Thursday, February 19, 2015

Creating An Author Business Plan: Choosing Your Stories

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

You don’t have to stick to one genre, but you’ll build an audience faster the tighter your focus.

We started writing our Author Business Plan Summary by setting our author goals. Now that we’ve laid the foundation through deciding on our goals, it’s time to take the next step and decide on what type of books we plan to publish.

A couple reminders before I start.

First, in my last article, I recommended that if you’re writing both fiction and non-fiction books that you write one business plan for fiction and a separate plan for your non-fiction to make your life easier. So when we’re talking about types of books here, I don’t mean whether to write fiction or non-fiction.

Second, I recommend you don’t sit down to write this until you’ve given yourself a couple days to mull it over while you’re doing other things like cleaning or waiting in line. Trust me. It saves time.

With that out of the way, it’s time to start writing our paragraph(s) on the types of books we plan to publish. Here are the questions you’ll want to mull over.

What are the common threads in the books you most enjoy reading?

What appeals to us most in the books we read is a good indication of what will also give us the most satisfaction from the books we write.

Do you enjoy books with a fast pace? A twisty plot? A touch of romance? A happy ending or one that makes you cry? An other-worldly setting or one that feels more like the street where you live? What level of violence, profanity, and sexuality? Beautiful phrasing or blunt, sharp sentences?

If you’re writing non-fiction, do you enjoy an in-depth treatment of a subject or a lighter, introductory approach that anyone can understand? Do you prefer humor or a more serious tone? How many examples and analogies?

Sometimes it helps to think of your 10 favorite books or the books you’d want to take with you onto a deserted island where they’d be all you had to read for years. What common traits do those books share, regardless of genre?

Do I want to be a single-genre or a multi-genre author and have I considered the consequences of that choice?

You don’t have to stick to one genre, but you’ll build an audience faster the tighter your focus.

Let me give you an analogy. Some people like both dogs and cats, but many people like either dogs or cats. If you’re trying to sell a pet to a dog person, you might be able to interest them in a Lab, a Dalmatian, or a Husky. You probably won’t be able to convince them to buy a Persian cat. So if you can at least narrow your focus down to one species of books (for example, the thrillers/mysteries/suspense species vs. the science fiction/fantasy species), you’ll increase your chances of success.

The other thing to keep in mind is that just because we choose to write in a particular genre doesn’t mean we can’t incorporate elements of other genres that we enjoy. For example, you might be writing romance, but you love mysteries. Incorporate a mystery subplot into your romances.

If you end up deciding you really want to write in multiple genres, how do you plan to manage that? Will you use a pen name? Will you write only short stories in one genre but novels in another? There’s no right or wrong answer here. The key is to be intentional about our actions.

What themes touch on your passion?

Writing should be personal. When you’re thinking about themes, there are two levels to it. The external and the internal.

What external issues push your buttons and make you either sad or angry? What volunteer causes do you already take part in? What tragedies have touched your family? Some examples include cancer, drunk driving, divorce, homelessness, child abuse, alcoholism, and human trafficking.

What internal struggles have you faced? What message would you like to share with the world? For example, some common themes that I keep coming back to are that no one is beyond redemption and that everyone has value. You matter even if you can’t see it. Don’t give up. If I had to sum up my thematic focus in one word, that word would be hope. (Jami Gold has an excellent post on story themes if you need more help. Her one word thematic focus would be love.)

How long do you want your books to be?

Not everyone can or wants to write short stories. Some authors only want to write short stories and put them into collections. You might decide you want to write mostly novels with freebie short stories for fans. Or you might only want to write novellas.

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

Here’s an example of what this section might look like.
For the first three years, Emily Taylor will focus on writing contemporary romance novellas of between 30,000 and 40,000 words. These romances will fall into the sweet category, with the physical contact depicted on the page not progressing beyond kissing. Taylor and Eagle Books plan to build a brand that readers can come to for unexpected twists, a touch of mystery, and a happy ending. Taylor’s books will include the real challenges a world full of broken, hurting, flawed people face in their quest to find love. These books will explore the theme of love, specifically that no one is too broken to find love and happiness if they’re willing to work for it. Readers should walk away from each reading experience with a feeling of hope and the sense that second (or even third and fourth) chances are possible in life.

After spending these three years building this brand, Emily Taylor will consider expanding into romantic suspense as well, since this would likely appeal to readers who have already enjoyed the mystery subplot elements in her romances.
You’ll likely want your paragraph(s) about the types of stories you’ll write to be longer than this because this section serves as a reminder of your focus. You’re thinking about your brand as an author. When you’re considering the hundreds of ideas that might run through your mind, you can compare them to this rubric and decide which stories are worth investing your time in. How long this section is depends in part on where you are in your writing journey and how much flexibility you want to build into your plan. Make it the length you need. No more. No less.

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. What a great way to boil down what we really want to achieve. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this most practical advice. I've been hashing out these same issues in my mind, but writing them down will help make it real. Can't wait to get started on my own plan!

  3. This is really amazing! Before starting any kind of business or any venture, we should first plan the structure, estimate the possibilities, and many other. So that we can easily deal with problems in advance. Here from this article, we can get some circumstances on creating an author business plans. Thanks for highlighting such important issues.

  4. Your business operations keep your company running and generating revenue, so they're necessary. But you don't need to be the one who manages them. If you have a multiple 6-figure+ business and find yourself creating and maintaining check this site out establishing guidelines and deadlines for your team, or handling product and service delivery, you're stuck in the "DOING" of the business.

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