How to create a writer business plan
Writers often fail to think of their work and writing as a business, often because they love the art and magic of what they create. But that doesn’t mean a writing career doesn’t require strategy, investment, and good marketing sense. In fact, with how competitive the publishing industry is, writers need good business skills to set themselves apart and that includes a dynamic writer business plan.
We’re going to start by talking about why and how a business plan can strengthen your writing career and then dive into how to create one step-by-step.
Mistakes writers make before they have a business plan
If you haven’t utilized an author business plan before now, you probably:
- Don’t reach word count goals
- Have been working on the same novel for three years
- Are hoping for a one-hit wonder
- Don’t know how you’re going to publish your next book
- Dream of quitting your day job
How a business plan helps authors
Business plans help writers clearly visualize the future they want and understand the steps to get there. The action of writing and following through on your plan will turn your writing dreams into tangible goals you can achieve.
Here’s a picture of my business partner and sister, Nicole, speaking at an event. She hadn’t ever spoken to such a large audience about books and was nervous. Why do you think she committed to doing the event?
It was because she had a vision of what her life as a writer would look like–part dream, part strategic plan–and understood how taking certain steps would help her reach that goal.
One of my own moments came after I had struggled to write and pitch two books to no avail. I thought, “What can I do right now?” I wrote a business plan and then I contacted a local magazine and asked if I could start writing for them.
By the end of the year was getting paid regularly for my writing for the first time.
I rewrite my writer business plan every year to redefine my goals and prepare for success. Sometimes I meet or exceed my goals, which is awesome (I made several times over what I expected last year!). When I don’t meet a goal, I take a step back to analyze why and come up with a new plan to get me there.
Without a business plan, you’re simply letting things come as they might. An author business plan will sharpen your writing career and get you to where you want to be.
What to include
Let’s get orientated with the options before you build your own plan. Looking through this list, it may seem like a lot of work, but remember that not only will this document strengthen your plans for your business, but you can find practical ways to use it–like borrowing language from it to put on the “About” page of your website, or tracking social media numbers.
Executive Summary: A short description of the document and major goals for the year.
Biography: A formal biography of yourself as a writer. Writing out your work history in narrative form will benefit you when it’s time to submit a bio to a writing competition. Include relevant education, prizes won, volunteer work, boards and committees served on, and a few colorful facts.
Past Written Work: Itemize everything you’ve written up until now in two separate lists: published and unpublished. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you forget a about published essays or articles. Collecting this information in one place with title, publisher, and date will benefit you when you need to look back and find something specific. The unpublished list will inspire you to find homes for those pieces.
Current and Future Work: Similarly, log what you’re currently working on. If it’s a book, include as much blurb as you have prepared and other info like audience and publishing plan.
Competitive Analysis: This is a great opportunity for you to analyze who you are as a writer, what sets you apart, and what skills you have (or want to grow) that will give you an edge. If you update this section each year, you’ll see how you’ve grown in your understanding of yourself as a creator.
Marketing Analysis: This is an important step for brick and mortar businesses, but it may not be straightforward for you. If you have a hard plan for self-publishing, you will want to know more about your potential readership. If you plan to query a novel, perhaps you want to focus on places to submit. No matter which route you choose, you’ll also want to plan how to build your platform. Summarize what marketing steps you’re taking and what you hope they’ll do for your business. Because it can be easy to lose scope on social media, I record numbers of followers, views, etc in this section so I can see how my audience grows each year.
Operations Plan: Outlines how many hours per week you’ll commit to your writing career. Depending on your work style, you may want to assign specific days to certain tasks (marketing, financial, writing, submitting, etc) or how many hours you can dedicate to each category. Be as practical as you can with the logistics of work.
Financials: Includes statistics where possible regarding how much other writers and authors in your genre make and clearly outline how much you plan to make this year and where the money will come from.
Goals: This section summarizes what you hope to accomplish in a year, better if it’s broken down into smaller tasks by quarter or month.
Personalized: Every writing career is unique, so you may find you need to add more sections–like education plans for instance.
Build a business plan step-by-step
You shouldn’t write your business plan in the order it’s read. Just like a nonfiction book proposal or strategic plan, it’s more helpful to go in order of sections that build on each other.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Write your vision statement. This can be incorporated into your executive summary or stand alone as an entire section. What your vision statement includes and how long it is will depend on you and your style. I’m a big advocate of visioning, so my vision statement is a full page and states exactly what I want my career to look like. If you’ve never done anything like this, you might wonder why do it at all, but once you get started, you’ll realize how much there is to solidify. No writing career looks the same; we all have different targets. Include details regarding values, big career goals, income dreams, and more. Part of reaching success is measuring it and this helps you do just that.
- Compile your biography, past written work, and current or future written work. All three sections are in the same vein and will require you to look up dates and word counts. It’s also a wonderful thing to do after writing out your vision statement because it reaffirms all the work you’ve done to reach for that goal.
- Draft your competitive analysis. Think about what sets you apart from other writers and how you’ll carve a niche for yourself. If you ran a restaurant, you’d think carefully of how your product will make you stand out. But instead of thinking in terms of hard qualities like artisanal dough and organic products, you need to think about soft skills, the types of things you carry around in your head like editing skills or marketing savvy.
- Build your operations plan, financials, and goals. These three will likely be done in tandem because the goals are interconnected. Start with the goals–the things you really want to accomplish in the next year–and then look at your operations plan to decide how those things will get done, and your financials to see what those achievements will make you. You’ll bounce back and forth between these sections trying to come up with a plan that is viable, financially rewarding, and achieves exactly what you want.
- Write out your marketing analysis. Include statistics where possible and use this section as an archive so you can see how things grow and develop over the years.
- Make it pretty. Add your author photo, graphs, or other fun formats to make yourself proud of your work, as well as increase the tenacity of your plans.
- Finish with the executive summary. Put the most important elements of your plan on the front page.
- Share for feedback. A business mentor, book coach, fellow writer, or family member can help you see your plan from a new perspective. Another set of eyes will make you reevaluate how likely your goals are, as well as gain buy-in about your journey from the person you choose to share with.
- Use it as a living document. A business plan is most useful when it drives your writing and work forward. Don’t be afraid to change your goals partway through the year as you solidify your plans. And look back regularly on your vision to encourage yourself and measure how far you’ve come.
How Conquer Books can help
Book coaching is more than providing editing services. Nicole and I see how many writers struggle to embrace the business side of their writing. With book coaching, we not only provide quality editing services, but also help you plan for your future as a writer and acquire the skills needed for a healthy writing career.
Helping you create a writer business plan is just one way we can enhance your career as a science fiction or fantasy author. There are lots of free resources on our website, including the article How to Launch a Writing Career. Also be sure to check out our list of the best craft and business books for writers.