New Year, New Plans

Like everyone, I get distracted by the holiday whirl leading up to the main event, but every year I spend a delicious few days post-feast surviving off leftovers and planning the writing year ahead. Some of the items that make it to the to-do list are practical (do I have all the right vendors listed on my website?) and some are more strategic. Very few are quick wins because, if they were, I’d have done them already.

Still, I was able to plan the coming year with more confidence than I’ve had for a while. Part of this is due to having some books already written—while I’ve not been releasing as much lately due to personal life chaos, I have been working ahead.

That said, it’s not just the book in front of my nose I need to think, but the two following ones as well. What needs to be done in terms of promotion each month? How much prep time is required? What can I outsource, and what do I need to manage on my own? What will it all cost?

To this end, I had approximately 5,678,341 pieces of paper with bright ideas stuffed into an assortment of folders. I spent quite some time sorting and distilling all that into a series of tasks lists. Research, release plans, blog, social media, newsletter, paid advertising, administrative upkeep, upskilling, etc. The awkward aspect of all this is that they are interconnected and can’t be treated in isolation. They are also mostly timebound items with a best-before date when applied to a specific book. However, I came away with a calendarized workplan to test out.

The first and probably the most important realization is that this isn’t just about add-on activities to check off a notepad. These streams of activity (blog, research, social media, and so on) are like the infrastructure of the house where my creative output lives. If I don’t fix the roof or ensure the heat is working, it’s not a good shelter and my creative output can’t thrive. These activities are more than a necessary evil. They are an extension of the works themselves and deserve as much imagination and interest for their own sake. That’s a mind shift!

Some takeaways:

* In order to treat my creative infrastructure well, I need to set aside dedicated time to attend to it. I’m still playing catch-up, but I’m thinking 1 day a week for maintenance-level activities once the catch-up is done.
* The time to start assembling promotional material is the instant I start Chapter 1.
* Content marketing is 1,000 times more interesting to me than advertising. This is the “here’s my research” approach rather than “buy my book”
* I’m building places for our collective imaginations to hang out. This isn’t about individual products but entire story worlds, so the focus has to be broad.

I’ve set some steep goals, but I do have specific ideas on how to achieve them, which is something. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t.

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