This week Naomi Blackburn shows you seven essential parts of any solid business plan. Find out more from our Author CEO…

Naomi is founder of the Goodreads group Sisterhood of the Traveling Books, as well as the Nordic Noir group, dedicated to discussing Scandinavian mysteries. This year, Goodreads ranked her at # 11 on their top reviewer list, in both the U.S. and in the world (2011 rankings). As a reviewer, Naomi is brilliant, insightful, and, as she puts it, “brutally honest.”

Please feel free to leave questions for Naomi, as well as any suggestions you may have for future posts. I hope you enjoy the column!


The Author CEO: What is a Writer’s Business Plan?

by Naomi Blackburn

Naomi BlackburnI read a lot of blog posts written by authors about how to write a timeline or that discuss the formation of an outline, going into every miniscule detail that one could possibly lay out. One post went as deep as drawing out the town, street by street, showing how the town looked and ‘felt’ in the author’s mind. As I pondered this, it hit me that the same concept applies to the development of a business plan. Sadly, from what I hear, most authors will do the writing plan, but skip over the business plan. Too bad, because having a plan for selling their work is just as important as writing a quality piece of literature!


Key components of a business plan targeted towards authors


Create a Budget and Investigate Financing Options.

What is your budget for producing your book? How will you stay within that budget? Plans should include identifying some creative low-cost options. Do you need to look at ‘financing’ options such as small business loans, etc. to cover living expenses while you bring the story in your head to fruition? How about any grants that could be available?

Set Goals and a Timeline.

Having clear goals and a timeline for achieving them will help you stay on target. BE SPECIFIC! Tracey Garvis Graves made a fascinating comment in a post she did for Terri. She stated that she wrote every morning prior to having to leave for her day job. She was consistent in keeping this goal and it became her pattern. Her wonderful book, On the Island, was received well and was just picked up by Penguin-in a 7-figure deal!

Decide on a Hierarchy For Your Anticipated Investments.

The time and money you spend is an investment in your product. Most authors do not have unlimited resources, so you will need to figure out where you must invest and where you can save. How much are you willing to invest at each stage? What are the costs of Editors? Proof readers? Cover Designers? Public Relations Firms? Are there areas where, if necessary, you can sacrifice or can you make use of DIY options?

Create a Marketing Plan.

MARKETING, MARKETING, MARKETING!! I can’t remember which author said this, but I thought DEAD ON! Marketing plans for your book should start BEFORE the first word is written by readers or reviewers about your book. There are many options for marketing, from freebies to expensive campaign packages. Neither is bad, but being creative is key.

Consider Your Sales Options.

How and where do you plan to sell books? Smashwords? Amazon? Yourself? What about the scary world of making sales calls? Will you call on bookstores? What about tip-toeing into the world of libraries? Will you consider selling through non-traditional outlets, such as flea markets? Is it possible to tie your book to speaking engagements?

Develop a Plan for Asking for and Obtaining Reviews.

How are you going to get your book reviewed? Will you seek professional reviews from sources such as Indie Reader or Midwest Reviews? Will you go the route of a paid reviewer such as Kirkus or Publisher’s Weekly? How about seeking out bloggers? How do you ‘develop’ relationships with your reviewers? How do you develop a reviewer database? Christine Nolfi wrote a blog post on this topic that I still refer to because hers was spot on!!

Develop a Plan for Networking

Networking isn’t just for corporate bigwigs. Networking can help you get the word out on your book in ways you never thought possible and it can also help you set up some great partnerships. Second, professional acquaintances can offer wonderful feedback and, during those inevitable difficult times, they can provide a sounding board or soft spot to cry on when one is needed. When the time comes, people in your network can help you negotiate the industry-e.g., experienced authors can help you identify quality vs. non-quality suppliers/vendors, saving a lot of misspent money and frustration!

This is a sampling of what you, as an author, need to be asking yourself. Remember, you are not only an author; you are also a small business person. Preparation is key not only to a well written novel, but to a well-developed business plan as well! In the coming weeks, I will be breaking each of these components down. I will also provide lists of key questions to ask yourself while you go through this process.


Naomi Blackburn: The Author CEO