Janice Hanna Thompson

Janice Hanna Thompson—a south Texas native—is the author of over sixty novels and non-fiction books for the Christian market. She supplements her fiction habit by writing magazine articles, devotions, write-for-hire books and more. One of the chief joys of Janice’s life is training writers to earn a living with the written word. Check out Janice’s “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer,” course at www.freelancewritingcourses.com. The ten lessons in this course were developed to strategically train freelance writers to earn top dollar. Each lesson includes an audio file (mp3 for download), a corresponding audio script, a downloadable worksheet, a power point video, a bonus feature, and full access to the site’s forum. Email Janice at booksbyjanice[at]aol[dot]com to learn more, or visit her website at www.janicehannathompson.com.

What Industry Pros Are Saying about Goal Setting

We’ve spent the last couple of months talking about the importance of goal setting. I thought it might be fun to pick the brains of several CBA editors and agents to get their take on the matter, so I posed the question: “Why is goal setting so important for the freelancer?” Here’s what Kelly Williams, a nonfiction editor at Barbour Publishing had to say:

“Goal setting for freelancers should be a number-one priority. Without having set goals and clear expectations for yourself as a freelancer, where do you go? Start small, and work up to the big stuff. Your schedule, projects/deadlines, relationships with those in the publishing industry: They’re all important. Goals will keep you motivated as you establish yourself as a freelancer—and will help you measure your success in your freelance career.”

I couldn’t agree more. In particular, I’m drawn to “Start small, and work up to the big stuff.” That’s a huge problem for those of us who want to earn a living as freelancers, isn’t it? We want to dive in headfirst . . . go for the gusto. Writers need to take the time, especially in the beginning stages, to lay a strong foundation. Build the ground floor. Then add to it with the second floor. Then the third. And so on.

Here’s how Terry Whalin, vice president/publisher with Intermedia Publishing Group and author of more than sixty books, including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, responded to my question:

“Goal setting—short-term and long-term—is critical for a freelancers’ success. The old saying is true: If you aim at nothing you will be sure to hit it. Many freelancers look back on their day or their week or their month and wonder what they accomplished. They have been wandering aimlessly with no goals. If you want to move forward and accomplish something, you need to have short- and long-term objectives. Make a list, cross it off when you complete it (and feel good), then press ahead to the next goal.”

How many of us are guilty of aiming at nothing? Sometimes we get so excited about the possibility of being published that we toss arrows at a nonexistent dartboard when we should be strategically calculating our next move. Whether you’re just starting out or are multipublished, list making is a great idea. It’s amazing how much more you will accomplish when you write it down.

My good friend and editor, Susan Downs, has been in the industry for years, first as a writer and currently as an editor with Summerside Press. I knew she would be able to give me some insight.

“An acquisitions editor looks for two key ingredients in a potential project as she considers taking a risk on a new-to-her author: 1) writing talent; and 2) evidence the author can meet a deadline (equally important as talent, if not more so .) An author who shows the ability to consistently meet her manuscript-submission deadlines demonstrates the skills of planning ahead and of mastering the numerous mini goals required in any writing project. She can’t hit the target of a deadline without having set and met a host of goals along the way.

“I realize some extenuating circumstances force an author to request a deadline extension, and I really am a softie when it comes to massaging the schedule to accommodate an author who finds herself in a real bind due to no fault of her own. However, when the next . . . and the next . . . approaching deadline brings another request for an extension, my sympathies take a nosedive. After an author makes a couple of these “extenuating circumstances” deadline extension requests, I find myself very hesitant to contract her for future projects, no matter how much talent her writing demonstrates.”

I think you see the dilemma, writers. Editors look at plenty of great manuscripts. But some of the authors who “deliver” those amazing manuscripts struggle to get them in on time. If you really want to impress an editor, write a great story (or nonfiction piece) and get it to him/her in a timely fashion.

Rebecca Germany, senior fiction editor with Barbour Publishing, couldn’t agree more. When I asked her why she felt deadlines were so important, she responded with great passion:

“My knee-jerk reaction is So you don’t miss a deadline. It sounds simple and harsh, but so much in publishing relies on a set schedule to keep the book machine working. A publisher can rarely pad in time to allow authors to be late. If any author has a pattern of being late for deadlines, then they are not going to be offered new writing jobs/contracts.”

“Working freelance takes special, personal discipline. Writers should have daily goals and block off time for work. It is tempting to do a little housework, run an errand, watch a news report, and try to fit the writing in between. So the writer assumes there will always be tomorrow, and some feed off the stress of an approaching deadline to make them sit rear in chair to write. But the best writing comes when the mind and body are relaxed.”

Editors and agents take goal setting very seriously, which is why we writers need to do the same. And we need to start early on, before that first manuscript is ever published. We’re not just proving to ourselves that we’ve got the goods, we’re eventually proving it to those in the industry who’ve paid us money to deliver.

I’m going to leave you with a comment from my agent, Chip MacGregor, who had this to say on the subject:

“The longtime management guru Bobb Biehl used to say, ‘If you have dreams but no goals, you live with despair.’ I think a freelance business person who wants to grow and have a successful business has dreams of what it will be like. To get there, they need actual goals—steps to measure their pathway to success. So without goals, you’re just doing the day-to-day stuff, getting by, completing the work . . . but you don’t really have a sense of moving ahead. I highly recommend Biehl’s book Stop Setting Goals, Start Solving Problems. Though now out of print, you can still find used copies or by going to Bobb’s Website.”

That’s it for this month, writers! Impress those editors and agents by getting serious about your goals!