Friday, January 9, 2009

The Business of Writing

Did you know that if you’re writing seriously and with the aim of publication you’re an entrepreneur? It’s true. You own your own business—a writing business. Since you own a business, you should consider writing a business plan.
Businesses from the tiny Mom and Pop store next door to Fortune 500 companies use formal planning. As you’re setting your goals for this new year, you might consider following this established example and use your own business plan as a guide. There are many places to find examples or templates of business plans. You can check with your local Small Business Association, or just search the Internet. Keep in mind, it is a challenge to convert a standard plan to fit a creative business like writing, but use some of that writing creativity and you’ll be fine.

Some categories seem to be standard in a business plan template. I’m going to touch on three of them that I feel may benefit those of us who write. The Purpose Statement, Marketing Information, and Financial Information.
Purpose Statement: What is it you want from your writing? For me, it was to produce 2-4 marketable novel length romance manuscripts per year in a mix of paranormal and contemporary subgenres. For you it may be different. But making the effort to put the words on the page, you solidify what it is you want from your career. Not just to "be a writer" or "to write a book someday." This statement should be concrete and as specific as you can make it. To write one category romance novel every six months. To write one literary novel every two years. To write a mystery novel every year.

Marketing Information: What portion of the overall market is the type of book you want to write? What publishers publish what you want to write and in what quantity? What are their advances, royalties? What information can you gather about how they treat their authors? How much marketing do they do for their company? For their books and authors? What agents take on clients who write what you want to write (good to have an idea, even if you don’t feel you need an agent now)? Do these agents have a good sales record in your genre/subgenre? What do they do for an author? Most importantly, make sure any publisher or agent you’re thinking about is legitimate!

Who are your competitors? (These are other writers, both published and unpublished.) What are their strengths and weaknesses (for example: less experience, more money)? What are your strengths and weaknesses? (examples: maturity, connections, college degree, know agents, taken writing classes, good with description, bad with dialogue etc.) What can you bring to the table that they can’t? (What makes your work uniquely yours?)

Financial Information: How are you going to support your business financially? How much of your personal funds can you afford to/are you willing to funnel into your business? Know that it may be years before you make a profit, even after you sell (you’ll still have overhead). Prepare for this and you’ll be better able to hang in there for the long term.

This is just a quick and dirty overall look at the subject, but there’s a lot of information out there if you’re interested.

Back in 2005 I wrote a formal business plan. It was an eye-opening experience, but I’m really glad I did. A good business plan can pull you away from the personal aspect of writing and force you to look at the realities of the business side of the picture. Writing a plan can also help you see where you need to focus your efforts. After writing the plan, it was easier for me to identify and say no to things that didn’t fit in with my vision—and to grab opportunities that did.
I encourage you to give writing a business plan—or at least a partial one—a try.

Next week I’ll talk about using the business plan information to write goals.


  1. OMG, Cheryel, you're so corporate! :) I haf mission statement?

    Jody W.

  2. I stumbled onto the business plan thing (llllooonnnggg story), but I really liked the idea--and how it got me thinking in a different way about my career.