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Writing a Business Plan
While it may be tempting to put off, creating a business plan is an essential part of starting your own business. Plans and proposals should be put in a clear format making it easy for potential investors to understand. Because every company has a different goal and product or service to offer, there are business plan templates readily available to help you get on the right track. Many of these templates can be adapted for any company. In general, a business plan writing guide will recommend that the following sections be incorporated into your plan.
The executive summary is the first section that business plans open with, but is often the last section to actually be written as it’s the most difficult to write. The executive summary is a summary of the overall plan that highlights the key points and gives the reader an idea of what lies ahead in the document. It should include areas such as the business opportunity, target market, marketing and sales strategy, competition, the summary of the financial plan, staff members and a summary of how the plan will be implemented. This section needs to be extremely clear, concise and engaging as you don’t want the reader to push your hard work aside.
The company description follows the executive summary and should cover all the details about the company itself. For example, if you are writing a business plan for an internet café, you would want to include the name of the company, where the café would be located, who the main team members involved are and why, how large the company is, who the target market for the internet cafe is, what type of business structure the café is, such as LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, what the internet café business mission and vision statements are, and what the business’s short-term objectives are.
Services and Products
This is the exciting part of the plan where you get to explain what new and improved services or products you are offering. On top of describing the product or service itself, include in the plan what is currently in the market in this area, what problems there are in this area and how your product is the solution. For example, in a business plan for a food truck, perhaps there are numerous other food trucks in the area, but they are all fast –food style and unhealthy so, you want to introduce fast food that serves only organic and fresh ingredients every day. This is where you can also list your price points and future products or services you anticipate.
The market analysis section will take time to write and research as a lot of effort and research need to go into it. Here is where you have the opportunity to describe what trends are showing up, what the growth rate in this sector looks like, what the current size of this industry is and who your target audience is. A cleaning business plan, for example, may include how this sector has been growing by 10% every year due to an increase in large businesses being built in the city.
Organization and Management
Marketing and sales are the part of the business plan where you explain how you will attract and retain clients. How are you reaching your target customers and what incentives do you offer that will keep them coming back? For a dry cleaner business plan, perhaps if they refer customers, they will get 10% off their next visit. In addition, you may want to explain what needs to be done in order for the business to be profitable. This is a great way of showing that you are conscious about what clear steps need to be taken to make a business successful.
Financial Projections & Appendix
The financial business plan section can be a tricky one to write as it is based on projections. Usually what is included is the short-term projection, which is a year broken down by month and should include start-up permits, equipment, and licenses that are required. This is followed by a three-year projection broken down by year and many often write a five-year projection, but this does not need to be included in the business plan.
The appendix is the last section and contains all the supporting documents and/or required material. This often includes resumes of those involved in the company, letters of reference, product pictures and credit histories. Keep in mind that your business plan is always in development and should be adjusted regularly as your business grows and changes.
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How to create a business plan for writers
Business plans for writers are valuable documents for setting, tracking and learning from goals and strategies for selling books. Read 9 steps for developing a thorough plan.
- Post author By Jordan
- 7 Comments on How to create a business plan for writers
The business of writing has as many moving parts as writing craft. This brief guide on how to create a business plan for writers will help you take steps to plan and adhere to SMART writing goals while keeping the business of writing (selling books and marketing your novels or non-fiction) firmly in mind.
What is a business plan for writers?
If you’ve ever watched a reality show about business investment such as the UK show Dragon’s Den (aired as Shark Tank in the US), you’ll know that start-ups that win big backing have one thing in common: a clear plan .
A classic business plan is:
- A comprehensive document stating future business objectives plus strategies for achieving them
- A guide to each stage of starting and/or managing a business over a future term used to record goals (and stay on track or rein in scope)
- A reference document to use towards measuring outcomes (for example, whether or not the goals in the plan were met, the strategies used, and how effective they were)
A good business plan goes hand in hand with other essentials: Knowing your niche, your value, and your target market . Make forming one an integral part of your story planning process .
Standard business plans vs business plans for writers
A business plan for writers differs from the type of plan a start-up would use to pitch investors:
- If you are an indie author (or hoping to become one), there will be less emphasis on proving your business case (its commercial viability). Your plan won’t need to convince investors to part with their cash in exchange for specific forecast returns (ROI)
- Your plan will feature aspects that are highly specific to the business of writing (such as book cover design and costs, editing, and other professional writing overheads)
Let’s explore 9 steps for building a business plan for a book or series:
9 steps to create a kickass writing plan for your business:
- Begin building your platform and audience.
- Brainstorm business-phase-specific writing goals.
- Prioritize goals by need, not wish.
- Create a living writing business plan.
- Itemize your planned expenses.
- Calculate what you need to sell to break even.
- Explore and choose strategies for selling.
- Create a compelling showcase for your brand.
- Measure results and adjust as you go.
Begin building your platform and audience
Why does building a platform/audience come first? Because it’s never too early to start connecting with others who may value, enjoy, and be willing to pay to further enjoy your voice.
Ways to build your writing platform:
- Create an author site that will be home to your future publications. To keep costs down you can use an all-in-one website design and hosting service such as Wix . Keep in mind that using designers and developers provides even more customization potential and design/functionality freedom, but may cost more.
- Blog about topics relevant to potential readers in your target audience.
- Create author pages on social media for sharing writing snippets, promo and news.
- Build a newsletter for your author site and offer giveaways (such as short stories or guides).
- Host or co-host webinars or lives on social media with other writers.
These are just some ideas.
Indie publishing expert Joanna Penn raises an important platform – building caveat . If you are in the early stages of writing a book, the types of platform available to you (and what is most popular with netizens) may have changed a lot by the time your book is out . (TikTok, for example, now hugely popular, was only started in 2016.)
Penn’s advice is to at least have a simple website with some form of email-gathering function. Email remains an effective way to spread the word about your newest and existing releases.
Brainstorm business-phase-specific writing goals
The first, proper step of creating a business plan for writers is to brainstorm goals specific to the phase of writing you’re in .
For example, if you’re working on your debut novel and are not yet published (traditionally or independently), your goals will likely look substantially different to a so-called ‘Midlist Author’ (an author who publishes consistently profitable books, but is not yet a publishing sensation landing seven-figure deals).
For midlist to top-tier authors, goals often focus on expansion oriented tasks such as speaking engagements or tapping new audiences by branching out into other genres or subgenres (for example, the way She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named moved into writing thrillers as Robert Galbraith after her fantasy success). Now Novel writing coach Romy Sommer discusses tailoring strategy to your professional phase in our writing webinar on building a writing career.
Examples of goals specific to the current phase of your professional writing life might be:
- Finding and hiring a fiction editor for a recently completed draft
- Shortlisting agents open for queries who are interested in your genre and/or subject matter niche
- Creating a website that will provide a showcase and selling tool for your future publications
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Stay accountable, in a structured program with writing sprints, coach Q&As, webinars and feedback in an intimate writing group.
Prioritize goals by need, not wish
Once you’ve brainstormed a list of specific goals that may be relevant to your writing business plan, it’s time to finesse these down to the most important, SMART goals.
SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.
Prioritize goals by their relevance to tangible objectives. For example, formatting your book for X platform by Y date.
These are more practical than ‘nice to haves’ that have hard-to-predict impact on finances. For example, ‘becoming a bestseller’ – a ‘bestseller’ after all may mean radically different sales numbers in different countries or genres.
Examples of SMART business plan goals for writers
‘Research and write a list of ten agents currently open to queries in my genre/subject matter and start querying next Monday’ is a SMART goal.
It’s relevant to a specific business phase (having a manuscript to publish, in this example, traditionally). It’s attainable, actionable, and time-based .
‘Become a bestselling author’ is not (there are too many variables and moving parts; it lacks specificity). This is not to say that big dreams are invalid or not worth holding! But … they’re the driving, desiring force behind a good business plan, not the main content.
What do you need to do most urgently to get to a point where you have books to sell to an audience that’s dying to read them?
Angela Ackerman, in a helpful article for Jane Friedman’s publishing blog on the first steps in creating a writing business plans, says:
Sometimes desire (wanting to be published right now, for example) can get in the way of what we actually need (to hone our craft further). To be objective, set emotion aside. Ask yourself hard questions about what your career really needs. Angela Ackerman, in ‘The 7-Step Business Plan for Writers’, via Jane Friedman’s blog.
Create a living writing business plan
So you’ve prioritized goals for the next six months to a year ahead. You’ve made sure they’re SMART and tailored to where you’re at now. The next step is to create a living business plan for your writing.
Why a ‘living’ plan? There are times in any strategic process such as selling your work where you may want to reflect on how things are going, what’s working, and what isn’t, and regroup.
Begin your plan with a mission statement. Try to keep this to a sentence or two at most. For example:
‘Hire a cover designer, editors and formatting professional for my urban fantasy debut, create author profiles on Goodreads, Amazon and Wattpad, and self-publish my book by next June.’
Create a checklist of action items or ‘jobs to be done’ for your plan, prioritized by urgency. The satisfaction of ticking off checklist items is great motivation.
Itemize your planned expenses
Whether you want to sell enough books in a year’s trade to quit your day job or just see how many copies you can sell if you are systematic, it’s important to tracks costs vs returns.
For example, for a typical 80,000 word genre fiction debut, you might create a table in your business plan that looks something like this:
Cover design and editing are essential if you want your book to stand out, and to do the utmost to win over first-time readers.
As in the table above, you may have expenses such as website hosting and design requiring further research, because there are just so many options. The same goes for turning your manuscript into an audiobook .
The promo spend of $150 above is based on the minimum daily spend for Instagram ads being $5 (assuming, for this example, that you wanted to pay to promote your indie book to a niche reader audience matching your genre on Instagram for 30 days).
The above example of costs is a rough example, of course. You may well find cover designers whose services cost less than a lower- mid-priced professional who has more experience. Ditto for editing (remember the caveat though: ‘You get what you pay for’). Having a good estimate of costs for your business plan (and replacing these with hard figures as quotes come in and you choose which to accept) will help you budget and work out what you need to sell to break even:
Calculate what you need to sell to break even
Going off the above table (which does only include copy-editing, and not a manuscript evaluation , developmental editing or proofreading, and leaves out other costs such as print copies), you would need to sell 2182 digital copies of your book at a promo price of $0.99 to earn back your (known) expenses, or 1086 copies at a launch/promo price of $1.99 per copy ($2160 of known expenses divided by your selling price and rounded up).
Having this figure is vital as it gives you an exact target for sales, as well as an idea of the sweet spot for promo pricing to at least recoup your expenses in the first push.
Will you sell your book cheaply to start for the sake of a lower barrier to entry for potential readers with whom you have not yet proven your entertainment value?
This is a particularly helpful strategy for selling a new series, as you can up your pricing for sequels.
As part of working out selling price and launch strategies, read publishing experts’ blogs and thoughts on the matter. Joanna Penn has a helpful article on the benefits of selling with platform exclusivity versus ‘going wide’ (selling on multiple platforms), for example.
Explore and choose strategies for selling
There are many platforms, models and strategies for selling your stories.
Long gone are the days of book chains, indie stores and physical libraries being the main way to find your favorite stories.
