2 Goal-Setting Strategies for Writers


Dear Fellow Writer,

So you want to market and publish your book this year …

It’s great to have that general objective … but now what?

For me, the next step is setting GOALS.

Now, I don’t necessarily think of goals like most people do. To me, they’re more like “guiding ambitions.” And once I have those in place … everything else gets easier.

So let’s set our goals together right now.

Granted, there are loads of strategies to goal-setting, but today I want to share two of the best … at least when it comes to a long-term writing career.

First, Set Your Time-Based Goals

This is a great approach if you want to be a career author, but it’s also worth thinking about even if your book-publishing goals are one-and-done.

Start by looking down the road to decide where you want to be in 10 years:

  • Will you live somewhere new? Beachside, maybe?
  • What will your days look like?
  • Will you write some in the mornings, then relax for the rest of the day?
  • Will you write intensely for three months and then take a six-month sabbatical?
  • Will you have paid off your debts and retired early?
  • Or will you have moved on to other ventures, after you write and publish your book?

There’s no wrong answer here. Picture your life in as much detail as you can, and write it all down.

Do the same thing for where you’d like to be in five years, then three years, then one year.

For most of us (myself included), the one-year goal will be some version of:

I want to have completed and published my book one year from now.

After that, it’s smart to break your year down into one-month benchmarks that keep you moving forward. I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

For now, just focus on where you want your writing career to take you, regardless of whether it’s a short-term or a long-term goal, or even an on-the-side-for-fun goal. The idea is to create a vision of what you can look forward to if you follow through on your book.

Next, Focus on Personal Goals …

It’s also smart to lay out your personal goals as an author so you can communicate them to your future writing group, agent, or publisher.

You might think (as I did) that industry professionals wouldn’t care about your personal goals, but that’s not the case at all. Dominique Raccah, CEO of Sourcebooks, Inc. (the largest woman-owned independent publisher in North America), says you need to coordinate strategy with your book-publishing team so they can help you build your career brick-by-brick.

It’s the same thing I was once told by a copywriting client: “You tell us your goals, we’ll tell you ours, and hopefully we can align our efforts so it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Because once you’re at the point where you have a team helping you get your books out, it’s in their best interest to guide you to your goals. After all, a happy writer tends to be a more focused, enthusiastic, and prolific writer.

Here are some examples of personal goals suggested by Raccah:

  • “I want to be a New York Times Best-selling Author”
  • “I want to make a specific amount of money”
  • “I want to quit my day job and write full-time”
  • “I want to reach as many readers with my message as possible”
  • “I want to focus only on my writing so I need strong support when it comes to marketing and sales”
  • “I want to be #1 on The New York Times Best Sellers List within the next two years”
  • “I want to win a RITA” (or a Pulitzer or Newbery Medal, etc.)

As Raccah explained it, knowing where you want your writing to take you is a bonus to anyone who helps you on your way. It means their help can be that much more focused.

Quick Word of Caution

When it comes to making any kind of goal: Don’t compare yourself to others. Just because your favorite author hit a bestseller list three months into self-publishing her first book doesn’t mean that’s the right path for you. Similarly, just because a lot of authors face years of rejection and toil before finding success doesn’t mean that will be your experience.

Set your goals based on what you need and what really works for YOU.

More specifically, think about what you want to do that you love. What would you want to do more of if you could? Maybe you want to write and publish more books. Or maybe you want to say you’ve successfully written and published a book, and then you’ll move on to new goals.

I know where I want book-writing to take me over the long-term … and it includes writing part-time but with plenty of income.

The personal goal-setting is a little harder for me. Years ago, I’d have been raring and ready to set a goal to hit all the bestseller lists. Not to mention bringing in an avalanche of income!

But at the moment, I’d be thrilled to simply publish a book that’s not an embarrassment that gets read and enjoyed by someone other than my mother. (Can you tell I’m feeling daunted by all the possibilities in the book-writing world? I’m definitely in need of an affirmation board.)

Hesitations aside, know that clarifying your goals and writing them down is a proven way to make sure you follow-through on what you set out to do.

And since marketing and publishing your book is central to that goal … stay tuned for launch strategies on how to market and publish your book, no matter which stage you’re currently in.

If you haven’t already, please let me know in the comments below if you’re joining me on this challenge … looking forward to having you along for the ride!

To your book-writing success,




    • Mindy McHorse on

      Congratulations on that poetry win! Very cool. I’ll do my best… one thing I’ve learned from my years of writing is that the opportunities are endless. The hard part is really just settling on one and moving forward with it without getting distracted by another shiny opportunity. So that’s one of my goals this year. Nice to have you along for the ride!

  1. I’ve been working on a couple books for years now, still flailing around trying to find clarity and direction with them… what to leave out, what to include, how to organize it, map it, keep it lively and interesting and engaging… all that and more, so, yes! I will be following you here.

    • Mindy McHorse on

      So glad to have you here! I feel like your book experience perfectly describes what I’m doing with my first book. So here’s to getting past the flailing part together. 🙂

  2. Hi Mindy,
    I am with you. I have written 70% of my first book and 30% of a second book that follows. My goal is to finish one this year and the other before June next year. I found your blog and agree we should team together to achieve our goals. 🙂

  3. Hello,
    I’ve been lurking in between the words on your site for a while now. Yah a ghostie for sure. Am ready to write my first book which is a review of another person’s book. Easy way out huh? Then I have a couple more in position to bring to the masses which I have already begun to research.
    But, alas to the goal at hand. I am almost finished reading the book to review. About another 200 pages or so and the read will be finished. Can’t wait I figure the holiday weekend will be a good time to devote to this one.
    Thank you for all of the encouragement you give regularly it does really help. As you know everyone’s timeframe is a little different.
    Diane Knaus

  4. Hey Mindy,
    I’m in. I’ve completed a Publishing course, began setting up a Blogging site and a business site. I’ve joined AWAI and The Barefoot Writer, and PWA, among others. I have a few thousand words down… And, I guess I’m running out of excuses. The devil take the hindmost! Onward!

  5. Patricia Corcoran on

    Hello Mindy,
    I am glad that I found this blog. I enjoy the process of writing and I do want to write a book. I am not sure what form my book will take but it is something I have always wanted to do. I also struggle with the idea that is is not possible to succeed at it. Most of my struggle is within myself and not even that my family knows and telling me to give it up because it is not possible. I know my family thinks of me as a dreamer, but dreaming and having hopes for the future have helped me to get to where I am in life. I have reached some of my goals, so I don’t know why I stop myself from following this goal too. I don’t even know where to start, but finding this blog will help me to keep taking the small steps that I need to take to reach this goal of writing and publishing a book as well.

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