Fellow writer and blogger, Carrie Bailey of the Peevish Penman is guest posting today (for long time followers of my blog, you may recall her blog shares its birthday with mine). Hopefully her post will get you really thinking about where you want to go with your writing and the best way to strive for those goals. (P.S. She’s currently seeking submissions for the second The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society anthology. You can find a link to the submissions page in her bio at the end of this post.)
How Not to Write an Author Business Plan
by Carrie Bailey
Can an author survive without a business plan? Yes, of course, they can and do every day, but they miss the opportunity to learn about, explore and refine their own business strategy through the very thing they love best. Writing.
I’ve written business plans for libraries and helped small business owners in a range of fields, from automotive to health food products to do the same. I’m not an expert at what makes them successful. People ask for my help because they believe I’m good with words. But while struggling to help great visionaries articulate how they’re going to change the world with their product or service, I have gained some insight into what prevents people from growing their business.
Here’s how not to write a business plan:
Ignore the context
If you don’t like the changes in the publishing industry and the impact of new technologies, just ignore them. They don’t matter. eBooks are just a fad.
It’s the same with genres. Just because readers in their later teens often make a beeline straight to the bookcase labeled YA in their favorite bookstore or local library, you don’t have to factor that into your business plan. Readers will just instinctively know how to find your book.
Maybe everyone has written about werewolves that moonlight as detectives this year or no-one is reading one hundred thousand word epic poems about the suicidal ruminations of massage therapists who lost a loved one in the apocalypse, but you don’t have to pay attention to trends. A true artist sets the trends.
Don’t plan strategically
Only heartless capitalist thugs use strategic planning. They start by defining what they offer in terms of their strengths, weaknesses and the threats to their business. Then, they identify their opportunities. For them, it’s about knowing where you are, where you want to go and then choosing what tactics you need to get there.
That’s evil. Don’t do it.
And don’t define what success means to you. Accept what your hair stylist believes: a successful author is mega-wealthy and a New York Times Bestseller. Like duh, she knows what she’s talking about. Do not set measurable short-term goals. If it’s not a multimillion-dollar book deal from a top publisher, it’s not worth your time.
Hate all publishers, agents, other writers or readers who deserve it
You deserve respect and you don’t have put up with people with their opinions. When you write your business plan, write anyone you don’t like out. It’s all about you and your book. Besides publishers and agents only want what the public will buy, right? And we all know people have no taste. Forget about them. Business plans are not about buying and selling. They’re about something else. Something indefinable.
Besides, everyone should want to read your work whether or not you respect him or her. It is that profound and they need it to change their lives and to make them better people. Don’t bother targeting a specific audience. No matter what age they are, where they live, what their background is or what language they speak, they should want to read your book.
Maintain absolute control
It’s also crucial that you never let anyone see your business plan, because they are going to steal your ideas. Don’t accept feedback from anyone either. That will disrupt the purity of your own artistic vision for your work.
Never change your business plan
Just because the times change and the business of writing changes, doesn’t mean that your business plan should. Chisel it in stone. Adaptation is for losers who didn’t do it right the first time, right?
You would think that the people who held ideas similar to these-the real people I’ve met and worked with-would not be in business, but they had shops, clients, employees, products and services. They made ends meet, but they weren’t growing. They believed they couldn’t articulate their business plan effectively, because they lacked writing skills. I disagree. They simply could not articulate their business plans, because they were poorly formed in areas.
I used to spend hours having conversations that went like this:
“So, what threats to your business can you identify?”
Small business owner:
“There aren’t really any, except that sometimes I run out of money at the end of the month and I every time I train someone they leave and go into business for themselves and I can’t find anyone to do the accounts right. I think the accountant I hired is overcharging me.”
“Okay, so additional competition is one threat?”
Small business owner:
“Oh no! My product is completely different and unique to everything else available and no one else could possibly compete with it…”
Two hours later, I would often still not have identified one threat and I would have nothing written down for them, but they weren’t hopeless. Years later some have grown and developed from barely five figured enterprises to healthy six figured ones. They had passion.
I don’t try to write business plans for people anymore. Edit? Yes. Write? I can’t. Writing a business plan forces you to think through important questions about what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re trying to do it. The writing process itself is a vital learning tool. My sister, Winonah Drake, the co-editor at Peevish Penman, recently shared a Winston Churchill quote with me that I believe sums it up, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”
Carrie Bailey has been writing her debut YA fantasy novel for the past two years while attending graduate school for library science. She is currently seeking submissions for the second edition of The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society, an anthology.