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Plan Your Book Like a Business

By Debbie Elicksen

A business plan is your blueprint for starting any new venture – even a book. A book requires a vision, a dream, and unfortunately, sales. Be as specific as possible in your planning. Use timelines to keep yourself accountable. But if you've never done a business plan, how do you start?

Did you know you have the outline for developing a business plan already in your computer? You can access the PowerPoint templates, which include a business plan and marketing plan. Ideally, you should map out your plan before you start your manuscript. First establish if there is a market. Do your homework. Check Google, Amazon, and Chapters/Indigo for other books written on a similar angle. Plan for sales outside the bookstores. If you get in (and that's a big "if"), consider the bookstores gravy. The rest is your bread and butter.

You also need to know what's out there if you pitch to a traditional publisher. Why should they be interested if there are already other books on the market? Find the unique angle.

Your business plan should factor in timelines for writing, design and layout, printing, distribution, marketing, media, and follow-up. If you have a drop dead date for publication, for example, you want your books ready for a conference, work back from that date. If the conference is December 31 – work back and ask the printer when you need to submit the electronic files to have delivery by the 15th (ideally cushioning for delays like power outages, etc. that could affect the plant). If the printer says November 25, work back two to three weeks, depending on designer's schedule, to allow time for layout. That would mean you must be ready with your edited manuscript by November 4. Always allow for delays. What if you get sick for three days? Factor in major events, work deadlines, and add at least another week for an extra cushion.

Before I began to write Inside the NHL Dream (Freelance Communications, 2002), I produced an outline and laid out a detailed business plan. It included timelines, who I would try and interview, marketing, media campaign, et cetera. I gave myself from September 2001 to February 2002 to gather the interviews for the book. Sometimes, you will not get who you want to interview so you must have a plan B.

In the process of formulating a plan for the next book, I may have the basic goal of what I want it to achieve plus its message so I’ll get started in stockpiling research and interview possibilities.

The marketing is a key part of the business plan. Aim for sales outside of bookstores.

Read other articles and learn more about Debbie Elicksen.

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