It seems like everyone these days is asking ‘What’s your why?’
It’s the kind of question that I heard four or five years ago, when I was doing my masters degree in creative business. That degree was designed to prove to me that being independent and profitable in a creative industry was possible. What it didn’t point out was how hard it would be.
‘What’s your why?’ is really asking for the strongest level of commitment you have. What is the thing that’s going to keep you going when you’re not making enough money and you’re struggling and life is hard? Your why is the thing that stops you from throwing in the towel.
Your why is motivation from behind, from a root or reason in the past – it’s your kick up the bum. Your goals are the motivation from ahead, the possibility, the want, the hunger. Just as we needs equal parts confidence and fear of failure, we need who we are and what we want to align, in order to achieve.
I’m going to be straight with you here:
If your why is making loads of money as an author, going to fancy parties and being a bestseller – I’m going to have to burst your bubble.
HOWEVER -versions of that exist. People reach bestsellers lists every day. They break into the top hundred in Amazon charts, they win competitions and sell lots of books. Sometimes they have a good month/quarter and their royalties are excellent. Maybe they go to a great conference or party with load of other writers.
Elements of these goals are true and possible, but I would hesitate against making goals until you know the industry. Once you’ve been doing this a while, you know which goals seem realistic, and which ones are just smoke and mirrors.
For example, most digital authors’ goal is to get paperback. Understandable – opening to a new audience, holding it in your hand, feeling it be this real thing you created. But paperbacks don’t sell well, especially in certain genres. They’re more expensive to produce and harder to sell. When they don’t get picked up by certain bookshops, it damages your reputation and you might not get another chance.
So the goal, whilst feeling like a definition of success, is probably something that stands in the way of your success.
I am a big fan of a list, and I would encourage you to come up with a couple of long term and short term goals.
The long term ones can be a bit more fantastic, if you like. But they should be grounded in the industry, in what you know and have learnt as an author. Yes, I still dream of paperback, even though it’s silly. But perhaps I think of a different genre of book that would benefit from PB. Or actually, it’s a POD system for this other book I’m writing. Let your knowledge and experience influence your goals, and vice versa.
Short term goals need to mean something to you.
For me, it’s about improving and using what I’ve learnt. My goal for my next book is to get 100 reviews on Amazon, improving on my previous number. So I break that down – who can I reach, when do I do it, what’s the timing of the launch, can we do anything to encourage reviews, how do I promote in the best way possible? I do my research and I come up with a plan.
That goal doesn’t mean anything to anyone else but me. To some 100 reviews is ridiculously low, to others its high – but it’s my personal goal, a sign of my own growth and improvement.
So what are your short term and long term goals, and how have they changed since you started writing?