To conclude this series on building a business around your book, I’d like to write about business plans. Now, I’m not a great one to spout off about business plans, since my business hasn’t had one until recently–and it’s not really quite done yet, if I’m going to be totally honest. (But I’m working on it.) I do, however, know a lot about business plans for books. Yes, I do.
In fact, the best business plan for a book has been around for ages and ages. I help aspiring authors create them all the time. Usually, those aspiring authors are wanting to approach traditional publishers to ask them to invest in their books. So, they need a business plan. Aspiring independent publishers–writers planning to self-publish–in most cases don’t bother to create a business plan for their books. Big mistake. They need one even more than their traditional-hold-out friends, so I work with many to do just that.
When you come up with an ideas for a book–blogged or other wise–rather than sit down and begin writing, create a business plan. And use the publishing industry standard: a book proposal. Yep. That’s it. A book proposal.
Here’s the deal: Not every blogged book idea (or traditionally written book) deserves to become a book. Some ideas make better articles or essays because you don’t have enough subject matter to produce a full-length blogged book. Others might be appropriate for a book but only your friends and family might be interested in reading that book because it doesn’t have a market beyond your immediate circle of influence. Or maybe your idea simply isn’t unique—the market is flooded with other books just like it, so it isn’t going to garner a big enough readership. You may not have a large enough author’s platform (or fan base) or be well-known enough expert to attract readers to another book on the same ol’ subject.
That’s why its a worthwhile venture to evaluate your book idea’s success potential–its marketability– prior to writing a word. If you do this using the sections of a book proposal as your guide, you will accumulate all the information necessary to put together a top-notch business plan for your blogged book. Why? Because you will be looking at your book through the eyes of an acquisitions editor and producing the type of document a publisher requires before moving forward with a new book venture. You need that document as well. That document–the book proposal–serves as a publishers business plan, and it can–and should–serve as yours. So use the publishing industry standard—the book proposal—as your guide to creating a business plan for your book. Take your idea and look at it through the lens of a book proposal, and you’ll know soon enough if your idea has the ability to make it as a print or ebook. Evaluate your idea as any agent or acquisitions editor might if they were to read your book proposal. And you’ll end up with very specific information about who you will market your book to, how you will promote your book and how to position your book in the market so it is unique and relevant to your readers.
If you don’t plan on ever approaching a publisher, your business plan can be less formally written. Just go through what I call the “proposal process” and accumulate the information necessary for a proposal and place it informally in a document. (To learn more about this process and all the parts of a proposal, read the appropriate blogged chapter on this topic.)If you do want to do approach a traditional publisher, go through the process and then place the information in a document that you have professionally edited. You will later submit this to an agent and publishers after you have sent a query letter.
Book proposals contain a variety of sections. Some of them are:
- Markets: This section asks you to describe your book’s markets—large groups/numbers of people who might be interested in and purchase your book. These are the people who will find your book relevant for some reason.
- Competing Titles: In this section you look at the previously published books and compare your book idea to them.
- About the Author: In this section you write a bio of yourself and discuss why you are the best person to write this book. This is a chance to compare yourself to the authors of the competing books and ask yourself if you can compete with them. Are you unique? Do you have the credentials necessary?
- Mission Statement: Do you have a reason to write this book? Is it your purpose or mission? Will your book serve a purpose, too? Will it add benefit and offer value.
- List of Chapters: Create a table of contents for the potential book. Does it look like you have the makings for a book? Can you see an actual structure and imagine content for a full book?
- Chapter Summaries: Describe each chapter’s content.
- Promotion Plan: This is the real business section (or sales plan). How will you promote your book prior to publication and after? This plan ensures your book will sell over time. It’s how you build a fan base of readers and how you create a continuous flow of buyers (readers) for you book.
- Author’s Platform: This section describes everything you have done to create a base of potential readers for your book. If you have nothing to place in this section, normally you would wait to write your book. However, by blogging a book you build platform (pre-promote your book)–create a platform. This is about getting known before the book deal or before the release of your self-published book to ensure that it sells.
A book proposal has more sections, and all of them help you create a sound business plan for your book. Going through this process helps you see the Big Picture of your book. If you want to explore more about the book proposal process, check out my My new book on the proposal process–now called the Author Training Process. It tells you how to create a business plan for you book. It will be released by Writer’s Digest Books in mid-February 2013 and is called The Author’s Training Manual. I also offer a related course called Author Training 101.