You might not be familiar with the process of writing a business plan, but you can tell a story. Why not put that talent to use for your vision statement for 2020?
As we approach the end of the year, it is a good time to begin mapping your vision for 2020. Most authors understand the importance of doing this, but without an existing business plan upon which to build, it’s not obvious how to go about writing a plan. But authors know how to craft a good story, so why not use that expertise to write your plan?
The fiction of prediction
Writing your business plan as a fiction manuscript can be a fun way to do the necessary work of planning. It can also help you identify and deal with the people (characters) who impact your business. Your subplots help you recognize the value of previously unsought opportunities, perhaps in non-bookstore markets. And your narrative can point of the interdependencies of market segments rather than dealing with them as isolated groups. Here are a few novel ideas to help you write your first plan — or sequel.
Start by asking yourself a few questions. Your answers will create the outline for your story (aka your plot).
- How many titles will you publish?
- Why and for whom?
- At what price will they be sold?
- How will they be distributed in traditional and non-bookstore (special sales) markets?
- How can you use publicity, advertising, sales promotion, and personal selling techniques to promote them (online or inline)?
- What will all this cost and how much can you expect to make at the end of the year?
- How will all this position your business for future growth?
Next, identify the characters for your story.
- Who will be the protagonists (distributors, retailers, readers and buyers)?
- What roles do they play?
- What are their motivations for buying?
- How will they benefit from reading your content?
Next define your antagonists — perhaps in the form of competitors or hidden obstacles (subplots) — and ask the corresponding questions.
Next ask, “Where does your story take place?” If potential buyers seek your book in libraries, then make it available there. If they buy in bookstores, whether brick-and-mortar or online, that is where your books must be. If your readers purchase via direct mail, through catalogs, in airport stores, supermarkets, discount stores, gift shops, book clubs, or at craft fairs, then that is where your books must be accessible. Or, will you venture into new territory and sell to non-retail buyers in corporations, associations, the military, and schools (another subplot)?
When does your story take place? Have your plan completed by January 1 of each year so you begin with a running start. Then revise it by performing quarterly updates to make your actions more applicable to changing conditions.
Finally, run the numbers. Place a cost on each of the actions you plan to take and how many books you expect to sell if you do everything you’ve planned. Can you be profitable?
Just as with writing a book, action is not the same as accomplishment. A manuscript that is not released will never lead to success. Similarly, a plan that is not acted upon will never be profitable. The difference between a novel and a plan is that a plan does not have an ending. It is a work-in-progress that you regularly evaluate and rewrite to update and make changes as necessary.
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