Take Control of Your Writing Career with a Business Plan
What should you include in your business plan? A traditional formal business plan typically has three main parts with seven sub-sections. They have very official and business-y sounding names like Executive Summary and Competitive Analysis. I’m falling asleep already.
Being an author entrepreneur isn’t the traditional start-up business, so you won’t be writing the same old boring sleeping pill. You wouldn’t write the same book as someone else, so don’t write the same business plan.
If there is a section that makes you nauseated just thinking about it, save it. Don’t let the time and research you’ll need to do overwhelm you or make you sick. Just do a little bit at a time. Some of the sections you should be able to do in a coffee break. A few sections you’ll need to take a few coffee breaks or even a lunch break to get your ideas in order.
There are three main parts of your business plan. Hmm, similar to the three-act structure. Interesting how art follows life (or vice versa).
Act I — The Book
The business concept is your first act. In Act I, you’ll talk about what kind of writing you plan to do and how you’ll be successful. You’ll organize that information into a few sections.
The Blurb (traditionally called The Executive Summary)
The back of a book gives you a general idea of what the story or ideas inside are about. Same goes for your business plan. This summary gives the main points of your plan — the big picture. You can do it first, or last. If you do it first, it might give you focus for the rest of the plan, but you can write the rest of the plan first and do the blurb last when you’ve solidified all of your ideas and have them in print.
The Cover (traditionally known as the business description or company overview)
Take a look at a good book cover. You should get a sense of quite a few things about it, like the genre, its intended audience, and in a print book, about how many pages are in it. This section of your plan will give some details about the publishing business and where your place in that world is.
The Acknowledgements Page (an operations and management plan)
It takes a village, or so the saying goes. The same is true to create a book for publication. In this section, you’ll detail your writing process and who is involved, like critique partners, beta readers, etc. If you’d like to work with an agent, editor, publisher, proofreader, cover artist, printer, or the other plethora of people who go into getting your book on the shelf, put them here too. You can also include advisors, mentors or people in professional organizations you belong to.
The Chapters (a design and development plan, the action plan)
This section is the meat of the project, just like the chapters in a book. You’ll take all those pretty goals you’ve been meaning to get to and apply the SMART philosophy to them. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Then you can make yourself some to-do lists to get those goals accomplished.
Act II — The Bookstore
The bookstore section is where you’ll consider who your potential readers are and who your competition is in your genre(s). You’ll also look at how you can position yourself and your books to beat out the competition. This is the part of the plan where you discuss how to build your platform. The sections to do this in are:
The Shelves (the industry)
It is a good idea to be aware of what’s going on in the publishing industry and in your genre. In this section, you’ll give an overall view of trends and the future of books and book buying.
Your Shelf (competitive analysis)
You don’t just need to know about publishing in general, but what’s going on in your genre. Here you’ll evaluate who your ideal reader is, who else is writing and selling books like yours, and determine how you can stand out among the millions of other books people buy every day.
Getting in the Bag (marketing strategies)
We all wish our publishers would spend a million dollars in co-op money to get our book placed at the front of all the stores, or we’d get a TV ad on during the Superbowl, or maybe an appearance on Oprah’s book club.
But in reality we have to do a majority of our marketing ourselves. So you might as well have a plan, right? This section will also include information on building your brand, your social media, and promotions.
Act III — The Bank
The bank section discusses, well, money. How much money can you make being a writer? It all depends on how much you have to spend. Budgets and spreadsheets and taxes, oh my! This part doesn’t have to be scary. You don’t have to use complicated software that produces P&L statements. But you can plan for income and get an idea of how much you’ll be spending to get your book on the shelves.
If you’re excited about creating an action plan, do the Chapters section first. If you’re dying to get a marketing plan together, work on Getting in the Bag. You’ll probably want to save The Bank for last, since it will be easier once you know what you’ll be spending and making money on.
Just like any good book your plan deserves an honest review. Make sure to look over your plan at least once a year to evaluate what worked and what you might need to revise for your next edition.
Okay, follow these steps and you’re well on your way to getting your business plan written, but if you’ve got questions I’ll have office hours here at Romance University all week. Just leave a comment with questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.
One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career. If you can’t wait to get started on your business plan but want some more guidance and ideas to keep you on the right track the book is available now on Amazon.