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Business Plans for Writers

(The bulk of this post was first published on the Not Your Usual Suspects blog on August 1, 2016.)

Most writers long to spend their time writing, not thinking about the business side of, well, the business. But in this day and age, spending all of our time dreaming up worlds and characters isn’t an option. There are a plethora of other things to wrangle, manage, and deal with, from marketing to social media to creating an indie book to finding agents or editors to shop in a traditional market. And everything in between.

At the RWbusinessplanA conference last month, the first workshop I attended was one I had hoped would get my head back in the business of writing. It was entitled “Plan for Success: Create a Motivational Business Plan for Your Writing Career” and was presented by author Stephanie Bond. Sitting in that workshop brought back memories of a chapter workshop I attended a couple years ago with a similar topic: “Dream, Dare, Do!” presented by Ruby sister Shelley Coriell

And it reminded me that I never sat down to finish that business plan that was begun that day.

And I certainly hadn’t updated my scrawled notes in the intervening years. In fact, a quick search on our Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog shows another Ruby, Laurie DeSalvo, posted on the same topic way back in 2009. But here I am in 2016, finally getting around to writing down my plans.

Since I’ve been looking for focus lately, I made creating a business plan my priority when I returned home from conference a couple weeks ago. I started by exploring more about business plans online, and integrated a lot of that fabulous information here.

First, Jami Gold says, “no one will ever care about our success as much as we do.” And therefore, we must have a business mindset. If we have clear goals and a personal definition of success, we can make better business decisions. Amy Atwell says it’s important to think of writing as a “career,” which is why a business plan is helpful. On her “Author E.M.S.” website, she refers to other sources, where one can use worksheets to come up with her business plan. She also reminds us the plan isn’t set in stone, and should be revised or updated regularly.

Second, before creating your document, Angela Ackerman recommends brainstorming what you want to accomplish, identifying themes, and then grouping together areas of focus. Then, try to step back and see the big picture, assigning importance to what you need to accomplish.

When you’ve done some big picture and small picture thinking, put them together into one handy document that summarizes your career plans and goals for the coming year:

 

Royalty-free clipart picture of a 3d red and white business plan word collage, on a shaded background.

 

THE BASICS of a BUSINESS PLAN

OBJECTIVES (a.k.a., Dreams!)

What do you want out of this business? Do you simply want to see your name on a book? Do you want to hit a bestseller list? Win a RITA award? Do you want to make enough money to quit your day job or put your kids through college?

This is where you put anything you want out of your writing career. Dream big!

MISSION

A mission statement is often brief, and for writers it can be as lofty as “to encourage people to grow through my writing,” or as generic as “to entertain.”

PRODUCTS (or Product Plan) & BRAND

Here’s where you think about what you are creating, which of course, includes your books. Also think about what makes them different/unique, and what formats they’ll be available in, and whether you plan to publish via traditional publishers, indie, or both. Don’t forget about audio, film, and even nonfiction items such as series-related coloring books.

Kimberley Grabas also suggests delineating your “ideal reader” as you create your business plan, as well as your “brand personality and culture.” This includes the vibe you want to give off when people land on your website or other social media pages, or when you speak at events. How do you want to be perceived by the public/readers?

Think about what makes you different, and what makes you the same. Everything from business cards to website design to the font and your name placement on your covers should reflect what/how you write.

GOALS (a.k.a., the things I can control!)

This is where we get down to the nitty gritty.

Keeping your dreams and objectives in mind, what can you actively and reasonably DO to make those dreams come true in the short term? This can include such things as attending a signing or conference, submitting to agents, finding a critique partner, researching your next series, etc.

For instance, one of my dreams is to win a RITA. I obviously need to enter the contest to even have a chance of making that goal happen, so entering the contest is listed under my goals and has been added to my calendar. Similarly, to hit a bestseller list, I’ll need to write books and increase my audience, which led to my current annual goals of building my newsletter list and increasing advertising and amount of time spent on social media.

MARKET ANALYSIS (or Competitive Analysis) & SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

What do you need to do/change to achieve your dreams? Do you have the necessary equipment, time, and energy? What is the state of the market in your genre/subgenre? How crowded is it?

This includes looking at your “competitors’” or fellow authors’ bodies of work and how they’re advertising them. What are their price points? What things are they doing well, in your opinion? Is it something that should be added to your goal list?

For me, one of the items in this category is to read several top-selling romantic suspense novellas, as I have not written one before but hope to this year. I want to study how the character arcs and plots differ from full-length books, so that I know what novella readers expect.

