All too often I talk to or hear about a writer who's published a book on Amazon or through Smashwords and it's clear they have no idea what to do next. Now, granted, some of these writers don't aspire to a career in writing, but many do, and so it astonishes me to think that they've taken the first step on a very long journey without properly preparing for it.
Where's your plan?
Before the indie movement, before the technology was available to allow Joe Anywriter to publish, the basic book writer's business plan went basically as follows:
- Repeat steps 2-4 ad infinitum
- Get rich
For so long, every aspect of publishing a book, from selection and revision, design, pricing, printing, and distribution to promotion, was dictated by the big publishing machinery. Once the writer broke through that paper wall, there was nothing else to think about.
Wake up indies. Self-publishing is a business--your business--and you'd best treat it that way.
Creating a roadmap
You don't have to be a business guru with an MBA to come up with a business plan for your writing future, but you you do need to come up with something that shows you've given some thought into what it takes to make a career of writing. I'm not going to go into too many specifics because my plan is custom tailored to my personal situation. What I hope to provide is a taste so you can begin to work on your.
The Tanpepper Ten-Year Plan
Okay, maybe not ten years, but I liked the alliteration. In truth, I don't think it's realistic to plan beyond the next five years, and in such a dynamic time for publishing, it's probably a waste of time to put too much emphasis on detailing beyond two years out, though I recommend having an outline to build upon.
Set your goals
2. Continue to self-publish
4. Branch out (overlapping genres, services)
2. Continue to self-publish
3. Publish other authors
What you see above isn't the extent of my planning. You need to be specific with your goals. For example, my goal "Start Publishing" is further broken down by schedule, format and pricing:
September 2011: 2 short stories ($0.99 each)
October 2011: 1 short story ($0.99)
November 2011: 1 short story ($0.99)
December 2011: 1st collection (2 previously pubbed shorts + 4 new shorts; $5.99)
January 2012: 2nd collection (2 previously pubbed shorts + 4 new shorts; $5.99)
March 2012: 1 short story ($0.99)
May 2012: publish post-zombie apocalypse novel TOUCH ($6.99)
October 2012: publish 2nd novel ($6.99)
It's my business
Some people might wonder why I chose to establish a publishing company. The answer's simple: it allows me to take my career where I want it to go, namely into publishing not just my own titles but, eventually, those of others. In building Brinestone Press, I'm bringing in those capabilities I cannot provide myself. For now, it's editing and design. Later, it'll be ISBN registration, distribution, and marketing. Further down the road, I'd like to publish other writers.
It also forces me to think about the enterprise as a business venture and not a hobby.
A note about being a publisher: Some indies self-pub under the cloak of a "publisher," essentially hoping to shrug off the stigma that continues to stick to the movement. While I don't disagree with their reasons, I don't think it's helpful to be dishonest about it either. If a writer simply intends to self-pub, there is no need for a "publisher."
Just do it
Look, creating a business plan doesn't have to be mind numbing. It doesn’t even have to be complicated. As long as it forces you to think about the journey realistically. Do so, and you’re halfway there. The other half is implementation. Now, go do it.
To get you started, here are some additional resources you can use for creating your own plan:
Writers Write. Successful Authors Write a Business Plan, by Deborah Riley-Magnus
Building a Writer's Business Plan, by Moira Allen
The Writer's Busines Plan, by Stephannie Beman
The 10 Components of a Writer's Business Plan, by Beth Mende Conny