Create conditions instead of setting goals
Happy new year, Manuscript Workers!
I hope you got some deserved rest at the end of 2022.
I sort of feel like new year’s posts are trite and maybe uninteresting to most people, and yet I write them every year because they serve as a good record of my intentions. I do enjoy revisiting them later to see if I actually did what I set out to do all year. So here we go again!
Last year, I was feeling pretty burnt out by 2021, the year I tried to do too much. So my intention for 2022 was to schedule myself less and leave space for things in my business that I particularly enjoy, like coming up with new webinars for scholarly authors. I’m happy to say I actually stuck to that pretty well!
One thing about this intention for 2022 that I think was important: it was something I had complete control over. I didn’t say “I want to get 6000 people to attend my webinars” or even “I want to come up with 4 new webinars I can offer in hopes of people signing up.” While I think benchmarks like that can be motivating—and if they motivate you, go for it—for me they create external pressure that then stresses me out. Even if I’m the one who came up with them!
I prefer to treat the quantifiable results as nice bonuses and focus on the conditions I have power over creating. If that sounds relatable to you, and you’re working on a scholarly book project this year, here are some goals you can set that are more about creating conditions for success than achieving results that are out of your control:
Block off designated time to work on your book proposal early in the year
Research presses and make a list of your best-fit publishers so you can increase your likelihood of success when you submit your proposal
Reach out to editors to have conversations at your next academic conference
Lay the groundwork for revising your dissertation and learn what publishers are looking for in books that started as dissertations
Learn how to work with a developmental editor on your book manuscript
Notice that none of these things are goals like “get a book contract” or even “meet with 3 editors at MLA.” You really can’t control whether your book gets offered a contract or whether editors will write back to your emails asking for a meeting. But you can make the effort on your end so that the conditions are ideal for those things to actually happen. (If you click on the links above you’ll be taken to resources I offer that can support you in creating those conditions.)
For my part, I’m going into 2023 with some keywords that I hope will shape my activities for the year. Again, these are more about sustainable intentions than goals or results.
My first keyword is “invest.” This is a reminder that while some years we might want to focus on tangible outcomes — e.g. a book coming out — other years are about putting in the quiet work that leads to those outcomes later. I’ll be investing time and effort in a new book project, hoping that it will pay off in 2024 or even later. I also hope to invest time (and probably money) into setting up better systems for my business so that it runs even more smoothly.
My second keyword is “maintain.” The last two years saw me do a lot of creating — new workshops, new courses, new blog posts, etc. This year I want to resist the urge to make a lot of new stuff. Instead of creating new workshops, I’ll focus on delivering the workshops I already have to new people. Instead of coming up with 52 new newsletter topics (which isn’t sustainable), I’ll think about how I can bring attention to previously covered topics people might not have seen yet. I’ll still come up with some new ideas so the newsletter doesn’t get stale, but I’ll be trying to do that in a way that allows me to maintain my commitment to send it out every week and have it be genuinely useful to scholarly authors each time.
And my third keyword is “access.” This is related to the other two. I’ve been writing about scholarly book publishing for several years now and I’ve built up a lot of material. Much of it lives in The Book Proposal Book, in my website archive, and in this newsletter. But it could be reaching and helping many more people if it was available in different formats and different distribution platforms. Maybe some people will absorb the information better if they find it on YouTube, or in a podcast, or in an infographic handout, or something else. So I hope to invest substantial time in figuring out and creating different possible modes of access to the resources I’ve already created.
These keywords are sort of specific to me and where I happen to be with my editorial business, but I wonder if they might be useful for you too. What projects do you want to invest in this year, even if the payoff might come later? What practices have served you well in the past that you want to maintain in 2023? What can you do to make the work you’ve already done accessible and helpful to more people?
Are there other keywords that you want to center your efforts around in the coming months? Feel free to share with me (you can reply to this email) or just write them down for yourself somewhere.
I hope you’re feeling good about whatever your 2023 plans are. I’ll close with a quick reminder that if one of your goals is to hone your editing skills so you can work more effectively with scholarly writers, my Developmental Editing for Academics course is currently open for enrollment. If that sounds interesting to you, click the button below to learn more and register before the spaces fill up (it’s about 70% full after opening on Monday).
Thanks for reading, and see you soon!