How to set a realistic goal when it comes to your book

I’d like to suggest we share a cup of coffee together and to help you get in the swing of things I’ve added a picture of mine. Your book is your baby, you’ve worked long and hard to get it to the stage it’s at and it is hard not to feel downhearted when the adoring fans you had hoped would surround you immediately it was published fail to materialise and the sales don’t do as well as you had hoped.

However, it’s also important to remember that the majority of people who say they want to write a book never do and you have already achieved something quite remarkable, so give yourself a pat on the back and then move on to the next phase.

Unless you are the next JK Rowling or some other well established author you are going to have to accept that it is going to take time for your book to reach maturity in its market and this is where setting a realistic goal for your book becomes essential.

For a small number of books maturity can arrive in just a few short months but for the majority it can be several years in the making and the length of time it takes depends very much on the audience, the type of book and the message you are sharing. I know from my own experience that it took around three years before 101 Handy Hints for a Happy Hysterectomy began to reach markets that existed outside of the Hysterectomy Association, but now it’s reached them though it’s there to stay and keeps on going from strength to strength.

So just how do you set those goals?

Well the most important step is planning. I would start with setting a small set of goals for three months, six months, twelve months and two years, remembering that goals still in the future can be revised to take account of unexpected opportunities or changes along the way.

Three Month Goal

Your three-month goal might include a range of activities such as getting a particular number of reviews of your book on to Amazon and Goodreads. It might also include some Giveaways and a blog tour or two, perhaps even an author interview like the ones I do here on the Thursday Throng each week.

You should also be investigating the places that your audience congregates and seeking out some supporters and sponsors. For instance, my book LinkedIn Made Easy started to get noticed when it was mentioned as a ‘must read’ book in a couple of other books on networking by Andy Lopata the UK’s ‘Mr Network’.

Six Month Goal

Your six-month goal will probably include the activities you have already been doing plus some actions around your local area; this could include things like researching the local reading groups/writers groups to find out whether they might be interested in having you as a speaker.

Now that you know where your audience congregates you can start to share your experience and knowledge with them, perhaps through forums or by answering their questions. You should also be checking out the online resources that your audience inhabit; this might include specialist web sites catering for a particular fiction genre, it might be a particular social network or even forum that focuses on the subject at hand.

Twelve Month Goal

Your twelve-month goal should now be doing all the above activities as well as some retrospective activities that look back on where you’ve come from and where you are now. This would be a great time to revisit author interviews with the perspective of an author who has experience. Now that you have a whole years worth of experience as a ‘successful author’ – because you will have sold your book as a result of these activities – you might like to consider contacting local radio stations and newspapers to get yourself some publicity, particularly if you are planning on bringing out a second book as well.

Two Year Goal

By now your book should be well and truly embedded and you can build on those things that have gone before. Revisiting how far you’ve come with more author interviews. With the experience you now have of presenting and speaking you could think about contacting the organisers of literary festivals to find out whether they might be interested in getting you along to run a seminar or workshop based on your experiences.

It is tempting to want to do everything all at once, but experience has taught me that this is just not feasible for the majority of new authors. We almost all have a day job and our writerly ambitions need to fit in around this to make sure that the mortgage is paid and there is food on the table. Setting a small set of goals every few months and accepting that you are in this for the long-term is reasonable and will result in less stress, fewer headaches and a much happier author.

This post is part of the Marketing Plan posts – you can find the others from the first one here: And on the subject of a marketing plan for your book …

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  1. I always have a problem with ‘realistic’ goals. In my own mind, I must be superwoman, lol, but it is humbling when I realize that I’m not. Good post and good points to keep in mind going forward.

  2. I do have goals but I know that without the actions they are meaningless Anne so I tend to revise them. For instance I have a mind map called 20,000 books in four months which details every single book, every single avenue and every single action I need to take. I’m still in the process of setting up the foundations and doing the ground work necessary to make it work. I shall let you know when it does 🙂 As for the publishing side of things, the traditional route will tend to leave things around as either print on demand or ebook but this disadvantages many authors and some are starting to take back their copyright so they can promote the books in their own right. I came across a blog post of an author who had done this recently, if I can find their post about it I’ll add it below as another comment.

  3. It’s very interesting Linda that your ‘goals’ all seem to involve actions taken rather than results achieved. I guess that the actions then lead to the results. So do you never set a target for yourself in terms of copies sold?
    I so agree with you about taking time for a book to reach its market, and think it is true to say that one of the huge advantages of self-publishing is allowing the time in the marketplace for this to happen. As I understand it a traditional publisher will pull a book if sales are not achieved in a short time-span – is this still true or do they now allow a book more longevity?