The mix of in-store and digital gives you many ways to promote your writing and find an audience that may be hungry for the exact themes, topics, and experiences your work explores.
Some selling strategies to explore and choose from to add to your growing business plan include:
- Platform-specific promo services (such as KDP Select , Amazon’s promotional program for authors willing to sign over exclusive publishing rights to their platform for 90 days)
- Book blog tours and giveaways (partnering with writing sites that have blogs to talk about your book – for example, we interview members who have new releases to share here on Now Novel)
If your marketing knowledge and experience is scant, it may be worth taking a book marketing course (remember to add this to the expenses portion of your writing business plan). Coursera is a fantastic resource for university-run short learning courses, and may help you grasp marketing fundamentals or how to use tools for understanding how to convert website visitors into customers/readers.
Create a compelling showcase for your brand
Many artists and writers are allergic to marketing terms such as ‘brand’. They tend to sound clinical, the kind of buzzwords that people throw out a mile a minute at conferences.
Yet branding is a helpful concept to think about as you create your writing business plan.
What is an author’s brand?
If you look at a major brand such as Nike’s advertising, a specific ‘brand persona’ becomes clear. Nike is all about the ‘mentor/coach’ archetype (from their slogan ‘Just Do It’ to their visual choices such as the tick-like swoosh logo), their brand is all about helping the customer reach their own potential.
An author brand differs in several ways (authors don’t have catchphrases or slogans, of course). Yet having a clear author brand can (like Nike) differentiate what is unique and wonderful about your work in a crowded bookshelf or marketplace. From cover design choices to titling, how you represent your work infers a certain tone and persona. In the podcast with Joanna Penn mentioned above, Penn shares that she’s interested in the spooky and how she shares pictures of eerie environs because she knows these appeal to a certain type of reader who would fall within her target audience – that’s a branding decision.
Ways to build showcasing your brand into your writing business plan
- Plan the language and tone of your newsletter and social media posts. If you write cozy mysteries, for example, what cozy language or mystery can you carry over into what you share?
- Plan how you’ll incorporate the emotion your writing intends to stir in readers into your visual design language , on your author site and social media. If you write bloodcurdling, violent fantasy, what color, typographical and other design choices will communicate what your writing is all about?
- Think about what types of promotions you could run that are on-brand . An author who writes ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ books like Goosebumps titles in this format could run a book giveaway contest where readers combine given elements to create their own flash fiction, for example, for a book giveaway.
- Create a calendar of images, quotes and videos to share that m atch the tone, mood, spirit and/or subjects of your stories.
Measure results and adjust as you go
In any business, it helps to be agile, able to pivot fast to let go of strategies not working or embrace newer methods or platforms that are well-aligned to your goals.
Make your business plan a living document that you review regularly and adjust as needed so that you factor in assessing, learning what worked and what didn’t, and coming back stronger.
Looking for professional fiction editing services or a writing coach to guide you through each stage of writing and querying? Now Novel offers companionship and a supportive network, every step of the way.
Rick Lite has a helpful guide for IngramSpark for creating a book promo timeline.
Zara Altair at ProWritingAid provides helpful questions to ask in deciding your book’s value and price .
Are you making regular earnings on your books? What’s the one tip you’d give another writer on going pro? Let us know down below.
- How to create a plot and guarantee a better story
- Story structure examples: How to create payoffs for readers
- 10 things serious writers do without fail
- Writing rituals: 8 good habits of serious writers
- Editor interview: Jordan Kantey on helping writers
- Tags book marketing , writing business , writing process
Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.
7 replies on “How to create a business plan for writers”
Extremely helpful! Thank you, Jordan.
Hi Allorianna, thank you! I’m glad you found this helpful. See you in the next webinar 🙂
Jordan! Thanks a million! What a detailed and helpful post! I’ve bookmarked this!
Hi Michi, it’s a pleasure. Thanks for reading this and for sharing your feedback 🙂
Excellent follow-up to the webinar! Great tips. I will be printing out the 9 Steps graphic. Thanks for all your expertise.
Hi Billy, thank you for sharing your feedback – I’m glad you found this a helpful supplement to the webinar. It’s a pleasure, happy writing!
Thanks a lot for your work. Great article. Everything is very clear and understandable.
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The 7-Step Business Plan for Writers
Today’s guest post is by author Angela Ackerman ( @AngelaAckerman ) of Writers Helping Writers .
As you’ve probably heard, there’s no such thing as “only being a writer” any more, and while many might not want to handle the business side of things, to give ourselves and our books the best chance of success, we must.
In May 2012, when Becca Puglisi and I self-published The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression , we had quite a few challenges. Living in different countries, we needed to create a formal partnership, set up businesses, and figure out how revenue would work. We had to learn publishing and take on marketing and promotion. Neither of us had a business or marketing background, so we relied heavily on research and intuition, and did our best to make the book discoverable. (You can read about our initial marketing plan here .)
Our unusual book on showing character emotion created buzz among writers, igniting word of mouth. Suddenly our lives went from busy to crazy as we tried to keep up with the burst of attention, writing guest posts, teaching workshops, and providing interviews. Books sales continued to strengthen, and we sold foreign rights. A few universities listed the book as required reading, and publishers began approaching us. At this point, Becca and I realized how far the book could go, but because we were being pulled in so many different directions, we didn’t know how to best take advantage of these opportunities.
The need for a business plan became our No. 1 focus. Fortunately, my husband is a management consultant who creates plans for many of his clients. With his help, we identified three areas that would help us grow in the year ahead:
- improving our professional image and brand credibility : creating a website, presenting at conferences and hosting workshops
- providing new product for our audience : writing two new descriptive thesaurus books
- expanding into the education sector : contacting colleges and universities to spread awareness of our writing resources
The roadmap we created allowed us to avoid distractions and focus on what would help us grow.
As we near the end of the year, Becca and I now have a professional website, three writing resource books that have collectively sold nearly 50,000 copies, and we increased our credibility through speaking engagements, teaching at conferences, and hosting workshops. In the near future we are looking to create awareness of our books at the collegiate level, rounding out our business plan objectives.
Since much of our productivity and growth are a direct result of forming a business plan (and sticking to it), I want to share steps you can take to create your own.
Imagine your year ahead and what you would like to accomplish as a writer. What will help you reach your goals, whether it’s publication, releasing more books, beefing up your online visibility, or honing your craft? Write down everything that you want to accomplish, and don’t forget smaller goals, as these are necessary steppingstones to achieving larger ones.
Also, choose goals that are within your power to make happen. For example, while you might really want representation, “getting an agent” is not necessarily something you can attain yourself; the agent decides whom they represent. However, “researching and querying all suitable agents” is a goal you can set and meet.
Read through your list and look for bigger themes. Are there several goals that fit into a similar area of focus, like platform building or writing improvement? Grab some highlighters and group these together. Then, choose a name or tag line that summarizes each theme or area of focus.
Common themes might include
- Social networking improvement (platform building and connection)
- Education (attending workshops, finding a critique partner, improving one’s craft, studying the industry, etc.)
- Publishing (trying for an agent, working towards a traditional contract or self-publishing)
- Marketing visibility (researching and implementing ads, hiring a publicist, finding one’s audience online, soliciting reviews, etc.)
Now that your goals are organized into different focus areas (themes), step back and look at the big picture. Based on where you are now, which areas are the highest priority? For example, querying agents (publication related) and honing your writing skills (education related) might both be areas you’d like to focus on, but if your writing still needs work, it will be a waste of time to query agents immediately. Likewise, if you are winning notable contests and trusted critique partners are hard-pressed to see how you can improve, likely you should make getting your work in front of agents and editors a priority.
This step involves soul-searching and honesty. Sometimes desire (wanting to be published right now, for example) can get in the way of what we actually need (to hone our craft further). To be objective, set emotion aside. Ask yourself hard questions about what your career really needs. If it helps, pretend you are advising a writer friend. If they were in your shoes, what important things would you suggest they work on to get ahead?
Now comes the hard part: choosing which goals to pursue. Which two areas of focus did you mark as being the most critical? These two themes (say “Education” and “Networking”) should be the primary focus of your business plan. Pick specific goals that will help you most in these areas.
Once you choose a goal, think about the steps you must take to achieve it. For example, if your goal is to “Build a Platform” you might have action items like open a twitter account and build a following , take a class on social networking, and join a group blog . For inspiration, look at the highlighted lists you made. Chances are you’ll find smaller goals listed there that will help you achieve your larger one.
Two primary areas of focus or main goals are good for a business plan, but if you have a third area you’d like to tackle, list it as a secondary goal. Do the same exercise as above and list out tasks (action items) that must be carried out to achieve this goal.
When making these decisions, think carefully about your time. We all have roles and commitments outside of writing, and these things require a lot of energy. Business goals should be achievable, so don’t take on more than you can handle.
Stick to your plan by setting timelines that fit your schedule. Becca and I chose a seasonal timeline, so we knew which goal to pursue at which time of the year. This helped us meet completion dates. If you are unsure how much time a certain task will require, set a deadline with a fallback date. This way you won’t be discouraged if you miss the initial deadline, and you’ll have a buffer if needed.
A visual helps when it comes to following a business plan. By condensing your plan on one page, it will force you to be succinct in what must be accomplished to meet each goal. You can use a spreadsheet or table to do this (Excel, Google spreadsheet, a piece of paper, etc) or download this template . Here’s the business plan Becca and I created for ourselves:
When your spreadsheet is filled out, print and display it where you write. This will remind you of what you should be doing and help you make good use of your time.
Once your plan is complete, stick to it. When new opportunities come up, see if they fit your plan. It’s important to take advantage of potential windfalls, but only if they further your goals and you have the time.
Before you print your business plan, type this statement in bold at the bottom: Is what I’m doing or about to do helping me achieve my goals? Before you commit time and energy to new projects, challenge yourself with this question to evaluate if it’s worthwhile.
In today’s publishing landscape, writers must become master jugglers, wearing many hats. Whether you’re published or pre-published, having a business plan is one of the smartest things you can do to keep yourself on track, maximize your time, and ensure that you reach your milestones.
Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression and its many sequels. Available in ten languages, her guides are sourced by universities, recommended by agents and editors, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers , as well as One Stop for Writers , a portal to game-changing tools and resources that enable writers to craft powerful fiction.
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Your Author Business Plan: A Framework for the Creative Entrepreneur
by Kimberley Grabas
Does the thought of writing a business plan make you wince?
You’ve been struggling valiantly through most of the non-writing, left-brained activities that have been thrust upon you as a modern writer – do you really need to go through the formality of crafting your “executive summary”, “sales forecasts” and “market analysis”?
But if you’d prefer to skip the spreadsheets in favour of a more “writer-friendly” planning process – because deep down you know you could use a bit more direction to move your writing career to the next level – you’re in luck!
I’ve designed this business plan framework with the creative entrepreneur in mind.
Yep, it’s still a business plan.
But I’ve tried to soften the corporate jargon, as well as give you ideas as to how you can use each section to grow your writing career.
