Posted On January 6, 2014 by Print This Post

Taking Control of Your Writing Career with a Business Plan with Amy Denim

Just in time for the New Year, Amy Denim joins us to discuss writing a business plan for your career so that you can achieve your goals. Welcome Amy!

Take Control of Your Writing Career with a Business Plan

So you’ve decided that you want to take control of your writing career. Yay! Well done. And to do it, you’re going to write a Picture of me 1business plan. You smart cookie, you.

What should you include in your business plan? A traditional formal business plan typically has three main parts with seven sub-sections. They have very official and business-y sounding names like Executive Summary and Competitive Analysis. I’m falling asleep already.

Being an author entrepreneur isn’t the traditional start-up business, so you won’t be writing the same old boring sleeping pill. You wouldn’t write the same book as someone else, so don’t write the same business plan.

If there is a section that makes you nauseated just thinking about it, save it. Don’t let the time and research you’ll need to do overwhelm you or make you sick. Just do a little bit at a time. Some of the sections you should be able to do in a coffee break. A few sections you’ll need to take a few coffee breaks or even a lunch break to get your ideas in order.

There are three main parts of your business plan. Hmm, similar to the three-act structure. Interesting how art follows life (or vice versa).

Act I — The Book

The business concept is your first act. In Act I, you’ll talk about what kind of writing you plan to do and how you’ll be successful. You’ll organize that information into a few sections.

The Blurb (traditionally called The Executive Summary)
The back of a book gives you a general idea of what the story or ideas inside are about. Same goes for your business plan. This summary gives the main points of your plan — the big picture. You can do it first, or last. If you do it first, it might give you focus for the rest of the plan, but you can write the rest of the plan first and do the blurb last when you’ve solidified all of your ideas and have them in print.

The Cover (traditionally known as the business description or company overview)
Take a look at a good book cover. You should get a sense of quite a few things about it, like the genre, its intended audience, and in a print book, about how many pages are in it. This section of your plan will give some details about the publishing business and where your place in that world is.
The Acknowledgements Page (an operations and management plan)

It takes a village, or so the saying goes. The same is true to create a book for publication. In this section, you’ll detail your writing process and who is involved, like critique partners, beta readers, etc. If you’d like to work with an agent, editor, publisher, proofreader, cover artist, printer, or the other plethora of people who go into getting your book on the shelf, put them here too. You can also include advisors, mentors or people in professional organizations you belong to.

The Chapters (a design and development plan, the action plan)

This section is the meat of the project, just like the chapters in a book. You’ll take all those pretty goals you’ve been meaning to get to and apply the SMART philosophy to them. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Then you can make yourself some to-do lists to get those goals accomplished.

Act II — The Bookstore

The bookstore section is where you’ll consider who your potential readers are and who your competition is in your genre(s). You’ll also look at how you can position yourself and your books to beat out the competition. This is the part of the plan where you discuss how to build your platform. The sections to do this in are:

The Shelves (the industry)

It is a good idea to be aware of what’s going on in the publishing industry and in your genre. In this section, you’ll give an overall view of trends and the future of books and book buying.
Your Shelf (competitive analysis)

You don’t just need to know about publishing in general, but what’s going on in your genre. Here you’ll evaluate who your ideal reader is, who else is writing and selling books like yours, and determine how you can stand out among the millions of other books people buy every day.
Getting in the Bag (marketing strategies)

We all wish our publishers would spend a million dollars in co-op money to get our book placed at the front of all the stores, or we’d get a TV ad on during the Superbowl, or maybe an appearance on Oprah’s book club.

But in reality we have to do a majority of our marketing ourselves. So you might as well have a plan, right? This section will also include information on building your brand, your social media, and promotions.

Act III — The Bank

The bank section discusses, well, money. How much money can you make being a writer? It all depends on how much you have to spend. Budgets and spreadsheets and taxes, oh my! This part doesn’t have to be scary. You don’t have to use complicated software that produces P&L statements. But you can plan for income and get an idea of how much you’ll be spending to get your book on the shelves.

If you’re excited about creating an action plan, do the Chapters section first. If you’re dying to get a marketing plan together, work on Getting in the Bag. You’ll probably want to save The Bank for last, since it will be easier once you know what you’ll be spending and making money on.

Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans copyJust like any good book your plan deserves an honest review. Make sure to look over your plan at least once a year to evaluate what worked and what you might need to revise for your next edition.

Okay, follow these steps and you’re well on your way to getting your business plan written, but if you’ve got questions I’ll have office hours here at Romance University all week. Just leave a comment with questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career. If you can’t wait to get started on your business plan but want some more guidance and ideas to keep you on the right track the book is available now on Amazon.

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Do you have a business plan? Why or why not? Are you ready to start one now?

Cynthia D’Alba joins us to talk about SWAG.

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Bio:

A read-a-holic who re-discovered romance a few years ago, I live and breathe my e-book reader. I’m also addicted to the library and spend most of my days there reading and writing. I love a happy ending and am sorely disappointed when books don’t have one. So to make sure stories have a sexy hero, a strong, independent heroine and a happily ever after I write them myself.

