Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Starting 2010 With a Writer's Business Plan

I like to start the new year with a business plan. Every January I put together a fresh binder that keeps my various goals, projects, and marketing materials in one place. Not only does this help me stay focused for the rest of the year, it’s a handy tool to take to classes, conferences, and pitch sessions where I can have everything I need to talk about my writing at my fingertips.

Over the years I’ve experimented with and changed the format of my plan until I now have it the way that works best for me. I've used my current arrangement for the last two years and I think it’s the one I’ll stick with. Here’s the way I have the pages set up:
  1. Focus of Intention. This is the place where I state what my purpose for writing is going to be for the year. I also include what genres and styles I want to work in.
  2. Vision Statement. Where do I want to be with my writing by December 31, 2010?
  3. Mission Statement. What will I do to get there?
  4. Objectives. What exactly do I want from my writing? This is where I state the specifics of what I want to achieve and why.
  5. Deliverables. What do I currently have for sale? This can be published books, manuscripts, classes and workshops, as well as items such as marketing tools, i.e., bookmarks and postcards, or T-shirts.
  6. Clients, Customers, Audience. Who am I writing for? Who is my readership? My student base?
  7. Financial Requirements. What are the costs I will incur to keep writing? For instance, I will need postage, business stationery, and web site maintenance fees. Don't forget things like writer's organization fees and dues, conference and travel fees, and anything else you will need for the year. Budget accordingly.
  8. Skills Needed. What do I need to learn this year? Are there classes I should be taking? Books I need to read to improve my craft?
  9. Critical Relationships. Who do you know to help you along the way? Who can open doors, help you connect to other writers or even editors and publishers? Is there someone who can set up a booksigning for you, or simply spread the word that you have a published book for sale?
  10. Bio Statement(s). Every submission or piece of publicity material needs a good bio statement, one that is relevant to the individual situation. That's why I like to write several bios to make sure I have one for each new opportunity as it arises. For instance, when I am submitting a request to teach at a conference, I emphasize my years of teaching beginning writers. When I am preparing a 1-sheet about The Great Scarab Scam, I want to mention that I have traveled to Egypt and have been an avid student of Egyptology for most of my life.
  11. Published Work. Include everything. Newsletters, articles, even your blog. Take credit for every piece of writing that has your byline. But what if you're not published? No problem, just move on to:
  12. Writing Related Achievements/Activities. Taken classes? Been a contest judge? Belong to a writer's group? This is the place to list each and every thing you have done to help yourself become the writer you are and the writer you want to be.
  13. Adjectives/Descriptions of Writing Voice and Style. How would you describe your work? List at least 5 adjectives that you would want a reader or editor to know about your voice.
  14. Influences/Favorite Books, Authors, Films, Etc. Consider this the long list of your Blogger or Facebook profile. Don't leave any influences out and do add any new ones from the previous year. Is there a pattern that perhaps tells you what you like to read best and therefore should be writing? Perhaps one of the most important uses of this list is to make thoughtful and realistic comparisons of your own work to other books and writers without being grandiose or sounding ridiculous: e.g., no more, "Wow! My book is just like The Exorcist for children with a touch of Gone With the Wind meets Winnie the Pooh!!"
  15. Writing Goals, General. I bet you thought we'd never get to this part! But I like to leave the "goals" sections to the end of my plan. I have 3 different categories of goals. The first is my laundry list of everything I want to achieve not just this year, but perhaps during the entire course of my writing life. Naturally it is way too long, way too ambitious, but it's important to me to list all my ideas--even the nutty ones that I probably may never even start.
  16. Writing Goals, 2010. This is a much more sensible and doable list. For 2010 I have only 3 goals: To polish and submit a novella I started in 2008; to polish and submit a nonfiction project I wrote at the same time; and to see my new book, Overtaken through publication by September. And of course I would love to sell the first two to a publisher!
  17. Other Writing Related Goals. This is the place to list classes or conferences, groups you might like to join, literary pilgrimages you've always wanted to take. Dream big.
  18. Marketing Ideas. This is a brainstorming section that I add to during the year. For instance, I list places to approach for booksignings, or lists of things I need to make or do to help sell my work.
  19. Loglines for Next Five Projects. Although my goal list for the year is limited to only 3 manuscripts, it's good to be prepared with not just the loglines for these 3, but also to have the descriptions of my 2011 manuscripts at the ready in case I'm ever asked what those are.
  20. Query Letters and Synopses. I like to keep copies of my various letters and synopses all in one place. For every manuscript I have for sale, I write three synopses: 1-paragraph for the query letter; 1-page that can be included with another kind of letter or that can be sent on its own; and a longer version, sometimes up to 5 or more pages that can be used when a synopsis is requested by an editor.
  21. Manuscript Tracking Chart. This is a simple table I can fill in to track where my manuscripts are at any given time. Just five columns to list the date I sent the manuscript, what the manuscript is, where it went, the name of the editor it was sent to, and finally, the response.
And that's it! At the very back of the plan I like to keep a few blank pages for jotting down ideas or anything else that I want to consider adding to the plan as the months go by.
Tip of the Day: If you don't have a plan, start one now. Use or delete any of the sections I've mentioned here. Most important, create a plan that works for you. For extra inspiration, draw or collage your goals with a "vision map" to keep on or inside your front cover.


jen said...

Awesome idea! Much more organized than what I was trying to do before. Thanks so much.

marion said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.