NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

I SPY: Business Plans for Writers



Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.


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Business Plans for Writers


Most writers long to spend their time writing, not thinking about the business side of, well, the business. But in this day and age, spending all of our time dreaming up worlds and characters isn’t an option. There are a plethora of other things to wrangle, manage, and deal with, from marketing to social media to creating an indie book to finding agents or editors to shop in a traditional market. And everything in between.

At the RWA conference last month, the first workshop I attended was one I had hoped would get my head back in the business of writing. It was entitled “Plan for Success: Create a Motivational Business Plan for Your Writing Career” and was presented by author Stephanie Bond. Sitting in that workshop brought back memories of a chapter workshop I attended a couple years ago with a similar topic: "Dream, Dare, Do!" presented by Shelley Coriell. And it reminded me that I never sat down to finish that business plan that was begun that day. And I certainly hadn't updated my scrawled notes in the intervening years.

Since I've been looking for focus lately, I made creating a business plan my priority when I returned home from conference a couple weeks ago. I started by exploring more about business plans online, and integrated a lot of that fabulous information here.

First, Jami Gold says, “no one will ever care about our success as much as we do.” And therefore, we must have a business mindset. If we have clear goals and a personal definition of success, we can make better business decisions. Amy Atwell says it’s important to think of writing as a “career,” which is why a business plan is helpful. On her "Author E.M.S." website, she refers to other sources, where one can use worksheets to come up with her business plan. She also reminds us the plan isn’t set in stone, and should be revised or updated regularly.

Second, before creating your document, Angela Ackerman recommends brainstorming what you want to accomplish, identifying themes, and then grouping together areas of focus. Then, try to step back and see the big picture, assigning importance to what you need to accomplish.

When you've done some big picture and small picture thinking, put them together into one handy document that summarizes your career plans and goals for the coming year:




THE BASICS of a BUSINESS PLAN



OBJECTIVES (a.k.a., Dreams!)

What do you want out of this business? Do you simply want to see your name on a book? Do you want to hit a bestseller list? Win a RITA award? An Edgar? Do you want to make enough money to quit your day job or put your kids through college?

This is where you put anything you want out of your writing career. Dream big!


MISSION

A mission statement is often brief, and for writers it can be as lofty as “to encourage people to grow through my writing,” or as generic as “to entertain.”


PRODUCTS (or Product Plan) & BRAND

Here’s where you think about what you are creating, which of course, includes your books. Also think about what makes them different/unique, and what formats they’ll be available in, and whether you plan to publish via traditional publishers, indie, or both. Don't forget about audio, film, and even nonfiction items such as series-related coloring books.

Kimberley Grabas also suggests delineating your “ideal reader” as you create your business plan, as well as your “brand personality and culture.” This includes the vibe you want to give off when people land on your website or other social media pages, or when you speak at events. How do you want to be perceived by the public/readers?

Think about what makes you different, and what makes you the same. Everything from business cards to website design to the font and your name placement on your covers should reflect what/how you write.


GOALS (a.k.a., the things I can control!)

This is where we get down to the nitty gritty.

Keeping your dreams and objectives in mind, what can you actively and reasonably DO to make those dreams come true in the short term? This can include such things as attending a signing or conference, submitting to agents, finding a critique partner, researching your next series, etc.

For instance, one of my dreams is to win a RITA. I obviously need to enter the contest to even have a chance of making that goal happen, so entering the contest is listed under my goals and has been added to my calendar. Similarly, to hit a bestseller list, I’ll need to write books and increase my audience, which led to my current annual goals of building my newsletter list and increasing advertising and amount of time spent on social media. 


MARKET ANALYSIS (or Competitive Analysis) & SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

What do you need to do/change to achieve your dreams? Do you have the necessary equipment, time, and energy? What is the state of the market in your genre/subgenre? How crowded is it?

This includes looking at your “competitors’” or fellow authors’ bodies of work and how they’re advertising them. What are their price points? What things are they doing well, in your opinion? Is it something that should be added to your goal list?

For me, one of the items in this category is to read several top-selling romantic suspense novellas, as I have not written one before but hope to this year. I want to study how the character arcs and plots differ from full-length books, so that I know what novella readers expect.


STRATEGY & IMPLEMENTATION SUMMARY (or Development Plan)

This includes setting up your calendar. Will the amount of writing you do this year be increasing/decreasing from the previous year? What publishers or agents do you want to target and how are you most likely to get your work in front of them? Do you need to register for some conferences or enter contests?

The first item on this list, for me, was writing a business plan. J The second item was transferring my task list to my planner/calendar.


FINANCIAL PLAN

How do you plan to support yourself while you implement these other plans? When would it be a good time to incorporate? To meet with an estate planner or tax consultant?

For me, I plan to create a “Body of Work” document that contains all of my books and information my husband would need to access them, should something happen to me. I also have a note to consider drawing on savings to create audio versions of my new series, but have yet to make a decision on whether that’s a wise investment. But it’s something I can revisit next July, when I update my business plan.


Have you written a business plan? Do you update it regularly? What things do you make sure to include on your plan? 


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See the left sidebar for previous I SPY posts and watch for future I SPYs for more discussion of the craft and business of writing...

We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

9 comments:

Wynter said...

What great info. During the last RWA conference I attended (several years ago), I went to a similar workshop and left very motivated to write up a business plan. Unfortunately I never finished mine. But now you've lit that spark again and I am committed to digging out the bones of that plan and revamping it!

Rita said...

I've been glancing sideways at a business plan every so often but, sigh, it's time to look at it straight on and make decisions. This is a guide I can follow. Thanks.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Glad that spark is back, Wynter! As someone who loves to write goals and work in my planner, I found this exercise very helpful (once I finally made myself do it LOL). Good luck and happy planning!

Anne Marie Becker said...

Rita, I think the reason I avoided the business plan was having to make tough decisions about my career. But it also helped me find focus.

Clare London said...

This is so useful! and very topical at the moment when so many of us are struggling to make something of our writing. And what I've come away with from this is #1 in writing a business plan is... Writing a Business Plan! LOL. A small investment in time on this up front should really ease my mind, and so I'm happier and more relaxed writing.

Go, everyone! :)

jean harrington said...

Anne Marie, a detailed analysis of what every writer ought (but usually doesn't!) do. It put me in mind of a plan mystery writer, Nancy Cohen, once sent to my RWA chapter concerning one's literary estate. I'll look for that; it has I Spy written all over it!

Anne Marie Becker said...

Clare, writing out all the business ideas that were in my head was so calming. :) It really helped me to get it all out on paper. I found the focus I needed. Hope you do, too! :D

Anne Marie Becker said...

Jean, that would be wonderful!! I'd love to hear about how to arrange a literary estate. :)

Sandy Parks said...

In process of updating both a plan and a new calendar as old ones changed way to much to be functional. I went to Bonds talk too and it really pushed home the necessity for an updated and working plan. Thanks for the useful post and push to get it done.

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