This month in #ReadySetWrite, Christy Kate McKenzie gets into the strategy and implementation of your writing business plan…
Is it really November? Where has this year gone? Not only is the year nearly finished, we are also nearly finished writing your business plan! Just a couple more sections to go… Are you ready? Pull out your notebook and a pencil and let’s dive right in.
Okay. If we were writing a traditional business plan, the next two sections would be ‘Strategy and Implementation’ and ‘Organisation and Management Team’. Since a writer’s business plan is anything but traditional, we are going to shake things up a bit, staring with ‘Organisation and Management Team’.
Who’s on your team?
If you were developing a regular business, like say a bakery (I just finished watching Hallmark’s Pumpkin Pie Wars—it’s fantastic!), this would be the section in your business plan where you outline who is involved in your business—owners, management team, board of directors… yeah, that’s not going to work for us. I want you to think a bit bigger than the people IN your business, because really, you are the owner, manager, and director.
As a sole proprietor, you will have to wear more than one hat, but even so, you do not have to go it all alone. Take some time to think about the things you need to do to manage your writing career. If you plan on self-publishing, you will need a team of people to help create your final product. This team will likely include an editor and a cover designer, but may include others, depending upon your needs. Decide where your strengths are and what areas you need to outsource. One area I suggest you ALWAYS outsource is editing. It is nearly impossible to edit your own work to a high standard.
If you are planning to publish with a traditional publisher, you may not need as many people to help, but bear in mind that you will still need to promote your work and keep detailed financial accounting. Even traditional publishing doesn’t mean you can sit back and write with no thought to what happens after your book is sold. You may find you need to hire a social media manager or an accountant, if for no other reason than to free up more writing time.
Time to make notes!
In your trusty notebook, make a list of everyone you think you will need in order to reach your writing career goals. Don’t try to be a one-man-band; accept that you will need to pay others for their services. Once you have that list, have a look at the going rate for these services.
Next month we are going to concentrate on financial forecasting and every single person who contributes to your books or products will form a part of your expenditure, so take some time now to create a list of these and save yourself the time later.
Let’s talk strategy!
Now, let’s move on to ‘Strategy and Implementation’. There are 3 parts to this section—sales strategy, marketing strategy, and operational strategy—so we are going to take each one separately.
First up, Sales Strategy…
Time to talk sales. The sales strategy within your business plan should detail how you will price your books or products, any promotions you will offer, and how you will distribute your work. I’m going to start at the end and work my way back.
Distribution and logistics are down to how you intend to deliver your book to readers. This shouldn’t
take too much research or thought. If you are publishing traditionally, your publisher will deal with distribution. If you plan to go indie, you may need to think it through a bit more. Where will readers buy your work? Will it be on Amazon? Barnes & Noble? Will you sell through your own website? Perhaps you are planning to use a print on demand service like CreateSpace to publish physical books…
Your publisher or publishing platform (for example, Amazon KDP) will have a say—if not THE say—in what promotions you are able to offer and what price your books will be listed at. While self-publishing does give you more control, there are still rules and guidelines which will help you to maximise your profit and get your book in the hands of as many readers as possible.
Take a moment now to decide how you will distribute your work and what considerations you need to make to ensure your books reach as many readers as possible and write it down. There is no right or wrong answer here—some people go traditional, some go indie, some go hybrid. It’s entirely up to you.
Next is Marketing Strategy…
In the coming months, we will dig deep into the marketing and promotion of your books, but for now, take some time to brainstorm ways to attract new readers and promote your work. You don’t want to spend and enormous amount of time or money on marketing, especially when you are trying to build a solid foundation for your writing career. Instead of shelling out money for advertising, have a look at how successful authors around you are spreading the word about their new releases.
How about a Street Team? Could you round up a group of readers—the more the better—to spread the word to their friends on and off line? You will need to provide your Street Team members with some sort of incentive for joining, for example, free books, branded stationery or bookmarks, monthly prize draws… The more fun and rewarding you can make joining, the more readers you will attract and the more promotion they will provide. Consider setting up a Facebook group for your Street Team to hang out in, discuss your work, and have fun.
Speaking of Facebook… Social media is certainly a great way to promote, but don’t let your feeds become non-stop ‘buy me now’ pleas. Make sure to mix sales posts with interaction and fun or informative posts as well. The quickest way to lose followers is to promote too heavily. You should be someone they enjoy following, someone whose posts they enjoy, not someone who is constantly pushing for sales.
If you aren’t as au fait with social media as you’d like to be, consider taking a social media management course or hiring a freelance social media manager to create and maintain a web presence for you.
Last, but never least is Operational Strategy…
Operational strategy can include any number of things when looking at the day to day running of a business. For our purposes, though, it is comprised mainly of two important aspects—production time and production timelines. They may seem like the same thing, but they aren’t. Let me elaborate…
Production time is just a fancy way of saying ‘opening hours’, for instance, how a brick and mortar business sets the hours that they will be open each day. You won’t necessarily be able to go that far since your business will be largely online and the internet never closes. You can, however, set the hours each day that you will devote to the running of your business. This includes not only writing, but also blogging, social media, and administration (financial reports, emailing, etc.).
Have a look at your week. If you are lucky enough to be able to write for a living, or not work outside of the home, it will be easier for you to schedule your days to allow time for writing as well as time to handle all of the non-writing tasks writers must do to keep their careers thriving. If you work full or part time, you may find yourself juggling things and trying to make time magically appear each day.
Create your schedule!
You may find it easier to schedule using an Excel spread sheet or diary rather than your notebook, but however you do it—just do it. Draw out a schedule for your typical week, including anything you must do, like work or school runs, and schedule in time for both writing and administrative tasks.
Production timelines are a very different creature all together. Production timelines are the productivity goals you set for yourself throughout the year. Perhaps you just want to write one 100k novel each year. How much time will it take to research? To outline? To actually write? Maybe your publisher expects you to write four books in a year. How best can you use the three months you have to write each?
Draw up a timeline for the year…
In your notebook, or wherever you find it easiest, plan out the steps it will take to create the number of books, novellas, or short stories you need to create in the next year. This will give you goals and milestones to strive toward to keep you motivated and to ensure you are producing at a steady pace.
That’s it for this month. By now you should have notes for each of the above tasks. Go back now and rewrite them into clear and concise paragraphs. This is the next to last step in your business planning journey.
Once you have completed all of the tasks in this month’s post, you should be ready for the last section in your writing business plan—the Financial Plan and Projection. Check back next month to tackle your finances.
Christy is an aspiring author, fairy tale fanatic, peanut butter connoisseur, and wannabe mermaid. For more information about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.