So, you’re an author. Writing is your business, right?
Well … hopefully. The problem with being an author, particularly a self-published author, is that the real work is a solitary activity, taking place at home or in another not-a-standard-office-environment workplace, and is oh-so-easily interrupted by the ordinary vagaries of daily life. Anyone who works from home can attest that it’s difficult to keep home life and work life separate!
So how can an author make writing a business, with all of the peculiar challenges authors face?
Draw up a business plan.
Whoa, whoa, a business plan?! Isn’t that for people who are, like, starting a bakery or a coffee shop or maybe a lumber yard? Yes. But it’s also for you, the indie author. You have to prioritize making a business plan if you want to make a profit off of your writing. There are plenty of small-business handbooks available through your local public library, so I won’t go into great detail for you here, other than to say you don’t need to be afraid of the spreadsheets … you just have to be willing to bow before the truths they present to you. If the spreadsheets and the business plan requires you to sacrifice certain luxuries in order to make a good go at becoming a profitable self-publishing author, that’s what you’ll need to do. In most cases, however, a business plan will simply help you figure out which services you ought to pay for, and which ones you ought to train yourself to manage. Like bookkeeping, or website design. It will help you organize your author-related budget and separate it from your personal, regular budget, articulate your needs and your vision, and filter out distractions. I promise, this is the best possible thing you can do, whether you’re just starting out or midway through your career!
Figure out your brand.
What do you want to be known for, as an author? Are you going to be recognized for some sort of narrative through-line to your works, a passion for author advocacy, for your engagement with your audience, or something else entirely? (Hint: you can be all of things, and more.) Your “brand” is as much a product of your personality and your priorities as it is the actual physical product you publish on the page.
You can probably name a couple of brands off of the top of your head. Starbucks, Wal*Mart, Toyota … and when you think of these brands, what do you think of? Their visual presence, like their logo and their website or smartphone app? Or perhaps the little jingle that plays during their commercials? Now, what about authors? Which ones spring to mind as having distinctive presences out in the world? Terry Tempest Williams? Ann Rice? Stephen King? Figure out what draws you in, and what you can feasibly do as a creator in order to tap into the same strengths.
Find your market.
Have you spent much time thinking about your ideal reader? This isn’t a simple thought exercise, it’s an important part of delivering your business plan into the world without undue complications. Spend a few hours researching and drawing out characteristics and qualities you think of when you contemplate who will or ought to be drawn to your work, and then brainstorm ways to reach them which you can manage in a regulated, sustainable, and protected way.
Protected? Yeah. As with all other new things, it can be hard to build new muscles and tap into new markets, because such things rely on habitual, scheduled curation. Statistically speaking, readers are far more likely to subscribe to your social media accounts, blog, and email newsletters if they know they’ll get updates regularly—even on the same day each week. You absolutely must protect such habits from the encroachment of daily distractions! Otherwise, they’ll go the way of all other resolutions. And if you want to treat your work as an author like a business, that’s just not going to help much.
If you’re feeling frustrated with your attempts to put together a business plan for your writing, get in touch! We’d love to hear your stories and help you face the challenges ahead with the best possible resources at hand. We’re here for you.
You are not alone. ♣︎