The 7-Step Business Plan for Writers
“As you’ve probably heard, there’s no such thing as ‘only being a writer’ any more, and while many might not want to handle the business side of things, to give ourselves and our books the best chance of success, we must.
In May 2012, when Becca Puglisi and I self-published The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, we had quite a few challenges. Living in different countries, we needed to create a formal partnership, set up businesses, and figure out how revenue would work. We had to learn publishing and take on marketing and promotion. Neither of us had a business or marketing background, so we relied heavily on research and intuition, and did our best to make the book discoverable. (You can read about our initial marketing plan here.)
Our unusual book on showing character emotion created buzz among writers, igniting word of mouth. Suddenly our lives went from busy to crazy as we tried to keep up with the burst of attention, writing guest posts, teaching workshops, and providing interviews. Books sales continued to strengthen, and we sold foreign rights. A few universities listed the book as required reading, and publishers began approaching us. At this point, Becca and I realized how far the book could go, but because we were being pulled in so many different directions, we didn’t know how to best take advantage of these opportunities.
The need for a business plan became our No. 1 focus. Fortunately, my husband is a management consultant who creates plans for many of his clients. With his help, we identified three areas that would help us grow in the year ahead:
- improving our professional image and brand credibility: creating a website, presenting at conferences and hosting workshops
- providing new product for our audience: writing two new descriptive thesaurus books
- expanding into the education sector: contacting colleges and universities to spread awareness of our writing resources
The roadmap we created allowed us to avoid distractions and focus on what would help us grow.
As we near the end of the year, Becca and I now have a professional website, three writing resource books that have collectively sold nearly 50,000 copies, and we increased our credibility through speaking engagements, teaching at conferences, and hosting workshops. In the near future we are looking to create awareness of our books at the collegiate level, rounding out our business plan objectives.
Since much of our productivity and growth are a direct result of forming a business plan (and sticking to it), I want to share steps you can take to create your own.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Imagine your year ahead and what you would like to accomplish as a writer. What will help you reach your goals, whether it’s publication, releasing more books, beefing up your online visibility, or honing your craft? Write down everything that you want to accomplish, and don’t forget smaller goals, as these are necessary steppingstones to achieving larger ones.
Also, choose goals that are within your power to make happen. For example, while you might really want representation, “getting an agent” is not necessarily something you can attain yourself; the agent decides whom they represent. However, “researching and querying all suitable agents” is a goal you can set and meet.
Step 2: Find Your Themes
Read through your list and look for bigger themes. Are there several goals that fit into a similar area of focus, like platform building or writing improvement? Grab some highlighters and group these together. Then, choose a name or tag line that summarizes each theme or area of focus.
Common themes might include
- Social networking improvement (platform building and connection)
- Education (attending workshops, finding a critique partner, improving one’s craft, studying the industry, etc.)
- Publishing (trying for an agent, working towards a traditional contract or self-publishing)
- Marketing visibility (researching and implementing ads, hiring a publicist, finding one’s audience online, soliciting reviews, etc.)