Irrefutable Law of Success #2—Plan Your Work, Then Work Your Plan

The Spawn and his minion Lazr Cat.

The Spawn and his minion Lazr Cat.

The operational tempo of our profession has increased exponentially. While this requires us to do more and be responsible for more, it’s actually great news. In the olden days of publishing, we had to go through New York in order to be published (unless we had $10-15,000 to publish books, sell them out of the back of our cars and hope we could duplicate “The Grisham Effect”).

Yet, remember, Grisham only sold enough copies to be noticed by New York.

Now? We have self-published and indie published writers hitting the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists with no involvement from New York. Does this mean we can’t publish traditionally? No. It only means there are now more roads that lead to Rome (being successfully published).

It also means writers can draw revenue from more works. New York is still at a pace of about a book a year. This limits income. Additionally, as I talk about in Rise of the Machines the consignment model is full of needless waste which impacts the earning potential of all writers. Adding insult to injury, the business model of major book retailers hurts all but the mega-author.

Indies who can write to demand are not just making money off the latest work, but ALL their works. Backlists, short stories, serials, series, novellas, etc. This is why writers who go traditional are leaning toward hybridization (part NY, part indie).

With all the options and the changing consumer climate, it means we have a lot of latitude as artists. Yet, to be successful, we need to plan our work and work our plan.

Define What Success Means to YOU

Your dream isn’t my dream. I can’t live it for you. I’ll be blunt, in the new era of publishing, everyone is a writer. I believe this was always true, only NY was solely interested in the career author. Some of you reading might only have ONE book in you. These days? Write away! That’s okay.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Choko

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Choko

For some writers, success means a certain level of income. Others? Awards or best-seller lists. Some writers just have a dream of finishing a work they can hold in their hands and maybe pass onto grandkids. Whatever success might mean to each of you, you have to be honest so you can build the correct foundation for your plan.

A plan for a writer who wants to hit the New York Times list is going to look very different from the author who wants to write down his experiences from World War II for family and posterity.

Good Plans Ignore Fashion Yet Anticipate Trends

These days, social media, algorithms, metadata are all moving targets. This is one of the reasons that pre-programming, automating and trying to manage from a vacuum is ineffective long-term (and short, but that’s another blog). We have to be in the mix to see the changes and be ahead of the curve.

The latest craze that all the other writers are doing? If everyone is doing it, it’s already expired. It’s why I am always researching and work hard to remain innovative. Also, WANA rests on principles that never go out of fashion—community, authenticity, service.

Stick to the basics, and maneuverability is easier. Build a platform on juking algorithms? Well, enjoy it until FB or Amazon or Klout modifies the algorithm and expect to be back at Ground Zero. Foundations need to be solid to remain in tact. Otherwise? We are building on shifting sand. When our foundation is solid, we aren’t dependent on fashions and can anticipate trends.

What’s the difference?

Fashion: Well, if you tweet on Wednesday at 2:00 EST, the numbers show there are more click-throughs on links.

Yup, until EVERYONE is tweeting at the SAME TIME.

Trend: We’re in a Reality TV generation and consumers LOVE interaction. Blogs allow authors to capitalize on the increased human desire to connect.

Plans Need to Be Simple and Flexible

Jack Welch, the legendary CEO who resurrected General Electric was influenced by what he read about Prussian military strategists of the 19th century.

They did not expect a plan of operation to survive beyond the first contact with the enemy. They set only the broadest of objectives and emphasized seizing unforeseen opportunities as they arose. ~29 Leadership Secrets from Jack Welch

Yesterday, we discussed NO WHINING. Here’s my sage business advice.

Ready for this?

Hold on.

It’s coming.

It’s gonna be awesome…

If something isn’t working? STOP DOING IT. ~Kristen Lamb

Sure, running our head into a wall over and over is an option, but really? Thing is, this paradigm is new. It’s going to need time to settle. Throw stuff out there and see what’s working. If it isn’t working? CHANGE IT. This is why the new paradigm ROCKS.

