I’ve been having coaching calls for the second session of Advanced Strengths for Writers the past couple of weeks and one of the conversations reminded me of something very important. One of my top Strengths is something called Achiever. Which can be great for getting things done. It’s that put it on a list and then check it off sort of Strength. As long as something makes the list it generally gets done.
But in one of my calls with a fellow Achiever we discussed how it’s important not to put goals on your list that won’t get you where you want to go.
As an example, I generally check my sales on a daily basis and every other day I jot down the amount for the month for each sales platform to see where I am overall for the month. Even though doing this is something I accomplish regularly, it’s not something that ever goes on my to-do list. Because it’s not something that’s moving me towards my next goal. It’s actually a way I procrastinate from writing the next book.
Sure, it’s good to know where I stand and if my ads have died off and need to be fixed, but I really don’t need to check that often. Doing so is busy work. Putting it on my to-do list would just guarantee that I’m not focused where I need to be.
Which is why I try to keep my to-do list to things that matter like writing the next book, letting people know when a book is published, checking proof copies of a new print book, etc.
It’s important to set the right goals. The goals that get you where you want to go.
It’s also important to monitor for the right achievements.
It can be very easy to set a goal in this business that is actually harmful to getting where you want to go.
Let’s look at a handful of possible goals:
– I want a book ranked under 2,000 in the Amazon US store
– I want to hit #1 in my main category
– I want to sell 5,000 copies
– I want to earn $5,000
– I want to make a profit next month of $5,000
The first four goals on that list could potentially be harmful to aim for.
They’re very common types of goals and ones that many authors notice when they happen. The numbers might be different but the rank, number of copies, and earnings goals show up often when authors are talking.
And for a reason. If you steadily have books that rank under 2,000, are hitting #1 in their category, and are selling 5,000 copies those can all be very good things.
But what all four of those goals are missing is the cost of getting there.
If it costs you $10,000 to sell 5,000 copies at 99 cents, you’ve just lost a lot of money. And if you earn $500 from sales when you’re ranked #1 in your category but it took a spend of $499 to get it, that’s not getting you anywhere either. Same with if it cost $20,000 to earn $5,000.
(And, yes, there can be some nuance here. Sometimes losing money on an early title to get it sticky can be worthwhile for later sales. Maybe. But often in this business people lose money to look good and never turn that into making money.)
The first four goals in that list are typical goals authors aim for because they’re easy to see. And I’m not immune from setting goals for the number of units I want to sell or the dollar amount I want to earn. I do it, too.
But at the end of the day if you don’t also take into account cost you probably won’t be able to do this long-term or as anything more than a hobby.
Even while you’re celebrating a milestone of X units sold or X dollars earned you have to keep an eye on what it’s costing you.
Which is all to say, be sure that the goals you set for yourself are actually going to get you where you want to go.