You’re writing a novel. You’re opening a bakery. You’re going to be a professional photographer. They’re all businesses. Writing is one business, but the publishing of your book is another. Two separate enterprises that equally need your attention. It’s the same on that bakery. Being a great baker isn’t enough, you also need to have the business savvy to run the business of selling baked goods. Whatever your product, you’re opening a small business. You need a business plan. But first, you need to think about your goals.
- I want to write my life memories/make pancakes every Saturday/take snapshots for my children and grandchildren.
I love memory books. I think family history is one of the most valuable things we can pass on to future generations. If this is a collection of life experiences and lessons learned, then distribute it via a word processing format, or get it printed and bound at your local print shop. I did this with a narrative photo book from a trip to London. Unless it’s actually a novel with a plot line and a theme, it doesn’t belong up for sale on Amazon or B&N. I know this probably offends a few people, but it’s terribly presumptuous to think billions of strangers want to hear your reminiscences. Maybe in a few hundred years as history, but not now. If you actually do have a compelling plot (like the time you rescued hostages in Columbia, or when you landed a plane on the Hudson River) please ignore this and send me the link for your book. Pancakes and snapshots? Do it. Scrapbooking rocks.
- I want to produce a book/cupcakes/artistic photos that primarily are for a small audience.
This could be a local audience, such as a series of photographs of historic architecture in Maryland, that you’ll target primarily to area businesses for their lobby wall. Maybe you’ll specialize in cupcakes for weddings where the bride wants a trendy alternative to the huge layer cake. Perhaps your book on ghost legends in Baltimore will grace visitor centers and gift shops in a four county area. Wait! That’s a tiny audience. No one can make a living off that. Well, not everyone wants to. Many people are creating to create, or to serve a niche market that is important to them. That’s a valid goal. Don’t let the meanies get you down. For all I know, you’ve got a trust fund, are the CEO of a huge corporation as your day-job, live simply and happily in your parent’s basement. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know your goal, know your target consumer, and are happy with the achievement of that goal. I’m forever grateful for authors who produce obscure non-fiction reference books. Thank goodness someone cared enough to write a high quality book on a niche subject, and put aside any idea that it needed to be a best seller to get off their desk.
- I want to produce books/baked goods/photography that appeals to a wider, but fairly specific audience.
Regency-era romance. Artisan breads. Food photography. You may not want to compete with Panera. Again, this is a legitimate goal. As always, create the highest quality product you are capable of (no excuses). Make your business plan and go for it. Slowly gather your customers in with a great product and good marketing, and if you feel like it, move on to the next goal:
- I want world domination.
Still a legitimate goal, but be warned that if you’re going to run with the big dogs you need a lot of time, a lot of luck, or a lot of money. Usually all three. You may luck out and happen to produce a product right on the edge of a trend curve. Even if you’re in the right place at the magically right time, you’ll still need to be lucky enough to have caught the notice of those influencers who will catapult your product into public attention. World domination requires name recognition, fame or infamy. You may need to do unsavory things, like star on a reality show and be such a train wreck that people can’t help but buy your stuff to see the insanity. Or empty that trust fund and spend a fortune on full page ads, prime time commercials. Full out media blitz.
My goals? They’re somewhere close to number two. I’d love to be a sensation. To have my novels take off into the stratosphere of sales with an adoring public loving every word. But that’s a dream, not a goal. A goal is something that I can plan for, actively work toward. If I were to write out a business plan for world domination, it would have a lot of “a miracle happens here”, in it. Instead I want to produce the best books I can, and publish them myself in a professional manner. I especially want to enjoy the process.
What no sales goals? Not yet. There’s nothing wrong with sales goals, and maybe someday I’ll have them. Right now, my sales goal is one. Every reader is a goal achieved. That world domination? Well, maybe someday there will be a miracle.