Writers in the Storm

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September 26, 2012

7 Steps To Writing An Author Business Plan by Susan Spann

Writers In The Storm is delighted to welcome back Susan Spann with another amazing post covering all the legal bits of information we writers need to know. Susan has delved into everything from publishing choices to a quick overview of an author business plan.

Today? She's going in deep! Enjoy...

One Bite at a Time: for Eating Whales and Writing Author Business Plans
by Susan Spann

The old joke asks, “Do you know how to eat a whale? – One bite at a time!”

The same advice holds true for writing an author business plan. As a whole, the idea may seem daunting, but once we break the process down writing a plan becomes not only manageable but a useful writing tool.

Today, we’ll look briefly at each section of a successful one-book business plan. In October, we’ll talk about writing synopses and creating effective timelines. November’s guest post looks at marketing, and we’ll wrap the series up in December with comparative analysis and financial factors.

Follow along, and you can start the new year with an author business plan of your own!

As I mentioned last month, the author business plan has seven sections, and the plan we’re writing focuses on a single book rather than the writer’s whole career.

1.         The Business Plan Summary comes first but I normally recommend authors write it last, since it basically summarizes the rest of the plan.

For now, jot down a few notes about your book – your genre, one-sentence logline, and a couple of goals you hope to achieve. Eventually, the summary will contain a half-page synopsis of your novel and a summary of your entire business plan, including your genre, target audience, and other “at-a-glance” relevant facts. For now, though, notes will do.

2.         The Book Description contains a synopsis of the book. Mine actually contain a pair of synopses – the one-page version and the two-page version. If you haven’t written your novel yet, it’s OK to create a placeholder – a brief summary of your story that you can replace with a synopsis after you finish the book.

3.         Marketing Strategies involves three distinct sub-sections: pre-release marketing, week phase, and “post-release” – for marketing efforts after the release phase ends. We’ll explore this topic in detail in November.

4.         Competitive Analysis involves examination of similar works in the marketplace, analyzing why readers will (or should) want your book instead of (or in addition to) the other options, and brainstorming strategies to maximize your advantages and minimize your weaknesses.

5.         Development Timelines help keep the author and the work on track.

All authors will need a schedule for writing and editing the work itself. Authors pursuing traditional publication (but still in need of an agent and publisher) will want a second timeline for obtaining representation, and independent authors will need a timeline for the production and publishing process. Marketing timelines are also useful. We’ll talk more about timelines, and how to write them, in October.

6.         The Operations and Management Plan describes who will handle specific parts of the writing, publication, promotion and sales process. In an author’s business plan, this section may be simple or very complex, depending on the author’s needs and the publishing path the work will take.

7.         Budgets and Financial Factors round out the business plan. As with operations and management, this portion may be simple or complex, depending on the author’s plans and past experience.

In a panic? Don’t be! Business plans take work but they’re not as difficult as they seem.

We’ll walk through the sections together, step by step, and by December you’ll see that anyone can put together an effective author business plan.

Do you have comments? Questions? Looking for more information? Please let me know in the comments – I’m here to help and I love to hear from you!

About Susan

Susan Spann is a publishing attorney and author from Sacramento, California. Her debut mystery novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Thomas Dunne Books, July 2013), is the first in a series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori. Susan blogs about writing, publishing law and seahorses at http://www.SusanSpann.com. Find her on Twitter @SusanSpann or on Facebook.

0 comments on “7 Steps To Writing An Author Business Plan by Susan Spann”

  1. Up until I started working on a non-fiction book proposal I had never done a comparative market analysis for my work. It was amazing to me what kind of focus that brought to it. As for the business plan I always start off with the first quarter planned and I do well with it, but I need to do the full year plan to make myself stick to it. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the posts! But then, I am always enlightened and amazed by the great posts on this blog.

    1. Thanks Bethany! I love Writers in the Storm for the same reasons - I read all the posts and find great inspiration and useful tools from all the other authors here.

      Also - it's amazing how quickly we can get off track, even with a plan, isn't it?

  2. Susan, I have decided to make a separate word doc. for this series (and several others here at WITS) !! The object is to create a file I can refer to and build upon. I can't thank you enough for your concise and "one day at a time" approach. I tend to be a panster, who projects too far ahead. Then the entire process wears me out. Compared to the person who uses too much energy with the fantasy and nevers gets to the reality. This can pull me back and force me to be more patient.

    Look forward to more 🙂

    1. Thank you! I'm glad to be able to help by sharing the information. I'm a hybrid plotter/pantster author myself, even where my legal work is concerned, and I find that having a plan is very helpful - it actually lets me have even more freedom to let the pantser creative side roam free, because there's a "stable to return to" at the end of the day. I hope this does the same for you.

