Measuring Success

by | June 6, 2021 | General | 2 comments

 By Ashley Lister

 They say that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Although this is one of those trite truisms that are usually thrown at us by a disgruntled boss after we’ve committed a major workplace SNAFU, I have to agree that there is some weight to this claim.

I’m a great advocate of planning. I spend an hour at the gym each morning, listening to an audiobook that I’d selected the previous evening. Once I’m back at home I grab a shower, feed the dogs, and then try to get a thousand words down on the latest WIP.

I came across a great planning tip the other week from an author who types notes into a blank Word document and uses those notes as chapter outlines to guide where his novel is going to go. I’ve been writing for decades and never come across such a good idea before. Usually I have notepads on my desk and sticky-notes covering every surface. This method means I simply sit in front of the PC, open the WIP document, and I can tell what needs to be written.

A couple of hours of writing usually allows me to hit my target and maybe get a little ahead of myself.

That means I can then take the dogs for a walk (ideally on the cliffs by the seaside) before returning to the office to work on other things. If I’m not working on the 9-5, I’ll spend some time looking at my social media presence. I try to maintain a presence on FaceBook and Twitter, dipping my toes occasionally into the waters of Instagram when I’m feeling young and trendy. The young and trendy feelings aren’t as predominant as they once were. I made the mistake of visiting TikTok recently and that made me realise I’m a veritable dinosaur.

The social media planning all ties in with product branding and is scheduled to reach my audience at optimum times throughout the week. This isn’t about selling my books to an audience. This is all about engaging with readers on a social level.

I’ve got index cards on my desk that remind me what sort of social media engagement I’m using on different days of the week. At the moment I try to keep closed questions to Monday and Thursday (Tea or Coffee? Beer or Wine?) Tuesdays and Fridays are there for open questions (Best novel ever? Favourite James Bond?). Note that these questions don’t particularly relate to my genre. And not all of the questions will relate to every reader. But the social media engagement is allowing me an opportunity to chat with people who read my books and develop a strong relationship with my readers as we discuss things other than the fiction I’ve created.

Later in the afternoon I’ll find time to organise blog content which, again, is to be scheduled for consumption throughout the week. As before, the important thing here is to keep the image branded so that everything conveys a uniform feel of cohesion. At the moment, because I’m writing in a horror genre that deals with blood and ghosts, I’m trying to keep images colour-coded to a gradient between blue and red.

On an evening I might look at promotional materials or marketing strategies. Building media kits is never an easy task. Recording audiobooks can take time. And reaching out to reviewers and different markets involves research and specialist knowledge that costs a substantial investment of time and effort. However, it’s all allowing me to create the stories I want to write, for an audience who appreciate what I’m creating.

Does this mean I’m living the authorly life of my dreams? Of course not. Does this mean I’m trying to humble brag about all the great things I’m doing and achieving. Not really: we all use different scales to measure success. I’m just trying to point out that a handful of organisational strategies have helped me to forge some semblance of order from the chaos that is a writer’s life. If there’s anything you use to help focus your creativity, I’d love to hear about it in the comments box below. 

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    This is scary, Ash. ;^) (I guess that’s appropriate for a horror writer…!)

    I think of myself as fairly organized, but there’s no way I could plan things to this level. Life would get in the way.

    My question is, does all this work seem to be paying off, in terms of visibility or sales?

  2. Ashley Lister

    You’re right. Life does get in the way but having a plan means I know where top pick up.

    Is it paying off? The audience is growing and sales are steadily improving, so I think it’s working properly.


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