I’ve also created a free downloadable workbook to guide you through the process and that you can complete at your own pace:
Click the image to download your free 30-page Author Business Plan workbook:
Prioritizing Your Business Plan To Get The Most Out Of Your Writing Career
It’s time to overcome your resistance to the idea that, as an author, your job is no longer just to write (if it ever was).
If you want to turn your passion for writing into a business, you’ll need to have a solid and strategic plan in place.
And a b usiness plan is simply a guide to what you hope to accomplish, how you plan to meet those objectives, and your financial projections based on these efforts.
It’s a field guide to your writing business – that you navigate with your readers in mind.
Here’s what you can expect a thorough business plan to help you accomplish:
It will help you to
- clarify and articulate a clear vision for your writing career, which will help guide your business actions and decisions
- nail down the specifics of what you need to get done to move your business forward
- share your strategies, priorities, and specific action points with others (agents, assistants, collaborators, or even your spouse)
- recognize and filter out the distractions, so you can concentrate only on those activities that will help you grow
- determine future needs ahead of time (software, skills, tech, or other resources) so that you can plan for the cost or time expenditure
- beat inertia and take confident action on those things you’ve determined will move your business forward
- notice opportunities to reward yourself for both small accomplishments and big wins
One of the most important (and often ignored) steps to effective goal setting and increased productivity, is to write your goals down and review them daily . This can be a game changer.
By dedicating the time to write your business plan – and review it frequently – you can change the trajectory of your writing career.
Developing Your Author Business Plan: The Key Components
Whether you are working toward a traditional publishing contract or self-publishing, a carefully crafted business plan will help you establish a plan of action, and guide how you will allocate your (often limited) resources.
A. BUSINESS VISION + AUTHOR BRAND
1. Mission Statement (Message)
Clarify your business values and vision. Define why you write and get very clear on the essence of your work–what problems are you solving or what desires are you satisfying? What is your promise to your reader and how will you deliver on that promise? (You can also include a “vision statement” that inspires you, and is a reminder of your purpose and your commitment to your writing career.)
2. Your Ideal Reader
Identify and define the group of people whom you wish to reach. How do they see themselves, and how does your work fit with that perception? Who already ‘speaks your language’ or conversely, whom does your work speak to? We’ll be digging deeper into this in a later section of the business plan, so the information you gather will help to create a succinct description of your ideal reader here.
Related Content: Identifying Your Target Audience: The Top 8 Mistakes Writers Make
3. Brand Personality and Culture
What is your brand story and personality? What do you want people to feel or experience when they read your book, a post on your blog, or see you speak at an event? What tone, colors, and visuals characterize your writing, and how does your branding reflect the purpose or message behind your work? What values, standards or best practices will you adhere to? What can your community of readers consistently expect from you in terms of your style, authenticity, voice, and professionalism? Make sure that your branding is relevant to the audience you seek, distinct and meaningful.
Related Content: Discover and Build Your Author Brand
4. Career Goals, Objectives, and Expansion Plans
Many people do not even think of goals, and of those that do, very few write them down. Forbes reports a remarkable 10-year study about goal-setting carried out in the Harvard MBA Program. Those students who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more (i.e., earned on average, 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of the class combined). So write down your goals and objectives. Make sure they’re both S.M.A.R.T and what you really want. Are you willing–and able–to sacrifice the time and effort required to achieve what you’ve outlined? How will you determine your success?
B. BUSINESS DESCRIPTION + PUBLISHING PLAN
1. Your Difference
This is your secret sauce or unfair advantage. Describe who you are as a writer, and how you will portray that uniqueness to your audience. How do you solve their problem or desire and why is it valuable to your readers? The goal here is to answer the question in your reader’s mind, “Why you?”. What sets your work apart from others in your genre or niche? Develop your “brand story”.
Related Content: How to Build Your Brand From Scratch (And Why You Need To)
2. Who Do You Serve
Describe your target audience (demographics, psychographics), and how you can help meet the needs, wants, and desires of that specific group. Often writers make the mistake of working on their projects in a vacuum – with no feedback, input, or even acknowledgment of the reader. Another conundrum authors face, is writing in multiple genres, which makes building a community even more challenging. Note if either (or both) of these are concerns you face, and how you will address them going forward.
Related Content: Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know
In this part of your business plan, include your writing, editing, and publishing schedule. How many words per day will you write, and at what times? If editing, how many hours per week will you devote? How many books do you plan to publish (and launch) this year? How often will you post new content to your blog or social media? Also note your genre focus, project lengths, and additional projects (workshops, courses, presentations, etc.) you plan to produce per year.
4. Business Structure
What is your writing business structure (sole proprietor, publishing company, or LLC, for example)? Are you traditionally published, self-published, a hybrid author, or not yet published? Describe the components of your business, like books (digital, print, audio), courses, seminars, workshops (in-person/virtual), speaking, and so on. Is your business primarily online or offline?
5. Business Tasks + Schedule
It’s important that you treat your writing business as a business . So make a list of regular tasks (everything from sales tracking and accounting, to editorial calendars and words written per day), and add them to your calendar, Asana , your day planner, or whatever system works for you.
6. Distribution Channels
You’ve defined your audience, so now you need to determine how they want to be reached. Where are they already and what are other ways that they will find you? Think social media, email, traditional media, video, podcasts, conferences and events, website, clubs, Amazon and other retailers, and so on.
Click to download your free 30-page Author Business Plan workbook :
C. MARKET ANALYSIS
1. Bestselling Authors/Comparable Titles in your Genre or Niche
Identify bestselling authors, top bloggers, and other influencers in your niche or genre. Look for those that already have the audience you want to reach (search through social media, relevant keywords, Facebook, and other groups). Who are the movers and shakers? The up-and-comers? Start making a list, including their contact info, website, and email. (These people may also become your partners and allies in the future.)
2. Pricing Models
What pricing model(s) are currently being used in your genre or niche? What are readers used to paying for books, products, or services similar to yours?
3. “Competitor” Strengths and Weaknesses
Choose 3-5 authors from the list you made in section C. 1., and break down their strengths and weaknesses. How do they reach and promote to their audience? Are there any strategies that many of your competitors seem to use (for example, are most of them using email marketing strategies)? What are they doing well and what can they improve? What can you add to the mix that draws upon your unique skill set and brand? Use this knowledge to craft your own, well-rounded strategy.
4. Trends and Opportunities
Note current events and what’s new and noteworthy in the publishing world. Note predictions and future trends that may impact your writing or bottom line. Are there any collaboration or partnership opportunities that you wish to pursue, both within your topic area and with industries or businesses that reach the same audience as you?
D. AUDIENCE RESEARCH
1. Identify Your Ideal Reader
Knowing your target audience has come up several times in this business plan–and for good reason. It is absolutely vital to the growth of your writing career to have a firm understanding of the audience you wish to reach. This section of your business plan informs the other sections, and it’s where you will get crystal clear on who your ideal readers are through research and data (not through guessing or assumptions). (Follow the link below for instructions on how to create an ideal reader persona.)
2. Understand Their Needs and Desires
Your goal is to understand and articulate your readers’ problems or desires better than they can themselves. But remember, this is their most pressing problem or desire, not yours. Don’t try to create desire or interest where there is none. Outline how you will share your work in a way that encourages people who are already interested, to take action. (To gain a deeper understanding of your audience, spend time and ask questions of your “real” readers, engage in “social listening”, conduct surveys and examine your Google Analytics.)
3. Differentiate Yourself and Your Work
Given what you now know about your target audience, what is the intersection between your unique talents and your readers’ needs or desires? What can they get from you and your work that they can’t get anywhere else?
4. Determine How to Engage With Your Readers
It is much, much easier to create interesting, relevant, and valuable content for your audience now that you know exactly what they are searching for . You can’t possibly develop a marketing and book promotion plan when you have no idea who might be most receptive to your message. How will you learn (and continue to learn) about your readers, but still stay connected to the reasons for creating the work that you do?
E. COMMUNITY AND PLATFORM BUILDING
1. Social Media Plan
What are your (and your readers’) preferred platforms? Where will you place your emphasis and what strategies will you use to develop visibility and interest for your writing? What will you share, how will you create it, when will you share it, and where will you share it, to get the most engagement? (Create a specific plan for each social media platform you’ll engage on).
Related Content: Social Media Strategy for Authors Plus 4 Tweets to Never Send
2. Email List Building Plan
Developing a responsive email list is one of the most important things you can do to grow your business and stay connected with your readers. What strategies will you implement to grow your list? How often will you communicate with your subscribers, what will you share and what opt-in incentive will you develop to encourage sign-ups?
Related Content: The Writer’s Guide to Building an Email List
3. Content Strategy
A content strategy is your publishing plan of action for what to create , how to create it, when to create it, and for whom to create it. Develop an editorial or content calendar to map out and keep track of your content plan o’ action. Ensure your “brand story” is woven into the content you share.
4. Speaking, Appearances, and PR Plan
Keynote speeches, personal appearances, and other speaking opportunities all allow you to connect with your readers and fans in real life . Add presentations, interviews, and other appearances you have booked (or plan to book) into your business plan. What strategies will you implement to increase bookings?
5. Reviews, Testimonials, and Endorsements
What steps will you take to encourage reviews (ARCs, email requests, build relationships with influencers, and book bloggers)? How will you gather testimonials and endorsements for your work? Keep in mind that relationships take time to develop, so ensure you include steps to build these connections and goodwill before you ask for something in return.
Related Content: How to Get Reviews For Your Book (Without Begging, Bribing, or Resorting to Subterfuge)
6. Engagement + Exclusivity
How will you ensure your readers feel special? Will you offer special perks, bonuses, and a sneak peek behind the scenes? Or, create a street team or other type of “membership” for your most avid supporters? How is what you have to offer different from other authors in your niche, and how can you add more value?
7. Networking and Relationship Building
Who are people talking about, sharing content from, and influenced by? What strategies will you use to develop relationships with industry influencers, advocates, and supporters of your work? How do you plan to build connections with organizations, institutions, schools, bloggers, reviewers, businesses, and media outlets?
F. OFFERINGS + MONETIZATION
1. Your Products and Services
What will you offer to your audience? Books (digital, audio, print, series, bundles), services (speaking engagements, teaching at conferences, and hosting workshops) courses, freelance work, or other products and programs that relate to your work? How will your readers benefit? How will it impact their lives? Given what you’ve discovered about your target audience, will they want, need or desire what you have to offer?
2. Pricing Strategy
What pricing strategy will you employ? Premium, freemium (free + premium), permafree, or discount pricing? Given your goals for your business, will your pricing strategy help you meet your objectives? Does your pricing meet or challenge genre standards? How will your target audience view your pricing? Map out your pricing structure for your books, services, courses or workshops, series, and bundles.
Related Content: Pricing
3. Collaboration and Partnerships
Affiliate marketing, book bundles, co-writing, and cross-promotion (via email lists) are all great ways to boost your business, visibility, and sales. What methods will you use to develop partnerships and encourage collaborations with other authors?
G. MARKETING STRATEGY
1. Marketing and Promotion
In this section, outline the methods you’ll employ to market and promote your books, products, content, and brand. You’ll want to develop a separate book marketing strategy for each book, as well as an overall strategy that ties current projects together with future plans for your writing career.