  3. Good idea on creating a file Ramblings. My family would groan. Oh no, she organizing again! 🙂 I used to own my own businesses and was good at a lot of things that I now "hate" to doing when it comes to writing. [On my wish list of it "Aintgonnahappen" is an brilliant assisant who does all this for me.] I'm hoping this business plan will change that and keep me on track, Susan.

    1. It worked for me, Sharla, so hopefully it can for you too. The beauty of this kind of business plan is that it builds in some flexibility for the author while still helping keep the process on track.

      And I could use an assistant for some of this too - but like you, that's on the "yeah, right" list. Fortunately, I'm one of those people with too many irons in the fire myself, so I've streamlined this process so the author can spend less time "planning" and more time "doing."

  4. Thank you for sharing your method. I'm sure this is a highly efficient way to write. Unfortunately, I've gotten paralyzed in the headlights before even starting. I can appreciate the business bits, but I think I'll just doodle along with two hours a day until the work feels like it's done. It's worked so far ... It must just be a case of different strokes for different folks.

    1. Oddzns, don't feel badly! It's normal to feel overwhelmed. If you're not ready for a business plan yet, that's ok. Work on your writing and take hold of the business plan later if you need to. The key is to stay inspired, stay writing and stay positive! As you feel more comfortable with the processes the rest will come.

  5. I'll follow along as well. As I read through the sections above, I thought this might be a good use for the OneNote (for PC) or Notebook (for Mac) function of Word, where you can have all your info in one place with tabs for each section's notes and links and pictures, etc. I've been trying to figure out the best way to approach organizing a book, and this seems to dovetail nicely. Thanks for the info!

    1. Thanks Betty - let me know how that works, please? I'm familiar with the OneNote and Notebook functions, but my schedules haven't given me the time to actually explore them in any detail.

  6. Oh Please... Finish this series faster... I need to get my plan done asap!
    Enjoyed the first two articles - they were very helpful! Keep writing please.

    1. I'm glad these were helpful Leah! I'll try to move it along as quickly as possible. I'm doing additional author business plan tweets on Wednesdays at noon Pacific - search the #PubLaw hashtag there and you will find a lot of information too!

  7. Susan, I always enjoy reading your blogs and this one on 7 Steps To Writing An Authors Business Plan is starting at a good time. Thanks for blogging on WITS.

  8. Susan, this series sounds so wonderful. I like to keep my planning in a notebook and write it all out longhand. It helps me internalize and implement the methods. This will dovetail nicely with other planning I've recently done. Thank you! I'm looking forward to your series. 🙂

  9. Thanks Sheila. A notebook is a great place to keep track of all this information - and you can even write your business plan right in the notebook. It doesn't have to be a formal document with binders, charts, etc. A notebook works just fine!

  10. Hi, Susan. Really useful stiff. I am looking forward to the upcoming blog on book description and writing a synopsis—my beta reader found the one I have confusing and off putting. Not a good start for selling the book if and when.

    1. Hi A.M. - Writing a synopsis can be really hard. It took me a long time to find a method that's not only helpful but simple to remember and (dare I say it) even enjoyable. I'll be sharing the method in detail next month. It takes a little time, but the results are definitely worth it.

  11. It sounds like a great foundation. I use OneNote for work and my duties as president of an organization. As I was reading, I could totally envision my OneNote Notebook for my business plan! It's a perfect platform to organize the elements you describe. Off to build my Notebook!

    1. Excellent! I'm glad the post inspired you and that you can see where to start with the business plan!

    1. Really glad to hear you feel that way. That was a huge part of my decision to write this series. So many authors find business plans overwhelming, but they don't have to be.

  12. Hi Susan, thanks so much. With 3 projects being released next year and the pressure mounting to produce more this is so useful. My motto has always been ' if you fail to plan you plan to fail' so this info is invaluable. The hard part for me is Competitive analysis. Since I write erotic fiction there is SO MUCH of it out there it's difficult to know where to start in assessing how my work fits. Do you have any suggestions on where to start with such an enormous and wide ranging genre?

    1. Hi Kate,

      Great question! There are two places I'd recommend starting the comparative analysis. The first is erotica similar to yours. The field is wide ranging but has subdivisions, so look for a handful of authors whose work is most similar to your own. The next place to look is erotica distributed where yours is distributed - or advertised in similar ways. Ask what readers of your books would see when shopping for yours, or what searches for your work would also bring up. That should give a start at least.

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