What is the scariest part of marketing? Each of us will have a different answer, but for most of us, it's goal setting.

No! Don't click that back button! Keep reading. Like I said, this is how to overcome that scary feeling. Here goes.

When I wrote this lesson, I thought of a line by one of the most memorable characters in movie history: "It's all part of the plan." The late Heath Ledger said it in the Dark Knight, a film about Batman vs. the Joker. Everything the Joker did was calculated to destroy Batman, and all his actions revolved around that one goal.

In the same, yet far less eerie way, everything we do should revolve around the ultimate goal of our marketing plan. If we know what we want to accomplish, and who we want to reach, then we won't waste time or money telling the wrong audience about our books.

If you wrote a children's book, would you hand out flyers at a biker bar? If you write science fiction romance, would you advertise it in a gardening magazine?

Consider the exceptions to this. You hear about a biker club that is hosting a family day to show the community they care about kids. Your children's book is about a family who takes fun trips on motorcycles. You might be one of their "sponsors" in exchange for a link about your book in their ads. Suppose the gardening magazine is doing an edition on gardens of the future, and your book contains aspects of herbal lore or a character works in a ship's garden. Not only would the ad appeal to the magazine's readers, it might earn you an interview.

These are highly targeted ads. How do you know when these things are happening so you can take advantage of the opportunity? By knowing who your target market is and where they are. That comes from research we'll be doing. Finding the right market takes work.

It's easy to keep doing what we're doing. The problem with that is that we'll keep getting what we've been getting. If we're satisfied with the way things are, why change? If we want more, then it's time to make a change.

Like the Joker, we must have a plan, and everything we do must further that plan. Another word for plan is goal.
There are two simple rules to getting your ducks in a row.

1. Have a plan.
2. Work the plan.
Every dime we spend should be geared toward furthering our goal(s). We don't take out an ad in a national magazine that does not reach the people who read what we write. We don't spend hours chatting on groups that our readers don't attend. Again, how do we know which groups they like?
Research. Word of mouth. Figuring out what other authors in your genre are doing. Studying their tactics to see what works. Trying new angles. And -- yes, sadly -- making mistakes and learning from them.

Your assignment is to sketch out your goal as an author. You'll refine it as you learn, so don't feel it has to be perfect. If you don't have a specific goal yet, this is a good time to make one. If you've already honed yours and know exactly what you want, you are miles ahead.

How do you make a good goal? Let's use the acronym SMART. You can read more details about these at this site:
S - specific, significant, stretching
M - measurable, meaningful, motivational
A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T - time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

Example of one that isn't S.M.A.R.T.
"I want to be a best selling author and have lots of money."

Sure, that sounds great, and I'm all for it. But how will you know when you've become a best seller? Will you make a specific list, such as the NY Times? How much is a lot of money? If you're broke, a hundred bucks is a lot of money. "A lot" is not measurable. It's like losing some weight. Is a quarter pound enough? Fifteen? A hundred? Be specific. When do you want to accomplish this? Before you die (hopefully) , within five years, by the end of the decade, before your ___ birthday, at the end of the third quarter next year? Is this a realistic goal that you can achieve, or does part of it hinge on other people's activities? Can you require readers to buy your book? Maybe, if you write a textbook and it's adopted by a school district or a college.

Here is one of my one-year goals: Research material for, and outline a non-fiction book on marketing for writers by December 2012.

Will I know when I've completed it? Is it time-specific? Does it depend on anyone else's input? Is it something I can do? If the answers to these questions are not yes, then I need to revise. Is it easy? No!

The truth is - nothing about the writing business is easy. If it was, anyone could do it. I've been published since 2004, and I can tell you there are many people I've known over the last seven years who are no longer writing. If you plan to write as a career, you must treat it as a business. Planning is an essential part of every aspect. In marketing, this is especially true.

Please share your goal with the group. If you have several small goals, that's fine. I'll be looking for your message.

While it's great to have a plan, working the plan is what makes success happen. Break out your calendar and take a look at what you have scheduled through the rest of 2011. This is May, and the tendency is to think there's plenty of time. But remember in December when you looked back at the year and thought "where did the time go?"

Some of you will be able to smile at this homework, dust off your hands, and relax. Others may look at their blank calendars and wonder how in the world they will ever fill one up.

SAMPLE CALENDAR: http://calendar.yahoo.com/sempervians
Take a peek at my calendar. I make it public so readers can find me. Anything personal is noted as such so it doesn't show up, or it's listed as busy. My readers get birthday emails from me each year, and their info is private as well. This may give you an idea of how to set up your own calendar. Pick any month of the year and you'll find I'm scheduled somewhere. Planning ahead is the key.

1) If you have a book coming out, choose the month in which that occurs. If you hope to have a book coming out during a certain time of the year (summer, fall, winter), pick a month during that time period.
2) Join this yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Promotion_Loop_Schedule/ Every author should be a member here. It's a schedule that shows on what days which groups allow promotions. Ever wondered if you should post a message on a certain day? This is how to find out. There are no chats or messages here except a daily reminder of what events are occurring and where you can post. I forewarned the owner to expect a stampede.

3) Take time to look at the promo group's DATABASE section, noted on the left of the homepage. Pick one of the groups listed there, or in the list for a day when you'd like to hold your promo, contact the owner or moderator (as designated on their site) and ask for a chat, interview, author day, or to hold a contest on their group on a date within your time period. FYI: It's always a good idea to check the group's calendar first. Their info may have changed but may not have been updated on the promo loop. (I sent an update for mine today.)

NOTE: if you have a yahoo group of your own, email the owner of the promo loop and let her know what days you accept guests or outside promos, and she'll add you to her database of authors who allow promo. That is a good way to get promo for yourself. Other authors who see your group listed will ask for time on your group, and then tell their own readers to meet them there. Suddenly, readers who had never heard of you will be aware of your presence. If that person writes in the same genre as you, their readers are far more likely to be interested in what you write. Two birds: one stone.

Tomorrow, let us know where you'll be and when. Be sure to provide the URL.