This article, written by Tawdra Kandle, is from the December 2023 edition of Nink, the monthly newsletter of Novelists, Inc.  (NINC). Nink, which is packed each month with informative articles for career novelists, is a benefit of NINC membership. 

‘Tis the season . . . for planning!

There’s very little that I love more than a shiny new year, all empty and ready to fill with wonderful plans. December is the perfect month to take some thoughtful time to identify our goals for the next 12 months and then ponder how to best reach them.

That’s never truer than when it comes to selling our books—plotting our marketing for the next year is essential to elevating sales and visibility for the future. We all know the old saying that if we fail to plan, we plan to fail, and swinging wildly from idea to project is not a recipe for success.

Trust me, I know this.

For years, I was afraid to make business plans. I felt inept and ill-prepared for running a business; after all, I’d never done anything in my life other than raise and homeschool kids, write curriculum, and juggle a household. The idea of coming up with a realistic, detailed goal and then announcing my intention to pursue it—even to myself—gave me hives. If I made definite plans, it meant that I was taking myself and my business seriously.

So for far too long, my marketing consisted of submitting random books for BookBub Featured Deals and then, when I scored one, deciding to make that book and series the focus of my promotional attention that month. There was no intention or expectation behind how I did things; no goal, really, and that made it hard to know if I’d achieved anything beyond a rise in Amazon ranking and perhaps a little bump in monthly royalties.

Laying out defined goals and then making plans to reach them is terrifying because we’re making ourselves vulnerable by admitting that we want something—sales, success, recognition—and that we want it enough to put in time, energy, and passion to make it happen.

It’s also scary because there is a limit to how much we can control when it comes to realizing our goals. Once I took a deep breath and leaped into detailed planning, I realized that while I can focus on a series, apply for paid newsletter promo, look for newsletter swaps, and run social media posts and ads, I can’t make vendors recommend my book. I can’t force readers to buy it or read it.

When I put my books—and thus myself—out there and declare that I want them to succeed, I risk humiliation when that doesn’t happen. It took me a long time to be brave enough to risk that. Once I did, however, I was soon hooked on the process of planning.

There is no lack of advice, courses, and products for authors who are similarly drawn to the idea of laying out what we hope will happen in the future. I’ve played with a variety of methods and books, and I’ve taken a few courses. Doing so has helped me to discover what works best for me, which types of planners or processes I tend to keep using instead of giving up after a few months.

This year, I decided to try my hand at being even more intentional as I look at 2024. Way back in mid-October, I persuaded an author friend with whom I work closely to do a Zoom so that we could strategize for the next year. It was so helpful! We discussed which series we wanted to focus on and how we would apply that focus: new releases, discounted first-in-series, and topical promotions. We also kicked around some ideas on joint projects, new ways of gaining visibility, and some thoughts on refreshing our release plans.

On each topic, we asked ourselves and each other a few questions: Will doing this move me in the right direction? Is it something I’m excited about doing? Does it make sense given my other time and energy commitments?

I’ve been trying to pay more attention to what brings me joy in my career. While there will always be scut work no matter what we do in life, when we can spend more time doing fun stuff, it will move us forward faster. I believe this. For the last year, I’ve devoted a portion of my time to figuring out how I can make what I consider the non-negotiables (sending a weekly newsletter, posting on social media) more enjoyable. It’s helped.

I’ve been using Sarra Cannon’s HB90 method for making planning more fun and adventurous. She usually opens up her popular course at the end of each quarter, and if you happened to catch her workshop at the conference this year, you know she’s all about seeking joy in what we do. If her style meshes well with yours and with what you need, I recommend checking out her YouTube videos and perhaps joining her mailing list.

The last change I’m making as I forecast 2024 is that I’m determined to be more realistic about my time and energy limits. In the early days of my career, I often made promises that Future Tawdra had to deliver on, be that a too-ambitious book release schedule, courses that don’t really fit into my schedule, or marketing plans that would fizzle before I could make them happen. This year, I under-planned. I know that for me, 2024 is going to be a year of shifts and changes, and I don’t want the ideas I have right now, at the end of 2023, to add more stress.

My overall goal as I look at the next twelve months is that the me in December 2024 will be grateful to me from 2023 because I planned not only for success but also for sanity.

Whatever your plans might be, I wish you a peaceful close to this year and a 2024 that turns out to be even better than you anticipate now.

________________________

 

Tawdra Kandle is the USA Today bestselling author of over 130 romances that span genres from contemporary through paranormal. Her engaging and realistic characters bring readers back again and again to devour the steamy love stories she spins. She lives in central Florida with a husband, a mischievous pup, and too many cats.