Thursday, May 21, 2015

Creating an Author Business Plan: Our Product Plan

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

Maximize your productivity by knowing how much you want to get done.  

We’ve now reached a milestone in writing our author business plan. Last time, we finished our author business plan summary and our Business Operation section. In other words, we’re officially into the body of our author business plan where we need to start laying out practical steps to reach our goals. (If you missed the earlier articles, it’s important to start from the beginning because we’ve already talked about setting our goals, choosing our stories, and identifying our audience.)

Everything we’ve written down in our author business plan prior to this point will remain fairly stable. In the upcoming sections, we’ll need to be much more flexible, adjusting as we go. What we write down is our starting point.

In the coming articles, I’ll be talking about our competitive analysis section, our marketing plan section, and our professional development section, but before we can do that, we need to complete our Product Plan.

Our Product Plan is basically a list of everything we plan to produce for a given span of time. This includes our novels and short stories, but it also includes other related items. For example, if we’re creating a non-fiction business plan, then this section should also include companion workbooks, classes we plan to teach, or speaking engagements. If we’re developing merchandise to go along with our fiction (e.g., posters or t-shirts), then those items also belong in this list.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of the Product Plan, but we need it for budgeting our money, for planning our marketing (so we don’t overbook ourselves), and even for hiring outside professionals like cover designers and editors. Many good editors book up months in advance.

The first step in creating our Product Plan is to answer one specific question.

How far in advance do I want to set my production schedule? To give you an example, I’m someone who enjoys pre-planning, so I have my Busy Writer’s Guides scheduled for the next five years. Not everyone will want to plan this far out, but I strongly recommend you plan at least for the current year and the following year, updating as each year passes.

It’s also a good idea to include a Future Projects heading. This allows us to use our business plan to keep track of ideas we know we eventually want to pursue, but for which we don’t have a set timeline yet.

Once we’ve decided how far out we want to go, it’s time to create our list. Write down a subheading for each year you’re going to include. So, for example, your subheadings might look like this…
2015 Projects
2016 Projects
Future Projects

Now it’s time to answer another question.

How many items do I intend to produce each year? To answer this, we need to take a few different things into account.

How many products do I need to produce to reach the goals I set in my author goals paragraph? If you remember back to our fictional friend Emily Taylor, she decided that to reach her financial goals, she needed to write three full-length novels a year. She’d probably also want to add in a couple of short stories to give away as part of her marketing plan, bringing her up to five items per year.

How many books am I realistically capable of writing in a year? We need to be reasonable and take into account how fast we write, how long it normally takes us for revisions, and what our personal life circumstances are. If we also have another job, that will change our schedule. If we have family commitments like a spouse, children, or aging parents who need care, that will affect our schedule. We might get sick. We’ll surely need some vacation time. Life is about so much more than writing, and we need to give ourselves room to live. Always add in a buffer for how long you think creating a book will take you.

How many books will my budget allow me to produce in a year? As frustrating as it might be for us, our production schedule might need to be dictated, at least in part, by our money restrictions. If we don’t have enough on hand to put out a high-quality product, we’re better off waiting and saving until we can.

What I’ve personally found works best is to list the projects I’m certain I can complete and then to also list the optional projects I’ll complete if there’s time. This gives me a set goal, but also allows me grace and flexibility if it turns out I’m not superhuman :)

For each project, include the working title, length, genre, format (print, ebook, audio book), intended release date (even just the month is sufficient), a one- or two-sentence summary of the project, and the budget allocated to this project.

Let me give you a quick fictional example.

Your Love Is My Drug

Summary: Former drug addict Allison Wren hopes to find redemption for her past sins in her new job at Second Chance Halfway House, but when someone begins planting evidence that Allison is using again, it puts not only her job but also her blossoming relationship with Second Chance’s handsome director in jeopardy. In order to save her reputation and protect her dreams for the future, Allison must find out who is out to ruin her and why.

Length and Genre: 70,000-word romantic suspense

Ebook Release: March 2016

Print Version Release: March 2016

Audio Book Release: June 2016

Budget: $500

Do you have any other tips for creating your Product Plan section? Is there anything else you include that I haven’t? Please share!

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. Thanks for more wonderful tips, Marcy. And thanks for having Marcy as a guest, Janice. :-)

  2. Thank you Marcy! This will help me set realistic goals and how I might gage my progress. Thank you Janice! :)

  3. thanks this is good blog.