Career Planning 3: The Skeleton
This article is the 3rd in a series covering the necessary steps for creating a career plan.
We’ve explored our commitment to writing, done a realistic assessment of our pace, given voice to our vision and determined our target market. Now, we are ready to write a career plan. As we go into this phase, keep the following in mind: VISION is what we would like to be. A CAREER PLAN is what we think we realistically can accomplish and GOALS are how we get there.
This article will cover career planning for the unpublished, nearly published and recently published author. Keep in mind any career plan should include objectives to pursue the type of mentorship you need to take you to the next level in your writing.
Unpublished: a career plan for an unpublished writer will differ slightly from that of a published author because as much as you might like to, you cannot plan on the when of getting published. So you must concentrate on setting a path that will give the most likelihood success and that will naturally segue into a workable plan for after publishing.
Example career plan skeleton for unpublished writer, Suzie Q. Author:
Pursue publication in single title mainstream market (Pocket).
Increase my inventory of salable work.
Improve on identified weaknesses as a writer.
Improve my understanding of my market and target my manuscripts more directly to it.
Notice that in objective one, Suzie identified a market and set her objective as something she could do without doubt...she can PURSUE publication even if she can’t guarantee the outcome.
In objective two, Suzie was looking toward the future...what would happen if she didn’t sell her current manuscript? She would then have another one to submit. Or what if she did sell her book? She would then have another manuscript for a two book contract.
In objective three, Suzie makes the assumption that she will spend time identifying her weaknesses as a writer before she can address her objective of improving on them.
In objective four, Suzie acknowledges that as her understanding of the market increases, her ability to smooth the rough edges on her work will also increase.
In objective five, she realizes that she will increase her chances of selling if she interfaces with an editor. She makes the same assumption regarding agents in objective six. (If Suzie is targeting category romance, it’s highly likely objective six would be something different.)
This is just an example. Your career plan objectives could be completely different, but hopefully by seeing these, you will have an idea of the type of objectives you want in your career plan.
Once your skeleton objectives are outlined, we will take the next step (in Article 4) ‘ which is setting immediate and extended goals in order to achieve each of your objectives.
Nearly Published: Your career plan may differ in that you have expectations made of you by outside forces like editors that must be met. These forces will perhaps change your first objective from something like "pursue publication with Pocket" to "revise manuscript per Amy Pierponts suggestions for publication with Pocket."
In addition, you will not only be focused on increasing your inventory of salable manuscripts, but revising current ones to fit an editor's specifications.
You are still going to be working hard at identifying your weaknesses and writing past them as well as writing to your strengths, but your source of information on what these might be will differ (now it is editors and agents as opposed to critiquers and contest judges).
You know your market at this point, but now you need to focus on knowing what happens in that market after a sale. Not only with the publisher(s) that interest you, but in terms of self-promotion expected/needed within the market.
Bearing that in mind, you will want to make an objective to create a self-promotion plan to put into place when you sell. It is at this point in your career that you may realize having a website *now* could be beneficial.
You are still going to make editor interface a goal and/or interface with an agent. However you may have a much more specific list of agents and/or editor(s) you want one on one interaction with. It's no longer enough to meet with any editor from Pocket, now you know your voice resonates with Amy Pierpont, so you will pursue opportunities to speak with her, see her and correspond with her.
Newly Published Author: you no longer want to limit yourself to one-year long goal setting or career objective strategies. It is at this point you start thinking in terms of one year, three year, five year...even ten year plans.
- Sell Book Two (or more) - is this self-evident? I remember reading somewhere - please don't quote me - that some ridiculously high percentage of all first time authors never sell another book. You don't want that to be you, so set that second sale as an objective and then set goals that will make it happen.
- Take stock of my manuscripts - this is when you determine if anything you've written before would work revised for this market (or not revised) and pitch it to your editor or work on the revisions so you can pitch it to your editor.
- Put Self-promotion plan into effect. (If you don't have one, then your objective is to create one followed by an objective to put it into effect.)
- Improve my craft. If you had a revision letter that led to a sale, analyze it for identifiable weaknesses you can avoid in the future when writing for this editor.
- Organize my filing system to reflect the needs of a published writer. (You want a place you can always find your contracts, notes from phone calls with your editors, promotional opportunities, etc.)
- Storage space. (Funny career objective? Lack of storage space may prevent you from buying an adequate number of author copies for promotion and reviews, or from buying sufficient quantities of promotional material.)
- Develop a *good* working relationship with my editor.
- Get an agent (if you want one), work out a long-term career plan with my agent (if you have one) or identify the areas of your next contract you would negotiate differently and be prepared to do so.
Year 2 and Beyond
When you go into long term objectives you will be setting the number of manuscripts you want to write and sell in a year, determining what kind of objective criteria you want to use to measure the marketable success of your work and where you want to fall in those measurements, what sort of long term promotional plan you are going to engage in. The further out you go, the more visionary become your objectives (but maintain realistic expectations so doable goals can be set).
Next month we will focus on setting goals to flesh out our Career Plan Skeletons.