Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Ultimate Goal

Those who’ve followed me for any amount of time know that I’m a big believer in setting goals as a writer, and have given tips, including this one here at Writer’s Vineyard. Certainly, individualized small goals are (in my opinion) the best way to get your writing on task and complete works on a regular basis. However, there’s also something to be said about high, overarching goals. In particular, what are your goals for writing that you’ve finished?

A lot depends on the manuscript you’re writing and who the intended audience is:

  • Is it a memoir that has limited exposure outside of your circle of friends and family?
  • Is it a picture book intended to be read to your children or grandchildren?
  • Is it a book intended for a small group interested in the subject matter, such as a listing of local folk heroes to be sold in the town museum?

In these cases, your goal is likely simple: These books aren’t meant for mass distribution, but for a limited audience. Attempting to get publication through a small or large publisher would be noble, but not advisable except in very rare occasions. Instead, several options are available in the here and now for these types of books. Printing services such as could be used, as they offer a way to put your book together for free (if you don’t mind having an unedited book) and then your upfront costs for books to sell would be on a limited per-book basis. Even better, for those cases where the book is intended for sale to your friends and family, they can purchase a copy without you paying out-of-pocket.

This isn’t to say that if you’ve created a memoir or children’s picture book, you wouldn’t have success seeking out an agent or publisher. Again, all of these are suggestions for maximum satisfaction, and your goals are meant to be your own.

  • Are you writing something that can’t quite be labeled as one particular genre? Do you not know where it would fit in a bookstore?
  • Are you writing something that doesn’t fit into an agent’s or major publisher’s guidelines in terms of manuscript length (a value dependent on genre)?

With this case, the goal becomes a little vague: Is the intent for distribution to the public, to friends and family, or just for your own enjoyment? If the former, it would be good to run through your manuscript again and determine if something is keeping it from a single-genre (or two or three genre, since cross-genre novels are gaining traction). If it can be changed up, then by all means, do so.

Again, if your intent is to have friends and family members buy the book, or just to have copies you can hold in your hand, then might be the answer. Distribution, however, will require a bit more. A small press may in fact be more than willing to take on a manuscript that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else, and there might actually be a small press that’s a custom-fit for your particular manuscript, whatever it might be. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a large distribution network, a small press may or may not be up to your expectations. Always check out any publisher before submitting: See if several of their current books can be found in your local store or see if it’s able to be ordered easily. If not, and you’re looking for distribution, you’re going to run into issues yourself and it’s best to steer clear.

  • Have you gotten to this point and still haven’t found something that fits your manuscript or your goals?

By this time, it’s a good bet you’re looking for wide amounts of distribution. In that case, you’ll want to place your book with a major publisher capable of getting books into stores with ease. To do this, you’ll need to first place your book with an agent. That entire process is another post for another time, but suffice to say, it’s the toughest path to take out of all those listed here and may end up taking the longest time. Matching your goals with the method of publication required will end up resulting in (hopefully) the greatest satisfaction, something to keep in mind throughout the process.

Perhaps some of these talking points have spurred you to take a new look into what your writing goals are. Be sure to leave a comment if you have a question about anything discussed in this blog post, and happy writing!


T. M. Hunter has always had a fascination with interstellar travel, spacecraft (and aircraft) and beings from other worlds. Twice a top ten finisher in the P&E Readers Poll for his short stories (2007, 2009), his book HEROES DIE YOUNG earned Champagne Books’ Best-Selling Book of 2008 award. FRIENDS IN DEED is his latest novel and hopes to follow in those footsteps. His first short story collection DEAD OR ALIVE is slated for an upcoming release from ResAliens Press. For more information, including links to his published short stories and novels, please visit You can also find T. M. Hunter on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.


Big Mike said...

Agree T with your article. Would add that once completed, go back and assess how well you meant your goals. If your off, but its a good manuscript, no problem. If its not, than adjust. I always end up doing a ton of adjustment.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

AstonWest said...

I constantly adjust my goals, both when it comes to the manuscripts, as well as the type of publication...