Monday, August 21, 2006
Writers need to have at least two hats hanging in their office. One is the creative one that we barely notice putting on at 2 in the morning when we have this great idea and just need to get it onto paper, and other similar moments, like when we're developing characters and outlining plots and searching for just the right word to show our readers the story that's floating around our brains.
The other hat, the one that's not as much fun or fashionable or exciting, and that we tend to pick up gingerly and reluctantly, is the business hat. Writing is, after all a business. We have valuable skills, we create a good product that's in demand, and we expect to be paid (as much as possible) for that product.
Part of what we do while wearing that business hat involves planning: figuring out what we're worth financially and how we can maximize our income. If I didn't hate aphorisms so much, I'd remind you to "Plan your work and work your plan." But I really hate such sing-songy oversimplifications, so pretend I never said that.
Instead, let's talk about business plans and how writers can use them. Usually, a business plan is intended to give to investors to raise the initial (or expansion) capital. Writers are, in this regard, luckier than the average business start-up, because our initial costs are so low. Start with a computer and printer (things you probably have for other reasons anyway), paper, envelopes and postage, and you're up and running. Add in your own skills, a bit (okay, a lot) of practice and a few (relatively inexpensive) how-to books and workshops, and you've survived the first year, which is more than a lot of other types of businesses can accomplish.
Writers don't need a business plan to raise capital, but it can be useful in helping the writer to figure out goals and strategies to achieve those goals. Ultimately, it might be useful for sharing with an agent, when discussing long-term goals for the writer/agent team.
I'm in the process of creating a sample business plan for writers, and I'll share it here when it's done, but for now, I'm wondering how many of you have done a business plan for your writing career.
Even if you don't have a formal plan, do you have lists of WIPs and their potential markets? Do you keep records of submissions and expected response dates? Do you set aside time to search for new markets or re-research older markets? Have you thought about what your particular niche is or perhaps established a tagline that defines all your stories? Do you have a budget (or money set aside) for educational and/or research materials and workshops?
So, what do you do when you've set aside your comfortable creative hat, and you're wearing your down-to-earth business hat?