31 December 2012
Why Every Writer Should Have A Business Plan
Firstly, let’s hope you’ve had a Happy Christmas. Meanwhile, it’s back to business - and I use the word advisedly as you will see in a moment.
My guess is that you’ve been attracted to reading this blog post because you’re a writer. Writers are creative, sensitive, touchy-feely creatures. We’re necessarily romantics – we have to be to do what we do ie. invent some form of fiction that lifts us and our readers above and beyond the ordinary grind of day to day life. Why on earth would we want to soil our hands with something as grubby and mundane as planning? Isn’t that rather beneath us? Shouldn’t we be leaving that kind of thing to those of lesser minds? For you, perhaps – but if you take that view I think you’re a dreamer. Don’t get me wrong, dreams sometimes come true but it’s a matter of luck rather than judgement. If you really want to be a successful writer, I believe you’re going to need to plan. Let me explain.
I’m talking about planning in the general sense. Planning a particular piece of work is something different and I hope to be able to deal with that in another blog. What I mean is business planning. I come from a business background where planning is an integral part of work. I was taught the old adage that ‘to fail to plan is to plan to fail’ – and as I’m not too keen on failure, I plan to avoid it. What has business got to do with it, you might ask? We’re writers, not businessmen. But if you’re a writer, then writing is your business and the sooner you think of it that way and approach it professionally, the sooner you’re likely to succeed.
So I recommend you begin by writing a business plan for yourself as a writer. I’m not going to tell you how, there are plenty of self-help books which can do that far better than I can here. My purpose is to persuade you of the wisdom of it and to give you a flavour of my own plan as an example. This has benefits for me too, as it forces me to address the subject myself and highlights one of the key issues. ‘Thinking’ you have a plan is all very well but it doesn’t commit you to it in the same way as it does if you put it down on paper. Write it down and post it somewhere prominent in your office/study so that it stares you in the face every day. Let its continual presence shame you into doing what you said you would. Even better, tell someone else about it. Make it public – that will ensure you’ll strive even harder to get it done.
And what better time to start than now, at the turn of a new year. It’s a natural point for us to reflect on what we’ve achieved in the past twelve months and to focus on what we’re going to achieve in the next. I don’t mean it should be a ‘resolution’, but rather a template for what we intend to do over the coming period. I’ve often done this, both in my ‘business’ life and in my new life as a writer. I don’t want to inflict the whole of my own plan on you but there are a couple of elements I’d like to share. In particular, I want to ‘go public’ with some stated objectives and challenge myself to achieve them in the belief that it will help me personally succeed.
Most business plans have a general ‘aim’. I’ve already stated mine when I first set up my website back in July in that I said I wanted to become a nationally recognised author. Up until then I was known locally but not beyond and the establishment of the website was intended to open up a new world for me. It was one of my ‘objectives’.
Objectives are more specific targets and are identifiable steps on the way towards achieving your aim. My objectives since ‘turning professional’ at the end of June 2012 have been firstly the website, then setting up and using a Twitter account, converting two of my novellas into ebooks and using the website as a platform for selling them. My intention was to raise my profile and get myself better known – and if I managed to sell a few books along the way, so much the better. So far so good. But at the same time I’ve been determined to continue my writing (after all, that’s what we’re here for) and I really wanted to finish my debut novel, BIRDS OF THE NILE, and have it ready for publication in 2013. I’ve been able to do that too, applying the final touches in the few days before Christmas. This brief respite has given me the opportunity to reflect on 2012 but now it’s time to take a deep breath and plan for 2013.
So what am I intending to do next year? My general aim remains unchanged and I still have work to do to get there. I made steps forward in 2012 but I need to set fresh objectives to progress further down my chosen path. And with that in mind, here’s what I plan to get done in 2013.
- I will convert my third novella to ebook and have it available on Kindle.
- I will publish BIRDS OF THE NILE.
- I have a second novel, AS DAD LAY DYING, in first draft. I will finish this and have it ready for publication in 2014.
- I will complete the first draft of my third novel, MALAREN.
There, I’ve gone public – and if I fail, I give you license to come back to me at the end of 2013 and remind me of the promises I’ve made. But before you do, just make sure you keep your own.