How to Write a Business Plan for Your Book

All authors should have a business plan for every book they write, regardless of whether the author plans to self-publish or pursue traditional publication. In many cases, the business plan can even help to clarify the choice.

It’s also possible to write an overarching business plan for the author’s career–and authors should do this also–but a book-by-book plan keeps you focused on each release.

A “hard copy” business plan is best, but even thinking through the issues, and making a mental plan, can help the release succeed.

Today, we’re taking an overview look at author business plans and how to write them. In the weeks to come, we’ll look at each of the sections in more detail.

Traditional business plans have seven components:

  1. Executive summary
  2. Business description
  3. Market strategies
  4. Competitive analysis
  5. Design and development plan
  6. Operations and management plan
  7. Financial factors

The business plan for a book parallels this structure, with a few changes. Publishing analogues to (or clarifications of) traditional business plan categories differ slightly, but not so much that we need to leave that structure behind.

A couple of important notes at the outset:

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.

Let’s look at what each section of a successful one-book business plan should contain:

Traditional “Executive Summaries” contain a half-page synopsis and summary of a business plan. In many cases, they’re written last, or written first and revised when the rest of the business plan is complete. In the author’s one-book business plan, the executive summary will contain a one-paragraph description of the book itself, along with a description of its genre, target audience, current status and other “at-a-glance” relevant facts.

The Business Description (perhaps better renamed “book description”) contains a longer synopsis of the work – one page, or possibly two.

The section on Marketing Strategies will normally contain three sub-sections or components: pre-release marketing, release week (or “around release”), and marketing efforts after the initial release publicity push.

Competitive Analysis requires the author to look at competing or similar works in the marketplace, analyze why readers will (or should) want the author’s book instead, examine strategies the author can use to maximize advantages and minimize weaknesses, and acknowledge and address potential weaknesses in the work and the marketing plan.

The Development Timeline (a change from the traditional “design and development” label) includes multiple timelines. The first development timeline covers the writing process: the deadlines (contractual or self-imposed) for writing the book. Authors pursuing traditional publication but not yet represented by agents will want a plan and timeline for obtaining representation, whereas independent authors will need a timeline for the production and publishing process. Marketing and appearance timelines may also prove useful, especially for authors with complicated or busy schedules.

In a traditional business plan, the Operations and Management Plan describes which individuals (or corporate divisions) will handle specific parts of the business’s operations. In an author’s business plan, this section may be simple or very complex, depending on the level of organization the author needs and the amount of assistance he or she anticipates.

Last but not least, the author’s business plan must consider various Financial Factors. As with Operations and Management, this may be simple or may be very complex. This is a good place to assemble information about the costs of publishing – traditional or independent – and to create a marketing and travel budget. Solid research here can help the author put valuable marketing dollars into places where they make a positive difference, rather than simply throwing money into a project without knowing whether or not results will follow.

In a panic? Don’t be! Business plans take work but they’re not as difficult as the bare facts make them seem. 

Next week (yes, the day before Thanksgiving!), we’ll start an in-depth tour of each section, so tune in through the winter for tips and tricks to writing a business plan for your next book!

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