Thursday, December 14, 2006

Business Plans

Another year is coming to a close, and with the coming New Year it’s time for BookEnds to evaluate how the old year has gone and to make our plans for 2007.

When BookEnds first began in 1999 we started with something every business should have, a plan. Together Jacky and I sat down to take a look at what we wanted to do with BookEnds and our plan for how to make it work. And each year we pull out that business plan to see how things are going and what needs to change, because every year something needs to change. I imagine that BookEnds isn’t the only business spending a day in December evaluating a business plan and, if you haven’t caught my subtle hints yet, writers, whether published or not, are a business and every one of you should have a plan. Whether you treat it as formally as BookEnds does is up to you, but a well-thought-out plan can make all the difference between success and failure.

So for those of you without a plan, or who never thought to have one, why should you have one and how do you start? Unless you are looking for financing I don’t think a business plan needs to be that complicated; in other words, you don’t need to go and buy a book on how to formally write one, but I do think there are some key points that every plan should have:

1. Objectives—what are your goals for the year? Do you want to submit to agents? Finish two books? Earn a certain advance? Your objectives can include everything from career goals to buying a new computer or making more time to write. Think about all of your goals for the next year and write them down. Putting things on paper makes it all more real.

2. Long-Term Objectives—What are your ultimate goals? To be a New York Times bestseller? To win a RITA? To earn enough so you can quit your day job? Whatever they are, putting these on paper is a wonderful way to remind you of what you can achieve, one year at a time.

3. A Mission Statement—What are your goals as a writer? How do you want to distinguish yourself from others? To give an example, here is last year’s BookEnds mission statement (I already see where some changes might be made): To represent authors who write fiction and nonfiction books for an adult mass market audience. To stand out from other agencies for our hands-on editing and our friendly approach to authors, as well as our willingness to develop projects with authors and help authors develop their writing. To build a name for BookEnds in both the romance and mystery communities as well as in nonfiction as a powerful agency with strong connections, a discerning eye, and the ability to negotiate tough and fair contracts. Focus in nonfiction will be on books with an edge, new innovations in business, health, exercise, animal care, parenting, spirituality, women’s issues, self-help, and general lifestyle. Fiction will be single title and series titles in romance, mystery, literary fiction, women’s fiction, and suspense/thriller.

4. Keys to Success—While not necessary, I think this section can really help you during those times when you start to wonder if you’re good enough, smart enough, or even capable. We all have those moments. What is it about you and your writing that will help you succeed in this business? Are you persistent? Do you have a wonderful knack for dialogue? And what can you do to help ensure success? Remain active in writing groups? Stay on top of market trends? What do you think you need to do to succeed?

5. Financial Plan—probably one of the most important and yet one of the most ignored pieces of the puzzle. Trying to get published and stay published is expensive, so make a plan. What are your financial goals—how much do you want to make next year? How will you make that money? Selling books, writing articles, or working at Target? How will your money be spent? Postage to agents? Internet access? Printing costs, publicity, promotion (you might want to break this down even further), phone, travel, conferences, research, dues/fees, etc? Take a look at this year after year and reevaluate. What is the best way to spend your money and how can you streamline.

So I’m off to meet with Jacky and discuss our business plan for 2007 and I’m excited. There’s nothing more thrilling than looking over last year’s plan to see how we met or exceeded goals and to challenge ourselves in the upcoming year. I hope you all take a day to write your own business plan. I’m looking forward to hearing what some of your objectives are for 2007.



Christine Wells said...

This is such a great idea. I've never been much of a planner but it's time to start! Thinking about some of my goals for next year--developing a killer promotion strategy for my first book is one--I realise there are many things I know I want, but am not entirely sure how to achieve. I'll have lots of questions for my agent in the new year:-) Jessica, you've created a monster!

Sally MacKenzie said...

My main goal for 2007 is to get more organized and more disciplined so I can write faster and more efficiently. (Stop laughing, Jessica.)

Zany Mom said...

Good idea! As I try to plan for an early retirement and a possible (pipe dream?) second career as a writer, this is a fabulous idea! Thanks for sharing.

Kate Douglas said...

This is a timely post! I had to change a lot of my plans this year, beginning with contacting my tax advisor. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision myself needing financial planning assistance because of my writing. Thank you, Jessica, for having a such a good plan, because it's certainly helped me meet my goals!

Jean said...

Thanks for the great post. I've already started thinking about what I want to accomplish next year and having a business plan will really help.

Now, off to ponder a mission statement:-)

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Christine actually makes a very good point and one I should probably address in another post, but for those of you who do have an agent don't be afraid to include her in your business plan. Schedule time in the new year for a long phone conversation about your goals and objectives, what's realistic and what's not and what she might suggest you can do to help achieve them. She might also have suggestions on what you can add to your list.


Loralee said...

I've always been a list-maker -- just ask my kids -- so I do see the importance of planning ahead. Better yet, having an in-depth conversation with an agent to discuss reasonable goals for 2007 would make goal-setting in other areas much easier. Is this something each of you do with your clients?

Julia Templeton said...

Every December I make my list of goals for the new year, but I've never included a mission statement or financial goals. Great idea!

Anonymous said...

So what do you think about a writer making a goal to be published a ertain number of times? I find myself wanting to set goal, or the general one of "get and agent". Ultimately I feel that the market is to subjective and that making a goal like this only leads to a writer blaming themself for failure. Making goals such as "send out 20 query letters" or "polish {title} again" work much better. Or am I setting my goals too low?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


I don't think there's anything wrong with giving yourself a time frame for publication, but you need to know how you will handle it. Are you the type of person to be driven by this or discouraged if it doesn't happen? If you're the type to get discouraged I'm not sure I'd set a goal that's so completely out of your control. I have a long-term goal to represent NY Times bestsellers (yes that's plural). It's something that's out of my control so I certainly don't put a time limit on it, but instead I make sure that the quality of the work I'm representing is increasingly better and that I can work with my authors for ultimate success.


Anonymous said...

What a great analysis of business plans. We're breaking a rule and featuring you again in the 12/15 AuthorMBA "Best of the Biz" report ( Please keep these gems coming!


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