How to Write a Business Plan for Your Book (Part 2: the Overview)

Today, we start our in-depth look at the sections of a “book business plan” and how to write them, with a look at the “Overview” section. If you missed last week’s overview, you can find it here.

Authors should prepare a business plan for every book. The plan doesn’t have to be written (though it tends to be more valuable as a road map and a reference if it is). Business plans are helpful for authors, regardless of publishing path, and sometimes, writing the plan can help the author decide between traditional and self-publishing. Analyzing where the book fits in the marketplace, as well as the author’s career, can help the book succeed.

It’s never too early or too late to write a business plan for your book.

Remember: the business plan is not a book proposal. The proposal is a tool non-fiction (and some fiction) authors use to sell a book “on spec” (before the book is written). By contrast, a business plan is the author’s personal (often private) “road map” for writing, marketing, publishing and promoting a work.

Even if you don’t like writing out business plans, it’s helpful to think through the business plan’s components when writing and marketing a book. The structure provides a road map for a professional (and, hopefully, successful) launch.

It’s okay to draft the Overview first, in short form, and return to it later after the rest of the plan is finished. 

In a traditional business plan, the “Executive Summary” consists of a half-page synopsis and summary of the entire business plan. In many cases, the summary is written last, or written first and revised when the rest of the business plan is complete, even though it’s actually the first section.

In the author book proposal, I call this first section “The Overview,” mainly to distinguish it from the “Book Summary” (which is section 2).

In the case of an author’s one-book business plan, the Overview should contain:

1. A brief (1-2 paragraph) description of the book. This isn’t the synopsis or the outline (that’s section 2…tune in next week for more detail). It’s more like jacket copy–except that you probably do need to spoil the ending. Think of it as an astronaut’s view, or description, of earth: the big picture version of the book you’re going to write.

2.  A 1-2 sentence description of the book’s genre, target length, and target audience. Your book is not written for an audience of “everyone.” Know where it fits on the shelf and who will read it. Knowing your target audience before you start writing will help ensure the plot, characters, and tone are focused on the readers you want to attract. Thinking about the length ahead of time also helps keep you focused and on track during the writing process.

3. A 1-2 sentence description of current status and other “at-a-glance” relevant facts. Some books are written while already under contract. Others will be used to find an agent, and others will be self-published. Establishing a starting point for the book in the overview helps the author focus, but remember: these decisions are not set in stone. Authors sometimes discover, while writing the business plan, that a book should go in a different direction–saving themselves the trouble of learning that lesson during the writing process.

Once you’ve got the Overview written, it’s time to move on to section 2: the Summary. The good news: you can write a summary section whether you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser. We’ll talk about how in next week’s post!