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Posts tagged with: career

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.

 

Quitting Your Day Job – Two-Year Update

Two years ago, I left my day job to focus solely on writing (a decision I documented in this Ruby post from October 2010). As the second anniversary closes in, I thought I would share with you how this grand experiment worked out, what I learned, and where I plan to go next.

Spoiler alert: I haven’t starved to death yet, so even if it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, there’s at least a ‘happy-for-now’ ending to this post 😉

The Grand Experiment

Year One: I finished a book, shopped it to NYC, finaled for a Golden Heart with it, and received a slew of rejections (that took all of Year One, from October 2010 to September 2011).

Year Two: Based on some fancy-schmancy analysis of costs/potential earnings, I pulled the Year One manuscript submission from the remaining houses and self-published it. I edited the first book, completely rewrote my 2009 Golden Heart winning manuscript to be the second book, and released both books in 2012 (Heiress Without a Cause in January as a Nook First pick, and Scotsmen Prefer Blondes in April). I’m almost done with the third book in the series (The Marquess Who Loved Me, coming this fall), and I’m planning for the fourth book in the series and proposals for a new series to launch when this series ends.

But enough about that…let’s get to what I learned!

What I Learned

1) Full-time writing may not actually mean full-time writing

As it turns out, I don’t write much faster now than I did when I had a day job. However, the time I would have spent at my day job is now spent on a combo of activities that either make me more healthy/satisfied as a person (gym, friends, cooking, walking around the waterfront, Twitter) or relate to my book in some way (marketing, social media, staying caught up on the industry).

2) Taking time to adjust to full-time writing is critical

I expected to hit the ground running when I left the day job. Instead, I spent six months eating, going to the gym, and napping (with some writing in there, but not as much as I expected). Part of it was recovering from the intense burnout I had from my previous job, but a bigger part was that I didn’t have a routine and hadn’t given myself time to adjust to my new life – so every day I didn’t accomplish something made me more depressed. I eventually snapped out of it, but it took a long time. If you’re thinking about leaving your day job, I suggest giving yourself time to grieve for your old life (even if you hated it) and build a new life around your writing, rather than expecting that you’ll be immediately and optimally productive from the start. And, unlike me, forgive yourself for the days when you just watch ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ marathons 🙂

3) Writing is a small business – and should be managed as such

Most small businesses lose money in their first couple of years of operation. With traditional publishing, you might not ‘lose’ money since you don’t have the same upfront costs as self-publishing – but you’re losing an opportunity cost if your manuscript is sitting for 1-2 years while it’s on submission and going through the publishing process. Conversely, self-pub can result in a lot of expenses before the book ever comes out, and you need to be realistic with how much you can spend, how much you should spend, and whether your investment has any hope of being earned back. I over-invested in marketing on my first book, and while I’ve earned it all back, I think there were some marketing efforts where I could have saved money if I’d been more careful early on.

4) Some thoughts on self-publishing

Self-publishing has been awesome for me, but I’m not rabidly pro-selfpub or anti-trad. It should *always* be a business decision, but I firmly believe that there’s more to the decision than the money. I happen to love self-pub because I like being in control, I was willing to invest money up front, and I’m earning faster than I would have with a trad deal (important since I’m not earning anything else).

However, my hypothesis is that the most robust careers in the long term will be for authors who have feet in both the trad and self-pub world – traditional for increased print distribution/better opportunities with marketing and reviews, and self-pub for being able to experiment with price, build readership through quick extra releases, and pivot into new genres that a trad publisher might not be willing to buy from you. While I’m happily self-pubbing, I’m also exploring traditional opportunities – and I suspect that in five years I will either have a foot in both worlds, or will no longer be writing for publication.

What Comes Next?

This is the question of the hour. My self-pub endeavor has been as successful as I could have expected, and I believe that with another couple of books out, I could write full-time without dipping into my savings. But I’m not quite there yet, and my business plan says I won’t be for at least a year. So, I’m exploring my options and deciding whether to go for broke and give myself another year (riskier than my initial decision to do this, although I still won’t starve to death), or pursue my passions for digital publishing and either work for an epublishing startup or start my own consulting firm.

I don’t know what the answers are. I knew when I started this that it would be highly unlikely to build an audience in two years that would support me full-time. But I’m pleased with where I am right now and confident that writing full-time (without burning savings to do it) is possible at some point in the not-so-distant future. It’s just a matter of how hard I can push myself to write faster (difficult for me), how much I can do to build a bigger readership, and whether I have the stomach for this kind of risk (my heart loves risk, but I’m prone to ulcers, so I may need to factor that into my decision 😉

So that’s the two year update! Are any of you considering taking the plunge? If you’ve already quit your day job, what have you learned since you started writing full time? If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them, and I’ll answer everything as candidly as possible in the comments!

The Multi-Pronged Assault: Strategic Planning for Aspiring Writers

Maybe I’ve read Sun Tzu’s Art of War too many times, but whenever I start to talk about trying to break into the publishing industry, my vocabulary always starts to drift toward terms more commonly used in siege warfare. It’s too easy for me to picture the Publishing World as an impenetrable citadel and myself as the general of a ragtag rebel army storming the gates. (The Fortress of Publishing can and shall be taken and I’m just the girl to do it!)

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