Harper’s Harpings: Authors, Do You Have A Business Plan?

I’m going to assume that if you charge money for your books then you want to make money from your writing. If you wish to earn money from your writing, then you are running a business. If you are running a business, then you absolutely need to have a plan, preferably a rolling five-year plan.

Still with me?

Good, you’ve not run away.

Here is how I have done my business plan, as ever I am not the Oracle but want to share my experience and knowledge without charging you.

  1. What’s my business name?
  2. Who owns the business?
  3. What am I selling?
  4. How much am I charging for each item?
  5. Finance & Budgeting?
  6. Marketing and Advertising?
  7. Writing Plan/Release Plan?
  8. What If Scenarios

That’s a lot to think about and talk about and I’ll try and make it succinct. Make a cuppa, I ramble. Oh and the info mentioned is UK based as I only have knowledge of how laws work in the United Kingdom and that doesn’t include Northern Ireland.

What’s my business name?

My business name is GAVON Publishing. G, A, V, O & N are the five initials that I write under. You’ll recognise the O and the G but I also write under V, N and I used to write under A. I might well write under A again. GAVON seemed the best option. A splendid friend of mine used to call me GAV as at the time I wrote under three names and she couldn’t keep up. When I added the last two names, GAVON came to be born. I played around with the letters, downloaded a scrabble cheat app and put the letters in and found the best sounding name that I liked, I wasn’t happy with VAGNO. Of course choosing the next word was tricky, Press, Publishing, Ltd, and so on. I can’t call myself Ltd until I actually convert my business status. Press seemed alien so I went with Publishing. It does what it says on the tin. If you think you are going to be earning decent money, you should start think about your business name. You can call yourself anything you like right now. Later on in your business you may need to register the name at Companies House if you are going to be a Ltd company or you don’t want another person with your name. If someone else did beat me to it and called themselves GAVON Publishing (why they would do that I don’t know) I can always rearrange the letters and come up with another name (not VAGNO or VAGON). GAVON Publishing appears on all my eBooks and Paperbacks.

Who owns my business?

At the moment I am employed as well as a sole trader, my turnover is not enough to benefit from being a Ltd company. I work full time but still I don’t earn enough to warrant the hassle and the complications that come along with being a Ltd company. When I do, then I will of course transfer over but at the moment I submit my tax returns at the end of the year as a self-employed person that also has a job on a PAYE basis. It won’t be until my book earnings tip over £81,000 that I would need to start paying VAT but that only comes into play if I am only a sole trader. Its simple and complex at the same time. The GOV website in the UK is a fabulous place to go and see what’s what. I have registered with them that I have a second income and then I submit my forms online. Now things change in a flash of a flasher mac so don’t take this as gospel, go do your research and see what’s best for you. Each level has its benefits and drawbacks.

What am I selling and where?

That is an excellent question, currently, I’m selling eBooks, Paperbacks and I also do copywriting work too. At the time of this blog, I have thirteen eBooks, three paperbacks and four copywriting pieces of work. I sell my eBooks via Lulu, Smashwords, Amazon, Createspace and GooglePlay. The copywriting work is piecework. My bank statements reflect these companies. Of course indirectly my books are on sale on almost every eBook platform and third parties sell my paperbacks. I don’t need to put them in my plan as they come and go and I get paid via the four outlets I made a commitment to. The tax returns I fill out are for the four outlets and my tax details are with them.

In the future, I may sell audio books and merchandise. Things that I have considered and planned for.

How much am I charging for each item?

I like to keep things simple, it helps me track sales, trends and activity. My novels are US$2.99 or the country’s equivalent and my short stories are US$0.99 or the country’s equivalent. There is one exception and that is Stranded at New Year, it’s free everywhere apart from Amazon, I can’t put it free on Amazon because I’m not exclusive with them and also even if I were they have stopped perma free titles. It’s my way of try before you buy, I don’t adopt the same thing with Olivia Purely as two of the stories are on my website to read.

For copywriting work it is based on word count, each one is different.

