Thursday, September 17, 2015

Creating an Author Business Plan: Professional Development

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy 

Part of the Indie Author Series

A healthy career depends on growth, both as a storyteller, and as an author.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been walking you through how to create your author business plan, and we’ve finally come to the last section—professional development.

At first it might seem like this is the least valuable part, but if we want to write and sell books long-term, I’d like to propose that this is actually the most essential part of our author business plan. This is how we make sure that we continue to grow.

So to put the final touch on our author business plan, I’ll walk you through the parts involved in our Professional Development Section.

Part 1: Decide on our area(s) of desired growth.

This part is simple, but might require some reflection and tough-love honesty on our parts. We need to define where we’re weakest and what the next step in growing our career would be. In other words, we should pick things we want to learn more about and improve our skills in.

I’d recommend dividing this into craft and business sub-sections. For example, we might know our weakest craft area is our dialogue and the next business step we want to take is foreign translations.

We don’t have to stick to one in each category, but we should be reasonable about how much we can achieve in a year. We can always write the overflow into our business plan as areas we’d like to pursue in the following year. That way we don’t forget, but we also don’t overload ourselves.

Part 2: Set a budget.

Professional development can be pricey, so we need to give ourselves a limit on how much we’re going to invest into it. I can’t give you a “right” number because there isn’t one. It depends on our personal finances, the areas we feel we need to improve, etc.

Part 3: Establish goals to reach that desired growth.

Remember that goals are concrete, practical steps we can take to try to reach a desired outcome. Goals are measurable and achievable. They don’t depend on anyone else—only us. I’ll give you a quick example.

Ambition: Improve my dialogue.

Goal: Purchase two books on dialogue, read them, and do all the exercises included in them.

We’re living in one of the best times ever for writers because of all the resources available to help us reach our goals. Before I move on to the final part of our Professional Development Section, I want to quickly cover ways we can invest in our professional development, moving from most to least expensive.


Conferences are the priciest option for professional development, so before we blow our entire budget on conference attendance, we should carefully consider whether or not attending a particular conference (or any conference) best meets our needs. Conferences have different focuses.

Are we attending to improve our craft? If so, we’d want to find a conference with a heavy emphasis on that instead of on pitching to agents and editors.

Are we attending to make professional contacts? If so, we’d want to find a conference that provides many opportunities to mix and mingle.

Are we attending because we want to expand out into foreign markets using an agent? If so, we’d want to make sure agents who have a background in foreign rights and translations are attending and are open to taking pitches.

Online Courses

I love the way online teaching has increased in the past few years because it still gives the “live teaching” experience for people who are auditory learners but for a fraction of the cost.

Writer’s Digest is the most well-known online option, but definitely not the only one (nor the most price-conscious). W.A.N.A. International, Margie Lawson, and many others also offer online courses, some a single session and some spread out over a month or more.


Although many writers still prefer paper for writing craft books, the rise of ebooks has made it more affordable to purchase the books we need, especially now that many excellent teachers are self-publishing craft books—and keeping their prices affordable!


This one is tricky because not all advice shared on blogs is created equal. Bad advice is sometimes easier to find than good advice.

For solid information, I recommend checking out the following sites: Marcy Kennedy’s blog (yes, this is me), Jami Gold’s blog, Rachel Aaron’s blog, Kristen Lamb’s blog, Dan Blank’s blog, and The Kill Zone. There are many other great sites, of course, including this one (Fiction University), so my list is by no means exhaustive. These just happen to be a few of the ones I’ve found provide sound advice.

My takeaway point here is that blogs are a great source of free professional development, but we need to be selective consumers so that we’re not led astray.

Part 4: Prioritize the goals and set deadlines for them.

We’re never going to be able to do everything we want to do. Even if we think we’ve narrowed our list down to what we can cover in a single year, emergencies and delays happen.

So the best way to approach our professional development goals is to prioritize them into an ordered list, and then to work on them from the top down. This makes sure we at least cover the most important items and fit in the others as we’re able.

I also like to set deadlines. Even if I happen to miss my set deadline, having a deadline keeps me from putting off my professional development for too long (using the excuse that it’s “less important” than other business tasks).

Do you know of other great resources for professional development?

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. 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 Internal Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide

Internal dialogue is the voice inside our heads that we can’t ignore, even when we want to. We second-guess ourselves, pass judgment on the world around us, and are at our most emotionally vulnerable. And the same needs to be true for our characters.

Internal dialogue is one of the most powerful tools in a fiction writer’s arsenal. It’s an advantage we have over TV and movie script writers and playwrights. It’s also one of the least understood and most often mismanaged elements of the writing craft.

In Internal Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide, you’ll learn…

· the difference between internal dialogue and narration,
· best practices for formatting internal dialogue,
· ways to use internal dialogue to advance your story,
· how to balance internal dialogue with external action,
· clues to help you decide whether you’re overusing or underusing internal dialogue,
· tips for dealing with questions in your internal dialogue,
· and much more!

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