January offered me a perfect opportunity to focus on writing a business plan for my aspirations as an Indie Author but also for the Press I plan to launch this year. The process took me much longer than I anticipated, but it was worth every second for all the lessons drafting my business plan taught me.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing actual pieces of my business plan with you in various ways. For today, though, I will share some of the general lessons I learned.

Thanks to writing my business plan, I developed better focus as I did detailed research into the publishing industry and dug deeper into my personal dreams and motivations, all while performing a serious reality check when it came to the financial and time commitments needed to be a successful Indie Author and Publisher.

Narrowed Focus

Who I am …

Thanks to my background in both journalism and public relations with many years of business writing for others under my belt, I have a decent understanding of mission statements and taglines. I have written and read many over the years—some outstanding ones and some … not so much!

(Let’s just hope I haven’t written any in that last category!)

While these brief snip-its are far from easy to write, they are quite simple in one way.

Mission statements and taglines zoom directly to the heart of a company and quickly relay its focus and purpose.

So, when you take the time to write such a concise piece of the business puzzle, it’s like unlocking a miniature of what the final picture will be.

A few months back, I wrote taglines for me and for my press. You can read all about the process of creating those and my logo in this blog post. (By the way, it happens to be one of my favorite posts of all time!)

Because of the time I had spent thinking through just the right words—and keeping them to only five or six words—writing mission statements came pretty easily.

I hadn’t considered jotting down core values, though. As I got to that part, I found four values that leapt out at me and promise to be guiding beacons through the many business decisions awaiting me in the decades ahead.

What I’m doing …

Through careful planning of projects and publications, I determined the stories and books and projects that are most important to me. I then put each on a timeline of when I want to have them available for my readers.

That made drafting a production schedule a snap!

(Of course, with a production schedule staring me in the face, I better understand just how much time it will take to achieve each goal.)

How I’m going to get there …

By breaking down my larger, ultimate goals into small, bite-size pieces, I can schedule out my work time to complete each task, one by one.

When you look at the big picture of six years’ worth of plans, it’s pretty overwhelming.

Okay—extremely overwhelming.

However, laying it all out this way enables me to pare it down and down and down until I’m focusing my attention on one day at a time, one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time, one book at a time.

Detailed Research

I’m going to be unashamedly honest with you for this part.

(Not that I’m not always honest in my posts, but you know what I mean!)

When I read the part about needing to research and analyze comparable authors and titles, I dreaded it. I know “comps” are important in business, but … ugh!

Where do I even start? How do I know if I’m even comparing apples to apples? Maybe I’m more of a durian fruit, if we’re really being honest.

Well, I pushed myself and refused to ignore these sections because this business is incredibly important to me. Boy, am I glad I did!

I discovered that, not only was the research not nearly as difficult as I expected, it was also quite enjoyable with insightful results.

Between Google searches then blurb reads and review stalking on Goodreads and Amazon, I made my list of authors to learn from, compare myself to (in all the positives of that process) and—maybe even one day—partner with. Over the next couple of months, I have a nice tall stack of books to read. I cannot wait!

Other research included comparable pricing of my books and studying what my similar authors are doing to reach out to their readers—or aren’t doing, as I also realized.

Deeper Digging

With only so much time in the day and so many resources, I also had to dig deep inside of myself to determine what in my business aspirations is most important to me.

I had to think through how I would handle various issues that might arise in the course of the Press and publishing and think through solutions or, better, ways to avoid them altogether.

Another crucial aspect of business planning is determining what sets you apart.

What can I offer that others aren’t? What’s going to make a reader choose my book over a similar title next to it? How am I going to reach the readers that other authors aren’t?

While many of these answers came through in my marketing plans and business structure sections, they also guided and steered my updated approach to my online presence in the coming year.

Checked Reality

What is the reality for an Indie Author these days?

Here comes that honesty again, friends.

You know that picture of celebrity authors walking the red carpet in fabulous gowns after arriving from their castles? I know, I know … but it’s nice to imagine and dream.

The truth is books may seem super expensive these days, but do you know how much of that book’s cost actually goes to the author? Not much at all.

You may know how traditional publishing works. The author signs a contract and gets an advance from the publishing company. Then, they don’t see another penny until the publisher makes up all their upfront costs (including the advance). At that point, it’s a small percentage. Plus, if the author has an agent, that person gets their cut first.

For Indie Authors, we have to hire our editors, cover designers and formatters up front on top of setup fees, ISBN costs, copyrights and so much more (the traditional role of a publisher). Then, for every book that gets sold, we have to subtract the cost of production and shipping, plus a percentage the company that prints them gets. The store that sells them gets their cut, of course. And, there are the daily costs of keeping up websites and emails and domains and such, shipping out Advanced Reader Copies to bookstores, reviewers and book bloggers and let’s not even get started on advertising costs!

And then there are wretched taxes. You do NOT want to get me on that soap box!

Plus, do you have any idea how many books were published in 2018? It’s in the millions. So, how on this giant earth of ours, do I make mine stand out?

Consider my reality properly checked.

Once I got all these numbers that have been swimming in my head down in black and white, the uphill climb ahead became much more clear.

It is most assuredly a risk.

But it’s a risk I’m willing to take because I believe in my stories and—thankfully—so does my family. Now, thanks to the lessons my business plan taught me, I am going into this next stage informed, prepared and properly planned.

LET’S DO THIS!!

Check out this post to learn why I think every author—and person, in general—should have a business plan!

What about you? Do you have a business plan or a life plan? How do you write yours out? How many years out do you go? How detailed do you get?

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