If a certain cover isn’t floating the consumer boat? Change it. If readers complain a work is too long? Break it up. If reviewers catch an unforeseen fish head in your novel? Pull it, chop it, rerelease.

If a book isn’t selling? Change the price. If that doesn’t work, maybe we’ve written something consumers (code for “readers”) just don’t want to consume. This is why it’s critical to keep writing more books. Maybe the third or fifth book will catch readers eye and, for all we know, Book ONE can come into fashion at a later time.

If we are blogging and no one is reading? Maybe we need to modify our voice or choices of topics. I know when I first started blogging I was super serious because I was trying to “be an expert, an AUTHORITY.” Finally, after months of dismal hits, I changed tactics. I allowed my natural ability with humor to come play on the blog…and people LIKED IT.

Hmmm, imagine that? People enjoy laughing.

Plans are vital. Plans give us focus. Focus is power and frees up time to write more books. Writers with no plan are reactive, instead of proactive and this wastes precious resources.

What are your thoughts? Have you had to change plans? Maybe pull a book, change a cover, redesign an ineffective web site? Did you change the way you interacted on Facebook or in your blogs and see people respond positively? What did you do? Share your war stories.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up SOON, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

Also, August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

The webinars are all recorded in case you can’t make the time and a PDF with notes will be sent to you following the class.

Also, my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

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  1. #1 by Melissa Lewicki on August 13, 2013 - 11:46 am

    If something isn’t working? STOP DOING IT. ~Kristen Lamb
    Common sense is such a rare commodity. I am so glad you share yours.

  2. #3 by annerallen on August 13, 2013 - 11:48 am

    So much good advice here today, Kristen. “If everyone is doing it, it’s already expired.” Yes! I see people doing so much copy-cat marketing. People read a three year old book based on a five year old success story and think the same stuff will work for them. “If it doesn’t work, stop” is the best advice ever.

  3. #4 by Elke Feuer on August 13, 2013 - 11:51 am

    Historically my blogs are writing tips which has been great for connecting with writers, but not so great for connecting with readers, so this month I decided to change my approach and picked topics around my book instead. I’m hopeful it will attract readers who’ll want to read my book and make long term connections. We shall see.

    • #5 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 13, 2013 - 11:52 am

      Not to hawk a book, but my new book has a very effective plan for blogging in ways that attract readers. I think it would help a lot.

      • #6 by Elke Feuer on August 13, 2013 - 2:23 pm

        Hawk away, Kristen! Thanks!

        • #7 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 13, 2013 - 2:27 pm

          Yeah, well it’s $6.99 but your time is valuable. I think seven bucks invested will be worth it😀. I’ve written over 700 blogs, so have a good idea of what works and what tanks.

  4. #8 by Heather on August 13, 2013 - 11:58 am

    I love the Prussian model of capitalizing on opportunities. I’ll have to remember that one. I think the hardest part though, is admitting the truth to ourselves. Sure, it may feel good just to have a physical book in my hand and say “I did this!” (that was my thesis.) But it’s always there in the back of our minds. “If it falls into the right hands…” With my fiction, I really want the big success. I am just now wondering, is less success enough success?

  5. #9 by Adele Bower on August 13, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    kristen, I’m an artist not a writer, but find your blog helpful and relevant. I’ve had 2 children’s books published which I both wrote and illustrated, sold on amazon and at local bookstores, but am primarily an artist offering for sale my original art and fine art prints on my website (www.artbyadelebower.com). I do not have pages for you to critique, just wanted to say hello and thanks. Adele Bower

    • #10 by Heather Heyford on August 13, 2013 - 2:06 pm

      Sounds like you are an artist AND a writer, Adele! Own it!😉

  6. #11 by Dr. Catherine Al-Meten on August 13, 2013 - 12:19 pm

    This was good to read this morning! Simplicity, following the intuitive leads, and having a plan. With the plan, have a plan to revise regularly (as the need arises; maybe every 6 months or so) and use it as a framework, not a vice.

