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A Business Plan for Indie Authors--Part One

****This post was originally published on The Writer’s Guide to ePublishing on October 5, 2012****

This is the first part of a three part series on MY business plan as a self-published author. So many people have heard about my twenty-three page business plan and 1) wondered how I found enough material to fill twenty-three pages 2) heard I wrote a twenty-three page business plan and were too intimidated to try it or 3) both.

Just remember, what works for me or is important to me may not work for you. My hope is if you are a self-published author, this will make you think more about the business part of your career.

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When I self-published my first book in July of 2011, my goal was to sell 1000 books by December 31. Six months. At the time, it seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream. I’d done my research and everything I found said self-publishing was a long tail venture. You start off slow and steadily build your sales—and your readers. Estimates for a first month’s expected sales were around 20-50 books. If I was lucky. And then hopefully, double sales the second month.

What I didn’t count on were the benefits of the social media platform I’d been building for a couple of years. I sold 209 books my first month and 441 books my second. In September, I sold 947 books, obviously hitting my dare-to-dream goal of 1000 books within two months of my release instead of six. (I’m not ashamed to admit that I sobbed like a baby.)

By the end of December, I’d published three more books. (Three of the four were my query backlist) When I looked at the number of books I’d sold–26,000 for the year–I realized I could really make money self-publishing books.

Only I needed a plan.

I realized that there were two parts to this venture. There was the creative, author side that used my imagination and wrote fantastical tales. But even though I hadn’t acknowledged it before, I was a small business owner, and my company sold a product. Books. If I wanted to be successful, I needed to think like a business. My brother had opened a wholesale florist warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky a few years earlier, and part of setting up his venture included writing a business plan. I decided I needed a business plan too.

I’m not gonna lie. I was intimidated. When I started searching the internet for examples, there wasn’t much available for authors. (There are many more now.) So I studied the few writer’s sites I found but decided to go with a more strict business plan like you can find on the Small Business Association (sba.gov). I just picked what sections I found most important. I’m going to share my original business plan and also how it’s changed since I first wrote it.

My business plan is twenty-three pages but don’t let that page count intimidate you. I’m going to take you through it section by section. The first page is a title page that says 2012 Business Plan for Bramagioia Enterprises. The second is my TOC page:

Table of Contents
1. Description of Bramagioia Enterprises
2. Ownership of Bramagioia Enterprises and Location of Business
3. Products
4. Pricing Strategy
5. Financial Plan
6. Production Schedule and Writing Plans
7. Targeted Audience
8. Marketing and Promoting Plan
9. Web Plan
10. Long Term Goals
11. Summary

You can see that I came up with a business name– Bramagioia Enterprises. (Bramagioia is Italian for “yearning for joy” which has a special significance to me.) I use this business name as the publisher when I upload my books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. I also consulted an accountant to determine whether my business should be a sole proprietorship or an LLC. Taking into account the tax laws in the state I reside, Missouri, he determined at this time it would be to my advantage to remain a sole proprietorship. My business has a license in the city I reside in and I’m registered with the state.

1) Description of Business

I followed the strict business plan guides and verbiage for these first few pages and honestly, I found it very enlightening. It made me think of my venture as an actual business instead of me playing let’s pretend. Here’s my description:

Description of Bramagioia Enterprises

The purpose of Bramagioia Enterprises is to spearhead the publishing and merchandising the written creations of Denise Grover Swank. Most creations are novels although some will include novellas, short stories, and flash fiction. Genres at this time include urban fantasy, humorous southern mystery, and young adult paranormal/science fiction. All creations will be available to the public for sale via eBooks and print for novels.

As of January 1st, 2012, Bramagioia Enterprises will provide Denise Grover Swank with minimum income of $1000 per month, which will be raised as needed, when finances are available. All remaining funds will be left in a bank account until further action is deemed necessary. Denise Grover Swank may only take funds that are not allocated for future expenses for the year.

When I created this plan, I set my expectations quite low, but aimed high. Thus I made my monthly personal income from my business pretty low. I’ve since given myself a raise. But not much of one. I think the key point for paragraph two is that I see all funds coming in from my books and related products as part of my business. I can’t just spend money allocated to the business for personal expenses.

You’ll also see that while I am the owner of Bramagioia Enterprises, I refer to the business and myself as in third person, just like an author bio.

2. Ownership of Bramagioia Enterprises and Location of Business

Again, continuing the business model, I forced myself to look at my business (Bramagioia Enterprises) and my expectations for it through a business lens.

Ownership of Bramagioia Enterprises and Location of Business

Bramagioia Enterprises is a sole proprietorship operated and managed by Denise Grover Swank. Bramagioia Enterprises currently has no employees. Consultants such as accountants and attorneys may be hired to offer professional expertise and services. Other professionals will be used to aid the preparation of the creative works of Denise Grover Swank to be made available for sale through various outlets. Such professionals may include but are not limited to: Cover designers, developmental editors, copy editors, proof readers, and book formatters.

Bramagioia Enterprises may need to contract professionals or agents to handle foreign rights or movie right sales or any other rights outside of the realm of expertise for Bramagioia Enterprises. This option will be pursued if the need arises.

Bramagioia Enterprises will be run and operated in a designated office on the residential premises of Denise Grover Swank. Bramagioia Enterprises will provide Denise Grover Swank with a desk and desktop computer, a printer, and a laptop for mobility. Additional software and equipment will be provided if finances are sufficient and a need has been demonstrated.

This has changed. I now have a part-time personal assistant. I also have an agent to help with foreign rights and film rights. I’ve also consulted a literary attorney for contract review.

Another important note is the third paragraph. My business provides my business equipment. I actually have this budgeted into expenses.

Tomorrow will focus on what my products are, my pricing strategy, and how I came up with my financial plan.

Read Part Two here

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4 Comments on "A Business Plan for Indie Authors–Part One"

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[…] The first part covers the Table of contents, the business description, and the business ownership and location. Go here to read Part One. […]

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[…] Read Part One here […]

Becky C
Guest

Thank you for sharing and helping others follow their dreams. It’s a complete shock to see someone so willing to help someone in the field. My background is filled with non-compete clauses and competition. This is a breath of fresh air.

Julieann Dove
Guest
I think it’s amazing how you include in your schedule time for helping others like yourself, grow to become successful. That you share tips and hints of what to do and where to go. I’ve purchased your self-publishing book and I’ve read it; some parts several times. I think the part that’s missing for me is how in that first year did you sell so many books? What was it that you did to capture reader’s attention? Getting them is one thing, retaining them is another! I’ve joined and advertised at the places you suggested, but I’m struggling! Will it… Read more »
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