STRATEGY & IMPLEMENTATION SUMMARY (or Development Plan)

This includes setting up your calendar. Will the amount of writing you do this year be increasing/decreasing from the previous year? What publishers or agents do you want to target and how are you most likely to get your work in front of them? Do you need to register for some conferences or enter contests?

The first item on this list, for me, was writing a business plan. The second item was transferring my task list to my planner/calendar.

FINANCIAL PLAN

How do you plan to support yourself while you implement these other plans? When would it be a good time to incorporate? To meet with an estate planner or tax consultant?

For me, I plan to create a “Body of Work” document that contains all of my books and information my husband would need to access them, should something happen to me. I also have a note to consider drawing on savings to create audio versions of my new series, but have yet to make a decision on whether that’s a wise investment. But it’s something I can revisit next July, when I update my business plan.

Have you written a business plan? Do you update it regularly? What things do you make sure to include on your plan?

 

 

AnneMarieBeckerAnne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  

She writes to reclaim her sanity.

Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com. There, sign up for her newsletter to receive the latest information regarding books, appearances, and giveaways.

 

23 responses to “Business Plans for Writers”

  1. Love this post, Anne Marie!

    I do this every so often. For me it’s a situation of my eyes being bigger than my stomach. I want to achieve so much so I set this ridiculous goals. It seems dumb, but the truth is, they aren’t THAT ridiculous. They are completely achievable if I’d just get more BICHOK time.

    Seriously, I need someone standing behind me with a cattle prod. That’d do it.

    I did give up TV 100% during the week, tho. So that’s a step in the right direction, yes? 🙂

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    • Wow, no TV during the week? That’s serious dedication. I admire that!

      And I hear you about the “eyes bigger than the stomach” problem. I bit off more than I could chew last year, and I need to dial it back a bit. Making a plan is helping.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. This is great information, Anne Marie!

    I have most of this information on my business spreadsheet which I update compulsively – broken down into career goals, yearly goals, monthly goals and daily goals – but I haven’t done an official business plan. I think I rely on talking to other authors in person to gauge their marketing rather than doing research online, but I should definitely join more groups and get active in that area. And oh my goodness, yes, I really need to set up my Literary Estate/Will junk just in case.

    So much in this business that isn’t staring into space making stories in my head. 🙂

    EXCELLENT post. Thank you!

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    • Yes, why can’t we just stare into space and type all the time? We need minions to do the rest of this stuff.

      Seriously, though, writing it all down somewhere has helped me clear my head. That’s why I’ve always loved to-do lists, so this is just that on a grander scale. 😉

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  3. What a great post, Anne Marie. And very timely for me. I have done things in fits and starts for far too long. I need to form a plan and set it into action. I am fairly certain writing a business plan is far more legal than planning the painful and horrible demise of several managers at Walmart. And that is my only other option. LOL

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  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    Thanks so much for this post, Anne Marie! Once I start publishing again, it will be completely on my own terms, so a business plan is definitely a must.

    Actually, having recently gotten married, literary estate planning is a ‘front of mind’ issue for me. Mark and I are reviewing our wills right now, so the reminder to document what’s what with my writing business should something happen to me is an important and timely reminder!

    1+
  5. jbrayweber says:

    As with most things in my life, I am just winging it. This is counterintuitive to my being compulsively organized. Building a business plan is now on my short list. Thanks for the pointers on how to write one, Anne Marie.

    Jenn!

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  6. I’m like Jenn about winging it.

    I am an intense plotter when it comes to books. But my career—completely a pantser on that. I don’t know what my goals are. I keep telling myself I don’t care.

    I’d love to transition from a day job to full-time writing over the next couple of years. But it feels like making money in writing is mostly outside my control. So I don’t want to invest much time in worrying about it.

    1+
    • Sounds like you got the “Dreams” part of the business plan already started. 😉 Sometimes sitting down to make a plan feels like it’ll take the joy out of the writing, but sometimes it helps with focus. Just depends what you need. 😉

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  7. Liz Talley says:

    I wrote out a plan for the first time at the beginning of 2016. One of the key things I did was ask two other writers (brainstorming partners) to do the same thing. We set up a business lunch right after the new year and revealed our writing plans. In June we met to access where we were and revise the plan. I found that by having other people do this with me, I was more accountable. And, besides, it was nice having a business lunch.

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  8. Addison Fox says:

    This is an awesome post, Anne Marie! What I love about it is that the questions are all key for long term success but just as valuable in thinking through shorter term goals as well.

    Goals, Market Analysis, Strategy – all can be implemented in shorter bursts as well – e.g. – what do I want to accomplish with this year or what do I want to accomplish with this series – that helps ladder back up to the broader goals and vision.

    Awesome reminders!!!!!

    Addison

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