  7. #12 by K.B. Owen on August 13, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    Well, I’m certainly glad you let your humor come through, Kristen! Thanks for the sentiments here. It’s reassuring to know that mistakes or slow-starts aren’t so dire. Will soldier on!😀

  8. #13 by Kessie Carroll on August 13, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    It seems that everyone on my entire blog roll are whining about this right now. I’m referring them all to this post.

  9. #14 by Dennis Langley on August 13, 2013 - 1:11 pm

    Adapt, improvise, overcome… sounds like a Marine Force Recon slogan. I love it.🙂

  10. #15 by Shea Ford on August 13, 2013 - 1:13 pm

    Lol That photo illustrates how it’s possible to be totally cute and totally creepy at the same time.😉

    I’ve got 2 different plans for my books. The first is for my family, so I’m not all that stressed that it’s not a bestseller. I’m really glad to have written simply for the experience of publishing. I’ve got higher hopes for my next one though. I would hope it will be a bestseller, but I’ll be happy with a ‘betterseller.’ But it’s the experience that I’m gaining that I hope will make me a better writer.

    • #16 by Shea Ford on August 13, 2013 - 1:16 pm

      That should say, “The first book was written for my family.” Sorry, I can’t ever get away from editing. lol

  11. #17 by cynthiagrstacey on August 13, 2013 - 1:38 pm

    I have done a lot of changing since reading your book. I am interacting more and more and enjoying it immensely. I would like to make changes regarding my published book, however my publisher won’t let me. Something to be said for self publishing which might be how I put out the next one. Thanks for all your advice.

  12. #18 by Heather Heyford on August 13, 2013 - 2:05 pm

    Nice to meet you Kristen! You were recommended today by two separate writer friends. Yes, that’s right – two recommendations in one day!

  13. #19 by Heather Heyford on August 13, 2013 - 2:07 pm

    Reblogged this on Heather Heyford and commented:
    So glad to have met Kristen Lamb today on her great blog about writing!

  14. #20 by Holly Michael on August 13, 2013 - 2:28 pm

    My head is spinning…whoa….I though it a big deal to get an agent after making it to the ABNA quarterfinalists….then, nearly two years later, but lots of “nice rejections” from big publishers/editor, no sale yet. Now, said agent isn’t interested in representing the second novel. So….thinking of self-publishing that one. People say, “drop the agent,” Others say, “keep the agent.” Some say, “query new agents” hmmm…..I’m going to read that book of yours that I bought.

  15. #23 by Sydney Jane Baily on August 13, 2013 - 2:33 pm

    Yesterday’s and today’s posts came at the right time. No whining and get a freaking clue . . . I mean a plan. Working on both.

    By the way, would you post a photo of the hat that all our names are in?🙂

    Thanks for the whole MYWANA thing.

    • #24 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 13, 2013 - 2:56 pm

      It’s more of a JAR. I print them off, cut them up and then GO. Not exactly high-tech *shrugs*

      • #25 by Sydney Jane Baily on August 14, 2013 - 9:18 am

        I asked as a joke because I always read to the end and you mention the names in a hat, and now I’m gobsmacked that you actually print names off and cut them up. I figured it was indeed some “high-tech” method. You really do love us!!

  16. #26 by Lanette Kauten on August 13, 2013 - 2:52 pm

    My dream was to be published by the Big 6, then the Big 5. I wrote a literary southern fic with absolutely no takers. So I put that away and wrote something more commercial. It’s women’s fic set in Hungary. I’ve had a lot of positive reactions from agents and many have requested more pages.😀 Unfortunately, I’ve also gotten glowing praise with being told everything that’s right about it only for the other shoe to drop, “I love it, but I’m not in love” or “This is fantastic, but it’s not right for my list”.

