Planning for Success: Independent Writers Need a Business Plan

I was reading a blog the other day, and the author mentioned his business plan.

Business plan? You should have one of those for a writing career?

The answer, of course, is, yes, you should. If you’re planning on writing for a living, you’re planning on making a career of it. That means you’ve decided to go into business for yourself, and, as a business, you should have a business plan.

I’m not very good at this sort of thing, which is ironic, since I’ve spent a lot of time in my professional career in planning and development. But I majored in English, not Business, so I never got taught how to write one of these critical documents. Everything I know, I learned on the job.

Moreover, it seems a little weird to try to concoct one for a creative-writing business. After all, my product is fiction. But the fact is I’m intending to sell it and make a living at it, so I’d better know how I’m going to accomplish that.


The first thing I did was set some goals for the business. I have three, two of which are practical, the other more philosophical.

  1. Earn enough money writing to get out of debt in one year: I won’t divulge how much money this needs to be, but, I would like to believe I can earn enough to make this happen. All of my other personal financial goals require me to recover from the financial mistakes I’ve made in the past few years. Thus, I want my writing career to lay a foundation of success for my future.
  2. Create a sustainable career as a writer: Once I’m out of debt, I’d like for the royalties to start paying the bills. You hear about people like Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath making hundreds of thousands of dollars from e-publishing. I’d love to be in that club too, but I’ll settle for something more reasonable. If I can earn enough that this is what I do for a living, that would make me happy.
  3. Establish my name as a reliable brand for high-quality literature: Ultimatey, I want to be read (just like any writer). That means I have to write books people enjoy reading and will tell their friends about. I want people to see “John R. Phythyon, Jr.” at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and elsewhere and know there is a good book attached to that download. It will be well written, entertaining, and satisfying.

The Plan

So, with those goals in mind, I need a plan to get there. It seems to me there are two things I need to do to make the first two goals a reality. (The third can only be accomplished by writing good stories and making sure they are carefully edited before publishing.) The two-part plan is simple: publish and hustle.

  1. Publish: The nice thing about being middle-aged as a new author is I’ve got quite a bit of “backlist.” It’s not really backlist, since most of it hasn’t been published, but I’ve got a number of short stories I’ve never done anything with, and e-publishing has made short stories a viable product. Thus, while I’m writing the sequel to State of Grace, I can get those short stories edited and published. The more products I have available for sale, the more possibilities there are for someone to find my brand and buy it. In particular, if someone likes State of Grace, they may want to read more by me. I can get the short stories up quickly, so readers have some options until the next novel is ready. If I hit my plan, I’ll publish two short stories and the next Wolf Dasher novel between now and March.
  2. Hustle: Once I get State of Grace out there, I can’t just sit back on my laurels and wait for it to sell. I’ve got to get out there and hustle it. I need to request reviews, put up new material on the series on my website, offer some free samples, and then tell the world about them on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. The only person invested in my success as an author is me, so I’ve got to call on those sales and marketing skills I learned in my professional career to sell me.

If I execute this plan the way I hope to, I’ll have three novels, three short stories, and a play available for sale; I’ll be out of debt; and I’ll be writing for myself full-time all by Thanksgiving next year. It’s an ambitious plan, but I’m an ambitious guy.

So, what’s your business plan? Do you have one? If not, how do you plan to accomplish your goals?

If you want to write for a living, if you want self-publishing to be your primary or even sole source of income, you need a business plan. Sit down today, define your goals, and then come up with a plan to get there.

You owe it to your dreams to give them the best shot at coming true.


3 thoughts on “Planning for Success: Independent Writers Need a Business Plan

    • Writing for a living is easy? 😉

      You’re absolutely right, of course. That’s why I like the simple approach. Lay out goals, draft a plan to make them achievable, and then execute, altering goals and plans as often as necessary. Sometimes, the altering part is the most oft-used portion of my strategy.

      Thanks for the comment!

  1. Pingback: Now what? « Pleading the Phyth

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