Nested Goals

by Chris McMahon

I was reflecting recently how having a submission on an editor’s desk can really fire you up in terms of motivation. It can also really twist the knife when things don’t go as planned – gutting your urge to apply yourself. My initial thoughts here were to disconnect from the outcome, investing in yourself and the work instead. That’s hard to do though, on some level you always seem to latch onto that potential outcome.

In terms of goal-setting, people have always talked about the importance of setting overall goals, then sub-goals. With writing, the advice has always been to get lots of things out there i.e. get the ‘hot potato’ back out onto the market as soon as possible. On a conscious level I guess I have always understood that – in fact my planning has often been an impeccable development of this line of thinking. Yet the reality has always been different.

I have passed through a phase of ‘scatter-gun’ marketing, but found it not only exhausting but also ineffective. With short work I have had much more success just sitting on pieces until the right sort of market has opened up.

So I’ve tried to go with the general principle – to keep things in motion – but gone for a simple idea of ‘nested goals’. Basically I have one market active for one piece, enough to motivate me and keep me running. The difference is that if this market comes back negative, I have another option for that manuscript in place, ready to run.

In the light of Goal-setting 101, it might sound basic, but it seems to work for me (this whole field seems to be full of things to relearn you knew 10 years ago, but get rediscovered in a new way). It allows me to keep my momentum, and also allows me to focus on the selected markets and think about what they are really looking for. In a strange way it also frees me up to explore different concepts because I know it might take longer. Weird, but true.

How do you plan the marketing strategy for your work?


  1. Marketing strategy? :: Deer in headlights expression :: Umm, do kangaroos freeze in the middle of the road and stare at headlight, guaranteeing a bad result?

    As soon as I get my first book _properly_ loaded on Kindle, I’ll be experiementing with marketing strategies, online.

    I don’t regularly read short fiction, which shows when I try to write it, and also means I haven’t a clue as to what markets there even are. It sounds like you’re on top of the situation, and poised to grab opportunities.

  2. This is my advert, which I’m not advertising until I get the &^%$ thing up correctly!

    Genetic engineering.
    First they cured the genetic diseases.
    Then they selected for the best natural traits.
    Then they made completely artificial genes.
    As the test children reached puberty, abilities that had always been lost in the random background noise were suddenly obvious. Telepathy, telekinesis.
    At first their creators sought to strengthen these traits. Then they began to fear them.
    They called them gods, and made them slaves.

    Wolfgang Oldham was sixteen when the company laid claim to him.
    He escaped, and stayed free for three years.
    When he was arrested, identified and returned to the company, they trained him to be useful.
    They didn’t realize that they were training him to be dangerous.

  3. As for Kindle, I’m doing something wrong. I can publish it without the cover. _Or_ without the Go to anchors for the toc or the start.

    What shows in my previews doesn’t reflect what actually gets published. So every time I think I’ve found the problem, I have to “go live” and wait 24 hours or so, before I can download that attempt, and scream, thump my head on the desk . . . Amanda is trying to coach me, and I’m reading up online about how one is supposed to do things.

    I suspect that by the time I get this critter up properly, I’ll have learned a whole lot. Really. The next one will be so smooth and easy. I keep telling myself that. So it must be true.

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