Finance & Budgeting and Expenses

Tricky this one, you have to speculate to accumulate. That said there is still a budget, my budget in the beginning was £50 a month. If what I wanted to do cost more than that then I would have to wait until the following month or wait until I sold the books. Well, that budget went out the window. If I am going to a writer’s weekend, with travel, hotels and entrance to the weekend you’re looking at £500. If I don’t want to lose out on the opportunity, then I need to find the money from somewhere. For me, it is usually doing without stuff. I have become accustomed over the last two years to almost do without all luxuries. I don’t mind as I want to write books. Writer’s weekends aside I still stick to the £50 guideline. Book covers, editors, software for my PC, business cards and so on. I am signing at Leeds next year so each month leading up to it I will absorb a cost.

I have an excel document (love excel). It tracks every expenditure, all incoming royalties and also a page of events as well as sales. Each time I spend money I add it on, what was it for? Was it worth it? Will I do it again? This could be from writer’s weekends to business cards. My biggest waste of money is my proofreading books, so many errors, so much money spent.

In year one I made a loss, I am set to make a loss in year two which ends in a week’s time. Year three maybe different, who knows. I also need to record every penny spent and received for the tax man.

Keep your receipts!! (note to self).

Marketing and Advertising

I’ve talked about this before and this is only about me, you can do your own thing. Until I have a decent amount of books out there I am not going to use a marketing budget or advertising budget. It’s costly, unpredictable and for a few books, not necessarily worth it. My sole plan for years one to three is to use social media to get my name out there and to write weekly blogs helping others along the way.

The thing about marketing is to track what works and to track when it stops working. Research research and research. Read as many journals and industry periodicals as possible. I read several every day, I subscribe to dozens of newsletters and I read them in my lunch break. I am still learning and until I am confident on how to market me (not my books) then I won’t start.

In Year Four, I will set aside a budget, by that time I will have eight novels and countless short stories published.

Writing Plan/Book Release Plan

The most important part of the plan, it’s what I do, after all. I have a five-year rolling plan that would make your eyes water. As I said I am coming to the end of year two. I have a plan in place for all of the pen names and which books are going to be released and when. This doesn’t mean I have to stick to it, but it means I have a game plan. I can start to forecast income which means I can forecast budgets for marketing and advertising, book signings and research trips. The plan involves what I am going to sell and at what price and based on trend what kind of income will materialise. I can then start to plan to go part time in my day job and then eventually write full time. Who knows what kind of platforms will be out there in the future? The bottom may fall out of the self publishing market or it could soar once again. It’s up to the indie writer’s to work at the future.

I have a writing schedule, how long it will take me to write the first draft, then edit and edit and edit and edit, then beta readers and proofreaders and edit some more. I plot how much is physically possible and make the schedule with some wiggle room. And then completely ignore it, only joking, I stick to it like glue and push myself to reach it.

What If Scenarios

Then there is the unknown, her are just some of my what ifs, in no particular order:

  • What if my laptop dies and I can’t afford to replace it?
  • What if I lose all my work in progress?
  • What if my work is stolen or plagiarised?
  • What if I become successful, how will I manage it?
  • What if I don’t become successful, how will I keep buoyant?
  • What if I need to close down an author name?
  • What if I am no longer able to write, there could be a myriad of reasons?
  • What if I get writer’s block (hell I hope not)?
  • What if something stops the self-publishing industry as I know it?
  • What if I am offered a publishing deal?
  • What if I need help and have to pay someone and can’t afford it?
  • What if I become reclusive (more so) and don’t market?
  • There are so many more what ifs, they crop up daily, I add them to my list of things to look out for and plan for.

Do you have a business plan? Do you know where you’re headed? If the answer is no to either of these then make a stab at it, use my headings and scribble down your plan. I promise it will help.

Thanks for reading

Grace

X

Harper’s Motto: You will not be everybody’s favourite flavour, but that’s ok, because they will not always be your favourite flavour.   Be who you want to be and you will attract the people who will support you no matter what.

XX

 

 

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