The SMART Writer’s Guide to Goal Setting: 16 Goals for Author Success

Setting goals as a writer is easy, sticking to them is hard – but this post will help. I’m an author as well as a web designer, so I’ve been there. You know what you want to achieve (finish that WIP, get published, maybe make some money at it…?) but getting there is hard. 

This post will walk you through a proven method for setting SMART goals you actually achieve, give you a blueprint for 16 common writer’s goals, as well as tips and resources to help you along the way.

How to Set Author Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

Setting goals the right way makes a huge difference to actually achieving them. So have heart, you can set and achieve goals even if your last resolution lasted less time than New Year’s eve ball drop. 

The Secret to Success: SMART Goals

Having a plan for how to achieve goals is often the difference between sticking to resolutions vs. fizzling out. SMART is a framework for setting goals – part of why it works is that it leads you through setting a plan.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific. What exactly do you want to achieve? Being specific helps you hone in on what you want to achieve and how.
  • Measureable. How will you know if you’ve achieved your goal? Making your goal measurable helps you see if you are making progress.
  • Achievable. Is this something you are capable of doing? Setting goals that are outside of your control will lead to frustration!
  • Realistic. Is this something you can do with the time/resources you have? Burnout will only make it harder to achieve your resolutions in the long run.
  • Time-based. When will you achieve this goal? Having a time-limit is important to keep you motivated toward your goals.

How to write better goals (aka Putting SMART goals in action)

Based on the SMART goal framework, you can see why some goals don’t work and how to make them better. The following examples will help you see how goals can be rewritten to work better

Example 1:

Goal That Won’t Work: “Write more”

It’s not specific, measureable, or time-based. In other words, there’s no plan to carry out and without the what, when, and how it’s likely you won’t get around to it.

A Better Goal: “I will write every weekday for one hour”

It’s a real plan! It’s specific, measureable (did I write?) and time-bound (every weekday). Blocking it out on your calendar is the only thing left to do!

Example 2:

Goal that Won’t Work: “Get a book deal in 2024”

It may not be achievable because it’s not within your control. Even if you do all the right things, there are things outside of your control that you can’t even predict. (The economy, editors just acquired a book that would vie for the same market, the editor has a lifelong phobia of kittens which are the star of your work in progress, …)

You can dream about things outside your control, but if you want them to come true you need goals that back them up.

A Better Goal: “I will submit my manuscript to 1 editor in my genre every week.”

This goal passes the SMART test. It’s also the work you need to do if you want the chance for the dream of a book deal to come true.

If your goal isn’t achievable or realistic for you to do, consider getting help

We can’t do everything. (Trust me – I’ve tried.) So you have two choices: cut back on what you want to accomplish or get some help for the things you can’t do yourself.

I suggest getting help with things that

  • require expertise you don’t have
  • suck up a lot of your time
  • you hate doing

Lots of authors get help with websites, newsletters, and marketing. We offer these services because authors keep asking for them!

16 SMART Author Goals for You to Try

We’ve taken 16 of the most common goals that authors have and converted them into customizable SMART goals. 

These work like Madlibs – fill in the brackets with the things that are achievable and realistic for you to make customizable goals.

Writing goals

If you’re like most authors, your writing goals center around actually getting writing done! (Same.) These goals will help you do that.

1. Write more/develop a writing habit

  • “Write for [amount of time] per [day/week/schedule]” or…
  • “Write [number of] words on [day/week/schedule]”

TIP: Look at your calendar and map out times when you can write. BLOCK OFF THE TIME. Treat it like a doctor’s appointment that cannot be moved except in case of apocalypse, unexpected in-law visits, and other emergencies.

2. Finish your work in progress

  • “I will complete [what you need to accomplish to be finished] by [date]” 

TIP: Also write a goal based on #1 so you have a plan of how to accomplish this!

3. Read More (this will improve your writing!)

  • “Read [number of] books each [week/month/year]” or
  • “Read for [number of] minutes each day.”

4. Learn and grow as a writer

  • “Learn [thing you want to learn about] through [how you will learn about it (class/workshop/book/etc.)] by [date]”

Tip: we post tips and tricks on our social media for websites, marketing, and more. That can be a great way to pick up information and get links learn more.

5. Get help with your writing

“Get help with [specific thing you want help with] from [who will help you] by [date]”

Marketing Goals for Authors

I hear from a lot of authors who struggle with marketing. If you want to do better at marketing (or get started at all!) then these goals will help.

