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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Goals for 2011

Last year I made a lot of progress as a self-publisher and grew in my craft as a writer. Over the course of 2010, I met or surpassed many of the goals I wrote for myself. As I reflect on all the work I’ve done over the past year, I’ve come a long way.

 While I work  towards publishing two new titles in 2011, I want to continue building on the success of last year. My goals for the coming year include:

Increasing the sales of my titles. This is my primary goal for the year. While I have a growing audience of readers online, I’d like to see more of those readers buying my books on a regular basis. Self-publishing costs money and eventually I’d like to see some return on my investment. To get people spending money on my books, I’ll be trying new approaches to get the word out about my titles such as handing out club flyers or posting up sample chapters up on the blog. My lifelong dream is to have a best-selling novel, and I’m working hard towards that goal.

Expanding my audience. While I usually target my books at African-American readers, I’m surprised to find that I have white and Hispanic readers as well. Last year more white women bought copies of All About Marilyn than black women! At the Harlem Book fair last year, I had inquires about Marilyn from several white and readers in addition to Black readers. In the wake of that interest, I’m thinking of ways to persuade readers in other demographics to try my books.

Expanding my public presence. Currently I’ve used social media such as my blog, twitter, and facebook towards expanding my reading audience. But I enjoy doing events like the Monroe College Bookstore Booksigning and interacting with readers. I think my audience likes me and I’d like to get to know them better. I’m gonna try to find some way to do more events.

Improving my interpersonal skills. As a writer, I’m pretty articulate. As a public speaker, I struggle. I’m going to work on developing a sales pitch so I can discuss my titles with customers and make myself more engaging to them.

Developing books with an enjoyable reading experience. A book is not just a story. It’s a product. And customers need to be satisfied with that overall product if it’s going to sell. One of the things I’ve worked on since I was in my mid-20s was designing book interiors that were more reader friendly. When books are designed to make them easier to read, more people buy them and recommend them to their friends. I’ve learned little things like white space between paragraphs and bigger fonts can turn a good story into an enjoyable reading experience, and can build a publishers’ reputation. With each SJS DIRECT title I’m working towards making sure all the books produced from my imprint having a unique and distinct house style. I want to make sure there’s one uniform standard for screenplay books and one for novels.
Expanding my e-book catalog. Currently, All About Marilyn is available for the kindle. Next year I’ll also be offering my new book The Temptation of John Haynes in ebook format for the nook and the kindle and Marilyn for the Nook. Right now I’m learning the ins and outs of how to format books for the nook and the kindle, and I’m working towards making sure these books are the best quality possible.

Releasing more than one title. Next year I’ll be releasing two titles, one in the winter and one in the spring or summer. I’m hoping more titles gives readers more options. If I can work the kinks out of it and I still have income, The Isis Prequel, Trial of the Goddess will be released next year as well.

Working towards increasing quality control on finished books. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about errors in my earlier books like The Cassandra Cookbook. But I’m working on it. I study Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style and The Bedford English Handbook regularly. I study online grammar sites. I’m working hard towards making sure that readers get a book with as few errors as possible. Eventually, I’d like to publish a book that looks like it can compete with the titles at a publishing house.

On covers, I’m working towards creating an attractive image that grabs the reader. Last year I tried outsourcing a cover and…It didn’t’ work out. This year I’m studying art so I can craft better art pieces to tell my stories in pictures on the front covers.

Do More Movie Reviews. I’ve watched a few movies like Black Dynamite that I enjoyed and I’d love to get some reviews up on Amazon and up here on the blog. But I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the time. Gonna try to get a review or two up next year.

Start a new fiction project. It used to be I wrote a new novel every year or every other year. The last piece of fiction I wrote was All About Nikki in 2009. Last year, I’ve focused most of my output on researching and writing blog articles, and outside of a couple of All About Nikki Season 2 episodes (4 completed so far) I haven’t written much fiction. I really want to start working on a new fiction project sometime this year. I have a few ideas rolling around for that next novel, but nothing to outline. Yet. I really want to maintain the level of quality I’ve established and I don’t want to give readers a substandard book.

I may not be there yet as a writer and a self-publisher, but I feel like I’m on my way. I see myself headed towards that next level. I’m hoping 2011 is my breakthrough year.

* Chapter 4 of All About Marilyn: The Novel will be up this Saturday* 


  1. Shawn, I really enjoyed your article. I am inspired by your goals and your drive to keep improving and reaching your goals. I also wanted to say I am glad you are expanding your audience. I think you have a lot to say about the human condition through your works, and am not surprised that whites and hispanics enjoy your work as well. Perhaps labeling yourself as a 'black' writer is much too restrictive. When I read your work, I didn't think of you as a black writer, I was just absorbed in the storyline. And I commend you for continually wanting to hone your craft by studying writing style, grammar, etc. I should do the same! I'm not good with that whatsoever, just ask my editor LOL. I hope you have a wonderful 2011!

  2. Shawn I really enjoyed reading about your goals because they are basically every writer's goals for all years, or should be. I made a copy and will keep in my author's file.

    I agree with Anonymous that you restrict yourself too much as a Black writer, but as one myself, I know why you do it. Just carry on as you're doing and success will be yours in greater measure.

    Wishing you the best of luck. How can you lose with the rich writing you use:)