Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Every Indie Author Needs A Business Plan

A business plan--do you need one?

I confess, I was daunted by the idea when I first heard about it. I knew I needed to view my foray into self-publishing as a business venture, but how did one write a plan about that?

1) you write a book
2) you publish it
3) you hope it sells

What more could you  possibly plan? A whole lot it seems. Still, I had no idea where to start. The lovey Susan Kaye Quinn(link) had one, and she let me see what she'd done. It was helpful. She gave me phrases like, Goals, Audience, Brand, How will I promote, Marketing Budget.

You mean, I should break it down more than my measly three points, Sue? Well, she was certainly doing something right, since, her book was, like, selling.

So I did it, and it helped. I was starting to see myself as a business person, rather than "just" a writer hoping to break even some day.

Then Denise Grover Swank did this fantastic three part guest blog series on The Business Plan(link). Talk about comprehensive! And, man, it seemed to work for her! I was motivated to start!

I used her TABLE OF CONTENTS (yes, her business plan has a table of contents) as a template and officially began my own small business document, creating a comprehensive plan for 2013.

Table of Contents
1. Description of Bramagioia Enterprises
2. Ownership of Bramagioia Enterprises and Location of Business
3. Products
4. Pricing Strategy
5. Financial Plan
6. Production Schedule and Writing Plans
7. Targeted Audience
8. Marketing and Promoting Plan
9. Web Plan
10. Long Term Goals
11. Summary

I added:

12. Projection of Perception series costs and profits

Some of the important things I learned by doing this:

1) Identifying myself as a business person with the objective of making a profit helped me to see myself as not just a creative person, but a person with a goal outside of that creativity (though linked. Makes sense?)

2) When you view things from a business perspective you make different decisions than if you're just making emotional or creative calls. (This only matters if you care about making money with your art.)

One big change I made while working out this plan was to fine tune my focus for 2013 in terms of what I was going to spend my time writing. From a business perspective it made sense for me to focus on my current series, the Perception Series and postpone a sequel to Seaweed. Denise did this with one of her series--focusing on the one that had the most financial potential and waiting on the one that didn't.

Before doing this plan, I'd felt "obligated" somehow to produce this next book. After doing the  plan I realized that I was free to do what was best for my business and that meant waiting on the Seaweed sequel.

3) Now that I have been indie publishing for over a year, I actually have some data, in terms of sales, promotional successes and flops, plus I've had a year to observe other authors, what worked or didn't work for them. I had information I could use to determine pricing strategies, and create a promotion/marketing plan.

4) Working on this plan also made me take a hard look at my web presence. From a writer/writing point of view my current blog was fine. Just fine. But it was missing the mark in terms of a business move. I realized I was at a place now where my web presence needed to refocus to readers and fans. Those were the people I wanted looking for me (and were starting to look for me) and I needed to give them what they were looking for. I also decided that the "networking" part was better spent on FB and twitter than on my blog.

5) Planning ahead with a production schedule. This was new and scary ground. By planning ahead I had to take a good look at just how long the process would take, or rather how long I wanted it to take. If I wanted to get books 2 and 3 of the Perception series out in 2013, I couldn't just wing it anymore.

Though I love my beta readers, they are all busy writing and building a business too. Turn around times are just too unpredictable. I made the leap to hire a developmental editor. Not only would this streamline things time wise, but I'd have a consistent set of editorial eyes to help me do the best job I could with a series. You  have to book a developmental editor 3 to 4 months ahead, so you have to plan, and be realistic with your production abilities. I went from thinking I could produce 3 books in 2013, to accepting that I could only produce 2 books if I wanted to do them well. And I want to do them well.  I now have deadlines for when the first draft needs to be completed, when it needs to be revised, when it needs to go to the D. editor, the copy editor, when the cover needs to be completed, when the promotion needs to start, etc, all on my calendar a year in advance.

So, if you're a writer looking to make money from your writing, I strongly encourage you to work on a comprehensive business plan. You'll be surprised at what you discover about yourself!

Elle Strauss writes fun, lower YA fiction. She is fond of sea salt dark chocolate and hiking in good weather. She also writes upper/mature YA (historical and science fiction) as Lee Strauss. 


  1. Awesome, Elle! All of these posts have been super helpful!

  2. I'm saving this post! Good to know about the booking of those individuals. Unfortunately, I can't think that far in advance. I don't know when I'll be ready with my project to send it out. But at least while waiting my turn, I can work on my next project.

  3. Great advice! I will be referencing it soon enough=)

  4. Lovely advice. I'm not good at planning, but now I think I'm going to have to make an attempt. :)

  5. Elle, your productivity AMAZES me. I'm half-way into Clockwise right now and LOVING it.

  6. Thank you for your links and insights. I'm desperately searching for ways to create an actual business plan to take my writing out of the realm of fun thing that I do that doesn't pay - to something that (finally) helps me pay the bills. Hopefully some of this advice will come in useful for the process!