Just today, I covered a session dedicated to small business owners and entrepreneurs, which was sponsored by the county economic development corporation and a local chamber.
While the topics were geared toward business owners, I walked away from the event with my head spinning with ideas — after all, whether you want to believe it or not, writing is a business and writers are very much like small business owners or entrepreneurs. We face several of the same challenges: limited resources, how to mount a successful marketing campaign, how best to get our “product” out to our “consumers” and, perhaps most importantly, how to get someone to invest in our “product.”
This is why, drum roll… writers need a business plan. Already I can hear readers’ minds screeching to a halt at the thought. Business plans are for businesses, right? Wrong. When you start to send out your baby, you need a plan. Not only that, you have to detach yourself from your baby and view it as a product — something agents, publishers and readers are going to buy. By doing this, you will gain an edge, because you will have answers that publishers and agents want to see. Answers like: who is the target audience, how are you going to reach that audience, what is the market like for similar books and what resources do you have at your disposal to achieve a successful run of your novel.
A business plan is especially important if you plan to self-publish, because you are the only person pushing your novel! You will need to have a marketing plan in place, one that is filled with social media, meet-in-greets, readings, plus local and regional contacts (like local media, libraries, bookstores, etc.) to get get your novel out there.
If you are dead-set on being a professional writer, your business plan will have to extend beyond just that one book and encompass your entire career (pretend it is a business), which includes all additional projects you intend to tackle. This plan will then need to be updated on a set schedule like every two, three or five years to include future developments or new projects.
So what goes into a business plan? First, there is the executive summary, where you state your goals and plans: what markets you want to explore, where do you want to see yourself (your “business”) in five years, how many projects you hope to publish in a year and in what markets if you are exploring several, how many contests do you hope to enter, etc. The second portion is the business description, in which you expand on your goals in your first section.
The third section highlights your product(s) aka your writing project(s) and their markets: will they be geared toward different age groups, different genres or even different formats like books, e-books or short stories for magazines — or perhaps, you want to throw in a non-fiction article? In this section you will want to make sure you highlight who your target audience is for each of your writing projects. Your fourth section will involve a lot of research because it is your market analysis, where you look at similar books/authors in the same genre with similar target audiences and research steps they have taken to make their book(s) successful from marketing to writing styles.
Next you will want to highlight your marketing plans, better known as: how you are going to get your work out there from signing events to social media. Jot them all down right here. Directly after this, you will also want to outline your operations and management plan. There you will detail your writing plans, weekly writing goals, etc., for each of your projects. Be specific and set firm goals. You will want to include time you plan to spend building your platforms and in marketing your projects here. Be sure to create several schedules for each project and activity, preferably in the form of quick, accessible graphics.
Now highlight your qualifications, which are very important when it comes to selling your projects since you will include them in the third or four paragraph of your query letters. In this section also include how you want to improve your writing qualifications from taking writing courses and attending workshops to submitting your work to more magazine or contests. Finally, reiterate your goals in your final paragraph. For added an added feeling of professionalism, sign the document and hold yourself to it; after all, you are making a contract with yourself in way.
Take your time as you prepare your business plan: think it out and be realistic. It can be as long or as short as your need it to be.
There are several templates available just by Googling “business plans.” Microsoft Office Online also has several templates available, and I am sure Apple probably has similar templates available.
“The business of writing” will be a three-part series. Tune in next week for marketing, platform and social media.