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’Tis the Season for . . . Business Plans???

by Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL

 ©Stina Lindenblatt


It’s that time of the year when we reflect on what we have or haven’t accomplished this year, and we plan for next year. No, I don’t mean the dreaded New Year’s resolutions. Most people fail to achieve those. I’m going to go one step further and have you think about your business plans. 

Now, a few of you are freaking out because we are writers. Business plans are for, well, businesses. But if you’re planning to make money with your writing, you need to start thinking of it as a business. And all successful businesses have business plans. A strong business plan will help your book achieve the level of success it deserves.

The good news is that business plans aren’t much different than the usual goal setting we do each year. Only this time, I want you to delve a little deeper. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to self publish or traditionally publish your book—or if you’ve just written your first first draft—if you want to be taken seriously, now is the time to start planning. And it’s easier to do it now than a few weeks before your book launch. 

Step One: Brainstorm

What do you want to accomplish next year? Sorry, landing an agent or having your book become a bestseller doesn’t count. Those are dreams, not goals. You have no control over whether an agent or readers will love your book. Goals are achievable, unless you get lazy and don’t do them. For example, losing five pounds is achievable, unless you don’t exercise and don’t decrease your caloric intake.

Step Two: Dating

Figure out by what date you want to accomplish each goal. It’s not enough to say, “I want to write a novel next year.” When you do want to achieve this by? Also, this goal is not specific enough. Do you mean you want to finish the first draft by October 1st, or do you want to have a novel ready to query by then?

Step Three: Division

Break down each goal into manageable tasks and give them dates by which you want to accomplish them. For example, say you want to set up your website by April 1st

Goal: Set up website (April 1st)
  • Determine author brand (January 15th)
  • List ten authors who write similar stories to me. (January 20th)
  • List the things I like and dislike about their websites. (January 25th)
  • Research website designers (February 15th).
  • . . . .
By breaking down the larger goal into bite-size pieces, it will make the goal seem less daunting and you’ll be more likely to achieve it. 

When you create your goals, think about the following:

Product: This is your book. 

  • What do you need to do to create a query-ready book? Figure this out for each story you plan to write next year. 
 
Competition:
 
  • What’s going on in your genre?
  • Are you approaching the tail end of a trend?
  • Is your genre saturated and difficult to break into?
  • What are agents and editors saying? What are readers saying?
  • Is there a less saturated genre you love that you might want to focus on instead?
  • Of course, the only way you can answer these questions is by reading LOTS of books in your genre and following industry blogs, so . . . what are your reading goals for next year? 
 
Human Resources:
 
  • This includes books and workshops to help you improve your writing craft and knowledge related to anything dealing with publishing (e.g. creating a website, social networking for authors, creating your author brand).
  • Start researching services (editors, cover designers, book formatters, website designers, etc) early in your planning process. If you spread it over a few months, it won’t be so daunting, and it will give you time to find the right person. This applies to researching agents, too.
 
Distribution:

  • If you’re querying next year, who are you planning to query (agents or editors)? How many queries are you planning to send out with each batch, and how often will you be sending them out? When are you planning to write your query and synopsis?
 
 
  • If you’re self publishing, research what you need to know to be successful. Some great resources to check out include: Smart Self-Publishing by Zoe Winters and Self-Publishing Attack by James Scott Bell. 
 
 
Promotion/Marketing:

  • Are you planning to use Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Come up with goals that you can live with and that will enable you to have enough time to write. 
 
  • How’s your website working for you? Do you have one?
 
  • What are your marketing plans for before, during, and after your book launch? You might not be releasing a book next year, but it wouldn’t hurt to start brainstorming ideas for the future. Some agents and publishers want to know your marketing plans before they sign you. Make your life easier and plan ahead.
 
Finances:

  • How much have you budgeted for your business next year? By planning ahead a year or two in advance, the costs can be spread over that time period, and it will feel less intimidating. 
 
Obviously, someone who has a book launch next year (either via traditional or self publishing) will have a more extensive business plan verses someone who is writing her first novel. Also, you don’t have to write your plans for just one year. Most companies have a five-year plan. The beauty of your business plan is that it’s flexible. You can change the dates as need be, and add or delete goals as necessary.

Do you create goals every year? Have you created business plans for your writing career?


Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes young adult and new adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog.  

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3 comments:

On December 5, 2012 at 3:52 PM , Alan said...

Thanks for sharing this insightful blueprint toward setting, and actually attaining one's goals. Cheers!

 
On December 6, 2012 at 11:23 PM , Red Tash said...

Fabulous post, very timely!

I would like to recommend David Gaughran's Let's Get Digital if you're new to self-publishing. I believe there will be a sequel in 2013.

 
On December 10, 2012 at 7:09 AM , Anne Greenwood Brown said...

I did this myself the year I said, "This is the year I get published." I started by looking for ways to make a "bio" for my query letter and began writing essays and short stories to send to online lit mags so I could get publishing credits.

Then I headed to writers conferences to meet agents and editors in person. Budget became an issue at this point.

Even now that I'm a published author with Random House (btw - it took a little longer than a year to reach the goal), I make a yearly business plan about what conferences to attend - what contacts to make - what money can be spent, etc. At the end of the day, writing is creative, but publishing is a business!