I love talking the business of being a writer, which is, of course, why I write books about it!
The second book in my series of business books for writers, Coffee Break Guides, just released on Christmas day. The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career came about when I started out to write my own business plan.
Why would an author need a business plan? I’m glad you asked. *wink*
- You are a business. No, really.
The second you made the decision to get your work published you became a business. Unless you truly are just writing for yourself, your grandma, and your dog and don’t plan to ever sell your work, than welcome to the publishing industry. It’s big business. We may write for years and years before getting published, and it could be years after that before you actually make any money from your efforts, but every business has a start-up phase. No, we aren’t a traditional business that goes to the bank to get an SBA loan that required a spreadsheet-filled tome. But applying for funding is only one small part of why you might want a plan. What that means is that you, writer, don’t need a boring traditional business plan. Because you’re in a creative industry, you get to create a right-brain business plan. Yay!
- Keep the taxman happy.
Okay, you’re on board with the whole “I’m a business” thing now, right? Right. And what do businesses do? They file business taxes. *cue scary slasher movie music*
The IRS has a really “interesting” page on their website with questions to help you determine if your writing is classified as a hobby or a business. Having a business plan can help you answer “yes, I’m a business” to five out of the eight questions. Here’s an example:
The IRS: Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
Your Business Plan:Why, yes. Just look at my word count/time tracker, my detailed ten-year goals plan, my budget, my marketing plan, and my competitive analysis.
(All the resources listed in that answer are available as templates you can download at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com/books/resources.)
I really, really, really recommend you get yourself an accountant to help you file your taxes, especially if it’s the first year you’re going to file for your business. It will cost a little bit more than say, buying TurboTax, but not too much. And in the end, it’s totally worth it when you avoid (or win) the audit game.
- Keep yourself accountable.
I have manuscript ADD. A shiny new idea for a book easily steals my attention from my current work in progress. Instead of Ritalin, I have a business plan to keep me on task. And if I use that plan to hold me accountable, at the end of the year I’ll have three beautiful manuscripts completed instead of twelve half –finished, semi-plotted, next best-sellers waiting for me to find the time and dedication to write them. An important part of any business plan is a production schedule. If you’re traditionally published you already know that publishing waits for no (wo)man. If you don’t turn your next book in on time, you’re book’s release day could get pushed anywhere from a month to two years! If you haven’t sold or published a book yet, it’s a great idea to get into the habit of creating deadlines for yourself and keeping to them to practice up. You won’t need Jiminy Cricket to keep you on task. Always let your business plan be your guide.
- Increase your productivity.
Accountability and productivity are totally BFFs. I know when I first started writing seriously I had grand goals (and they were all over the place – see the previous comment about ADD.) But did I achieve them? Not even close. Why? Because I hadn’t written them down and didn’t really keep track of what I had to do, or what I had actually gotten done. When you create a business plan those things you need to be successful become much more real (and easier to keep track of.). If you laminate that sucker and put it up on your wall/mirror in your bathroom/mobile above your bed you’ll be able to check items off as you complete them. How great would it feel at the end of the year to know you actually accomplished your career goals? Yeah, that’s right. It feels party on, excellent.
- Measure your success.
Have you ever told someone you’re a writer and have him or her ask you how it’s going? What was your answer? Anything like, “Umm. It’s good.” But did you really know? I didn’t used to. How do you measure your success? I know a great way. Create a business plan and at the end of the year evaluate how you did. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) The great thing about creating your own goals, budgets, and evaluations is you get to decide what success means to you. The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers can help you make those decisions and even has a whole section on evaluating yourself at the end of the year. The next time someone asks you how your writing career is going you can answer with a resounding “amazeballs!”
What do these reasons for having a business plan mean when you put them all together? It’s about you taking control of your writing career. Really successful businesses have really strong business plans. Really successful authors do too. I encourage you to become the writer you really want to be, to realize your dreams this year, be it to publish your first book or become a NYT best-selling author. And let a business plan help you do it. Make your 2014 ROCK!
I do love to hear from you and I also love to spread the Coffee Break love. Three lucky commenters or link-backers in May will win an e-book copy of The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans. I’ll draw a winner at the end of the month and announce here on the blog on June 1st. Be sure to check back to see if you won!
If you can’t wait and just neeeeeed to get a copy of this handy dandy book now, it’s available on Amazon, and will be available at other retailers in June 2014.