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 business 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 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, colours 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 right 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.
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 to 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 instruction 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 (ARC’s, email request, 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.
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?
Click to download your free 30-page Author Business Plan workbook:
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?
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: The Book Launch Toolkit
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, ISBN’s, 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 NovelRank.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.
Click to download your free 30-page Author Business Plan workbook:
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.