6. Get started with Marketing!

  • “Accomplish [specific goal] by [date] using [resources/people who will help].” 

Tip: if you’re starting from scratch and not sure where to start, I recommend: 1. social media first so you begin to build an audience, 2. then a website so that audience has somewhere to find out information about you, then 3. a newsletter which is your best marketing tool! You need a website to host the newsletter sign up form and you need social media to let people know about the newsletter.

7. Market more consistently

  • “Spend [number of] hours each week on [specific marketing tasks]”
  • “By [date], create a monthly schedule for [specific marketing tasks like posting to social media or sending a newsletter] and then complete it every month.”

Consistency is important in marketing! It’s far better to do a bit less but be consistent.

7. Start Social Media Marketing

“Open an account on [social media you choose], set up the account, and begin following people.”

Tip: You don’t have to be everywhere! Start with the social media platform where you’re most likely to engage with your audience. It’s also ok to post the same content on multiple social accounts. Which channel makes sense for you, depends on your audience and where they like to hang out online.

8. Get more engagement/followers on social media

  • “Post [number of] times per [day/week] on [specific social media platform/s]”
  • “Spend [number of] hours each [day/week] on [posting/engaging with followers]” or
  • “I will check in to my accounts at [scheduled times] each [day/week]

Tip: Each social media platform is a bit different, but a rule of thumb is that it will show your content to more people if you: 1. Post content regularly and 2. Engage with your followers.

 9. Create or Redesign your Author Website

  • If using a designer: “By [date] find web designers with experience with author websites, check reviews/portfolios, and get proposals.”
  • If designing yourself: “By [date] research website platforms and what to include on my website.”

Tip: We have lots of information to help you get started! Like this guide to website platforms and our free guide for what to put on your author website.

Free website guides for authors and small businesses: showing “Author Website Content Guide” and “Author Website Domain Workbook” guides

Get our free Guides

Your contact info will never be shared. You can unsubscribe at any time. (But we’ll miss you.)

10. Start an Email Newsletter

“Open an account on [newsletter platform], set up the account, and add a sign up form to my website by [date]”

Tip: we recommend Mailerlite as a mailing list platform. Most new authors can use the free account which has generous options. 

11. Get more subscribers to your email newsletter

“By [date] I will create an email magnet my target audience will like and add it as an incentive to new subscribers.”

Tip: We have a number of useful free guides for authors!

12. Launch or Market a Book

  • “Spend [number of] hours each week on book marketing]”
  • “I will complete [specific book marketing goal] by [date].”

Tip: Usually you will need to spend more time marketing around a book launch, but if you work in a small amount on your marketing channels all the time, you’ll be in a great place to start.

Publishing Goals

If your goal is to get published, you need to take the steps to get there. The first step is to decide whether you’re seeking traditional publishing or self/indie publishing.

13. Query (for traditional-publishing track authors)

  • “Research the querying process and how to find people to query by [date].”
  • “Send out [number of] queries every [week/month/etc.]

Tip: Angie has two free querying spreadsheet you can use to track your queries. 

14. Self-publish (for self-publishing track authors)

  • “Research the self-publishing process by [date].”
  • “Identify your next step in the self-publishing process and create a plan to complete it by [date].”

Author Business Goals

If you want to be an author, at some point you have to start treating it like a business. For most writers, this is both un-fun and daunting. I can’t make it more fun, but hopefully these goals can make it less daunting.

15. Learn about the business-side of being an author

  • “By [date] decide if I need an LLC and, if yes, make a goal for forming one.”
  • “By [date] learn about filing business taxes as an author and begin tracking my expenses.”

Tip: This blog post will help you decide if you need an author LLC 

16. Make money as an author

“Learn about options for making income as an author and make a plan to start on one by [date]”

Tip: This Instagram post covers some ways you can make income (other than selling books!) that will also support your author career.

Give it a try

Every author’s success story started with dreams that were translated into goals. Using the SMART framework will help you create goals that turn into successes.

Download our free SMART Goals Worksheet to begin turning your aspirations into accomplishments. We’d love to hear how it works for you!

About the Author

Angie Isaacs is the owner of Bookend Creative Studio and a published children’s book author. On the blog, she writes about web design, branding, marketing, goal-setting, and writing.

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