It’s autumn, time to get organized!
Words like “organization” and “business plan” throw many accomplished writers into fits – but every author should write a business plan - and this guest-blog series is going to teach you how. In the months to come we’ll walk through the process step by step, with concrete examples and exercises to help you organize your publishing path.
Why should authors have a business plan?
A business plan can help new authors clarify the proper publishing path for their debut works. For experienced authors, a business plan serves as a road map, helping keep the project and related endeavors like marketing and platform-building on schedule, assisting with organization and helping the author track the results of his or her efforts.
What does a business plan cover?
Some authors write a single business plan to guide their careers. Others prefer to work on a smaller scale, and prepare a business plan for each individual work. Still others take a hybrid approach – preparing an individual plan for each work that fits within an overarching framework.
Most career authors have a plan in place, so this series will focus on helping authors prepare a one-book plan for a current work in progress (or completed manuscript that hasn’t yet entered the publication process).
But I haven’t finished my manuscript! Isn’t it too early for business plans?
Not at all. It’s never too early to treat your writing as a business – and you wouldn’t open a brick and mortar business without a plan!
Conversely, it’s never too late to prepare a plan if you haven’t got one. Even if you’ve already self-published or contracted to publish your work traditionally, a business plan can keep your business and marketing efforts on track – or put them there, if you’re wandering in the weeds!
Traditional business plans have seven components:
- Executive summary
- Business description
- Market strategies
- Competitive analysis
- Design and development plan
- Operations and management plan
- Financial factors
An author’s business plan parallels this structure, but with a few significant differences that reflect the nature of writing as a business. We’ll look at each section in depth in the weeks to come, with advice about how to prepare the section, real-world examples, and exercises designed to help you write a practical business plan that works for you.
But do I really need one?
A business plan is not a legal or ethical requirement for publication. Many authors do fine (and some very well) without one. But the publishing paradigm is shifting, and business-savvy authors with plans adapt more quickly and tend to outperform the ones who simply want to write and “take everything as it comes.”
The decision is yours – but I think the exercise is well worth your time.
Just to be clear: a business plan is not a book proposal. A proposal is a tool authors use to sell a book “on spec” (before the book is written). By contrast, a business plan is the author’s personal (and often private) “road map” for writing, marketing, publishing and promoting a work.
Don’t be scared of business plans.The writing takes a little work but it’s not nearly as difficult as it seems.
Tune in next month, and we’ll start our in-depth tour of author business plans and how to write them. If you stay with me – and do your homework – we’ll get you ready to start 2013 with your very own author business plan!
Got questions? I'll try to answer them.
Susan Spann is a publishing attorney and author who practices in Sacramento, California. CLAWS OF THE CAT, the debut novel in her SHINOBI mystery series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books in Spring 2013. Susan blogs about writing, publishing law and seahorses at http://www.SusanSpann.com