Goals: Taking the Steps to Make Dreams Real

In my last post I talked about digging into your dreams and asking questions. Now I want to take those questions and make them into actionable items.

Here were the questions that I came up with for myself when I did the exercise.

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My dream is to make a livable wage off of the sales of my books.

My questions are: What amount would be “livable” for me? What amount of work would this require? How can I make it feel like there is a clear, guaranteed path? How can I take actions to address my fears and insecurities?

I’m going to narrow this down to the top two. I don’t like doing any more than three goals with steps at a time. My first actionable question/goal is how much work will it take, and make action steps of how I can make my path. The other question I’ll address is the emotional aspect of my fears and insecurities, and come up with some actions to improve here.

I’m just going to choose a random number here for a goal wage. Let’s choose $60,000 which is around the median income for the United States. How do I make $60,000 a year selling my books? That seems like a huge goal.

The first thing is to establish how aggressive I really want to be. This is a long game, so I’m not expecting to make this money even in the next 5 years, but you can make a lot happen when you put your mind to it.

How many ebooks is 60,000? I’m going to assume this is all pre-tax money – you can figure out that part. Most ebooks sell between $0.99 and $9.99. Let’s say I want to go somewhere in the middle and sell my ebooks for $4.99 each, which would give me about $3.50 in royalties (I’m using Amazon’s 70% here, since most people are familiar with Amazon for ebooks). This means I need to sell 17,143 books in a year. Wow! That’s a lot.

I won’t get into all of the minutia of self-publishing, but just know that it’s not enough to have a professional editor and professional cover – you need to market! Marketing can do magical things, and can make those big numbers more achievable. Sure, there will be marketing expenses for Amazon ads, but you’d be surprised by how much of an impact you can make with not that much money.

To achieve my goal, I know it will take a LOT of books, because few authors make it on just one book alone. It will require me to be prolific. And no one can really say how good my sales will be.

I like picking 5 year goals. So, let’s say I want to achieve $60,000 in 5 years. So, year 5, that means if I could reasonably sell 100 books per month after they’ve built up sales through marketing, series, etc. I’m rounding, so let’s say I need those 17,000 books in a year, priced at $4.99 each. For one book, if I sell 100 copies a month, thats 1,200 books a year. That means I need FOURTEEN books that are selling well.

The point of this is not to scare you. It’s so that we can break it down and make it real. If I need 14 books in 5 years, that means I need to write and publish about 3 books per year. In the last two years I’ve written (not published) two books, if you include the second one I’m almost finished with.

3 books per year is a big goal right now. So, maybe I’ll try for 2 a year. This doesn’t get me to my goal in 5 years, but it gets me closer.

So, I’ve broken my goal down to needing to write two books per year. How do I do that? By writing, and a lot. But how much?

There are websites and blogs out there claiming that 50,000 words makes a novel, but it doesn’t for many genres. I write fantasy and sci-fi, which usually breach the 100,000-word mark. This means I need to write 200,000 a year, and that doesn’t include editing!

My layout is a 6 month cycle if I need to write two books. I spend two months on the first draft. Edit for a month. Beta readers read/provide feedback for a month (this would be my time for “rest” on the project, but work on other projects in the meantime). Edit another month. Send to the editor and edit for another month. Many people recommend “rest” time after each draft. You can do that, but for me, I’m looking for a faster pace and constant engagement so I don’t forget my novel.

If I need to write a full first draft in two months, that’s 50,000 words a month, the same as NaNoWriMo. This is a breakneck speed for most people. The average person finds this amount of words difficult – and it is. This means that if I truly want to make it with my writing, I need to be serious and have writing as a top priority in my life.

If you’ve done NaNoWriMo, you know that the average per day is 1,667 words per day. I’m not sure writing every day is realistic for me, since things get hectic, but I can commit to at least 5 days a week so that I can get a break. It means more words per sitting, but it also means I get some time to have a break and refresh. This means 2,380 words per day on the weekdays, assuming we have about 21 “working” days per month. That’s a lot to chew.

What kind of time commitment does that take? By hand, I can write about 1,000-1,500 words per hour. Let’s take an average and say it’s 1,250, which means I have to commit to writing 2 hours 5 days a week to complete two drafts for two novels in a year.

I’m going to take my big pieces and break them down, each with three smaller pieces to focus on so I can get more granular.

Here’s how it all breaks down:

  • Make $60,000 a year in sales
    • Publish 2 books a year
    • Write two rough drafts in two months each
    • Write 2,380 words per working day

Now, how am I going to take the smallest action, write 2,380 words per day, and make it smaller? Two hours is a big chunk of time to carve out. For me, it looks like this:

  • Wake up and write for an hour
  • After dinner, write for an hour.

I’m tagging my action (writing) to a routine habit (waking up, eating dinner) so that I have a flag of sorts to remember when I need to write.

Make these goals smaller as you need to. Maybe you only write 30 minutes 4 times a day. Maybe you decide to shoot for one book a year, and take 6 months to write a first draft. Maybe you start at 30 minutes per day and work your way up over the next year. How you do this is all up to you.

In my next post, we will look at my “emotional” goal I have, which is addressing my fears and insecurities holding me back from taking actions on this goal we just discussed.

What is holding you back?

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