I’m a proud member of Romance Writers of America, Colorado Romance Writers and Rainbow Romance Writers.

Never satisfied with sitting in the back with all the naughty kids, I’m uber active in the romance writing community. Social media is every writer’s friend, so I’m the Social Media Liason (and Bring and Buy Book Saleswoman) for CRW as well as an online workshop moderator and Romance Lover’s Tea committee member.

If I’m not writing Romance I’m reading it, or listening to it. Denver’s Lady Jane’s Salon is my second home (well, it is at the Wine Loft in Lodo, so who wouldn’t want to live there?)

Where do I get my inspiration? Mostly from dreams. But also from real life. I’ve lived all over the world including Germany, Poland, The Czech Republic and Vietnam. Oh, and of course the good ole US of A. Ten states have been my home, but now Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are where I my hang my hat.

Find out more about Amy on her website.

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33 Responses to “Taking Control of Your Writing Career with a Business Plan with Amy Denim”

  1. Great suggestions, Amy – looks like I need to pick up a copy of your book.

    BTW, I took a test on Facebook the other day to find out my superhero name (the color of your pants + the last thing you ate or drank = Superhero Name). I’m Denim Hot Chocolate (or maybe Denim Fresca Peach). Since we both share the name “Denim” I figure that makes us sisters of a kind.

    Happy New Year, “Sis!”

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 6, 2014, 3:35 am
    • Yes! Can we please start a band called Denim Hot Chocolate?! I love it.
      When you pick up the Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for writers be sure to let me know if you’ve got questions along the way. All my social media contact info and email are listed in tha back. :)

      Posted by Amy Denim | January 6, 2014, 10:12 am
      • Now that you mention it, I think it was a band name, not a super hero name. Rats, I liked the idea of channeling Wonder Woman!

        I’ll definitely check in with you! I’ve been slacking with my writing for the past year, since I moved to Chicago and started babysitting for my granddaughter during the week. I’ve been slowly getting back on track – still not going full throttle, but at least I have my foot on the gas.

        Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 6, 2014, 12:57 pm
  2. I’ve been meaning to tackle a business plan as my writing career is just starting. This a very helpful article, thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Elle Clouse | January 6, 2014, 4:45 am
    • Elle,
      Yay! Putting together a business plan now at the beginning of your career is very smart of you. Hopefully, it will save you a few of the years of flailing about I went through before I decided to take control of my career with a business plan.

      Posted by Amy Denim | January 6, 2014, 10:20 am
  3. I don’t have a formal business plan, but I do have goals for 1 and five years, though not written down.

    The marketing piece is challenging. Do you have any books or websites we could take a look at to learn more about how to market our work?

    Thanks,
    Amy

    Posted by Amy | January 6, 2014, 5:10 am
    • Super smart idea to have those goals! In fact, there’s a whole chapter in the book about setting goals for 1, 3, 5, 10 and 25 years. (It’s all about thinking BIG!)
      You’re right, the marketing piece is challenging for everyone I think. The Coffee Break Guide to Marketing for Writers is schedule to come out in November 2014. In the meantime I’ll be blogging at http://www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com about twice a month with marketing ideas. Hope that helps!

      Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | January 6, 2014, 3:49 pm
  4. Great blog post. Will save it for when I’m closer to actually needing a plan!

    Posted by Carol Baldwin | January 6, 2014, 7:12 am
  5. I’m getting there, but currently my “business plan” is to get everything that’s been published plus the books that have been waiting almost-finished in my computer “drawer”, professionally re-edited, re-covered, and re-published in a way that I keep track of all records, own the ISBNs and [official!] copyright, etc. I’m trying different marketing plans (like using KDP Select for the first 3 months) and keeping track of what they accomplish. From there I hope to form a knowledge base for making actual plan-plans. In other words, I’m flailing about in deep water—but I can see the shore easily from where I am. That’s a lot better than where I was!

    Posted by Carol A. Strickland | January 6, 2014, 7:21 am
    • Whoa! Carol, you’re the ideal person to have a business plan. When you’ve got that much on your plate (hurray!) the plan can really help you get everything done that you want to. Those deep waters won’t seem quite so dark, murky and shark infested if you’ve got a lifeboat (in the form of a production schedule). Good luck for this upcoming year, and let me know if I can help you!

      Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | January 6, 2014, 3:54 pm
  6. We are like-minded. I have a “business plan” that is front and center in my brain, my eyesight, my bulletin board. I can adjust it, it isn’t in concrete, but it keeps me rolling. However, The Bank is the least of it.

    Posted by Deanna K. Klingel | January 6, 2014, 8:00 am
  7. Morning Amy!

    You make it sound so do-able….lol. I’m hoping to get to the point where I need a business plan this year, and when I do, I’ll definitely be re-reading this article!

    I know a lot of authors who have tried various marketing ideas – some work, some fail. How do you know what to spend your money on for marketing?