Related Content: 71 Ways to Promote and Market Your Book
2. Resource Commitment
Finding time to write is difficult enough, but your business won’t run itself. You need to schedule time and resources for both the writing side of your business and the marketing side (and then squeeze in family and personal commitments, too 😉 ). How much time, money and other resources are you prepared to realistically commit?
Related Content: The Big Question: How Can I Build My Platform and Still Have Time to Write?
3. Launch Strategies
Designing, organizing, and implementing a book launch action plan is not easy. There are a lot of moving parts, so it requires the careful preparation (and execution) of just the right mix of launch activities to propel your new book out into the world. Layered launch strategies (where you use the momentum from one launch to boost the next) can create urgency and excitement, and further establish your brand, message, and authority. What actions will you take to leverage the assets and relationships you’ve established through your marketing activities to promote an upcoming book?
Related Content: Launch Strategy for Authors
1. Monthly Expenses
Make an itemized list of all the things you will need for your business to run monthly (website, hosting and domain name, email marketing service, business cards and other promotional items, office supplies, membership dues, etc.). If you are saving for some larger future expense (computer, software, cover design ), then note this in your budget, as well.
2. Monthly Revenue
Record your monthly income from all sources related to your writing business (royalties, freelance work, affiliate income, speaking, etc.). At first, this may seem like an exercise in futility, but with a solid business plan in place, you’ll soon start to see your revenue streams grow. 🙂
3. Production Budget (Per Book or Project)
Copyediting , line editing, proofreading, formatting for publishing, formatting for print, cover art, copyright registration, ISBNs, review copies, shipping, and research costs can all be budgeted on a per-book basis. These input costs will help you determine the potential viability (and profitability) of each project. If you also have a website and blog, there may also be production costs for blog posts, email newsletters, and other items (image or graphic fees, costs for giveaways, apps or software, etc.).
4. Sales + Income Projections
If you’re just starting out, creating sales projections may be difficult to do, but it’s certainly a good habit to develop if you’d like to ensure you’re making good business decisions. Forecasting is vital to planning sales, marketing, and spending. (For a free Amazon sales rank tracker, try NovelR ank.com or SalesRankExpress.com .)
I. ADDITIONAL GROWTH + EXPANSION STRATEGIES
1. Professional Development
Your talent is your best asset. Continuing to improve upon both your writing AND your business skills, is a wise investment. Use this section of your business plan to note any classes, workshops, or conferences you plan to attend, if you plan to find a critique partner or writer’s group to join, or even add specific books you plan to read (for genre or topic research, or to gain additional skills).
Related Content: 39 Things to Remember When Struggling to Build Your Writing Career
2. Paid Advertising and Other Paid Options
Paid advertising, hiring a publicist, or anything else that requires cold hard cash upfront–without a guarantee of return–may not be on the top of your priority list. However, if you are considering some paid options, ensure you note your strategies here. Tracking your return on investment may be easier for some options than others, but it’s always wise to note your efforts and results.
Continuously developing new content can take a lot of effort. Get more mileage out of the excellent content you produce (articles, newsletters, blog content, short stories, guides, updates, videos, etc.) by repurposing it into something fresh. You can change the format, share it on different mediums, turn a book or post into a course or workshop, and reach all new audiences. How will you stretch and repurpose each piece of content you create?
Related Content: Create Great Content? How to Get More From It Through Repurposing
Wise outsourcing can not only increase your efficiency and help level the playing field, but it allows you to focus on the core of your business–your writing. If you decide to outsource, determine what tasks you’ll pay someone else (editors, virtual assistants, designers, accountants, etc.) to handle.
Writing Your Author Business Plan Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
Kudos to you for making it this far! It may seem like a daunting task to compile your business plan, but I assure you it is well worth the effort.
Plus, your plan can be developed over a period of time and doesn’t have to be nailed down all in one sitting.
A business plan is fluid and ever-evolving. As new info comes in, circumstances change, or as results and analysis dictate, adjust your business plan accordingly. Remove sections from this plan that you feel don’t apply, and add sections that you feel are more relevant to your specific business needs.
Review and re-examine your plan on a regular basis to help keep yourself–and your writing career–on track.
And be sure to reward yourself when you’ve reached certain milestones and objectives. You’ll have most certainly earned it!
Questions? Comments? Please share your thoughts below.
Reading through your posts can be long and tedious, especially for people like me who always take notes. But in the end, it’s worth it. Thanks for another awesome post.
Yes, I’m nothing if not thorough… 😉
That’s why I’ve included the workbook – all the info, without the need to write it all down yourself.
This is just awesome .. Love it!!
Happy to hear it, Ashima. Hope you can put the plan to good use! 😉
Thanks so much, Kimberley! This is super helpful and so timely — my community of Queens, NY, is conducting a business plan competition with nice prize money. Glad to have your insights and guidance in the final days of preparation.
My pleasure John! 🙂
I was hoping to grab this fabulous download, but when I entered my email address and went through to the next page, the error message said the pdf could not be found. I thought this was because I was on mobile, but I tried several times on my PC and it still was appearing as not found.
My apologies Kieran – there is a bit of a glitch with the media file. Shoot me a quick email (Kim-at-YourWriterPlatform.com) and I’ll send it to you directly.
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Writing Tips Oasis
How to Create a Business Plan for Your Books
By Hiten Vyas
You’ve heard it many times before on eBooks India, and it is worth repeating again. If you’re a self-published author selling your own books and ebooks, then you are running a publishing business. Any good publishing business worth its salt should be based upon a sound plan. This is where your business plan comes in handy.
If you’ve never written a business plan, then do what you do best (which is to write of course!) and get one completed. There are plenty of templates available online for free. The major benefit of producing a business plan is it will help you to focus.
You will have a guide of where you currently are, where you want to go in the future, and how you’re going to get there. Below are some of the key sections you would be working on when completing your business plan.
The executive summary is the first page of your business plan. However, it is advisable to write it at the end. The reason for this is that the executive summary will be a brief overview of your publishing business.
Typically, it will highlight the name of your business, your background and experience, what books and/or eBooks you plan to write and sell, any progress you’ve already made, the readers you will target and projected sales and profit estimations. You will only be able to include these details in the executive summary once you’ve researched and completed the major sections of the business plan, such as those below.
About You and Your Goals
In this section, describe your background, experience, qualifications and credentials. Won any awards for your writing? If so, this is the place to state them in all their glory.
Also, describe your personality characteristics that emphasis how you have got it in you to make your book business a success. In addition, state the goals for your business; those which are short-term, medium-term and long-term. Make the goals as specific as possible, such as I will sell 10 copies of a particular title by the end of month 1 through 2 distribution channels.
Your Products and Services
Your products are your books and ebooks. If you have a plan to write 4 novels and 15 short stories over the next 12 months, then describe exactly what these will be about. Do you offer any other services, such a freelance writing and/or book editing? If so, you can state them in this section.
Remember, your readers are your customers . Have a think of exactly what type of customer you want to target with your books and ebooks. What is their age, background and interests? Where do these types of people hang out? This section is the place to explain as much detail about your customers as you can, and why you’re confident they will buy your titles.
Do you have any plans to research whether people really will buy your book? For example, before you begin to write a book, you could carry out a survey to get the views of potential buyers and gauge their interest in your work. Write down any activities you will do, or describe any results from market research you have already done.
There will be many other authors out there who will be offering books and ebooks in the same genre as you write in. A lot of these will already have readers who will be buying their books. In this section, review the top 10 authors who are most similar to you in terms of their publishing company size, and who have a similar type of audience that you want to attract.
When you review your competitors, think about what their strengths are. For example, if a competitor has a large social media following, from which they promote their books, then this would be a strong point of this competitor. This type of information will help you to review exactly who and what you are up against, and what you need to do with your book business, to overcome the strength of your competitor.
Similarly, also consider the weaknesses of your competitors. For example if you know an author in your genre is not effective at selling books and ebooks using their own website, then this could be an area you could really emphasis on when making your titles available to buyers.
Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
When planning your book business, it is wise to take stock of your situation and to do so honestly and objectively.
Every author has strengths and weaknesses. What are yours? For example, if your strength is you are a prolific writer, then this is an advantage as you will be able to get more titles onto the market and sell ebooks quicker. If a weakness you have is not having good ebook cover design skills, then you can plan to get a professional in place.
Opportunities and threats are usually external to you and your book business. For example, if you write non-fiction about a particular niche, which has demand but doesn’t have many books catered to it, then this would be an opportunity you could exploit.
On the other hand, if you know a competitor is about to launch a book in a very similar niche to you, then this could be a threat. In such a case, you would need to create a plan to mitigate this threat.
In this section, state how you will reach out to customers. How will you promote you and your books and eBooks? Will you use social media, your own author blog, or network by attending trade shows ?
Will you advertise in certain magazines you know your audience read, either in print and/or online? Write in detail, all the methods you will use to market your titles, and what price points you will use for them, and your strategy for selling at certain prices.
In this section, explain how you will sell your ebooks and books. Will you partner up with organisations like Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords and sell your titles through their platforms? If so, describe in detail how this will work.
Perhaps you will sell your titles directly through your own website, or copies at trade events you attend, or at presentations you give to audiences who will be interested in your work. Again, explain how you will do these things.
A business plan for your books will normally have a set of financial forecasts. One type is a sales forecast, which will detail how many sales you expect to make over a 12 month period, based upon how much it will cost you to make those sales (e.g. cost of hiring editors, proof readers, cover designers).
Another very important type of forecast to produce is a cash flow, which will show all expected cash that will come into your business (through sales of your books and ebooks) and expected cash that will leave your business (through ongoing payments made for items such as hosting space for your website, business insurance, and marketing costs), again over a period of 12 months.
A cash flow is helpful to determine how much money you will need to help your book business start-up during its initial months, and at what point your income will exceed your costs, moving your business into profit.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/hv1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hiten Vyas is the Founder and Managing Editor of eBooks India . He is also a prolific eBook writer with over 25 titles to his name.[/author_info] [/author]
[…] what Dean says, and think like a publisher. This includes setting up a proper business, creating a business plan, considering just how many products you can develop (your books and eBooks over a five year […]
[…] where you’re coming from is more likely to see whether you have a profitable pitch or a solid business plan. It is also a very smart idea to only get money from investors whose vision aligns with […]
[…] definitely need a business plan for your business. Before starting your venture, create an overall business plan for your […]
Jami Gold, Paranormal Author
Where Normal Need Not Apply
August 28, 2014
Introducing the business plan for writers worksheet.
No one will ever care about our success as much as we do. That’s why—even though we’re writers—we should think of ourselves, at least on some level, as business people.
Not all of us have a business mindset, however. We might wish to be author-artists rather than author-business-professionals . There’s nothing wrong with that attitude.
But even as artists, we still need to be clear about our goals so we know whether to choose option A or option B. For example, some artist-authors might price their books for increased readership instead of income. Guess what? Choices like that are business decisions.
Ditto for traditionally published authors who want their publisher or agent to handle business-related issues. If those authors have clear goals, they’ll be better able to judge whether to use the same publisher for their new series, or if they want to diversify with a new genre, or whether their agent is steering them in a different direction from what they want.
