Thursday, December 18, 2014

3 Questions to Ask Before Writing an Author Business Plan

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

The right business plan is an important part of a successful writing career. 

My husband recently finished his degree in paralegal studies, and one of the final major projects was to create a business plan. As I watched him put in hours of time, two thoughts hit me.

First, as an independent author, I’m a small business owner, which means I should have a business plan. Businesses have business plans for a reason—the ones who don’t create them tend to fail. Just because this is a creative business doesn’t mean it isn’t a business. I have a product I’m creating to sell.

Second, I didn’t have weeks of solid time to devote to writing a business plan. I needed to break it down into manageable pieces so that I could do a little each day and fit it into my already crowded schedule. One of my personal focuses is to find solutions for busy authors (hence the title of my series of books) because I’m a busy author and I know what it’s like.

So today I’m starting a series of posts about creating our author business plans in bite-sized pieces, but before we start, we need to ask ourselves three questions to help us decide what type of plan is right for each of us and if we even need one.

Question #1 – What role does writing play in my life?

I’m going to try not to stomp on any toes here, but it’s also important that we’re honest with ourselves. Most of us write because we love it and feel drawn to it. Most of us want to either entertain or help people (or both). That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m not talking about why we write.

I’m talking about the place we give writing in our life. What role does it play for us? One answer isn’t more right or valuable or important than the others. What matters is that we figure out where writing fits for us.

The Self-Expression Writer – Your writing is meant to be a fun or therapeutic act of self-expression. You feel fulfilled simply putting the words on paper and whether or not anyone actually buys your book isn’t as essential to you. This type of writer doesn’t need a business plan.

The Hobby Writer – You don’t look at your writing as a full-time or part-time job and you don’t ever want it to be because that would take the joy out of it for you. You do want your writing to come close to breaking even because that means it doesn’t dig into your family finances. Whether you complete a business plan or not is optional.

The Career Writer
– Writing is either a full-time or part-time job for you or you want it to be one. You don’t just want to break even. You want (and need) your writing to make a profit. You need a business plan.

Question #2 – How far along am I in the publishing journey?

A business plan is important for writers at every stage of the journey because it makes us focus on our goals and create actionable steps to reach them. If we’re just starting out, however, our business plan will be much shorter and will need to be much more flexible than if we’re farther along the path.

If you’re a new writer, forcing yourself to write the type of plan needed by an established writer will only frustrate you because, for example, what works to market a book now likely won’t work when you’re ready to publish. You’ll want to focus on the things that are more stable—like what type of writer you want to be, what type of books you want to write, and the early steps you can take to start to get there. You could also look at what categories of marketing (rather than specific ideas) will fit your personality and worldview.

Be prepared to tailor your plan to where you are, and also plan in regular times to review it (for example, every three to six months).

Question #3 – What publishing model do I want to use?

Our business plan is going to be different if we want to traditionally publish, independently publish, or find the middle ground as a hybrid author. For example, if we plan to traditionally publish, we don’t need to create a budget for editing, formatting, and cover design. If we don’t know what path we want to take, we might end up wasting a lot of time creating a plan that won’t work correctly for us.

Because this is the Indie Author Series, I’m going to focus on business plans for independent authors (and I’ll touch on hybrid authorship as well).

Have you already written an author business plan? If not, what’s holding you back?

Marcy Kennedy is a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance fiction editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Apple iBooks | Barnes & Noble

About Grammar for Fiction Writers: A Busy Writer’s Guide

The world of grammar is huge, but fiction writers don’t need to know all the nuances to write well. In fact, some of the rules you were taught in English class will actually hurt your fiction writing, not help it. Grammar for Fiction Writers won’t teach you things you don’t need to know. It’s all about the grammar that’s relevant to you as you write your novels and short stories.

Here’s what you’ll find inside:
  • Punctuation Basics including the special uses of dashes and ellipses in fiction, common comma problems, how to format your dialogue, and untangling possessives and contractions.
  • Knowing What Your Words Mean and What They Don’t including commonly confused words, imaginary words and phrases, how to catch and strengthen weak words, and using connotation and denotation to add powerful subtext to your writing.
  • Grammar Rules Every Writer Needs to Know and Follow such as maintaining an active voice and making the best use of all the tenses for fast-paced writing that feels immediate and draws the reader in.
  • Special Challenges for Fiction Writers like reversing cause and effect, characters who are unintentionally doing the impossible, and orphaned dialogue and pronouns.
  • Grammar “Rules” You Can Safely Ignore When Writing Fiction


  1. These are great questions to ask ourselves. I have a loose business plan, meaning I've set some 1 year 3 year and 5 year goals. I'm definitely not in the "full time write all the time" mode. At all. It's more like a hobby that I make some money with.

  2. Though my writing is mostly essays, not fiction, here is my business plan:

    hglwrites : A little note on further use conditions

    When it takes off it takes off, as long as not I might continue blogging on lent computers and begging in the street.

    The conditions are btw valid for my blogs on blogger too, which far outnumber the blogposts on wordpress and livejournal. With exceptions and qualifications for certain blogs noted on them.

    Blog list [this page mirrored on each is from New blog on the kid]

    Index to my latest general blog:

    New blog on the kid : Index Indicum

    (I use Latin when wanting to favour neither English nor French - and if this has an English title, "deretour" had a French one and Triviū, Quadriviū, 7 cætera a Latin one.)