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 6, 2014, 8:14 am
    • Carrie,
      I’m a big believer in planning ahead, so it doesn’t hurt to start your business plan at the beginning of the year so when you think you need one, you’re all ready to go.
      My best tip for marketing is to keep track of your sales information (or if you don’t have access to it, your ranking on the sales sites, like Amazon) side by side with your marketing efforts. That way you can see what kind of promo actually resulted in sales (or increase in ranking.) The promo you did when you see an increase are the ones to note so you can repeat them. If you’ve done your Bank plan you know how much money you’ve got to spend on promo.
      Hope that helps!

      Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | January 6, 2014, 4:26 pm
  8. It’s time for me to put together a business plan. Or at least something a bit more detailed than the notes for projects that I always jot down at the beginning of the year. I’m juggling enough writing projects now that I really need to have some concrete goals and plans.

    Posted by Janel Gradowski | January 6, 2014, 9:16 am
  9. In the early years, I had a business plan, but that kind of went by the wayside as things developed. I forgot that a business plan, like writing, has to be fluid. It changes as things change. So I need to sit down and take control again. What you said is so clear and concise – thank you for making it understandable!

    Posted by Vicky Burkholder | January 6, 2014, 9:32 am
    • Vicky,
      You are so right! Plans that don’t have some flexibility and fluidity built in are the ones that tend to get shoved in the back of the file cabinet never to be seen. The publishing biz has changed by truckloads in the past couple of years and if we don’t adjust it will be harder to succeed. I’m so glad you’re going to take control again. Let me know if I can help.

      Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | January 6, 2014, 4:30 pm
  10. Great post, Amy.

    I’ve got a business plan (I have A LOT I want to accomplish.) but my question is this: How often do you revise your plan? Every quarter? Every month? Sometimes opportunities that aren’t planned for reveal themselves and need to be slotted in….

    Posted by JB Lynn | January 6, 2014, 11:34 am
    • JB,
      I do a big review and revision of my plan every year, but I leave plenty of room in the plan when I’m creating it for updates. I do a check-in about once a month (usually when I’m updating my budget) to see how I’m doing on my goal and to see if I can schedule in any new projects, or if I need to scrap anything. Like Vicky said, your plan should have some fluidity to it. Don’t be so loosy-goosey with it that you let yourself get out of accomplishing anything, but don’t be so rigid that you’re working on goals that don’t do you or your career any good.
      You get to decide how often you think you need to revise. I don’t recommend completely revising more than once a year, but updating? I do pretty continually. It’s your plan, make it work for you!

      Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | January 6, 2014, 4:35 pm
  11. Thanks for offering this giveaway! I am all for treating writing as a business. I think the mystery of the process can make it intimidating, which triggers procrastination. Your book seems like the perfect solution.

    -Christine @ Better Novel Project

    Posted by Christine @ Better Novel Project | January 6, 2014, 12:11 pm
    • Christine,
      Love the Better Novel Project concept. Looks like you’re really helping a lot of writers!
      Yes, yes, and yes. Intimidation and procrastination are like bad college dorm-mates. They keep so many of us from taking control, especially in our writing careers. It’s half the reason I write business books for authors. The business aspect of being a writer doesn’t have to be scary! I promise. :)

      Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | January 6, 2014, 4:39 pm
  12. Thanks for this post. I’ve spent years in the business world, and this approach works for me. I think when you have a clear plan, it’s easier to let the writing creativity flow.

    Posted by Bailey Edwards | January 6, 2014, 1:46 pm
    • Bailey,
      Awesome, your experience in the business world can definitely help your writing career. I spent years there helping people open their own businesses and it’s part of what spurred me to write this book. Sometimes I have a hard time convincing authors that they are actually a small business, so I’m happy to see you’re already on board. Good luck!

      Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | January 6, 2014, 4:42 pm
  13. Great post Amy!! A lot of wonderful ideas. I definitely think more writers need to see themselves as business people, and this is a great tool for helping them get their businesses in order.

    Posted by Danica Favorite | January 6, 2014, 5:01 pm
  14. I’m going to use this as an “assignment” for my critique group. We’re all in different places, but I think it can help all of us – and it’s less discouraging than New Year’s resolutions.

    Posted by Kris Bock | January 6, 2014, 9:14 pm
  15. I am writing my first book to be published under my own publishing company. Do I need to do two separate business plans, one for publishing and one for author?

    Posted by Teresa Beasley | January 6, 2014, 11:07 pm
    • Teresa,
      I’d recommend one plan that includes all your writing career goals. I have self publishing projects and books I’m targeting for traditional publication. They are all included in one big beautiful business plan! That way all your goals work together to achieve your dreams!

      Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | January 7, 2014, 1:16 pm
  16. I’ve written the books, now I need to figure out the best way to get them out into the world. It’s a daunting process…or so it seems. I love the idea of simplifying things and, hey, if I can put together a plan over coffee ;) then all the better! Definitely going to have to check out this book, Amy. Thanks for writing it! :)

    Posted by Molly McLain | January 7, 2014, 12:51 am

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