The Writer’s Business Plan

business plan 22645829_sOne of the things I incorporated into my writing career the year before I decided I’d like to go full time, was a business plan. In my former life as a technical writer, I’d written many for other businesses, but never one for myself. I consulted with my husband, who is my best councillor, and wrote it up. I refer to it whenever I’m discouraged or confused about where to go next, and to remind me of my overarching goals with my writing business.

Never think your writing career is not a business, because it is. It might be a one-person operation, but it is in all important ways a business. You have suppliers, customers, workers (normally you), tools of the trade, and business expenses like advertising, promotions, printer ink and internet service. Don’t let anyone minimize the importance of these various components in your business, because each has its place and makes a difference.

When creating my business plan, I use the following format:

Start out with some basic information:

  • the name of your business (mine is Patricia Green Books, yours might simply be your pen name);
  • your mailing address (you should be using that as part of your front page of your manuscript, and it might be a PO Box rather than a street address, or it might be your home address); and,
  • the type of business you’re hoping to run (for example, mine is “novella writing” — which doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t write novels or short stories, it just means that the primary product I’ll be creating is novellas).

Then you write your 5-year goals:

  • x number of books per year for x number of years;
  • moving to full time within x number of years or after x number of books published;
  • $ you’d like to make per book or over the course of x months or years;
  • royalty rate you can reasonable expect over the next few years (this might be an increasing number, but examine it over a 5-year cycle);
  • target market; and,
  • publishers you’d like to work with and/or if you plan to self-publish.

Lastly, you write your 1-year goals, which include much of the same as your 5-year goals, but in fewer increments. You might list the following:

  • number of books you’ll write in 2014;
  • publishers you intend to work with (or if you’ll self publish, which distributors you’ll use);
  • blog goals (2 posts per week, for example, whether on your blog or as a guest/host on another blog);
  • advertising/promotions budget per project or for the whole year; and,
  • social media goals (x number of minutes per day, per week, or some other increment).

Allow yourself a progression between 1-year and 5-year goals. You can’t start out at the top.

That’s your writer’s business plan. I guarantee it’ll help you to make one of these plans, whether you’re just starting out or even if you’ve been in business for years, like I have. I reformulate my 1-year goals every year, and check on my 5-year plan to make sure I’m still on track. Fool with these things until you get them right for you, and modify them occasionally, as you find things in your market change.

Good luck with your writing business!

17 Replies to “The Writer’s Business Plan”

  • BTW, I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but you always give such great advice, and you have been through so much of all of this.
    Have you ever thought of writing a set of non fiction books – like a “How to” for new authors?
    I know I would buy them!

    • Thanks, Katherine. I spent many years writing non-fiction, and although I might be able to make a go at such a book, I doubt I’d enjoy it. However, I will need something to do when I retire!

  • Great advice, Trish. Thanks for sharing. Anything that helps us be more organized and directed has to be good.

  • Fantastic post, Trish! I so need to do this. I have goals in my head, but they need to be formalized and of course when you actually write them down, they seem much more real and immediate. Sharing this!

    • Thank you for sharing. It’s always harder when you don’t write your goals down. Especially as Life distracts you; you always feel like you’re forgetting something.

    • Writing it down makes it more like something you feel an obligation to. You can modify it, of course, but you’ll be less likely to veer off course very much. Good luck!

  • Great advice, Patricia! You just gave me duh! moment. I’ve been writing a long time but only publishing for about three years now. I have two pen names and sometimes I’m overwhelmed with the ideas I have for both names and don’t know what to write first. I’ve never even thought about a writing a business plan for writing. Now I wonder why. I have one for each of my other businesses and I’ve written a financial plan which is similar to a business plan. But I’ve been writing by the ‘seat of my pants’ so to speak.
    I’ll get busy on my writer’s business plan today. Thanks for this post and giving me a wake-up whack on the head.

    • Although I had lots of business plan writing experience, I would have continued to labor aimlessly if my husband hadn’t told me to sit down and write out a plan. I’ve been a lot more organized and directed since then. I hope it works for you, too!

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