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“Fail to plan, plan to fail,” is a maxim that I lived by in my nearly 21 years in the NYPD. If I didn’t work out every detail ahead of time, it could cost me or someone else their life. Not having a business plan for writers is not as dramatic, however, it could cost you your writing career. The writer has to understand that developing a plan is the first step in marketing and developing that brand label we seek so much.

It amazes me how many hours we try to avoid writing something that will take thirty minutes to do. Creating a business plan is not the first obstacle – that, is the writer’s mindset. “I’m not a business,” “I write for the love of it, not to make money,” are arguments I often hear about creating a plan. If you are a writer, you are in business and since most business fail, here is your wake up plan.

Planning is something I don’t take lightly – it’s in my DNA. If I thought for one second that I would live in New York the rest of my life, I’d own a plot already. The time to buy a new pen is not when the old one runs out of ink. When my police career neared a close, I focused on writing and getting my work published. There are dozens of great textbooks in the marketplace on criminal investigation, what made me think I could break into this market? I reverted to what I know best and created a plan.

The business plan that I developed had five distinct parts. I used an acronym (cops love them) to keep me focused in Competition MGMT.

Competition

Mission Statement

Goals

Marketing

Target Audience

Competition

Whether it is for eyes on your blog posts or your latest novel, every writer has competition. If you want to be successful in your niche, then you need to identify and study your competition. What makes your stories different or better than theirs? If you write horror stories and Stephen King is your competition, then you have your work cut out for you. If you noticed I didn’t say forget about it.

What are they doing? How are they doing it? Are they doing it? I looked at the competition’s books, websites, social media platforms, etc., for signs of weakness. A weakness that I could use to build a beachhead. It wasn’t long before I discovered some key weaknesses through research and interviews. Many of my competitors are academics and their books were encyclopedic or descriptive. They lacked the real-life feel what it was like to investigate and solve a murder. I used that intel and fulfilled a need in the marketplace.

Mission Statement

The Mission Statement is designed to keep you focused on what you want to do (Goals). Many people have a difficult time developing a statement. Instead of thinking of it as a “Mission,” think of it as a benefit: what will people gain by reading, following or buying from you?

Goals

Goals are important because they provide a purpose. Each writer will have different goals, however there are three main constants:

  • • Develop author brand recognition
  • • Seek out media coverage in print, radio and television
  • • Sell more books (Get more followers / Get more Likes), etc.

Selling books should never be the first goal. To sell books, you need to fulfill and execute other goals. When you do, it will translate into more book sales. My best advice is to stop looking at your Amazon sales rank and start looking at your competition.

Marketing

Marketing is how you will accomplish your goals, not begging people to buy your book. The first and most important marketing tool is a professional website. An author site is not a blog, a YouTube page or a social media page. It is a stand alone site that gives you visibility. You can incorporate a blog within your author site so you are not dividing your viewership. Entire books have been written on marketing and I encourage you to research ideas. However, you should be doing at least one thing a day to market yourself. Here are a few starter ideas:

  • • Submit a press release for your new website / blog
  • • Leave a comment on someone else’s blog / news article
  • • Guest blog
  • • Engage in meaningful social media
  • • Share other people’s helpful posts

Target Audience

The famous bank robber Willie Sutton told reporters he robs banks, “cause that’s where the money is.” Unless you are already famous, don’t count on the audience finding you. You have to go out and find them. If you did your homework and studied the competition, you should have a general idea of who and where they are. Statistics in websites / social media can break down your audience by gender, age and location.

When you set off on a long road trip, you use a GPS device or map search to plan the road ahead. You set points of interest, rest stops, and food. So, why don’t writers do the same for their career by creating a simple business plan? It’s never to late to go back and rescue it, unless of course, your house is on fire. In that case, let’s hope you had your work backed up in the cloud.