From Tara, the Despicable Muse of Indie U
You've been hearing about Indie U; now it's time for the goodies. Our first guest series is going to walk you through the process of creating a business plan for writing. Joining us this week is Suzan Harden, author of Blood Magick, Zombie Love and other great books. (Did we mention that she used to be an attorney?)
Suzan originally wrote a guest post about creating a business plan for writers for Joan Reeves's blog, Slingwords. The lovely Diane Holmes thought it needed expansion and invited the talented Suzan to discuss it further.
The goal: Helping You, the Writer become You, the Publisher.
Why Go Indie?
by Suzan Harden
In a word — money.
Have you ever asked yourself why you should pursue independent publishing? This is exactly what happened to me. My husband started researching the business side of things in the fall of 2010. (What can I say? He's the supportive type.) He asked me pointblank what a traditionally-published critique partner was making in terms of royalties.
For reality's sake, let's look at a typical mid-list author, i.e. NOT Stephen King. The simple breakdown goes like this:
Traditional Publishing: Writer sells first book to traditional publishing company (TPC) and contracts for 8 percent royalties. (This is actually high for a first novel, but let's roll with it.) TPC sells book for $7.99. This mean Writer gets eight cents out of every dollar, or in this case, $0.64 for every book sold.
Indie Writer: Writer publishes her own book on Amazon, which takes a 30 percent cut to cover its overhead. Writer sells her book for $2.99. Now, Writer gets $2.09 for every book sold.
Then Mr. Practical stared at me like I'd grown a second head and said, "Why the hell don't you indie publish? You'll be farther ahead."
Sometimes you can't argue with common sense.
If you want a more extensive take on numbers, check out Dean Wesley Smith's blog post The Math of It All. This breakdown shows what it takes to make money with indie publishing. (For those who may not know, Dean is an award-winning author, former editor with Simon and Schuster, and a publisher who's been in this business for 20+ years.)
The point is that on a per book basis, you may be ahead of the game if you indie publish, but there are many things to consider.
- Do you have the time and energy to run your own publishing business?
- Are you willing to educate yourself on aspects other than writing in order to succeed as an indie publisher?
- Do you have the seed money to get your business started?
You, As the Publisher — No Guarantees
"Wait!" y’all are shouting. "Money? What about Yog's Law?"
Yes, money should flow to the writer, but guess what, folks? If you decide to indie publish, you're now the publisher, not just the writer. And, You, the Publisher will be in the prime position to make sure that You, the Writer doesn't get screwed.
BUT (and this is a very big "but" as shown by the capital letters) there are no guarantees that You, the Publisher will be able to make money for You, the Writer. As an independent publisher, you will definitely have to cough up some dough to cover some production costs.
One of the major pluses of indie publishing is that you can do many things yourself if you're willing to learn. That brings us to the reason for this week's posts on creating a business plan. Every business, even a publishing company, should have a business plan. It should cover the following things:
- What you hope to accomplish as an independent writer,
- How you will do your daily business, and
- What the business is looking at in terms of profit and losses.
A business plan is a living, breathing document. It will need to change as external factors and your own desires change. So get out your pen and paper (or your laptop) and let's get started!
A Business Plan for Writing Part I: The Executive Summary
This a fancy name for "What I Plan to Do." Most business plan guides suggest doing this last and working on financials first. To me, that's like a New Yorker putting all her time into planning a car trip, then deciding to go to Hawaii. A little back-ass-wards, right? That doesn't mean you shouldn't refine your plan later when you get the details down, but for now, start with what you want to do.
Here's an example from my own business plan:
Original Version: I will publish my fiction in both e-format and print format through multiple retailers, with the ultimate goal of making a living from my fiction.
Current version: Angry Sheep Publishing will publish approximately four new urban fantasy and/or erotica books in both e-format and print per year with the goal of making X dollars per year.
See what's the same and what's different?
When I practiced law, I used the Small Business Administration's business plan template, but you'll see from looking at it, it's geared more toward a manufacturing or service industry. Over the next six days, I will discuss the tweaks I made to make it a usable outline for an indie start-up and give you some resources to check out.
If you have questions, I'll be happy to answer them. If you're too shy to leave your question in the comments, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org (though, I can guarantee that you won't be the only one with that question).
From Tara, the Despicable Muse of Indie U
I've owned several businesses, and I know the value of a business plan. The first step to making money as a writer is looking at writing as more than a hobby. The incredible Suzan has some great information to help you do just that, so stay tuned all week long. Work through the steps with us and get ready for a surprise on Saturday.