    Undeterred, and while the commercial novel is still being considered by a couple of agents, I submitted the literary novel to a hungry, new publishing company. And they accepted it. There’s more than one path to publishing.

    • #27 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 13, 2013 - 2:56 pm

      Go indie. NOW.

      • #28 by Lanette Kauten on August 13, 2013 - 8:13 pm

        Thanks. I’ll stick with the small pub for now. Who knows where I’ll go from this point?

  17. #29 by sharonhughson on August 13, 2013 - 3:44 pm

    I’ve been working my plan since the beginning of July. Crazily enough, I’ve been able to meet all my daily goals and finished my half-finished first draft two weeks ahead of schedule. The rewriting goes according to plan, but as I’m doing this I realize it will need a lot of refining before its ready to be polished and introduced to my beta readers. I have a calendar and its been easy to stick to the schedule. I factored in time for sitting in the sun(which I’m doing as I write this) and taking care of household chores.
    If you don’t have a plan, you won’t succeed. This is the truth I’ve decided to own. Thanks for your help along the way.

  18. #30 by James Cornwell on August 13, 2013 - 3:55 pm

    Love this essay. Been working with a plan for eight weeks now, and it’s working, slowly but surely. I really needed to hear the part about the public not necessarily responding to the first book we write (my first is a 160K-word YA medieval historical novel with boy appeal… who knows about the next one?). Thanks!

  19. #31 by Jason on August 13, 2013 - 4:33 pm

    Reblogged this on Internet Sales Success.

  20. #32 by Elizabeth Seckman on August 13, 2013 - 6:54 pm

    Great advice, but sadly…I have no plan. Guess I better go google it and see if someone was kind enough to map one out for me.😉

  21. #33 by Katy Mann on August 13, 2013 - 9:49 pm

    Thanks for the encouraging message in your blog. I decided to publish after going to the LA Times Festival of Books last April. While I was there, I collected business cards for two writers groups. I attended a Webinar shortly thereafter. I got several things out of the webinar: you need an e-mail list (and website), and you need a great book cover. So I started looking into self-marketing…and spent about six weeks in a haze, reading everything, while I set up FaceBook, Twitter, and a website with a blog. I just crept along, going through the steps. About a week ago, I finally formulated a marketing plan, and I’m moving forward with it. I’m open to revisions, but this was a great time to see your post.

  22. #34 by donnajeanmcdunn on August 13, 2013 - 10:30 pm

    I love your sense of humor, I’m glad you decided to use it for blogging. I can always use a good laugh.

    I need to get your new book. Your other ones helped me so much and got me to begin my blog and join Facebook and other social media sites.

    On LinkedIn people are constantly asking, “what should I be doing to promote my book?” I’ve tried to explain to them how to use social media to their advantage by just being “social”. Did you know there are people out there that get nasty when that is suggested as something they should be doing.

    On the other hand, there are others who have sites for each of their books and they also have sites under different pen names, two or more blogs and websites. I go crazy trying to manage one blog and a couple of the social media sites.

    But the authors I really don’t understand are the ones who keep everything private. You go to their blogs or any of their social media sites and you can’t find a name or a picture of the person or if there is a picture, you can’t see them clearly. Oh, you can find the title of their books but no author’s name. I understand that they are afraid of something. I’m just not sure what that is. So what happens to these people if they actually have a big hit and everyone wants to know who the heck the author is?

    Can you explain that in one of your posts?

    I like your advice the best. Keep it simple so you don’t drive yourself nuts and be nice and socialize and don’t bombard everyone with “Buy my book”. Make friends instead!

