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A Business Plan for Indie Authors--Part Two

****This post was originally published on The Writer’s Guide to ePublishing on October 6, 2012****

This is the second part of a three part series on MY business plan as a self-published author.

Read Part One here

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.

The first part covers the table of contents, the business description and the business ownership and location.

****

3. Products

Products are my books, obviously. But they have also come to include audiobooks, a few items I have for sale through Zazzle, and a few products related to my books (t-shirts, an apron, and bracelets) which are not mentioned below.

Products Offered by Bramagioia Enterprises

Novels are offered in several eBook formats and print books. Approximately 95% of all books sold are digital. It is unclear if novellas will be offered in print format.

Currently available from Bramagioia Enterprises:
Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (A Rose Garner Mystery) – released July 12, 2011
Chosen (The Chosen #1) released September 18, 2011
Hunted (The Chosen #2) released November 22, 2011
Here (On the Otherside #1) released November 8, 2011

Planned for 2012:
Sacrifice (The Chosen #3)—planned release March 23, 2012
Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons (A Rose Gardner Mystery #2)—planned release June 2012
There (On the Otherside #2) –October 2012

Possible for 2012:
Untitled Novella prequel to The Chosen Series—November or December 2012 release

Planned for 2013:
Untitled (The Chosen #4)—February 2013
Untitled (On the Otherside #3) June 2013 (subject to change)
Untitled (A Rose Gardener Mystery) Fall 2013 (subject to change)

Possible 2013
Novella of unknown subject
Development of one or more new series

This has changed drastically. For several reasons and in several ways.

First, I changed my production schedule.

You read that correctly. My books are on a production schedule. At this moment I have a 3×4 foot white board with the WEEKLY production schedule for four books. But more on this in Part Three. What’s important to note here is: Your business plan is not carved in stone. It’s called a plan and plans change. You should have a good reason to change a plan, but just because you have it in print (in a Word document or on a white board) obviously doesn’t mean you have to hold to it if other indicators point you in a different direction.

What changed? I switched the release of my YA book THERE (On the Otherside #2) with the release of the fourth The Chosen book, now titled REDEMPTION. The Chosen series is much more popular than my YA series and I tend to leave my books with a bit of a cliff hanger ending. So it made sense to put out REDEMPTION before THERE to make my readers happy.

Also, because my YA sells fewer books compared to my other series, I cut the series to two books instead of writing three. The story can be comfortably wrapped up in two books and it makes more sense to spend three to four months writing a book that will sell 25,000-30,000 or more copies in a year instead of a book that will sell 10,000-12,000 in a year.

It was THIS moment, when I came to this realization I knew I really made the switch to thinking like a business owner. Don’t get me wrong. If I really, really want to write something, yet I don’t think it will sell very well, I’ll still do it. But I have to look at my books as a product. Do I want to make money? I do. Then I need to write things that I think will sell well and plan accordingly.

4. Pricing Strategy

Taken directly from my plan:

Digital:

In July of 2011, Denise Grover Swank was an unknown debut author without publishing house backing. Pricing strategy was based partially on the models created by successful self-published authors Amanda Hocking and John Locke. They priced their books at $0.99 to foster high sales.

The strategy for Bramagioia Enterprises was to provide the debut novels of two series in two different genres at $0.99 to establish the author and generate positive reviews. Then, after proving to readers that Denise Grover Swank provides entertaining, well-written stories, the prices of future books would raised to $2.99. The possibility of offering future books in a series at $3.99 is still under consideration.

Turbulence in the rapidly changing eBook world should also be taken into consideration. Pricing may be subject to change based on sales, current pricing trends and need to create upward movement in Amazon rankings. Books may be discounted or offered for free if it fits with marketing strategy and promotion.

Digital prices of current products:
Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes: $0.99
Chosen: $0.99
Hunted: $2.99
Here: $2.99

Proposed pricing for 2012:
Chosen: Raise to $2.99 after a two day free promo
Sacrifice: $2.99
Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes: Raise price to $2.99 with release of new cover
Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons: $2.99
There: $2.99
Untitled novella: Undetermined. Either $0.99 or $1.99, depending on length.

Proposed pricing for 2013
Untitled (The Chosen #4): undetermined $2.99 or $3.99
Untitled (On the Other side #3) undetermined $2.99 or $3.99
Untitled (Rose Gardner Mystery) undetermined $2.99 or $3.99
Novella of Unknown subject: undetermined $0.99 or $1.99 depending on length

Print:

All print books will be created through Createspace unless it is determined another source is better. Pricing on print books is largely based on the number of pages in the book. Pricing is also dependant on making print books available for a wider distribution than just Amazon. Since a wider distribution is used, books must be priced so that the other outlets will be offered wholesale pricing. A book between 360-380 pages is $14.99. A book between 340-360 pages is $13.99.

These pages also changed. After studying the market, I raised several of my books to $3.99 this past spring but raised and kept CHOSEN and TWENTY-EIGHT to $2.99.

