Setting Your Annual Writing Goals


The problem with New Year’s Resolutions, and planning in general, is that life tends to get in the way of the really exciting new projects on our goals list – the book project we want to start, the new writing field we want to enter, the website we want to design, the new skill we want to learn.

So many ideas; so much to accomplish. No wonder we usually end up so overwhelmed by our long list of New Year’s resolutions and goals that we accomplish very few of them. Lifestyle coach Cheryl Richardson says the secret is to focus. “Any worthwhile goal calls for concentration and discipline.” Her advice:

✓ Choose one project from this year’s Goals list to which you will devote your concentration and energy.

✓ Schedule at least 30 minutes every day to work on it – uninterrupted – until it is either completed or becomes a part of your routine.

But first, we need to make that list of possible Goals (or Objectives, if you have a business background and prefer that term). The trick to successful goal setting, according to Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, is in the decision making – deciding which goals to put on your short list. Here is his technique for reaching those decisions –

things to do☐ Make a master list of possible goals on a yellow legal pad.

☐ Down one side of a new page, write all the reasons you can think of in favor of a given course of action or goal for your editorial business.

☐ On the other side, list every reason you can think of against it; everything that will be difficult about it; all the risks.

Do this for each potential goal, objective or course of action.

☐ Then study your pages until you can decide on the 1 or 2 or 3 best goals for you to really go after this year.

What do you want this year?

Here are some tough questions to ask yourself about where you want your writing/editing business to go this coming year –

  1. What does your vision of your editorial business look like?
  2. What types of material or subject areas will you focus on?
  3. How many new clients and editors will you develop and how many total clients and editors will you be writing or editing for?
  4. What will your total writing and editing income be for this next year?

light bulbIdea Starters for Your Annual Planning

Here are some possible goals/objectives – select one for your primary business objective, then plan your week, your purchasing, your marketing, your study, your production, and your reading to include the necessities to get it accomplished:

❏ make a certain number of magazine sales
❏ make a certain number of website content sales
❏ add a certain number of new business or professional clients
❏ earn a certain amount of money
❏ get your byline into certain magazines
❏ obtain a book contract from a traditional publisher
❏ write a particular book
❏ outline an e-book series; write and self-publish the first title
❏ place in the top three in a certain number of contests
❏ write and publish 3 info products and sell on Clickbank
❏ create an online course and publish to Udemy
❏ establish myself as a sales page copywriter and take on 5 clients
❏ take on 12 book editing projects

Example strategy for fleshing out a goal to make sure it is doable.

As an example, let’s say you’ve set a goal to earn $40,000 from magazine and online articles. Your next step is to determine how many queries (or pitches) you need to submit, then how many completed manuscripts.

Step 1. Review your submission records for the past year, and list the following numbers:
Total number of queries submitted: ________ (Our example: 200)
Total number of go-aheads (or “OK, I’ll take a look”) from editors: _______ (example: 130)
Total number of manuscripts submitted: _________ (example: 125)
Total number of sales: ___________ (example: 100)
Total dollar volume: ________ (example: $30,000)

Step 2. Divide your dollar volume by your number of sales to get your average income per sale: _____________ (example: $30,000 divided by 100 = $300)

Step 3. Divide your number of queries submitted by the number of go-aheads to get the average number of queries you need to submit in order to receive one go-ahead or look-see: ________ (example: 200 divided by 130 = 1.5)

Step 4. Divide your number of manuscripts submitted by number of sales to get the number of manuscript submissions you need to make one sale: ________(example: 125 divided by 100 = 1.25)

Step 5. Using these figures, you can now go back to your projected sales volume and determine how many query letters and how many completed manuscripts you will need to submit during the next year to meet your projections. (example: To earn $40,000, we would need to make 133 sales, which would mean submitting 266 queries and 166 manuscripts.)

Step 6.Dividing these numbers by 12 and by 50 (to allow for a two-week vacation), you can now set a production schedule for the upcoming year:
Submit _22_ query letters/pitches each month; or _5.33_ query letters/pitches each week.
Submit _14_ manuscripts each month; or _3.33_ manuscripts each week.

If your calculations say the number of queries or manuscripts or words or pages or whatever that you need to complete during a month or week is way too high to be feasible – no way can you do that every month, or week after week – then you need to do one or both of the following

a. Rethink your goals. Bring your target numbers down until you find a goal that is reachable for you. You can always step up your goals later in the year if you find you are doing more than you had thought you would.

b. Determine what you need to work on to improve your averages. For example, if you have to send tons of queries to get even one go-ahead, then you can work on your market study, better targeting your queries, or writing better queries. Or, if you’re getting interest from editors, but then getting too many manuscripts rejected, you need to work on your writing skills.

What’s on your goals list for this coming year? Please “speak your mind” below.

(And if you’re not signed on to receive our editorial business-building tips eZine, do sign up — top of page on the right.)

About Dana K Cassell

Hi, and welcome to our Network. I'm Dana Cassell and am the one writing most of the posts on this blog. I've been in this writing/editing business for way longer than I care to admit. My goal here is to provide you with useful insights from our professional members and from my own experience - to help you achieve your own success, grow your editorial business, and publish successful and worthy books,


  1. Shelley Steele says

    Hello Dana,

    Just want to say how much I appreciate receiving your newsletter. It has really helped along the way. This is an exciting year ahead. I will be publishing my first eBooks… Using iBook for now for Apple products.

    Do you have advice re creating ebooks? A program to use that’s not too pricey? Once iBook is done, I would begin to convert.

    Shelley Steele

    • Hi, Shelley,

      Congratulations on writing and publishing your first book! You are correct; an exciting year is ahead for you. I will not be able to give you current advice on ebook programs, as I published my Kindle books several years ago and used Word plus the WordCrusher add-on for Word. It came along with another book publishing product, and I’m not sure if it is available by itself.

      TopTen Reviews has listed and reviewed their Top 10 ebook creators for 2016 – you may find that helpful. Also, Mark Coker offers a free Smashwords Style Guide in PDF, epub, and Kindle formats. You may not be planning to distribute via Smashwords, but the guide’s instructions on setting up a Word file may be useful for other publishers and distributors. Kindle and CreateSpace have their own guides for Word files. In fact, you probably need to determine which platforms you will use for distribution, then check to see what their formatting requirements are. Some of the higher-priced creation software may include formatting for various distributors, so that’s a factor to consider. Do keep us posted when your book is ready, and best wishes for a successful launch! — Dana

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