A Plan for the New Year
While we’re all focusing on the end of this year, my mind has already moved on to next year. Yes, I know it’s only days away – in fact, by the time you read this, it will already have arrived. But in these waning days of the old year, I’m working on my business plan for the year to come.
Business plan? Oh, my God! What writers create a business plan? That’s for… business people, companies—not authors! You scream as you cringe in horror.
Well, sadly, business plans are also for authors because as an author, you are also a business. Some authors are even companies. I’m not, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to put together a business plan.
There are plenty of places to find out how to put an author business plan together.
There is, of course, Joanna Penn’s new book, Jami Gold’s blog post on the subject, and an article on Jane Freedman’s blog from 2013 (which is still very applicable). And many, many others—those were just the ones that seemed the most actionable.
I’ve also tackled business plans before on this blog, and so I looked up what I’d done in the past as well. I’m sorry to say that my ideas since I first wrote about business plans haven’t changed much. Here’s what I wrote in 2016:
The basic idea of a business plan is to plan out your goals for the year—what you want to accomplish, how you are going to do so, and how much it’s going to cost you. Some people also include what they expect to earn as they accomplish their goals.
In Gold’s business plan (yes, I’d used Jami Gold’s worksheet before and completely forgot about it), she also includes a section on competition (what others are writing and how they’re able to be more successful than you). That section depresses me, first of all, and secondly, what works for one person may not work for another, so I left that out. Yes, I’m always looking to see what others are doing and adopting what makes sense for me, but I’m not terrific and breaking down what others do to compare it to what I do. Maybe that’s why I don’t sell as many books or have as big a fan-base, but this is what I’m comfortable with.
Basically, I plan on filling this business plan out in January, revising it in April and August to see how on track I am and how I need to change it (for instance, I may come up with a great idea for a book in May and feel that I need to write that instead of one of the ones I’ve got planned, or I may be invited to join in an anthology (as I was this summer) and so I push back my writing plan to write that instead before returning to my original plan (now set back a month).
The point is that this is a living document. I’m not going to write it in January and then put it in a drawer until the following December to pull out and see how I did. This is something I’m going to amend and add to throughout the year.
Oddly enough, I didn’t go into a great deal of detail about what I was putting into my business plan.
Joanna Penn suggests you start with the Big Why, ie, why do you write. It doesn’t hurt to revisit this “why” from time-to-time (or year-to-year) because it very well might change.
Once you’ve tackled that enormous question, think about who you are writing for. Every author needs to know precisely who their audience is. My audience, I know, has changed slightly through the years. I used to think of writing for the general Regency romance reader (who expects at least one sex scene, if not more) but then with my latest series, I decided to write for those readers who prefer no sex, but more sexual tension and romance. Personally, I’m more comfortable writing that (and reading it too – too often I find myself skimming through the sex scenes in the books I read, so really, I’m writing for myself which isn’t a bad thing).
Once you know why you write and for whom, then you can tackle what you’re going to write. Other business plans also include how you’re going to publish, and how you’ll market your work. I’d say that the latter is more important to plan in advance than the former because once you’ve begun publishing you’ll most likely continue to publish in the same way.
The key things here are to actually make a list of the books you want to write and perhaps what the kernel idea for those books is so that later in the year when you actually go to begin to write or plot them, you’ll know why you decided to write this book and where you should start.
Of course, do, please, be practical about this list. Don’t write down the twelve ideas that are floating around in your head right now. Make it a practical and actionable list. Be realistic as to how many books you can actually write in a year—and then go write down the other ten ideas (or however many there are) into a separate document labeled “Book Ideas”, or something like that so that next year when you put together your annual business plan you have someplace to start.
And then, as I mentioned in my previous blog on this topic, put a date into your calendar to revisit this business plan. You can either do so every quarter of the year or in six months, up to you.
So, do you write out a business plan every year? If not, maybe now would be a good time to get started on it!