This article originally appeared as a guest post for Describli
If you google ‘how to launch a book’ or ‘how to boost your book sales’ you’ll find a plethora of resources suggesting everything from growing an email list to getting early reviews to creating a street team.
This is all wrong.
Before you can jump into pricing strategies or social media giveaways, you need to map out a complete business plan for your book.
Let’s face it, as an indie author you are a business owner. A business plan is the tool you use to understand how your book fits into the market, how it stands out from other books like it, and how best to share your book with interested readers.
As you start to write on each subject, you may find connections you previously missed, or opportunities that you hadn’t even considered. Your answers here will help guide you during every book launch to keep you and your team accountable to your goals. So, let’s get started!
I recommend writing this section last as you’re effectively summarizing the entire business plan. This section should answer the question “why is your book going to succeed?”.
2. brand overview
Let’s first start with your brand’s history, sort of like a resume for you and your book(s). Write out (as objectively as possible) a history of your career as a writer.
- What genre(s) do you write in?
- Why are you qualified to write on these topics?
- What past awards have you received?
- How have past publications performed?
- Have you hit any key milestones like a bestseller list?
If you’re a debut author, you can include any obstacles you’ve overcome to start writing, finish writing this book and/or start the publishing process.
3. market analysis
Here you can detail the size and characteristics of your market as well as the sector and current trends. A great indicator of this is your genre and sub-genre. Take a look online at these categories to get an idea of how many books are already out there.
relevant market size
Now that you know the overview of your genre, you can drill down into it.
- Are you in a niche genre? Think of specific keywords that might transcend your genre, but readers are actively seeking out such as ‘strong heroine’ or ‘coming of age’.
- How open is your genre to new stories and new authors?
- Do you already have a hold in this market? If so, how large is your market share?
- How many readers would you have if every reader who reads in this genre read your book?
- What annual revenue could you expect with 100% of the market?
How to calculate:
[the number of readers who might be interested in purchasing your book each year] x [the amount these readers might be willing to spend, annually, on your books]
4. customer analysis
Although you’re actually identifying an entire customer base, try to visualize just one person. Describe how your ideal reader fits into the world. Start with demographics:
- Is your ideal customer male or female?
- How old is she?
- Where does she live?
- What does she do for work?
- Is she married?
- What’s her educational background?
Take it another step further to map out an emotional side to your ideal customer:
- Who is she buying for? Herself, a child, someone else?
- How does she feel about her job?
- How does she spend her weekends and holidays?
- Is she on social media, blogs or other online communities?
- What problems is she battling in life right now?
Give your ideal customer a name, a background and a personality. Get to know your ideal customer!
Take what you’ve written down about your target customers to connect your book to their answers. How does your book meet their needs?
If you’re a non-fiction writer, most likely your book helps your ideal customer to solve a problem. Think back to your ideal customer, and be specific about the problem and the solution.
Does your memoir help young adults struggling with body image find the inspiration they need through your personal story to get help? Or perhaps you have a business strategy book that helps solopreneurs manage and scale their local business into an international franchises by incorporating techniques you’ve used with Fortune 500 companies around the world.
If you’re a fiction writer, you might be thinking “my book doesn’t solve problems” or even that “fiction is just entertainment”. Don’t discredit yourself. Fiction is an account of the human condition; in fiction we find insights, inspiration and often pieces of ourselves.
With this framework of fiction in mind, consider what anxieties or complexities your story reveals in your reader. What will your reader learn about herself or her world from your story? This answer is the door to your customer’s needs.
5. competitive analysis
Direct competitors are the books that fill the exact same customer needs as your book, which is why it is so important to clearly identify your target customers and their needs. Outline the strengths and weaknesses of your direct competitors.
These are the products and services that fill the exact same customer need as your book, but may not be books at all. This could be TV, magazines, etc. Outline the strengths and weaknesses of your indirect competitors.
Now that you have a strong understanding of your competitors — both indirect and indirect — you can list out why your book competes with both. What is special about your book? Why should your ideal customer buy it instead?
6. marketing plan
So many authors get hung up on their book’s marketing plan because they haven’t completed the market, customer and competitive analysis.
How can you market effectively if you don’t know who you’re marketing to, what else they are considering and how your book competes?
Since you’ve already researched your competitors, you should have a good idea of the how books and other services are currently priced. So now you can decide on your pricing model:
- High-low pricing
- Pay what you want
- Premium pricing
Consider how your selected pricing model(s) meets the needs of your customer.
Now that you’ve gotten to know your ideal customer, you already know where she hangs out offline and online. Keep this in mind when listing out your strategies to attract new customers.
- Do you plan to get involved with a community on social media?
- Are you steadily building an email list?
- Are you using paid advertising? Where?
- Will you do local events and bookshop signings?
As indie authors, it’s never been easier to publish and distribute a book. Although there are many options, not all will be right for your book, and it may differ from book to book. Think about your target customers:
- Do they like to buy direct via author websites?
- Do they love 2-day shipping from large online stores?
- Are they bookstore browsers in need of a small local shop?
If you’re going to be using wholesalers, distributors or other partners to sell your book, list them out here. Find out the costs — whether financial, time, or otherwise — associated with working with them and write down the benefits that make that cost worthwhile.
7. operations plan
This is where you’ll want to map out the day to day logistics for every aspect of your book:
- Public Relations
You’ll want to consider what kind of editing you need, how long will production take, when you need a final cover design file, when you’ll be receiving and proofing print copies, what promotional content you’ll post on social media, etc.
If you’ve built a support team to help you manage your book’s success, you’ll want to write out who is covering what, when you’ll need to give approvals, and deadlines that you need to meet for your team.
List out your future goals, and be S.M.A.R.T about it. And by SMART, I mean specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Include all the details of what you want to achieve, who is involved, where this will happen, when you’d like to achieve it, which obstacles you’ll need to overcome, and why this is beneficial to your author brand or book.
8. management team
Although the term ‘indie author’ refers to an independent author, the most successful writers are rarely doing it alone.
Take some time to think about your own strengths, and recognize your weaknesses.
Identify where you need help and who to bring in. It might be an assistant, a consultant or a company. Then continually review where there might be gaps in experience or qualifications, especially as your author brand and book sales grow.
For those authors who really just want to focus on the writing, but appreciate the freedom indie publishing provides, you may want to consider creating a ‘board of advisors’ for your to manage and execute all of the goals in this plan.
9. financial plan
List out how your book makes (or will make) money.
If your primary author revenue is book sales, this will likely be a super short section. Be sure to consider different formats i.e. print, digital, audio, etc as well as series, box sets, collections, etc.
If you’re using a book as a platform for other services, or a stepping stone towards other products, itemize your revenue streams as it relates back to your author brand.
No need to pull out income statements or balance sheets (yet), but you’ll want to outline a basic summary of your current and projected financial situation:
- Annual revenue or how much you’re earning from book sales
- Major book-related expenses such as advertising, distribution, etc.
- Projected net income (revenue — expenses) for this year and next
With these answers in hand, you’ll be able to increase your sales, grow your audience, and create new ways to connect with your readers. This will also serve as your compass keeping you accountable to your goals, helping you avoid mistakes and reminding you to keep your ideal customer in mind at every decision.
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