Successful indie authors have one thing in common: they realize that they are not only writers, they are also business owners, marketers, salespeople and much more.
The reality is that authors can no longer be solely writers. If you aren’t willing to wear the other hats mentioned above, you will struggle to find success. Sure, you could try to hire people to help, but that gets expensive quickly. For the sake of this post let’s assume that you are like most indie authors and money is tight. Hiring a full-team to run your author business is out of the question.
Why Do You Need A Business Plan?
Without a plan most authors get lost. Business does not come natural to us. When you create a business plan it is like having a map. If you do find yourself lost you can always refer back to it to get back on track.
Business plans help you avoid procrastination, focus on what really matters, avoid spending too much money and most importantly, sell more books.
Below we will discuss an 8-step indie author business plan. This business plan will be much like the business plan used by the largest businesses in the world. Don’t worry, I will make sure to explain each step and how to apply it to your specific situation as an author.
The Indie Author Business Plan
1. Finalize Your Book Topic (Product)
Every business starts with a product idea. As an author your product will be your book. If you already have books available for purchase, you will want to create separate business plans for each book (unless they are part of a series).
It is important to not move past this step until you know what you will be writing about. Once you do have a topic idea, you will be ready to move on to step 2.
2. Write Down Goals and Deadlines
With your book topic in mind, it is time to set specific goals and deadlines. Goals might include: writing every day, hitting a specific word count or even selling 1,000 copies. Goals are good, but they are rarely achieved without deadlines.
Creating realistic deadlines are crucial. You will not write your entire book in a month. Having this type of deadline will stress you out and isn’t helpful. Your deadlines should include: when you will complete your first draft, when you will begin marketing your book, when your book will be complete and when you will achieve your sales goal.
I cannot tell you what goals or deadlines to set, but I can tell you that this step can make and break your success. Take time to creating motivating goals and procrastination killing deadlines.
3. Create A Competitive Analysis
Do you know who the top selling indie authors are in your genre? How did they become so successful? What channels do they use to market and sell their books? Who is their target audience?
These are all questions you need to be able to answer when creating your competitive analysis. The point of this step is to understand who your competition is, while also learning from their successes and/or failures.
There are millions of authors in the world, so you will have to narrow down your competition significantly if you want to be able to analyze them. Look for the 10-15 authors that you share the most in common with (same genre, similar topic, shared target audience, etc).
Now study what has helped them succeed and take notes. You will want to use this information to help shape your strategy moving forward.
4. Create A Marketing Plan
The competitive analysis is a major component of your marketing plan. If you plan on selling a large quantity of books, you will need to master the basics of marketing. In my experience marketing is where most authors fail.
It is important to start thinking about your marketing plan as early as possible. In fact, one could argue that you should consider a marketing plan even before you begin writing your book.
Doing so will ensure there is an audience for the book you are writing. Many authors are surprised to realize that once they finish a book there isn’t actually a large enough audience interested in what they wrote about. Talk about a bummer. Let’s avoid this by creating a marketing plan early on.
So what should you include in your marketing plan? Here are a few components it must include:
- Target customer: age, gender, location, interests, etc.
- Marketing channels: social media, blog, in person events, etc.
- Pricing strategy: how much will you sell your paperback, hardcover and eBook for?
- Special offers: will you offer discounts or give away the first few chapters for free?
Your marketing plan can include several other component, but it must answer the following question: how will you make sure your target customer knows about your book and is able to purchase it?
5. List Required Outside Help
Hiring professionals to help with different parts of the book creation process is critical for success. Whether it is an editor, cover designer or reviewer, you will need to spend some money on professional help if you plan to offer a high quality book.
The easiest way to decide what to spend money on is to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have this list you will want to hire professionals to help in your weakness areas. Quality professional help does not have to be expensive.
At a minimum you will want to hire an editor. Don’t try to write and edit your own book; this rarely ends well.
6. Identify Financing Needs
Many of the steps above cost money. Marketing your book will cost money. Hiring professional help will cost money. Simply allocating time towards writing your book costs money since you will not be earning money during those long hours.
The point of this step is to identify how much money you will need. Business owners have to nail this part of the business plan since running out of cash is the number one reason businesses fail. You are now a business owner so you must think like one.
You should be excited about this step because it will save you money. When you plan ahead of time you are less likely to overspend. Be honest about your budget and then allocate your spending accordingly.
7. Create A Strategic Sales Plan
The final step before we put together the formal business plan is to create a strategic sales plan. This plan will answer the following question: how will I sell my book to interested customers.
As an author this is an important question since there are so many options. Will you sell your book on Amazon? Will it be available as a paperback and a hardcover? What about an eBook? Maybe you want to offer it only as an eBook. Will you sell your book directly from your website?
The great thing about being a modern author is the plethora of sales options. Technology has made it easier than even for indie authors to sell their books. The only problem with options is you can’t choose them all.
Your competitive analysis and marketing plan should help you decide how to effectively sell your book. Worry less about your personal opinion and more about how your target audience buys and consumes books. Make it as easy as possible for people to find out about your book and buy it.
8. Create A Formal Business Plan
At last we are ready to write the formal business plan. Up until this point you have been compiling each section step-by-step and probably have a jumbled mess of notes.
It is now time to simplify what you have come up with into a short, concise business plan. Keeping your formal business plan shorter than 8 pages should be the goal. Any longer and you will be less likely to refer to it on a regular basis.
Congratulations! You have successfully created a business plan that any indie author would be proud of. Now it is time to write your book and follow your business plan as closely as possible. Doing so will ensure you work effectively and reach your goals.