You’re a writer. A creative. An artist. Beyond just a talent, writing is your passion. Your soul’s desire is to write books that entertain, inform, or influence the culture. But because you’re a writer, you’re comfortable with the idea of never making any money from your talent.
You can absolutely make money as a writer. In fact, you can turn authorship into entrepreneurship and turn your writing into a business. You may be an artist but you don’t have to starve.
Becoming an author-entrepreneur is attainable for most writers. But it won’t happen unless you make it happen.
You need a business plan. A business plan will help you set realistic expectations for starting and growing your writing business. Let’s discuss the steps you must take to turn your part-time passion into your full-time career.
Define Yourself as an Author
The first step into becoming an author-entrepreneur is to view yourself as a brand.
Your book is your product. Your reputation (i.e. the reader’s perception of you) is your brand.
To make a successful business, you must build a community of repeat customers who will enthusiastically buy your future books.
You build a community by building your brand. Influence the reader’s perception of you by carefully defining yourself.
Start with a mission statement. Why do you write? What’s the goal of your writing? Do you want to make money and support your family? Do you want to share stories that aren’t being told? Do you want to encourage others? Do you want to carve out a name for yourself?
Your mission statement will act as your compass whenever you need to make an important decision for your business. If your decision doesn’t line up with your mission, reassess.
After settling on a mission statement, it’s time to define your writing personality. What is your writing style? What is your writing point of view? What type of experience do you wish to give the reader?
Next, define your visual identity. What colors, fonts, and graphics will you use to represent your brand? You’ll use this visual identity everywhere from the cover design and formatting of your books to your website and business cards.
Be consistent with your visual identity to tie all of your products together. Don’t underestimate the power of a consistent image. Oftentimes, a reader will be attracted to a book cover simply because it looks like one of your other books that they’ve read.
For more information on this topic, check out this comprehensive post: Your Guide to Branding Yourself as an Author.
Define Your Target Audience
Now, let’s create a profile for your readers. Define your ideal reader and you’ll be able to create a marketing plan that targets that reader.
To define your ideal reader, ask the following questions:
- How old are they? (Are you speaking to adults, young adults, children, etc.?)
- What are their basic demographics, such as gender and location? (It’s a good idea to create a basic avatar for your ideal reader. This allows you to set up a market strategy.)
- What are they interested in? (Their interests determine the type of books they’ll gravitate towards.)
- What other books do they read? (List popular titles that your ideal reader would enjoy.)
- Where do they hang out? (when marketing to your ideal reader, you’ll need to go where they are.)
Conduct a Competitive Analysis
Next up, it’s time for you to measure up your competition. Identify five to 10 authors who are similar to you. Perhaps they’re writing in your genre or write for the same reader. Maybe they’re similar to you in age, gender, or ethnicity.
Study them. You’re not looking at their writing style or storytelling skills, but rather the way they’ve marketed their books. Make note of their strengths and weaknesses from a business (i.e. marketing) perspective. Do they have consistent visual branding? Do they have a website? What type of engagement do you see on their social media pages?
Can you learn from or improve on their methods?
Set a Goal for Your First Year as an Author-Entrepreneur
What will you accomplish within the first year of doing business as an author-entrepreneur?
Before you answer that question, be S.M.A.R.T. Your goals should be:
- Specific – Concise and unambiguous, for example, I want to complete three novels by the end of the year.
- Measurable – Able to track, for example, I will write 200,000 words by the end of each quarter.
- Attainable – Reasonable and within my reach, for example, I can write on weekends and after work to fulfill my goal of writing three books within 12 months.
- Relevant – Worthwhile, for example, writing these three books will help me start my business and satisfy my mission statement.
- Time-oriented – When, for example, I will complete this goal by August 1st.
Develop a Work Schedule
When you work for yourself as an author-entrepreneur, you must create a schedule and stick to it. You can’t write whenever the passion suits you— your business won’t survive under those conditions.
Figure out a production schedule. When do you write best? I personally write best at 4 pm. We all have our favorite times to write. Don’t go against the current. Find your ideal writing time and then add it to your schedule. The same goes for editing your work also.
Additionally, you’ll need to schedule times to work on the other parts of your business, such as marketing and accounting (trust me, Uncle Sam wants his money).
Make a Plan for Distribution and Marketing
To grow your writing business, it’s essential that you market your books to the right audience. Here are a few questions to answer:
- What is your target sub-genre?
- How is your book unique from others in that genre?
- What are the most unique marketing strategies that you’ve heard of? Can you use those strategies to promote your book?
- How will you launch your upcoming book?
- Will you host a giveaway of your upcoming book?
- Where will you sell your books?
- Online bookstores (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes)
- Brick & mortar bookstores
- Affiliate networks
- Where will you market on social media? Which platform? What type of ad?
- Where will you market on your website? Pop-ups with lead magnets?
- Where will you market on other websites? Podcast interviews, blog highlight, guest blog posts?
- Where will you market offline? Conferences, book tours, presentations, traditional media outlets such as local news and radio?
- How will you build up a community?
- How will you get reviews?
Develop a Financial Plan for Your Business
To be a business person, you have to follow the timeless wisdom of Snoop Dogg: Keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind.
Until it becomes a full-time job, how will you support yourself while growing your business?
How much do you need to invest in your business each month? Consider the costs of utilities, internet, office supplies, website hosting, membership dues, email marketing, and other subscription service fees.
How much will you put aside to save towards a future purchase? You may not need these things right away, but in the future, you’ll likely need to pay for professional editing, computer upgrades, ISBN numbers, cover design, website design, marketing, office equipment, and the list goes on. It makes sense to set aside money each money for these future expenses.
How much will it cost to produce a book? Consider the costs of editing, cover design, formatting, printing, copyright, shipping, and translation, just to name a few.
How much will you need to earn from each book? It can be difficult to forecast future earnings if you have never sold a book before. But take a look at what you’re investing into the book (how much you’ll pay a professional editor or a cover designer or how much money you’ll spend to promote the book on social media). Use that number to determine the minimum, break-even number.
You’ve made it to the end of this post, but we’ve still got plenty of resources on this subject. Check out these related posts to further carve out your business:
- How to Use Amazon to Market Your Book for Free
- Here’s How to Price Your Self-Published Book
- 9 Tips for Marketing Your First Book
- Crowdfunding for Authors
- A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing
- How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Writer