I once was told an old saying that a key to success was “prior proper planning prevents pot poor performance.”
As authors, especially in fiction writing, we have two businesses to look after and herein lies the problem. Many authors spend a lot of time working on the books that we often fail to plan our literary careers. Many authors are under the assumption that once the book is written that it will get into stores, they will become bestselling authors and that they will get millions. Then it is no wonder that many “former authors” just do one or two books and then the “literary career” is over before it began.
Most authors… including a large number of those who hit the New York Times or USA Today or Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s lists… still work daytime jobs. The truth is it takes YEARS for most authors who have a name, to build a name. Usually it’s the third or fourth book that reaches bestseller status or even gets the author some sort of notoriety. Using my own books as an example, Worth Fighting 4, is one of the standout titles for my teen series and is currently my bestselling title… happens to be my fourth published novel. Prior to that, that title was held by the title my teen series was named after, Hold On Be Strong, my third.
As authors, we spend a lot of time writing our books, planning our plots, building our characters and studying the craft of telling our stories. And this is good because we want to create good novels that we want to put our names on and that we feel will sell well in the market place. In the back of our minds, we have an idea of what the cover looks like and which markets we enjoyed signing our books at and what places we want to go back to. And we spend a year or so making sure that each book we work on is as presentable as possible. We go through the technical phase where we ensure that the books are properly edited; we present the books to review readers who critique the book and give their stamp of approval; the package is presented to book buyers who usually commit to a certain number of copies (if the book is selected to be sold in the store).
We as authors need to look at things from this perspective… creating a business plan for our literary careers:
Our “Statement of Purpose” can be a short mission statement for why we are writing (for those who use pseudonyms, perhaps the statement of purpose can be the reason or goals for writing under that name).
The “Executive Summary”, which would be written last, would compile a short listing of our author plan.
“Description of Business Opportunity” would be what we as authors see in the industry and where we find our niche.
The “Company Description” would be our company structure, location.
Our “Products and Services” would be the writings and perhaps some co-authoring and ghostwriting we may due. It is here where we would specify genre and other important information.
Our “Market Research and Analysis” would be our study of other contemporary authors who write in the same genre. A comparison and contrast of what stands out as positives and negatives about their books and how as a new author, one would plan to be different.
The “Marketing Plan” would be how to get the work out to the masses. This is a perfect opportunity to talk about the website (and the cool graphic designer you know), the newsletter, a companion blog, the bookmarks and postcards, social media and any other marketing efforts that will not only lead to the success of the book, but to longevity in a literary career.
The “Management Plan” is tricky. As the author, the writer is the overall CEO of their brand. But the management team would include major key players with the publisher if the author has a publishing deal, the editors, the graphic designers and others who make the creation of the book to life.
The “Financial Plan” would be the project sales minus expense in the Income Statement. The Cash Flow Statement that shows the expenses versus when an author expects income. A Balance Sheet will show the assets and liabilities the author’s equity in those materials.
“Closing Statement” should be why we are writing books and what we want out of our careers.
I think if we all though of our careers with that mindset, some of us would not just last longer, but be satisfied when we see our careers grow.