by Deborah Riley-Magnus (@RileyMagnus)
Today’s guest post comes to us from author Deborah Riley-Magnus who is also a writer’s coach with a background in marketing, advertising and PR. Today she discusses how you can create a business plan for your book.
Seriously. I know no one likes to hear this, even my clients who are not of the author persuasion, but without a business plan you’re going nowhere.
It’s vital for a writer to have a Book Business Plan because your books and you are the products to be sold. It makes most writers queasy to even imagine selling themselves but without a plan, you can hardly figure out a way for your book to sell itself. Think of it as a GPS getting you from Starving Writer Street to Successful Author Square.
Since I’m talking to writers, I’ve decided to take this nice and easy, no sudden movements or anything like that. Let’s start with a simple comparison … if you want to write a book, what do you need? Don’t say nothing but your imagination because we both know that’s not so. You need a slamming idea and you need some talent. Some writers begin the process with paper and pen, so you need paper and a pen. If you’re not a jotting and doodling kinda writer, you’ve got a computer. Now, we’re not covering writer’s block or terminal confusion here, so let’s assume you now have your tools of preference and are ready to write the next great American novel. We all know what comes next.
Some writers work organically and let the story tell itself, some like outlines and some prefer pretty, colorful mind maps, charts or graphs. Either way (even the organic), you’re on the road to understanding the Book Business Plan process.
After the story is written, you edit, you get other people to read your work, you edit again and you begin the process of finding publication. Again, we’re not exploring agents or publishing methods today, so let’s move on. Any writer can write a book, good bad or mediocre, but only a smart author knows s/he also needs to write a business plan because only a successful author knows s/he is now in business.
When do you start a Book Business Plan?
I’m going to toss this out so duck if you’re too afraid to catch but … the Book Business Plan starts when the book starts. This plan covers all aspects of the product. At the moment you begin a novel or non-fiction book, you should already have a clear vision of the message, the audience and even the venues and arenas where it can be sold. This isn’t wishful thinking, guys and gals, THIS is the beginning of your plan.
My strongest suggestion has always been to ask the Book Business Plan developer (that’s you) to start at the end. Start with your final goal. Don’t be ridiculous and say you plan to be the next Dan Brown or Neil Gaiman, but trust that with the right strategy, you CAN be the next Dan Brown or Neil Gaiman eventually. They too had to go through this process, and as we all know, ya gotta pay your dues.
Non-fiction writers will have a far better grasp on this than fiction writers for one simple reason … non-fiction writers are required to develop a proposal before they even start writing. If fiction writers take the same attitude, they are sure to have a better chance at sales success. A friend once told me, “I’d rather stick to the fantasy than write the facts of selling it.” Yeah, we argued. A lot. You can’t have success without both.
So, realize that when you start writing your book, you also should start writing your Book Business Plan. If your book is finished, it’s not too late so no excuses there.
How to write a Book Business Plan
Ready? Take a deep breath. Now, imagine you’re sitting at the bank, talking across the desk to the loan manager and asking for money. What’s he going to ask you? Those are the questions you need to answer when putting together your Book Business Plan.
- How much money to you want? This should be an easy answer. How successful do you want to be? Think of the imaginary loan amount as the financial success you want to gain from your book sales. Your answer might be in the number of books sold, or it might be in number of dollars earned. Be realistic, you most likely won’t be the top ten best seller or make millions with your first novel, but if you set the right strategy, you could make millions down your career road.
- How do you plan to organize and manage your product? Yes, they do ask that and you should have an answer when your imaginary loan officer spits out those words. Exactly what is your plan for dealing with the organization and management of your new book? Should you have a publicist? Do you need an advertising agency? A book video? Imprinted bookmarks or tee shirts? Remember to research everything and be sure of the success rate for each element you plan to employ. It’s a lot to think about. You can do it alone, after all, who knows your book better than you do? Managing the product means clearly understanding it. So now is a good time to face the fact that YOU too are the product, your creativity, your talent as a writer, your expertise, your personality, your skills … and your book.
- Who will want to buy your product? Now is the time to jot down all those people who will want your book, why they’ll want it and how effective they’ll be at getting more people to want it. Know – really know – who your market and readership target is. Are they men? Women? Romance lovers? Mystery or history buffs? Knowing your target market is as important as knowing good spelling and grammar. It will determine the venues you choose when the book is ready to be sold.
- What makes your product so special? You better know this or put down your pen right now. No point in writing a book if you don’t know why or if it’s special. Many writers write books they’d love to read, many write books readers are buying, some write books because the subject is risky or has never been explored before. KNOW why you and your book are special. It’s the backbone of a successful Book Business Plan and effective marketing strategy.
- How do you plan to promote your product? Ugh, here’s where most writers cower in a corner. Relax. You know people, lots of people. And those people know people. You must put yourself out there. Of course there are the “big” things you must do; social networking, book events, gaining reviews and interviews, speaking engagements, attending book shows, but don’t forget your friends. Most writers have or have had another life, another career or another circle of activity that has made their lives full. Don’t forget your friends, work associates and family. Let old buddies from college know that you have a book out there. You may be surprised the buzz that can be generated when you post your book one-sheet at the dentist or vet’s office cork board. People like to support people they know. This is a powerful, easy tool to enhance the “big” stuff mentioned earlier.
- What are your marketing strategies? Think about it. Yes, it’s cool to have your book available on Amazon or in your local book store, but where else might it fit in perfectly? Stretch your mind and think this through. If your novel is about travel, maybe you should seek distribution at a travel agency or on travel agency websites. If the story revolves around people drinking coffee, coffee shops often sell gift items and books. Is the story about wine? Wineries have wonderful gift shops. If your novel is historic in nature, perhaps museum gift stores can be a venue. Be creative, after all, that’s what writers do … think creatively.
- What if you fail? Forget it. I have a very strong theory that failure is just the lack of seeking success. When someone tells you that you can’t do something or market a book that way … try it anyway. Chances are it just hasn’t been tried or it hasn’t proven effective for someone less aggressive or creative. There’s a slogan I use with my clients. “We are the can-do team.” Go on, tell me I can’t and guess what … I do. So can you.
A Well Written Book Business Plan is the Roadmap to Your Success!
It determines who you want to sell your book to, how you want them to find or hear about the book, and how successful you want to be with it. See, that didn’t hurt one bit, did it? All you need to do now is follow the plan. Let it grow and fluctuate but always keep your eye on the prize. Ebb and flow in a strong plan is a good thing, as long as the end goal is always at the top of your mind. Who knows, you may even exceed your expectations, but how will you ever know if you haven’t set them?
Just like working on your book, show your business plan to people, let them make suggestions and offer ideas. Share what you’ve learned with other authors and again you will find your sphere of influence expanding. Everything about the process is good and positive.
Questions about Building a Book Business Plan? I’m here, just ask! In fact, if you’d like to win a copy of Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power Within Your Manuscript, just comment here, ask questions or simply say you’re interested and we’ll have a drawing for the winner.
ALSO … I’d like to offer you a FREE 10 Tools for Author Success downloadable handbook. Just go to http://theauthorsuccesscoach.com/ and hit the button for your FREE downloadable PDF.
Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising and public relations as a writer for print, television and radio. She writes fiction in several genres as well as non-fiction, and blogs at Deborah-Riley Magnus, Writeaholic. She’s lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and just returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years.
Photo by bingbing