No matter what kind of writer we are, we will need to make business decisions, and that’s where having a business plan can help. A business plan, even just a basic one, can help us recognize what’s important to us, brainstorm our goals, and design a plan to get from Point A to Point B while avoiding distractions.
What Can a Business Plan Do for Us?
Business plans don’t have to be about numbers or sales projections. (I don’t do math. *smile*) They can also be about defining who we are as an author and what we want for our dreams.
- What kind of author do we want to be? What kind of stories do we want to write? What’s our message ?
- Who do we think is the target audience for our stories?
- What makes our stories unique? Why would our target audience want to read them?
- How do we define success ? How will we know when we get there?
- Are we ready to reach for success? What skills or knowledge do we still need to acquire to be successful?
- What path will take us toward our success goal? Are we on that path already? If not, what do we need to do to get on that path?
- Are we spending time on activities that impede our goals? Are adjustments needed to refocus on activities that match our goals?
Once we’re comfortable with knowing what we want, where we stand, and where we want to go, we’ll be better able to adjust to the fluid publishing environment.
We’ve all seen how the rules of “the game” change from month to month, and sometimes from week to week. Knowing what our goals are can help us keep an eye on the big picture and not be randomized with every change.
When we know what we want and where we want to go, it’s easier to look at changes and say, “How can I best take advantage of these new circumstances to reach my goals?” Quickly adapting is a far more productive response than flailing over the never-ending shifting sands under our feet.
In addition, simply having a business plan might help us present ourselves more professionally. Our family and friends might see that we’re serious about our writing and better understand or respect our choices. Or at the very least, we’d know how serious we are.
What Should We Include in Our Business Plan?
There are as many different ways to approach business plans as there are authors. Some of us might want something very specific and formal (like Denise Grover Swank’s fantastic example here , here , and here ), and others of us might want more of a casual overview.
Whatever format we take, we need to allow for flexibility in our plan and the ability to revise as we go. The publishing landscape is changing constantly and life happens unexpectedly. But we’ll never get to where we want to go unless we have a basic direction in mind.
After looking at several author-focused business plans, I found these topics the most insightful. Some of these sections focus on the big picture, others force us to dig into difficult topics, and still others help us keep our eye on the prize.
Read through these bullet points to get an overview, or just scroll down to see the real thing:
Description of Author Business:
- This is the big picture summary of goals and plans.
- This section should focus on goals for at least a year out, but can also include 5-year or more long-term or “dream” goals.
- If we’re not sure what your priorities should be, Angela Ackerman (of Emotion Thesaurus fame) shared this 7-step plan for brainstorming and figuring out what matters to us .
Operation of Author Business:
- This section summarizes the business aspect—traditionally published vs. self-published—and touches on how the business would be structured and run.
- This is the place for decisions like sole proprietorship vs. LLC or starting our own imprint vs. publishing under our author name.
- This section defines all products, current and planned, and specifies the target audience for each (including how we might reach them).
- We should be specific here about ebook, print, or audiobooks, etc. so we know to include those production costs in our Development Plan.
- If we include information about the actual or expected income from each product, we can track whether we’re prioritizing the best projects for our income goals.
- This section lists our strategies for everything from release schedules to writing series vs. standalone books.
- This is where we get to brag about all the time we waste , er, spend on social media as we’re building our platform.
- Do we have a newsletter or a blog? Are we active on Wattpad or Goodreads? Will we offer a freebie or use Kindle Select? Mention it here.
- This section asks us to research and analyze other authors in our genre , specifically those who are successful.
- What makes them successful? What strategies work for them?
- How can we adapt their strategies to our strengths and stories? What can we learn about how to overcome or minimize our weaknesses?
- Think about why readers might want our book in addition to (or instead of) the books released by these authors. What makes ours unique? Why might readers choose not to read ours over the other comparable books?
- This section defines a schedule for our goals and outlines the steps we need to take to reach each one.
- This is the nitty-gritty for how we’re going to reach our definition of success. Everything from daily word counts to financial income vs. expense plans would go here.
- We might want to use subsections for different schedules, such as one for our professional development goals, one for drafting and revising, another for publishing (however that looks for our chosen path, whether querying and submission or editing and cover art), and yet another for marketing.
- Be as specific as possible with these steps ( “I’m going to read two craft books to fix my x weakness by y date.” ) so we can better track our progress.
- Depending on how much we want to push and stretch ourselves, the schedule might be a bit uncomfortable, but it should always be achievable.
Introducing the Business Plan for Writers Worksheet !
I tried to make this worksheet flexible enough to help both those who want a formal plan and those who want just a casual overview. Use this worksheet however it works for you.
We might not want to specify details on every item listed, so think of the points under each section more as “thought triggers.” Or we could focus only on the areas we know we have weaknesses. Whatever works, works. *smile*
(click on the image to zoom in)
Click to download the Business Plan for Writers Worksheet — MS Word ’07 version (.docx)
Click to download the Business Plan for Writers Worksheet — MS Word earlier version (.doc)
As with many things on my blog, I’m sharing what I’ve learned. I’ve never had a business plan before. It seemed too intimidating or overwhelming (or maybe that was just the math), and quite frankly, I didn’t have the time (or was unwilling to make the time).
But now I’ve reached the point that I need a business plan if I don’t want to make mistakes with my choices. So I put this worksheet together for myself and decided to share in case others might find it helpful as well. Wish me luck in getting this completed. *grin*
Okay, I Have a Business Plan, Now What?
Once we have a business plan, we should probably revisit it once a quarter or so. Checking in on a regular basis gives us the opportunity to see what’s working and what isn’t, recognize where the publishing landscape has changed, and maybe even remind us of a strategy we meant to implement but haven’t yet.
Again, the point isn’t to make more work for ourselves. Rather, a business plan is all about putting to paper what we want and figuring out where we have holes so we can be smarter about our time and energy.
Whether we’re a newbie writer pursuing traditional publishing or a deep-in-the-trenches self-published author, we are small business entrepreneurs. We need to balance our creative, artistic side with our product-sales side. Hopefully, a plan that matches our business choices to our creative goals will keep both sides happy. *smile*
Do you have a business plan, and if not, why not? Do you find business plans intimidating? Do you agree that they can be useful no matter our publishing path? Do you have any questions about this worksheet? Will it help you tackle writing a business plan?
P.S. Don’t forget to check out all my beat sheets and worksheets for writers !
Check out these related posts:
- When Do Writers Need a Business Plan?
- Decisions, Decisions: What Should We Write Next?
- Lessons from RWA14: Techniques for Sales Success
- RWA16: Industry Insights from Data Guy and More
- What Does It Mean to “Write to Market”?
38 Comments — What do you think?
Something important to keep in mind while making a business plan: Include room for slippage. Include room for accidents. Include room for emergencies and illness.
Personally, my plans tend to go awry promptly after making them, because I tend to plan as if I’m healthier than I am. I’ll feel great, be thinking “I’m better! Whee!”…and then overload myself and collapse.
Despite the dozens of times I’ve done it, I still haven’t stopped. I’m gradually reducing how far the pendulum swings, on average, but it’s taking a long time.
I do have a universal theme as the backbone for my writing, though (so far, only on my Patreon page): “Everyone crazy somehow—some people just hide it better than others.” 🙂
Absolutely! As I mentioned in the post, a business plan needs to be flexible and allow for revision–because life will happen. A frequent motto of mine: I plan, God laughs. 🙂
Having a plan doesn’t mean that we should stress about “failing to meet the schedule” or anything. It’s just about knowing what we want so we can head in the right direction and get a realistic feel for what we can try to accomplish. (I’ve been known to set impossible goals for myself, but if I force myself to think about how to make them happen, then I realize they’re impossible and revise–or at least cut myself some slack. LOL!)
Your example of overloading yourself and collapsing is what I tend to do with exercise plans. Every. Time. You’d think I’d learn. 😉 Thanks for the comment!
“Everyone’s crazy somehow—some people just hide it better than others.””
😀 I love this universal theme of yours, because I so agree!
I only realized it after I’d written a several stories, but now that I know it, I’ve found that it helps when I’m stuck with a character. I just go, “Okay, so how are you screwed up?”
LOL! I love it. 😉
Holy cow, Jami, your post is seriously timely! I’m working on my plan right now including my production schedule. Love that!
Thank you for a great blog,
Woo hoo! Great minds and all that. 😉 I’m happy to help!
Gosh, I haven’t even begun thinking about a business plan yet. *lol* It’s probably because I tend to focus on one thing at a time so I don’t overwhelm myself. And when you’re still waist-deep in the first draft, it’s hard to think that far ahead. That said, this article is extremely helpful. I’m going to print this as well as the worksheet as soon as I have a chance. 😉
One other thing I want to do when the time is right is apply for Grub Street’s Launch Lab. (Grub Street is a non-profit creative writing organization in Boston; I live about 30 minutes away from Boston.) It’s a workshop that focuses on marketing, PR, networking, and community-building for authors who have a novel due out within a year by either traditional publishing houses or self-publishing. It will be an investment of time and money, but I’ve learned so much from the one-day workshops I’ve taken at Grub Street that I know it will be worth it. The more useful tools you have in your knowledge tool box, the more informed you’ll be about the business side of writing.
I understand. 🙂 I’ve been working on mine all day today, and it’s not exactly thrilling writing or reading. LOL!
Like you, I like deep-focusing on one thing at a time. So if I’m not carving out a decent chunk of time to dig into a major project, it tends not to get done until deadline. For me, it felt like the deadline was now, hence the worksheet. 😉 Good luck with your draft and workshop plans, and thanks for the comment!
My attitude towards business plans is like my attitude towards beat sheets: Yikes! :O So I would definitely be the type who would just want to have vague ideas and very vague timelines in my head, and not write any of these down, lol. I’m one of those who feel intimidated by such business plans, haha. But here are some plans in my head for writing: —-will continue to do at least 2000 Chinese characters a day till the book is done, and I THINK this would be doable even after getting a full-time job (one day XD) Because the writing now usually only takes 1.5 hrs to crank out 2000 characters, the factfiling takes only about 30 mins, and I only need about 30 mins to transfer my phone memo pad writing and factfile onto my computer files. So a total of 2.5 hrs a day should definitely be doable. —–While I write, I will of course want myself to do some reading at the same time. How much I read depends on how much time I get, but probably I’d still get a FEW pages of reading done per day even during the busiest times. My reading right now has shifted to Chinese books, haha, both published and online stories. This is because I’m such a greedy guts that I want to be a great writer in BOTH English and Chinese! I’ll read English books sometimes too, but for now the focus will be on Chinese books. (I’m … — Read More »
Hi Serena, I’ve been working on my business plan today, and it’s been really interesting to see how even my guess at a schedule and goals fills in the plan. So I definitely think there’s value in writing down even vague guesses, just so we can see how our goals might translate to reality. Even just what you listed in your comment is a great start! You have goals, you know your priorities, and you have a vague-enough schedule to plan ahead for budgeting purposes. 🙂 Ta-da! Plus, that schedule lets you know when you might have an opening for your next project. My subconscious tends to work on a story in the background until I know I’m getting close to drafting it. Then the closer I get, the more my subconscious kicks into gear. So it’s good for my brain to know when that “getting close” might happen. 🙂 As far as your question about how long your story should “sit,” I think only you will know because everyone is different. Some people are able to pick a story back up after 2 weeks, others a month or two. Then there’s me–I have a near-photographic memory, so even a story that’s sat for a year is still solid in my mind. :/ That’s why I know I’ll never not need beta readers, as it’s impossible for me to look at a story “fresh.” So I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for you there. 🙁 I hope you’re able … — Read More »
Business plans give me hives! BUT…when I decided to indie publish, I read Susan Quinn’s Indie Survival Guide and she suggests making a business plan with short term and long term goals. So I did! I now think of myself as a little business owner, which is fun and intimidating at the same time.
