In this episode of the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast, I talk to Denise Grover Swank, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. It’s another value packed episode where we focus on the business side of being a self-published author. Denise shares how she created a business plan for her indie career, as well as how she built a loyal fan base through a blog and social media.
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Business Plans for Authors with Denise Grover Swank
The Indie Voice – This is a group of 10 authors working together to help advance their indie publishing careers. For Black Friday they each mentioned each others books in their email lists. Exposed their books to a far wider audience than one individual list – strength in numbers! Just one example of how they help each other with their self-publishing careers. We’ve talked about the value of writing communities before so it’s worth forming your own writing group.
Together with others from this group they wrote The Naked Truth About Self Publishing – a book with chapters written by different writing experts on issues that self-published authors face. Denise has a chapter in this book about business plans for authors.
Bookbub – Current biggest way for Denise to generate sales (this episode was recorded in September 2013).
Marie Force – Has an excellent email list sharing great information about what is currently working to drive sales.
In 2010 Denise tried to get an agent and publisher and she never even considered self-publishing as an option. She had a positive response, but the agents and publishers didn’t think it would sell well. After these rejections she switched genre to something more popular, again there was interest but they felt it wasn’t the right time for such a book. After the second novel rejections she decided to self-publish!
Before she was an indie author Denise had a blog where she told stories about her family. She eventually stopped writing the blog and started writing books. The blog was an excellent place to learn writing and it started far away from the indie author world – mommy-blogging! She built her original blog traffic by writing about something completely different, then transitioned those people over to her fiction writing and Facebook where she maintains a strong presence.
Bloggers review you book and talk about it to their readers. Denise says this is less effective today, but was effective in the past and helped push her book into the top 100 on Kindle for 10 days.
Business Plans for Authors
Denise didn’t know anything about business but did research into business plans. With nothing really specific to indie authors she had to take what was around and tweak it for her own use.
It might not be worth creating a whole business plan before your first book, but it is a good idea to at least do some elements of it such as pricing – e.g. how many books do you need to sell before you turn a profit? Business plans for authors who are just starting out don’t need to be comprehensive, any sort of business plan is a good idea.
Below are the elements Denise includes in her business plan and you might want to do the same (much more info on each of these can be found in the blog post mentioned above – also her chapter in The Naked Truth About Self Publishing).
– Description of the business
– Ownership / location – Basic business stuff – you almost certainly own it, probably based at home.
– What the business does – What is it in existence for?
– What product is created? – Books obviously, but remember it can be much more than this: audiobooks etc.
– Financial plan – Pricing strategy, incurred costs (cover, editing etc)).
– Targeted audience – Sometimes you have to sacrifice what you are interested in writing in order to pursue something more profitable if you want to be financially successful. Targeting the right audience is important.
– What is the promotion/marketing plan? – What is effective changes quite often, this episode and others have plenty of information on what is currently working.
– The production plan – What does your schedule look like? When are the chapters going to be finished? When is it going to be editing, proofread etc? This is perfect for those who are deadline orientated. If you want to be successful you need to produce content often – plan for this!
– Web plan – Email lists are super important. Social media is also very useful, Denise particularity advocates Facebook for authors. Having your own blog can be a great way to build traffic.
– Long term goals – Denise aims for one year ahead specifically, with one year generally planning. The five year plan is much more general. The plan can change, it is fluid.
These are just a few things business plans for authors might include.
Something that her Amazon rep arranged for her but Denise won’t do these again as it is better to have a one day launch which can boost you in the Kindle store. Sales made before release do not count.
“When you self publish you, whether you realize it or not, are a business”
Tip for new writers:
Keep putting out products. If you have one thing that does really well, that’s great, but it wont last forever. If you have more high quality products out there, the more exposure you have and the more money you are able to make. Business plans for authors help keep you on track with production, just like a company would.
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