Finances & Forecasting: Part Three
Time once again to visit your writing income (or lack thereof) with PHS Editor, Christy Kate McKenzie, as she wraps up her three part series on finances and forecasting!
I’m back for Part Three of Finances & Forecasting. In Part One, we looked at income and expenditure and balancing your books. In Part Two, we pulled out the crystal ball to decide how much money you need to make off of your writing. Pull out your trusty notebook and let’s take stock of where you are now. Are you breaking even? Making a profit? Seeing red?
The end result is the same no matter where you are in your financial plan. A good business strategy means making MORE money year on year. Your forecast from Part Two has shown you how much more. Now, it’s time to figure out how to make that money.
In previous posts, I helped you develop a business plan and taught you a bit about branding. Now it’s time to look at strategy and implementation, or, quite simply, how you are going to increase your sales. It would be easy to veer off into business-speak on you now, but I wanted to make this a little more familiar. So, I’ll be finishing off this series in a language you speak fluently as a writer. Let’s plot your business plan using Goal, Motivation, & Conflict…
After creating your forecast, you will have a clear view of where you want to be. Let’s take the first step towards making that a reality. Did you know that people who write down their goals and regularly review them find it easier to meet those goals?
To start, pick a clean page in your notebook and write your goal at the top. It often helps to write it down not only as a total, but as milestones or increments. For example, if last year I made £600 off of my writing and this year I want to double it, I would write
‘My goal is to make £1200 this year, or £100 per month.’
This gives you a target to aim for and a figure to measure your success against.
Why do you want or need to increase sales? What will happen once you have? This is like assigning a second goal to your plot. It is imperative that you know why you are working to increase sales. On the surface, it may seem like it’s all about the money, but I want you to dig deeper. What would increasing sales, and income, mean to you?
When answering these questions, try to find a tangible reward. Just like with your characters, your motivation or end goal must be something you truly MUST have. Paying off bills in general isn’t necessarily a strong motivator—you can pay your Visa off next year if you don’t this year. The exception to this is if you are so close to being debt free that you can taste it. Your goal must be something that will drive you to stay motivated.
A better goal would be to finally make it to the Romance Novelists Association Convention in July so that you can see a particular author speak. Sure, you can always go next year, but the author may not be there. This type of end goal has a further motivating factor—time.
There is a deadline to when the money must be paid in to register—this is an incredible way to stay motivated, especially if procrastination is one of your finer qualities. If you know you need to write 500 words per day to finish a 50k manuscript, it is all too easy to skip a day and promise to ‘double up’ on the next. The problem is, skipping one day often leads to skipping another, until one day you realise you are 20,000 words behind!
Add a deadline onto this goal, for example 500 words per day for 100 days and you will find it easier to meet your daily goal—after all, the clock is ticking. Your financial goal should have a deadline wherever possible. That way in order to meet your goal; you will need to stay on track!
Underneath your goal, write down your motivations and any additional end goals.
What obstacle stands in your way? In your stories, conflict is absolutely necessary to make a story work. In business, it is an element that adds chaos and can make or break your career! As that is the case, this is the only time as a writer that I give you permission to avoid it—or quickly resolve it if you can.
There are a number of conflicts which may inhibit your ability to increase your sales. Before you start to push your work and strive for your goal, take a few minutes to look at what may either be holding you back or may trip you up once you get started.
Conflicts can and will vary from author to author, so I can’t really go through each one here, but I will give you a few examples to start your search.
Common Conflicts for Business Success
Have a look at these common conflicts you may come across in your journey to increase your sales. On a new, blank sheet in your notebook, make notes of any you think will affect you and brainstorm to find your unique conflicts.
Fear- Perhaps you have no income or a limited income because you are afraid of putting your work out there. If this is the case, the only way to overcome it will be to push past that fear and submit or self-publish your work. You cannot increase sales without something to sell!
Poor Production- Often poor sales come down to poor production, particularly in the case of self-published titles. Think of each new release as a chance to make a good first impression on your audience. Hire and editor, have a professional format your eBook, splash our for a professional cover design. It may be difficult to find the initial outlay for these costs, but if your production is professional, readers will be more likely to take a chance on your book and the end result will be an increase in sales.
Write, write, and Write Some More- Nowadays, an author must never stop creating. Just think that reader who has given your third book a chance and loved it is likely to look to see if you have any more books. Likewise, readers have an insatiable hunger for new stories—if you make them wait too long, they may just find another author to devour. Series are a great way to keep readers buying your books, but be careful not to bait readers with series. Most readers prefer stories in a series that can be read as standalone in any order and will not tolerate one book blatantly ‘selling’ the next.
No Visibility- If you want to increase your sales—or make your first sales—you MUST build a platform. Even if you haven’t published your first story, you still need a life online, for example a website, Twitter, Facebook, or Blog. The most loyal readers are drawn to authors who are real people. If you are still waiting for The Call, or haven’t yet hit send on your Amazon digital file, start to make friends online as an author. The friends you make while not promoting titles will be the first to purchase your debut.
Writer Protection Program- Are you hiding out? Writers by nature are often introverts, so you may find that you aren’t ready to open your life to readers. The good news? You don’t have to. If you follow me on social media, you will see my kids, my cat, my dog… what you won’t see are the struggles I face or family who don’t want to be a part of my writing life. My writing life is largely true, with just enough omitted to allow me to still have a personal life.
You don’t have to lay your real life out in front of your audience if you aren’t comfortable doing so. You can share only what you feel comfortable to share or… You create characters; create one for your author persona! Adopt a pen name-- nothing too outrageous or hard to remember, though. Live the life you dream of online--but don’t borrow from anyone else’s life—and don’t post stock photos as your own!
Also, be careful not to hurt anyone with your fantasy life. In recent months, there has been a lot of chatter on the literary grapevine about authors who are not who they claim to be. Remember the most important rule of creating an author persona is to be careful—be mindful of ethnic, cultural, sexual, etc. sensitivities. And never play on your readers’ emotions!
Taking Your Piggy to Market- Don’t be afraid to use your platform to promote your work, but don’t spam your audience. Vary your social media activity. Aim for a larger proportion of non-promotional posts and interaction with others than sales links or self-promotion. Only tell me about your book if it is relevant to what we are discussing.
Can I just take a moment to address all of the random authors who I end up following on Twitter? Your first DM to me should NOT be along the lines of ‘Perhaps you’d like to read my book…’ Like other readers, I will search out your work if I like what you say and do on social media. Pushing your work on me at first contact is the quickest way to be unfollowed!
That’s it for now! Good luck with your quest to increase your sales and get in touch if you want to discuss ideas or ask for a little help.
Christy is an aspiring author, fairy tale fanatic, peanut butter connoisseur, and wannabe mermaid. For more information about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Do you have any great tips for increasing sales? Have you previously hit your targets through engagement, marketing, or paid advertisements? Tell us about it in the comments or join the discussion on this subject with other PHS readers/writers on Social Media.