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« Day Four: Creating a Business Plan for Indie Writing | Main | Day Two: Creating a Business Plan for Indie Writing »

Day Three: Creating a Business Plan for Indie Writing

From Tara, the Despicable Muse of Indie U:

Happy day, folks. Today's post is a continuation of our business plan series by the talented Suzan Harden. If you missed the first and second posts, what's wrong with you? Just kidding. Review Why Go Indie? and Treat Writing Like a Business and then join us for today's topic.

You've Got to Have Product

By Suzan Harden

Time ClockYesterday, we started talking about business expenses. But, to run any business, an owner needs to account for time spent, as well, especially her own!

Get out your pens and paper!

Under your business plan, write all the job/roles needed to produce a book, any book. When you finish, your list should look something like this:

  • Author

  • Copyeditor

  • Proofreader

  • Cover Artist

  • Blurb Writer

  • Formatting and Interior Design

  • Salesperson

  • Bookkeeper

  • Distribution

Now, go back through your list and write down who will perform each job. If you're the typical indie publisher, your name will be in every slot. If it is, your new business is already in trouble.

Going Out of BusinessIn fact, one of the reasons the SBA says 4 out 5 businesses shut their doors within three years of start-up is that the new small business owner "fails to adequately consider all capitalization costs and business expenditures."

If You, the Publisher does not give You, the Writer time to actually write, your new indie publishing venture is going to FAIL!

A business must have product to sell. Period. End of story.

Indie publishing guru J.A. "Joe" Konrath recently started his blog with the following:

Right now, you're reading one of the most relevant, controversial, popular, and opinionated blogs about the world of publishing, and it is an epic fail on your part. . . Because this blog is a time suck. There are hundreds of entries to read, and tens of thousands of comments. It's easy to get pulled in and waste hours, days, weeks. Here's the bottom line: every minute you spend here is a minute you aren't spending on your writing.

Yes, you need to do your research, but limit your time.

Remember, no product = no sales.

Grab that pen and paper again!

Write down the amount of time you can spend each day on the writing business as a whole. Be realistic! If you've got a spouse and kids (and you actually want to keep them in your life), you'll need to account for date nights and soccer games. Schedule the time spent on the day job if you have one, the commute, chores at home, religious activities, etc.

Now, take a hard look at the time sucks in your life.

  • Can you ditch the WoW or Halo nights with your college buds?

  • Do you really need to watch Real Housewives of Fresno?

  • Must you post puppy or grandchildren pictures every five seconds on your Facebook wall?

Once you have the amount of time you can spend on writing each day, it's time for some calculations. Let's use two hours per day as an example. How are you going to divide that time? If you're a slow writer like me, you're going to need an hour and a half just to produce 1,000 words. In reality, a 3 to 1 ratio between writing and publishing activities is more than adequate when you first start indie publishing. Anything more and you start entering the Land of Diminishing Returns.

Speaking of time management, remember back on Day 1 when I said my husband started researching indie publishing before I did? He noted something regarding Amanda Hockings, Jon F. Merzes, and Selena Kitts. Two points actually. They all had multiple books for sale, and the tripping point for self-sustaining regular sales averaged at 10 books.

Before everyone goes crazy on me, you should realize three things:

  1. Mr. Practical is a computer whiz who's been working with accounting software for 20 years,

  2. This was not a scientific survey by any stretch of imagination, and

  3. Ten is the average! Some writers did it with more; some with less.

NO ONE has been an indie publishing success with just one book!

One more time, folks: You've got to write; you've got to have product.

Product = Sales

Tomorrow, we'll start looking at some areas where indie writers can find a balance between time and monetary costs.

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

From Tara, the Despicable Muse of Indie U:

Suzan will be covering more on the costs of running a self-publishing business, but here's my helpful tip for the day: You can often outsource portions of production to one individual or company. For example, an editor may be willing to copy edit, proofread and pump up your cover copy. You may be able to get a discount for the bundled services.

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Reader Comments (1)

I know your article discusses the hows and whys of setting up an indie writing business, but there are many elements here that I found applicable for other industries. The very first scenario, for example, of the entrepreneur taking on ALL responsibilities/positions. This happens a lot among startups. Thumbs up for this article.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen Kilkenny

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