  23. #35 by Gry Ranfelt on August 14, 2013 - 12:53 am

    Good post with a lot of great points.
    I once made AMVs on youtube and got to be pretty popular. I made a fanfiction.net user and got pretty popular there, as well. Then I made a fictionpress and a deviantart and … not so much.
    Then I realized what it was I was doing wrong, or rather, what I WASN’T doing. On youtube and fanfiction.net I had been a part of the FANDOM and interacted with people, thus they checked out my channel/profile.
    When I began being interactive on deviantart and when I started to take part in the forums on fictionpress things turned around for the better, but admittedly I never worked hard enough on those.
    Now it’s time to rework my blog! Your book has given me lots of ideas. I’m shaking words and sentences out of my friends for my word cloud at the moment.

  24. #36 by moxeyns on August 14, 2013 - 2:25 am

    So – how do you know it’s time to change? How long do you give that price point or that book cover, without giving it a fair run?

    • #37 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 14, 2013 - 8:27 am

      Wish I could answer that. I tend to be loyal to the point of idiocy and am learning, too.

  25. #38 by Sophie Kersey on August 14, 2013 - 5:50 am

    Hi Kristen. I’m a new follower – you came highly recommended! I love your advice both about deciding what your dream is, and about changing tack if things aren’t working. I was a closet writer, desperate for success but terrified to ‘come out’ as a desperate-for-success but as-yet-unsuccessful writer. Starting a writing blog was my coming out – or changing tack! It has completely changed my self-image – I see myself as a writer now, one working towards the dream of publication. The other great advantage of blogging has been following blogs and the great advice and encouragement they offer. Thanks!

  26. #39 by Ryder Islington on August 14, 2013 - 3:00 pm

    My first book, Ultimate Justice, was pubbed by a small press, and they are taking on book two of that mystery series. I’m also working on a story that is more literary in nature, and my publisher doesn’t put those out. I was thinking how nice it would be if a traditional publisher picked that one up, but you have opened my eyes to new possibilities. I hadn’t thought of all the options available, and of all the things to take into consideration when choosing a publisher–instead of letting a publisher choose me.
    Ryder

  27. #40 by unredundant on August 19, 2013 - 10:49 pm

    Great post! I’ve always said if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else!

  28. #41 by Thomas Rydder on August 21, 2013 - 7:11 am

    Kristen, as usual, you expound common sense in your wisdom. I’m in civil engineering, and one mantra of the profession is KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. I think we do tend to complicate things, without realizing that writing is a process like any other. If an engine is sputtering, change the spark plugs, right?
    I truly enjoy passing your articles on to the folks who follow my blog, and do so religiously. Keep up the great work!

    Thomas Rydder
    http://thomasrydder.wordpress.com/

  29. #42 by Seumas Gallacher on August 21, 2013 - 7:46 am

    Reblogged this on Seumas Gallacher and commented:
    ..more brilliant writer sharing from Author Kristen Lamb…

  30. #43 by Seumas Gallacher on August 21, 2013 - 7:47 am

    … fabulous post as usual , Kristen.. ::)))

  31. #44 by Lorraine Marie Reguly on August 22, 2013 - 3:13 pm

    I have linked to you in the past, and I just did it again. You are a wise woman, Ms. Lamb…🙂 I’ve had to change a thing or two on my blog. In fact, I had to change my whole blogging platform for my poetry blog. I just did that recently, too. Now both of my blogs are on WordPress!

  32. #45 by Raani York on September 17, 2013 - 5:12 pm

    I think “not giving up” is one thing that I hear so many times – but not giving up what?? Trying? Believing in myself? Sometimes it isn’t easy…
    I sometimes figure it’s not only a negative thing to be too stubborn to give up. LOL

  1. Irrefutable Law of Success #3—We Learn By Doing | Kristen Lamb's Blog
  2. A Hodgepodge of Useful Bits & Pieces – Mid-August 2013 | KD DID IT Takes on Books
  3. Writing Resources 17 August 2013 | Gene Lempp ~ Writer
  4. Irrefutable Law of Success #2—Plan Your Work, Then Work Your Plan | Kristen Lamb’s Blog | Thomas Rydder
  5. A Hodgepodge of Useful Bits & Pieces – Mid-October 2013 | KD DID IT Takes on Books

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