5. Financial Plan

From all the business plans I studied, this was where the business made a plan for the future. Expected income. Expected expenses.

This section freaked me out. I had no clue what to plan. None. Then I realized to make an accurate plan, I had to look at the pattern of my previous sales. I was at the disadvantage of only having a couple of months (or less) of sales to base projections, so taking that into account, I decided to error on the side of conservatism.

This is my longest section, consisting of seven pages. The first page and a half look at the previous year’s sales totals per book, per month, then the yearly total.

Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes: (July 12)
July: 209
August: 441
September: 947
October: 1787
November: 942
December: 1195
Total: 5521

I did this for each book. Then came up with totals for sales in digital and print format, as well as borrows from the KDP Select program.

Percentage format sales in 2011:
Digital: 96%
Print: 0.7%
Borrows: 3%

Observations of 2011 sales:

Through research, Bramagioia Enterprises learned that self-published books usually start with slow sales, then typically double each month. After a climb, the book plateaus for a time then falls. The fall may be gradual or it may tumble. Still, it usually manages to maintain some level of sales. Book reviews and book review blog tours boosted sales. Special promos tend to spike sales, but then the sales fall to pre-promo levels.

Readers of one genre rarely crossed genres unless devoted fans, thus each book in a new genre climbed at the same rate as its predecessors. The second book in a series at the top of a genre climbs into the top ranks immediately.

Print books sales more than doubled the month of December, presumably for Christmas gifts.

KDP Select created radical changes in the way Amazon promotes SP books. By agreeing to the program, the book is sold exclusively through Amazon. Books enrolled in the program are eligible to be borrowed and receive a portion of a pool of money per month dependant on percentage of borrows. Borrows counted as sales in rankings, thus creating a strong disadvantage for those not enrolled. Bramagioia Enterprises enrolled Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, Chosen and Hunted into KDP Select for a 90 day commitment. Here was not enrolled. Borrows accounted for 3% of “Sales” but one book was enrolled for three weeks and two books were enrolled for two and a half weeks.

I also broke down each book and what I’d done for promotion and recorded its highest and lowest sales days including the dates. It was then I could make my predictions for 2012.

I wrote down my anticipated sales per month, multiplied that number by what I earn from royalties, added in expected expenses (promotion, a new cover for TWENTY-EIGHT) then came up with the expected earnings from all four ALREADY published books.

I then came up with anticipated expenses for upcoming book releases, expected sales (figured conservatively), and my expected profit for the year.

Here is TWENTY-NINE AND A HALF REASONS, which came out in June, as anticipated by the business plan.

Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons is expected to have moderate sales but nothing like The Chosen series. It will sell well its first three to four months and taper off to a steady level.

June (100) July (300) August (600): 1000 books at $2: $2000
September to December: (800 per month) 3200 at $2: $6400
Total books: 4200
Total: $8400

Expenses:
Developmental edit: $1300
Copy Edit: $700
Cover: $400
Createspace: $50
eBook format: $35
Book tours (2): $500
Total: $2985

Expected profit of Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons: $5415

First of all, the monetary sales totals were based off of an anticipated $2.99 price, which was actually $3.99 at release. Also, my sales were much higher than I had planned. TWENTY-NINE AND A HALF REASONS was released on June 27, 2012 and sold 297 copies in June. It sold 3470 copies in July and 1774 in August. I had projected 1000 in that time period, when I actually sold 5541. I’ve already sold more than I expected to sell the entire rest of 2012. Which, in my opinion, isn’t a bad thing. I’d rather shoot low and hope for more.

On the other hand, I’ve had expenses I didn’t plan for. In the past, I used readers for proof readers. I’ve since switched to professionals. I also did a giveaway in conjunction with the release. I didn’t budget for that.

After I listed every book, I then had a list of additional expenses:

Other Business expenses:
RT Booklovers Convention: $2000
RWA annual convention: $3000
Business cards, supplies, etc: $300
Misc: $500
Website upgrades and new sites for three series: $800
Total: $6600

(I didn’t go to RWA but I’ve already spent more than budgeted for websites and other promotional materials. I’m also going to NINC in October.)

After I added up the expected profit for each book, I added them all together, subtracted Other Business Expenses and came up with my expected profit for 2012. Which was more than I realized I could make.

But to make money, and keep releasing products, I needed a schedule.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss the rest of my business plan, including a production schedule, a marketing plan, long term goals and a summary.

Read Part Three here.

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3 Comments on "A Business Plan for Indie Authors–Part Two"

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[…] Part Two covers what my products are, my pricing strategy, and my financial plan. […]

Joanne Sgrignoli
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Denise, I won’t pretend that I completely understand all you do to plan your writing and publication of books after a cursory read, but I’m amazed! All I know is that I am enjoying your Rose Gardner series and love your characters. You’re a very talented author and my plan is to read all the books you’be written. I’be been a voracious reader since a child. I’m now 61 and I foray into many different genres. I admire what you do and am now a fan. I will share my love of your books on facebook. I wish you success… Read more »
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