Ha! Yes, fun and intimidating at the same time. 🙂 Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone!
I love this stuff. Having come to writing after a career in corporate planning, the spreadsheets and planning processes just seem natural. Some important things to remember.
First, planning is more important than plans. Clausewitz said that the best war plans are worthless after the first smoke on the battlefield. BUT, the work that goes into making the plan, the research and the serious thinking, is critical to making the next plan.
Second, the benefits of a well thought out business plan are psychological as well as strategic. It helps to focus efforts.
Finally, an organization that loves business plans is the IRS. A thoughtful business plan goes a long way to convincing them that the thousands of hours of writing is NOT a hobby.
Thanks for these posts, Jami
Yes, I have experience in project and process management, which is probably why I’m into all these “let’s make our lives easier” worksheets. 🙂
I’ve been working on my business plan today, and I can already see what you’re saying about how the planning and thinking is the most valuable part of creating a business plan. I’ve always been one of those who feels so much better once I put my to-do list to paper, and this is like a big version of that relief. 🙂 I’m completely okay with nothing going to plan, but I still feel more organized just for having thought it through.
Good point about the IRS too. Ugh. LOL! Thanks for sharing your insights!
And that “target audience” thing rears its ugly head again . If there’s one thing I’d like to learn to tackle, that’s it. If I had a nickel for every target audience questionnaire I’ve thrown my hands up at and cried, “If I knew the answers to these questions, I wouldn’t need the questionnaire!” I could take us out for a very nice meal.
Downloading the plan worksheet, though, because I really do need to think about some of this.
“If I knew the answers to these questions, I wouldn’t need the questionnaire!”
LOL! I understand. That target audience section and the competitive analysis section are still blank in my WIP business plan today. :/
A part of me doesn’t want to be that organized about marketing and promotion. Like, if I think about it too much, I might focus on those aspects more than I want to (rather than the writing craft, etc.). 😉 I’m fine with coming up with release schedules and general strategies, but marketing-specific stuff? Blech. LOL! Thanks for the comment!
Thanks so much Jami! You just pretty much laid everything on the table, and gave me all the tools I could want to create a plan. You included some important questions I think every writer should ask themselves if they are selling their work. I know the answers to some of these, and others, I haven’t thought about. But I need to.
This is great motivation to actually fill out a plan that will help me become more organized, and focused on my goals. I’m excited to get started.
Yes, and as Robert mentioned above, so much of the value in making a business plan is simply forcing ourselves to think through these things to come up with our plan. Whether the plan actually works or not is somewhat irrelevant, as we’ll be better prepared for any situation because of that thinking we did. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
Just skimmed this post for right now, but it looks like you knocked it out of the park again, Jami! Thanks for sharing all your efforts with us.
I just completed mine, so I can testify that the template works. LOL! I used the descriptions on the worksheet itself, along with the questions and bullet points in this post to come up what to include, and then I copied and pasted some of the verbiage from Denise Grover Swank’s example (linked to in the post) for the blah, blah, blah stuff. 🙂
Ta-da! Twenty pages later, I’m done. I hope others find this helpful too. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
Nicely done, Jami! I honestly haven’t thought too much about what comes next after writing the book, and it’s high time I do. I really like how the worksheet is adaptable to writers pursuing different outlets for publication, as I’m sometimes put off by the emphasis on self publication. After all, every writer is trying accomplish the same thing: Connect with readers, lots of readers! 🙂 Thanks for another useful addition to my collection!
I’ll be honest, I found so much value just from forcing myself to think about my goals and priorities that I think it’s a good idea to go through this process earlier rather than later. I’m considering doing a follow-up post this next week to talk more about that. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
Jami, you are so generous and make the best dang worksheets ever. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate all you do. I have shared this all around. http://flossiebentonrogers.com
Aww, thank you! 🙂 I’m happy to help!
[…] week, I shared a Business Plan for Writers Worksheet. Yet when we’re first starting out as writers, creating a business plan might be the last […]
[…] Gold shares her new worksheet: The business plan for writers. Stop that groaning. You know you need […]
[…] Guardian short story about a year ago. Since then, I’ve been studying and planning, writing business plans, and searching for editors. My genre was still being called “dead,” and it was time to […]
[…] I developed my business plan last year, I made conscious decisions about how to price my […]
[…] an author is being a business person. And it helps to have a plan. Jami Gold has created a business plan for writers worksheet to help us examine our writing goals and create a plan to achieve […]
[…] had created a business and marketing plan for this project and cost of an illustrator was on it. I figured this final fee into my author/illustrator contract […]
[…] know this sounds like a classroom assignment, but it doesn’t have to be formal unless you want it to be. The goal is to get an idea ahead of time of what you want to accomplish so your goals can be […]
[…] A simpler version by Jane Friedman Introducing the Business Plan for Writers Worksheet […]
[…] Jami Gold says, “no one will ever care about our success as much as we do.” And therefore, we must have a […]
[…] is, of course, Joanna Penn’s new book, Jami Gold’s blog post on the subject, and an article on Jane Freedman’s blog from 2013 (which is still very […]
[…] Jamie Gold blog post […]
Hi Jami, If you look for Demise Grover’s articles. they are now here: https://www.denisegroverswank.com/?s=business+plan
Thank you! I’ve updated the links in the post. 🙂
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The Creative Penn
Writing, self-publishing, book marketing, making a living with your writing
Your Author Business Plan
Take your author career to the next level.
You are an author. You turn ideas into reality in the shape of a book.
You turn the thoughts in your head into valuable intellectual property assets. You understand how powerful the written word can be. Now it's time to use your words to create a business plan to take your writing career to the next level — whatever that means for your situation.
I'm Joanna Penn and I've been a full-time author-entrepreneur for almost a decade. In this book, I’ll guide you through the process of creating a business plan that will help you achieve your creative and financial goals.
It’s relevant for fiction and non-fiction authors, as well as those who want to include other products, services, and income streams. It’s also applicable whether you’re just starting out or if you already have a mature author business.
A plan helps at any stage of the journey.
- Part 1 covers your business summary and author brand, taking you through the process of deciding the overall direction for what you want to achieve and who you want to serve.
- Part 2 goes into the production process around your writing, publishing and licensing, products and services.
- Part 3 covers your marketing strategy and author eco-system.
- Part 4 goes into the financial side of your business, from mindset to revenue and costs, as well as paying yourself now and into the future.
The final chapter will give you a framework for simplifying your plan and turning it into achievable steps across a chosen timeline.
In each section, I give examples from my own business plan and there are questions for you to answer, templates, and resources that might help along the way, as well as example business plans for different kinds of authors.
There is also a Companion Workbook available in print with all the questions so you can write in that if you prefer.
It's time to take your author career to the next level. Let's get started on your business plan.
Please note: This book doesn’t go into detail on how to do the specific topics, for example, how to self-publish a book, or how to do content marketing. I cover those topics in my other Books for Authors.
Available in ebook, paperback, large print, audiobook and workbook editions
Companion workbook also available.
Connect with me on social media
Sign up for your free author blueprint, thanks for visiting the creative penn.
How to Create a Business Plan for Your Indie Author Business
- January 13, 2020
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to set goals and plan actions, especially if you're an author. While most businesses write a business plan, it's not always a consideration writers make. Tetiana Bek, from ALLi partner member MiblArt is here to explain how to create one and as well as the goals in it.
What You Need to Know Before Creating a Business Plan
Indicate a Mission Statement for Your Business
You should try to consider every book as a product with its philosophy and goals. Initially, a mission statement is your vision of the final version of the book.
Here is how you can create an effective mission statement:
- Establish your identity and state, who you are as a writer:
I'm a crafter of the new fantasy world with paranormal events occurring in the modern metropolis.
- Try to point out the characteristics of readers interested in your writing:
My readers are keen on diving into the unreal world and experience adventures, love, and loss with the characters of the novels.
- Celebrate your originality and tell about your uniqueness:
I long for presenting readers exciting worlds created by my imagination and crafted with words.
Try to be short and simple yet remain creative.
Analyze the parts of your mission statement and write down actions to complete each of them in order. Let’s create a roadmap for your writing career with the SMART goals technique.
How to create smart goals for your writing career.
SMART is an acronym, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound.
Make it as detailed as possible to avoid ambiguity. Instead of saying, “I want to write a book,” you should set a goal, “I want to write a 300-word mystery with a female protagonist.”
The five W-questions technique endows your purpose with clarity and conciseness.
- Who : Who is involved in this goal?
- What : What do I want to accomplish?
- Where : Where is this goal to be achieved?
- When : When do I want to achieve this goal?
- Why : Why do I want to achieve this goal?
Also, you may add the sixth question to be even more specific:
- How : How do I want to achieve this goal?
Add numbers to track your results and know how close the finish is. Moreover, it’s good to divide the whole process into short sections and decide on the measurements.
- How often?
Reassure yourself that your goal is attainable. Plenty of people are trapped by their desire to reach impossible targets.
To make sure that your goals are both achievable and challenging, ask yourself these questions:
- How realistic is this goal?
- What should I do to accomplish it?
Take into account different factors, such as budget, competency, time, and others, that may influence your success.
Think about the benefits you want to get accomplishing this goal. Is it worth your efforts and time spent on it? So, you should estimate how your goal is relevant to the overall business plan.
- Is the aim worthwhile?
- Is it the right time to reach the target?
- Does it match needs and efforts?
- Is it applicable in the current situation?
If you've given definite yes-answers to all the questions, then go ahead accomplishing your goal.
Set a realistic deadline. If your target has no time frame, you're unlikely to achieve it. Time frames keep you motivated to complete your tasks.
- When I want to finish the task?
- What is the deadline for each stage?
How to Use Smart Goals
As we’ve already discussed what the SMART goals are, let’s analyze it together . Imagine that you need book cover design services . Here’s how you can break the process into smart goals.
Now it’s your turn to write and track your SMART goal!
Download MiblArt Template for SMART goals
Step by step process of business plan creation.
Now you’re all set and ready for creating a business plan. A business plan usually includes the following blocks: buyer persona portrait, competitor analysis, value proposition, revenue streams, key activities, distribution channels and partners.
Let’s review each of them in more detail.
How to Create Your Ideal Reader Portrait
Always keep in mind your potential readers when writing a book. There is more chance that your writing will satisfy their expectations. Here is how you can analyze your target audience:
- Identify your genre to make the target audience aware of the concept of your writing.
- Find out the demographics, reading habits, values, and challenges of the target audience.
