable Law of Success #2—Plan Your Work, Then Work Your Plan
The operational tempo of our profession has increased exponentially. While this requires us to do more and be responsible for more, it’s actually great news. In the olden days of publishing, we had to go through New York in order to be published (unless we had $10-15,000 to publish books, sell them out of the back of our cars and hope we could duplicate “The Grisham Effect”).
Yet, remember, Grisham only sold enough copies to be noticed by New York.
Now? We have self-published and indie published writers hitting the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists with no involvement from New York. Does this mean we can’t publish traditionally? No. It only means there are now more roads that lead to Rome (being successfully published).
It also means writers can draw revenue from more works. New York is still at a pace of about a book a year. This limits income. Additionally, as I talk about in Rise of the Machines the consignment model is full of needless waste which impacts the earning potential of all writers. Adding insult to injury, the business model of major book retailers hurts all but the mega-author.
Indies who can write to demand are not just making money off the latest work, but ALL their works. Backlists, short stories, serials, series, novellas, etc. This is why writers who go traditional are leaning toward hybridization (part NY, part indie).
With all the options and the changing consumer climate, it means we have a lot of latitude as artists. Yet, to be successful, we need to plan our work and work our plan.
Define What Success Means to YOU
Your dream isn’t my dream. I can’t live it for you. I’ll be blunt, in the new era of publishing, everyone is a writer. I believe this was always true, only NY was solely interested in the career author. Some of you reading might only have ONE book in you. These days? Write away! That’s okay.
For some writers, success means a certain level of income. Others? Awards or best-seller lists. Some writers just have a dream of finishing a work they can hold in their hands and maybe pass onto grandkids. Whatever success might mean to each of you, you have to be honest so you can build the correct foundation for your plan.
A plan for a writer who wants to hit the New York Times list is going to look very different from the author who wants to write down his experiences from World War II for family and posterity.
Good Plans Ignore Fashion Yet Anticipate Trends
These days, social media, algorithms, metadata are all moving targets. This is one of the reasons that pre-programming, automating and trying to manage from a vacuum is ineffective long-term (and short, but that’s another blog). We have to be in the mix to see the changes and be ahead of the curve.
The latest craze that all the other writers are doing? If everyone is doing it, it’s already expired. It’s why I am always researching and work hard to remain innovative. Also, WANA rests on principles that never go out of fashion—community, authenticity, service.
Stick to the basics, and maneuverability is easier. Build a platform on juking algorithms? Well, enjoy it until FB or Amazon or Klout modifies the algorithm and expect to be back at Ground Zero. Foundations need to be solid to remain in tact. Otherwise? We are building on shifting sand. When our foundation is solid, we aren’t dependent on fashions and can anticipate trends.
What’s the difference?
Fashion: Well, if you tweet on Wednesday at 2:00 EST, the numbers show there are more click-throughs on links.
Yup, until EVERYONE is tweeting at the SAME TIME.
Trend: We’re in a Reality TV generation and consumers LOVE interaction. Blogs allow authors to capitalize on the increased human desire to connect.
Plans Need to Be Simple and Flexible
Jack Welch, the legendary CEO who resurrected General Electric was influenced by what he read about Prussian military strategists of the 19th century.
They did not expect a plan of operation to survive beyond the first contact with the enemy. They set only the broadest of objectives and emphasized seizing unforeseen opportunities as they arose. ~29 Leadership Secrets from Jack Welch
Yesterday, we discussed NO WHINING. Here’s my sage business advice.
Ready for this?
It’s gonna be awesome…
If something isn’t working? STOP DOING IT. ~Kristen Lamb
Sure, running our head into a wall over and over is an option, but really? Thing is, this paradigm is new. It’s going to need time to settle. Throw stuff out there and see what’s working. If it isn’t working? CHANGE IT. This is why the new paradigm ROCKS.
If a certain cover isn’t floating the consumer boat? Change it. If readers complain a work is too long? Break it up. If reviewers catch an unforeseen fish head in your novel? Pull it, chop it, rerelease.
If a book isn’t selling? Change the price. If that doesn’t work, maybe we’ve written something consumers (code for “readers”) just don’t want to consume. This is why it’s critical to keep writing more books. Maybe the third or fifth book will catch readers eye and, for all we know, Book ONE can come into fashion at a later time.
If we are blogging and no one is reading? Maybe we need to modify our voice or choices of topics. I know when I first started blogging I was super serious because I was trying to “be an expert, an AUTHORITY.” Finally, after months of dismal hits, I changed tactics. I allowed my natural ability with humor to come play on the blog…and people LIKED IT.
Hmmm, imagine that? People enjoy laughing.
Plans are vital. Plans give us focus. Focus is power and frees up time to write more books. Writers with no plan are reactive, instead of proactive and this wastes precious resources.
What are your thoughts? Have you had to change plans? Maybe pull a book, change a cover, redesign an ineffective web site? Did you change the way you interacted on Facebook or in your blogs and see people respond positively? What did you do? Share your war stories.
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up SOON, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.
Also, August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.
The webinars are all recorded in case you can’t make the time and a PDF with notes will be sent to you following the class.
Also, my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.