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.
Traditional business plans have seven components:
- Executive summary
- Business description
- Market strategies
- Competitive analysis
- Design and development plan
- Operations and management plan
- Financial factors
The business plan for a book parallels this structure, with a few changes.
First of all, 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.
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.
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.
A 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 an author’s business plan, the Operations and Management Plan may be simple or very complex, depending on the level of organization the author needs and the amount of assistance he or she anticipates.
Finally, 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.