- Write down the reading preferences and interests of your ideal reader
- Select out your ideal and potential readers. Several persona profiles give you more opportunities for improvements in self-publishing.
Now it’s time to analyze your competitors and find out how you can be different.
How to Conduct a Competitor Analysis
A competitor analysis helps you to know the strengths and weaknesses of other writers in your genre.
Where to start?
- Define the top ten best-selling authors in your genre. You can find them on Amazon and other book-selling platforms.
- Analyze their websites, social media profiles, and design of their books.
- Pay attention to all types of content they provide (blogs, seminars, podcasts).
- Learn how they engage with the audience.
- Focus on their pricing, recommendations, and reviews
This information opens up opportunities for improvement and reinforces your positioning on the market.
How to Create a Value Proposition
Value proposition is a promise you give your audience about your business. It is a statement that affirms your difference from competitors.
If you’re an indie author, it may sound like:
“You’ll discover the world of fantasy unknown before,” or
“Follow breathtaking adventures in every book of the X series.”
Use your creativity to find the value proposition of your writing.
How to Come up with Book Distribution Channels
There are two types of book distribution channels: ebook and print book. You may choose either one of them or both. It’s up to you. Yet, you have to understand their differences and principles of work.
Regarding online distribution, you can work directly with:
- online retailers (Amazon KDP, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.),
- ebook distribution services (Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and others).
When you create your marketing strategy, you may include both types of book distribution or choose only one option. Test them to know what helps you enlarge sales and awareness of your writing.
How to Define Revenue Streams
Like any business, self-publishing has to bring in income. That's why you should compile the list of sources you want to distribute for money and free of charge.
Public speaking, coaching, online courses, and corporate sponsorship are great ways of extra income. However, they require some knowledge and competency.
Your Key Activities as an Author
It’s essential to track your progress. You should write down your plans and ideas — arrange your day, schedule your week, and organize your month.
Check your plans and make corrections every day to make sure that you follow the desired direction.
How to Build Partnerships in the Publishing Industry
A partnership allows an indie author to expand their audience and get new subscribers. You can convert the list of your competitors into partners. Make sure that your audiences match, share similar interests, and possess common values.
Here is how you can partner with other authors:
- Co-create books
- Organize different events
- Cross promote each other
- Write a guest post for their blog
- Write reviews for each other’s books
All in all, a business plan is the key to success for an indie author. As you put everything to paper, you can control the process, improve the shortcomings, execute more tasks and reach your aims.
As a bonus, we’ve created Business Canvas Template that will help you to create an effective business plan step-by-step. Use it to prosper in self-publishing and book marketing!
Find out more about MiblArt on their website , Facebook, and Instagram .
OVER TO YOU
Have you written a business plan this year? What sections did you include?
If you enjoyed this post, you might like these from the ALLi archive:
Self-Publishing Trends for 2020 and the Next Decade with Orna Ross and Joanna Penn: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast
Author: Tetiana Bak
MiblArt is a book cover design company for self-published authors. We believe that book cover design should target the right audience, sell your story and intrigue at the same time. Give people a reason to open your book.
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How Writing a Book is Like Launching a Business
Got an idea that you just can’t shake? That idea could manifest itself as a business or a book. I have spent a lot of time talking about how entrepreneurs should approach a new business and have found that there are a lot more parallels between starting a business and launching a new book than you might imagine. As I launch my first book, The Entrepreneur Equation, ironically on launching businesses, I thought I would share a few insights on the similarity between the two.
What’s Your Purpose?
Deciding to start a business is different than deciding to start a successful business. The plans to open one store vs. a goal of creating a massive nationwide retail chain vary significantly. It is hard to know what steps to take if you don’t know your end goal.
The same goes for your book. What’s your end game? Are you using it as a calling card to get more clients? Are you seeking a label of achievement (like “best seller status”) for your brand? Are you hoping to make gobs of money from it or are you using it to spread a message ( by the way, if your goal is make gobs of money, you might want to chat with a few industry professionals first )? These goals will significantly impact the planning and strategy of not only your manuscript, but the launch and marketing of your book.
And while you are at it, you might as well set the biggest goal that you can. Nothing happens if you don’t achieve your stretch goal, but as Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of shots that you never take!”
Know Your Customer
I am always preaching in business about how important it is to know your customer, but my first book manuscript go-round was somewhat lacking in this department (which got fixed in the second go-round, thanks to great feedback from industry folks!).
To be successful in business, you have to know what pain point you are solving for your customer and how you are delivering value. Plus, if “everyone” is your customer, you are going to have a hard time reaching anyone at all, so having a focus is critical. The same goes for your book (particularly non-fiction books). Ask yourself what tangible benefits your reader will take away from investing their time and money into your message. Who is your specific reader and what quantitative and qualitative benefits are they seeking? This will shape not only how you deliver your message in the book, but also how you plan to market your book.
The Idea Isn’t Valuable; It’s The Execution
In an era where we have access to virtually everything we want and need, plus a whole bunch of crap we don’t care about, it is hard to have a truly novel idea ( pun intended ). Having the idea for a business isn’t valuable; it is executing on the business plan every day. The same goes for a book. Once you have the idea, you have to write the manuscript and then market, market, market! Most publishers care at least as much, if not more, about your marketing plan than the content of the book. So, even if you have a great idea, if you can’t or don’t want to pound the pavement to meet your goals, there isn’t a lot of value there.
The Day You “Open For Business” Is Where The Hard Work Starts.
Conceiving a business idea and writing your plan is a cakewalk compared to what you have to endure day in and day out to make your business successful. The same thing goes for a book. The common misconception is that you are done when you finish writing- not so! Writing the manuscript, as daunting as it may seem, is easy compared to everything that comes next. Prepare to devote a lot of time, effort (and depending on your goals, money too) AFTER the book is written!
The takeaway: Make sure you evaluate and prepare for launching a book, just like you would a business, if you want to be successful with it.
And if you want to learn more about The Entrepreneur Equation and some of these principles, it is available at Amazon.com and everywhere now!
Carol Roth is a business strategist, deal maker and author of the New York Times bestselling book "The Entrepreneur Equation.
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How to Create Your Writer's Business Plan
When you're ready to take writing seriously, you've got a mission. You have stories you're ready to tell, and you're determined to get them out into the world and into the hands of readers.
When you're ready to take writing seriously, you have to shift your mindset. You can't think of writing as something you do when you're feeling inspired, or when the muse decides to grace you with her presence, but something you do because you must.
When you're ready to take writing seriously, you have to master your writing brain and make it work for you. You can't just let it flounder about all willy-nilly. You decide to create a mission, act on it, and then you do it!
When you're ready to take writing seriously, you create Your Writer's Business Plan : a detailed action-plan to set your goals, earnings, investments, intentions, and mission in one organized place!
It’s time to overcome your resistance to the idea that, as an author, your job is no longer just to write (if it ever was). If you want to turn your passion for writing into a business, you’ll need to have a solid and strategic plan in place.
Read Kimberly's author business plan here!
In 6 important sections, we're going to figure out what your Writer's Business Plan looks like. We're going to dive into your mission, vision, and goals, your brand personality, style, and how you portray yourself, your products (aka the stories) and the production process to get them done, the earnings and investments you'll make for your writing, and your ongoing education and personal growth strategies to be an even better writer than before.
P.S. I made you a workbook!
Get your writer's business plan on paper.
Print yours out for free and fill it in as you read this post!
Are you ready?! Let's dive into your Writer's Business Plan!
1 | Writer Summary:
Mission statement/your dna.
To start your Writer's Business Plan off, you have to define who you are, what you do, and why you do it. This encompasses your goals, your unique selling propositions, your vision, your intentions, your plans—everything! This sums up everything that makes you a writer in one succinct little piece. Think of this as your elevator pitch.
A great way to find your Writer's Business Mission Statement is to use your Real+Good Writer's DNA statement . In The Writer's DNA course, you learn exactly how to figure out who you are, what you read, what you write, what inspires you, how you write, why you write, and how to put it all together into one succinct DNA statement.
If you haven't discovered your DNA yet, go get started right here!
brand culture and style
You might think that because you're a writer, you don't have a brand. But this is narrow thinking.
While you won't market yourself in the same way as a big corporation, you do still have to brand yourself as a writer. You won't be looking at creating a typical brand, but instead focusing on personality branding . You are a unique human that thinks a certain way, acts a certain way, speaks and writes a certain way. You wear certain clothes. You're attracted to certain colors. You pay attention to certain things. When you think about your brand culture and style, you choose to think about all these components of yourself and how to present them to the world.
Because in our culture, we don't care if you just tell us you wrote an amazing book. We have to know you, like you, and trust you. Because you've got to market your books and you have a distinct style of writing and all that, but you're also a human. And people like and connect with other humans. We want to be your digital internet friends. We want to see the human behind the words.
What you're defining here, is how to present yourself to the world.
Think about yourself in relationship to the world. How do you want the world to perceive you? What traits will you show? What does it mean to be you? And how does this connect to you overall missions for your writing?
Then, figure out how you will reveal this self. How will you connect with readers, and other writers? Will you post on Instagram? What kinds of things will you post? What about Facebook? Twitter? Where will you present yourself, and how will you do it?
Think of this as kind of an expansion of your Writer's DNA, presented in a public forum. This is you as seen by the rest of the world.
You have many reasons why you write. ( And hopefully you've explored many of them! ). But one of your most important reasons is to find readers who are affected by your beautiful words, who are changed by your stories, who see the world differently because of something you wrote.
Your readers are going to come in all shapes and sizes, but you DO have an ideal reader, and your ideal reader is who you serve .
Figure out who would be most interested in your stories. What gender are they? How old are they? What do they like to do for fun? How do they perceive the world? What beliefs do they hold about the world? What do they want out of life? How can you best speak to them?
Create your ideal reader profile just as you would create a character sketch. Get to know your ideal reader intimately. Give her a name.
And write to this reader. Expect her to be waiting to get a copy of your book in her hands. She wants to hear your voice. Write to her.
2 | Writing Objectives:
Your vision is your ultimate level of success. What does the perfect writer life look like for you? What do you do as a writer? What do your words do for your readers? What messages do you share with the world?
Think of your vision as your BIG and beautiful and crazy writer dreams in a succinct statement. You're allowed to think large and wide because this is your hopes and dreams!
You have plans with your writing. You have books you want to publish, manuscripts you want to revise, stories you want to submit, drafts you want to finish. You have readers you want to connect with, Twitter chats you want to attend, writing classes you want to enroll in.
Let's get all your plans out onto the page.
You may want to brainstorm all your goals in a big, messy mind-map first, just to see what you're working with. Dump all your goals out.
Once you've got all your ideas, look for your themes. As Angela Ackerman says, "While all of these [goals] are important and deserve your attention, some need more attention than others, depending on where you're at in your writer journey. [...] Be honest with where you are and focus on the most important areas. You have plenty of time to get to everything else. The goal here is just to not spread yourself too thin."
If you are just starting out in your writing journey, education is going to take a priority. If you have a bajillion manuscripts ready to go out the door, publishing is going to take a priority. If you just published a book, marketing will be a priority.
