Thursday, April 16, 2015

Creating an Author Business Plan: How Will the Business Run?

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy 

Part of the Indie Author Series

We can’t have long-term success unless we’re smart about our money and the operation of our business.

In our ongoing quest to write up an author business plan that will guide us in the years to come, we’ve already talked about setting our goals, choosing our stories, and identifying our audience. I think of that as the fun stuff because it feels like it’s closely related to the actual writing of our books.

But now we need to dive into the business part of our Author Business Plan Summary. You knew it was coming eventually, right? Writing this part of our author business plan might not seem as exciting or creative, but it’s essential. We can’t have long-term success unless we’re smart about our money and the operation of our business.

As independent authors, most of us start out on a shoestring. Some of us even start out with no string at all. It doesn’t matter whether you have $10,000 to invest in your business when you start or nothing—you still need to write this part of your author business plan.

For all the other sections of your author business plan, I’m having you work out your summary paragraph(s) before getting to the meaty section that fleshes those ideas out in-depth. For this part, because I know this is going to be the section that most of us like the least, we’re going to create our summary paragraph and our main section all in one blow.

Start with your summary paragraph. This is the big picture. You need to include the following information:
  • Where/how do I plan to distribute my books? E.g. Amazon-only vs. all online distributors, ebook-only vs. print and ebook versions, online-only vs. online and in bookstores.
  • How will any income be handled? E.g. will all income be reinvested into the business vs. a percentage reinvested vs. no income reinvested.

I’ll give you an example so you can see how this paragraph doesn’t have to be very long.
Emily Taylor will distribute her books through all available online distributors, with a focus on Amazon. Books will be produced in both ebook and print formats. Income will be reinvested into the business until each book earns out—that is, earns back what was invested into it for production and marketing—plus 15%. All additional income will be paid to Emily Taylor as a salary.

Your Author Business Plan Summary is now officially done!

But I said we’d also be moving into the meat of our business plan by completing our Business Operation section. You can call this section by a different name if you’d like. Other possibilities include Business Summary or Business Structure. The title matters less than the content.

In our Business Operation section, here are the questions we need to answer.

What is my initial capital investment? Your answer might be zero or you might have a little seed money to start your business with. It’s important that, if you do have seed money, you decide how much you have to work with and that you keep it in a separate account.

What will the legal structure of my business be? This is the spot where we decide, at least initially, whether we’ll be a sole proprietorship or an LLC. If we’re working alone, we’ll probably start out as a sole proprietorship because it’s easier and less expensive to set up. If we plan to form a cooperative publishing company with other authors, we’ll probably need something that provides additional protection like an LLC.

Who will be responsible for the different tasks and stages of producing my books? Just because we’re publishing independently doesn’t mean we’re working alone. Producing a book requires editing, formatting (both print and ebook), and cover design. Will you be handling all those levels or do you plan to hire someone? Will you be handling all your marketing yourself or will you be hiring someone to organize your launch events, etc.? If you have your external professionals chosen already, include their names and contact information alongside the task they’ll be managing for you. Don’t forget to include an accountant here if you plan to use one to manage your taxes.

At what income level will I hire out tasks I’m initially planning to manage myself? When I first began self-publishing, I designed my own covers. Last year, I reached the point where it made more sense for me to hire someone to do it and to spend that saved time writing. Many highly successful authors reach a point where they even need to hire an assistant. The key here is to figure out when your time becomes more valuable than the money you’ll pay someone to do certain tasks for you.

What equipment will my business supply me with? This is a business, so ideally we want it to be self-sustaining. Do you plan to set aside some of the income to (eventually) supply and maintain the equipment you need, such as a computer, software, a way to back up your files, a printer, etc.?

To make it complete, it’s also a good idea to include the information from your Summary in this section and expand upon it.

Do you have any suggestions for additional material to include in this section of our author business plans?

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.

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  1. Great post, I always thought doing an author business plan is a difficult daunting task, you make it sound so easy and straight to point. Thanks :)

    1. I'm glad I could help. I was intimidated by it too when I first started writing mine, but then as I worked through it, I began to realize that it wasn't that bad :)

    2. Great information! I never thought about an author business plan and now see the need for one. Thank you!

  2. Very helpful and a great suggestion. It's too easy to put off the business side of things, but this simple tool makes it almost ridiculous not to prepare an author business plan! Thanks Marcy and Janice :)