Thursday, January 22, 2015

Creating An Author Business Plan: Setting Your Goals

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

The first step to a solid business plan is figuring out what you want to accomplish.

The first section of your author business plan is your Author Business Plan Summary. Because it actually contains a lot of different information, I’m not going to cover it all today. That would be overwhelming and make this post much too long. Remember that this is about breaking it down into manageable, unintimidating pieces. One small bit that you can do each day.

Eventually, your summary will include your goals, the types of books you plan to publish, your target number of releases per year, your audience, what outside help you plan to hire, the form and method of distribution for your books, and how you’ll deal with income. You’ll likely end up giving a paragraph to each.

Today we’re going to focus on your author goals. If you look back at my opening article “Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing an Author Business Plan,” you’ll remember that we’re focusing on what I called the “career writer” and we’re looking at this from the perspective of someone who wants to independently publish (or hybrid publish). A career writer is someone who views their writing as either a full-time or part-time job or wants it to be one. They want (and need) their writing to make a profit.

Before we dive in, one little note of clarification. It might be that you’re like me and you write both fiction and non-fiction. If that’s the case, I recommend you write a separate author business plan for each. Much of your material can probably be copied and pasted from one to the other, but some sections like your goals, types of books, and audience could be vastly different. If you try to cram it into a single business plan, it’s going to be scattered and unhelpful.

So, now, onward to creating the goals paragraph(s) of your Author Business Plan Summary.

Your author goals paragraph(s) might be the most important of your whole business plan because the rest of the plan is basically about taking these goals and creating actionable steps to reach them. You’re going to set goals for one year and 3-5 years.

Rather than sitting down and trying to put it all to paper right away, I think it’s better to mull over the following questions for a couple of days while you’re doing other things. Waiting in the grocery store line? Doctor’s office? At your child’s soccer practice? Taking a shower? Fill those play-on-your-phone or daydream moments with these questions instead.

What would it take for me to feel successful? Examples include reaching a certain income level, a certain number of sales, hitting a bestseller list, receiving an award, receiving a positive review from a major outlet, receiving a certain number of positive reviews on Amazon, and seeing your book in a physical bookstore. Try to be specific. If it’s income, how much per month/year? If it’s an award, what awards would count?

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Other than the money (because we’ve established we’re aiming at being career writers here, which means earning a profit), why are you writing? We can make money in a lot of ways, so if we’re going to do it by writing—a difficult career to succeed in—why does it have to be this for us? Sometimes it’s helpful to think about what would make you stop writing.

What are my lines that I won’t cross? Most business plans don’t include this type of material, but I think it’s important for us because it’s not just business for us. It’s personal. Being a writer is also a lifestyle choice.

How do I want to improve? Do you want to make sure that each book is stronger in terms of the writing craft than the book before? Do you want to make sure you’re always exploring new ideas and themes rather than reusing the same story idea (even if it sells)? Do you want a more professional online presence?

Will I be publishing under my own name or will I create a publishing company to publish my books under?

Once you’ve thought it over for a few days, you should be able to write it down within 10-15 minutes.

Let me give you a possible example. (I’m not using my own business plan because I want to give a broader range in these examples.)
The purpose of Eagle Books is to spearhead the publishing and merchandising of the fiction creations of Emily Taylor. By December 31, 2015, Eagle Books aims to bring in a consistent income of $1000/month, with the intent of increasing this to $5000/month within the next five years. Each book published will try to meet a minimum of a 4.5 star average (as measured by reviews on, and any book published will try to meet the threshold of 25 reviews by the end of the first six months post-publication and over 100 reviews by the end of the first three years.
To facilitate these goals, each book produced should improve upon an area of the writing craft compared to previously released books, and Emily Taylor will write a minimum of three full-length novels a year. Emily Taylor will maintain a website and weekly blog focused on appealing to potential readers through posts written about topics related to the content of her books (rather posts trying to directly hard sell her books), as well as a monthly email newsletter that announces new releases, giveaways, and other items of interest to readers.

Each decision made for Eagle Books will be made not only with an eye towards reaching these monetary and quality goals, but also taking into consideration the need to uphold a high moral standard consistent with Emily Taylor’s faith beliefs. Although it is understood that this is a difficult business and that not every day will be fun, decisions should also be made taking into consideration the need to maintain a sense of joy in the writing process. If a decision or path consistently results in Emily Taylor dreading what the day will bring, then it needs to be reevaluated. Emily Taylor will be accessible to fans through social media, but she won’t share every detail of her private life with them out of respect for the desires of her family. Details that will remain private include (but are not limited to) the names and pictures of her children, embarrassing stories about her children, her husband’s personal struggles, and any arguments with her siblings.

You don’t have to make your language sound nearly that formal. Business plans are usually written in third person, but if you find that weird or uncomfortable, you can write it in first person instead. You can use three sentences rather than three paragraphs if that’s all you need.

We have a lot of freedom because we’re not taking these to the bank to ask for money. We’re writing our business plans to help give us focus and increase our chances of success. What is important to you? That’s what should go into your author goals section.

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

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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. A brilliant post as always. This is going to be so helpful for me, just starting out.
    Thank you!

  2. A great post, as usual, Marcy. You always explain things so clearly. I especially like the part about including emotional/ethical goals and limits.

    Another reason for having a written business plan. If you are in the U.S. and not yet bringing in more money than you're spending on publishing your books, the IRS will be less likely to consider your writing a "hobby" and disallow your expenses if you have a business plan. The more you act like a business, the more they will see you as a business. And new businesses don't always make a profit right out of the gate.

    1. I didn't realize that was the case for the U.S. (since I'm based in Canada). Thanks for sharing that!

  3. Excellent advice! I not the best at setting goals and business plans. But hey, I'm a work in progress :)

  4. Thanks for this, very helpful, I'll give it a few days.