Realize where you are in your writing journey, whether that's paying attention to drafting, publishing, or marketing. Accept that. You don't need to do it all right now. Consciously decide to focus your attention where you need it most at this point in time.
Then, you'll want to categorize these goals depending on where your priorities are, what the difficulties of the goal are, and how long it will take you to achieve it. Categorize your goals into four different sections: Lifetime, Annual, Quarterly, and Monthly. (It may be helpful to highlight with different colors, depending on the category. #Organization).
Once you've narrowed down what you're doing and when, you'll want to transform those thoughts into more definite goals that you can work towards, using The Real+Good Goal Formula . You'll want to make sure they're SMART+HARD Goals that set you up for actionable steps and realistic success. (P.S. There's a whole workbook for you there to put this into action!).
Then, list your Real+Good (SMART+HARD) Goals in your Writer's Business Plan depending on the category they belong. This will keep you focused and on track to accomplishing your writing dreams.
*Pro-Tip: Write your goals on Post-It notes so you can easily move them from section to section!
3 | Production:
By this point (once you've set up a Real+Good Goal and unpacked your Writer's DNA ) you should have a pretty good idea as to how you're going to get things done.
If you're not sure, we're going to figure it out.
You are setting into stone what you're going to do, how you're going to do it, when you're going to do it, and how you'll measure success in doing it or not.
This is the nitty-gritty of getting it done. What does that look like? How many words will you write? How many pages will you edit? What needs to be completed in order for you to reach your goals (e.g. researching agents, submitting stories, building a readership through engaging on social media, writing the freaking story)? How do you complete those things?
This is your work schedule. What days of the week will you write? How many hours per day/week/month? When will you make time for writing? Where will you be located? Will you focus on writing on Mondays, and editing on Wednesdays? Perhaps, you'll focus on social media on Thursdays, novel writing on Saturdays, and short stories on Sunday? Perhaps you always make Sunday a reading day. Or, you always doing homework from your writing class from 8-10pm on weeknights. This is the when of getting your goals completed.
If you want some help with this one, learn how to command the muse to come on your time when you set a writing schedule that sticks .
Products (aka stories)
Businesses sell things. They have products and services that go out into the world. In your Writer's Business Plan, your products are your stories.
This is where you define your work-in-progresses (WIPs) . Define what they're about, what genre, what type, what stage they're in. Give the most important details about what this is. What are your WIPs?
Real+Good businesses diversify their income, having a variety of products of different price ranges. You'll want to diversify your stories , having stories in different types and phases too. You might have a couple novels in the works, a few short stories, a TV show, some essays. (P.S. If you want some help with this, make sure to check out my amazing friend, E.M. Welsh, who is a BOSS at teaching how to master multiple forms of storytelling #LoveHer!). Use this as the centralized place to keep all the stories you're actively pursuing.
Note: This is NOT all your story ideas ever. This is NOT your brainstorming wish-list. Instead, this is only the stories that are actively in the works and you're not going to give up on anytime soon. These stories may be finished, need revision, or still need to be written (the drafting/revising stage isn't a deal-breaker). What's important is that these are where your attention is and where it's going to stay. Ask yourself: What are your priorities right now?
It may be helpful to give yourself deadlines for when to complete these stories. Used in conjunction with your goals and your production schedule, you can plan out your year of what you're going to get done and when.
4 | Market Analysis:
Other writers + stories.
Businesses will often compare what they're doing with others in the same industry attempting to do the same thing. As a writer, you should do this too. You want to consider who your "competitors" are, also known as your influences, similar writers who are doing awesome things that you can model.
You want to think about this from a story standpoint AND a marketing standpoint. We actually spend a whole module talking about what you can learn from your favorite authors in The Writer's DNA course , if you need a good place to get started. But, for the basics:
Figure out how their story works . What makes it awesome? Why are those characters so great? How did they weave the plot together? How did they effectively communicate their message?
And look at their author life as well. How do they present themselves to the world? What do they do to foster a sense of community with their readers? How do they use social media? A website, or a blog? How do they market their books and themselves?
When you consider these things, look to what their strengths are, what they're doing very very very well. Look at what their weaknesses are, where they could improve. Think about what aspects you can apply, and improve upon, in your own writing life, in a way that makes sense for you.
But seriously, we're much better off if we all work together instead of against each other. Pay attention to other writers and other books that are doing what you intend to be doing, and learn how to improve and expand from this research. But use it to lift us all up together, not to put someone down. #WritingCommunity #WriterFriends
5 | Financials:
You do have to earn income from somewhere. That's just a fact of life. And unfortunately, for the time being, that income is likely not coming exclusively your writing life.
And that's okay.
It's going to be damn near impossible to predict how much you'll earn from your writing. And until you've got a book on the shelves, it's damn near impossible to influence how much you'll make. So, we've got to reframe your understanding of earning money.
You can aspire to be a professional writer, but you're not going to wake up tomorrow with a million dollars in your bank account and an endless supply of time to focus exclusively on writing your stories (and if you do somehow, please tell me all your secrets). We can work towards that. But until then, you have to find something to pay the bills. This would be your day-job, and for now, you have to like it enough to allow it to fund your life so you can get those necessary words on the page.
Think about your day-job as a tool that allows you to write. Your day-job pays the bills so you don't have to pressure the writing with financial obligation, and you can focus on getting the writing right. Your day-job exposes you to interesting characters and story ideas and world-views on a daily basis, fueling your creativity. Your day-job is helping you achieve your writing goals, because without it, you wouldn't have the energy or the capital to spend any time on your writing at all.
(We're going to talk more about the relationship between writing and money on this blog very very soon. Stay tuned.)
When you make your Writer's Business Plan, you want to include the income from your day-job. Even if it has NOTHING to do with writing. Your day-job funds your life, and your life includes writing, and so you need to take into account the income you are receiving. Everybody's gotta start somewhere, and right now, your day-job is supplying you the capital to jumpstart your writing life.
When you do start to earn money from your writing (whether that be through publishing short stories or selling your novel), you'll want to include that income too.
But you don't earn just money from writing. Money is a necessary piece to writing (and life), but it isn't the end-all-be-all. You've got to consider what else you earn with your writing. You can "earn" 100 rejection letters. You can "earn" 20,000 words. You can "earn" readers, or subscribers to your blog. You can even "earn" inspiration.
Here's the short list of what you can "earn" with writing:
Word on the page
You will reap a profit on the effort your put into your writing life. But you have to define specifically what that profit is for that specific goal . It doesn't necessarily have to be money, and it shouldn't always have to be. Writing is more than just that. Think about what you would like to "earn" in your writing life, and go for those profits.
You can't control when a publisher finally accepts your manuscript or how many copies they decide to print. You can't control whether a literary magazine accepts your story or not.
But you can control a lot of other things in your writing life.
Focus on what you can control—pages written, books read, stories submitted. Reframe your mindset to seek these kinds of profits. They're just as valuable (if not more valuable) than the money itself.
As a business, you will earn some things, and you will also spend some things. You're going to have money (and other things) coming in, and you're also going to have money (and other things) going out.
And they probably won't be equal.
To write, all you need is a pen and a piece of paper. It's not a costly investment. But you do have to buy said pen, and said paper.
You also might have a lot of other expenses.
Here's the short list of what you spend with writing:
Books (Let's be real: We writers need a LOT of books!)
Writing retreats (i.e. airfare, hotel, food)
Writing conferences (i.e airfare, hotel, food)
Marketing and publicity
Digital necessities (i.e domain name, website hosting software, email software)
Time (this is a hidden cost that's actually very expensive!)
Materials to write (i.e. notebooks, pens, laptop, printer, printer paper)
Energy (it takes a LOT of work to put your soul on the page!)
At different points in your writing career, you'll need different things. And they'll likely cost you. Those expenses add up. Make sure you plan for them so when the right opportunities arise, you're ready to go. You don't want to miss out on a course you're dying to take or the next AWP conference because you didn't factor those into your Writer's Business Plan budget.
These expenses also require a bit of mindset shifting as well. Yes, many of them are things that are going to dig into your wallet. But you're not throwing money away. You're investing in yourself and your writing career. If you want to grow, you have to put in some work. You may invest in books, courses, workshops, conferences, an editor, a coach. It might cost you a bit up front, but if it helps you accomplish your writing goals and transform you into the writer you want to be, it's worth it.
Choose to consciously invest in yourself and your writing in ways that will push you towards your achieving your goals. What will you invest in?
6 | Education + Growth:
Educational + professional development .
You will NEVER know everything there is to know about writing. Instead, strive to be a constant student of the craft, always seeking new tips and ways to grow. Build this component into your business plan to make sure it takes a priority in your writing life.
But when you learn, do NOT attempt to learn everything all at once. Do NOT allow yourself to get lost on Pinterest or a writing blog (even this writing blog) in attempt to absorb ALL the information about writing you could ever possibly need. It won't do you any good, and you'll overwhelm yourself with information paralysis.
Instead, be deliberate, and conscious about what you choose to learn . Consider what you need to learn about writing right now. Perhaps it's revising your novel, or submitting to literary journals, or creating the best writing life for yourself . Whatever it is, choose it wholeheartedly. Focus your attention there. When you know what you're going after, you can research and read and enroll in a class and talk with others all you want. You're investing your attention here. Learn it and master it. Then move on.
Approach the next topic with the same vigor and tenacity.
So, what do you need to learn right now? How will you grow? What will you focus on learning?
When you choose to learn and grow, there are a wide variety of methods you can take. Consider craft books, online classes , workshops, writing groups. Look to blogs, Pinterest , fellow writers, writing retreats, conferences. Get what you need in the method that makes the most sense to you.
connection with other writers
Writing doesn't have to always be a lonely endeavor. And it shouldn't be.
When you're stuck in the middle of a plot hole and you don't know what to do, it's amazing to have another writer be your springboard for ideas to get you back on track.
When you've finished your story and you're ready for critique, it's amazing to have another writer give you feedback on your WIP.
When you just need to talk to someone else in this world who gets this whole writing thing (regarding how sometimes you feel crazy talking to your characters as real people, or how it really really sucks when you get rejected, or how you just don't want to work on your novel but you know you should),
it's amazing to have a fellow writer to turn to who can hear you out and share your feelings. Make a plan to connect with more writers. We're all in this crazy journey together, and we should work together to reach our goals. (Again, #WritingCommunity).
You can connect with writers in your town by finding local writer's groups, MeetUps, or even open-mic nights.
The beautiful thing about the internet is that you don't have to find writers in your town, because you can talk with writers all over the world from the comfort of your own couch. You can find writers on social media using various hashtags, Facebook groups exclusively for writers, Twitter chats where you can discuss writing weekly, and online writing communities for feedback.
Make a plan to participate in the writing community. Say "hello" to a writer you admire, or one that you don't know at all. Make some writing friends. We can do this, together!
Armed with your Writer's Business Plan, you will have set yourself up for writerly success. You know what you want, where you're going, how you're going to get there, and how you're going to improve yourself as a writer (and human!) along the way.
If you haven't already, don't forget to get started with your Writer's Business Plan with the free workbook! Get it below!
What does your writer's business plan look like? How do you approach the various aspects of your writing life and goals?
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