A Novel Business Plan by Avantika
To make more sense of the steps described below, assume that you would like to self-publish 2,000 copies of a manuscript for a novel you wrote. In addition, for ease of reference, your business plan will be called ‘novel business plan’.
The Executive Summary
Normally, the ‘Executive Summary’ is no longer than one page. It is written in clear and concise terms and contains a short description of your business, who you intend to sell your product to and what is special about your product. In your novel business plan, think of the ‘Executive Summary’ as the blurb that will go on the dust jacket of your novel. Therefore, write a paragraph of no more than 500 words that contains the following information:
• Name of your lead character.
• What your lead character does for a living.
• The lead character’s main opposition.
• The main conflicts the lead character faces.
• Where the main conflicts will take place.
• What the main theme of the story is.
• How you want the story to feel to your readers.
Description of Business
This is the part of your novel business plan where you prepare an in-depth analysis of your novel. Start by writing a 1000-word synopsis of your novel. Then, think of the kind of readers you envisage reading your novel and provide as detailed a profile of them as you can. Factors to consider are your readers’ gender, age group, income bracket, location and whether or not your readers have internet access. Next, which genre does your novel fall into? Some examples of common genres for novels are:
• Literary fiction.
• Commercial fiction.
• Historical fiction.
• Crime Drama.
Before you finish this step, add in details of legal requirements you will need to adhere to. For instance, many bookshops refuse to sell books without an International Standard Book Number (‘ISBN’). To get your novel stocked in bookshops, you will, therefore, have to obtain an ISBN. In Malaysia, you can obtain your ISBN for free from the National Library of Malaysia.
Finally, make sure that your manuscript does not flout any intellectual property laws. If your manuscript incorporates material that is protected by copyright, make sure you have the original author’s written permission to use his work before you begin to self-publish.
Now that you’ve identified who your readers are, go ahead and provide a detailed analysis of how you plan to sell your novel to them. Divide your ‘Market Strategies’ into ‘Before Publication’ and ‘After Publication’.
Under ‘Before Publication,’ list details of any plans to enter into an agreement with a distributor to help get your novel into major bookshops. If you’d like to convert your manuscript into an eBook as well, explain how you will go about setting up a website to sell your eBook. Under ‘After Publication,’ consider preparing a press kit for your novel. This press kit can be used to invite reviewers to review your novel.
Do not go overboard and list every marketing option you can think of. Instead, choose no more than three options and work out a detailed strategy of how you are going to market your book effectively.
In business, people use what is commonly called a ‘SWOT’ analysis when preparing a ‘Competitive Analysis’ for their product. ‘SWOT’ stands for:
• ‘S’ – Strength.
• ‘W’ – Weaknesses.
• ‘O’ – Opportunities.
• ‘T’ – Threats.
When applied to your novel business plan, think of the strengths of your novel. What makes it special? What are its weaknesses? Would your readers want yet another novel in the same genre? What opportunities do you have to maximise sales of your novel? Maybe, your local library or bookstore will sponsor an event to allow you to read from your novel and meet the public. You can host a tea-party and invite a few friends over. Ask them to bring along suitable people who might be interested in purchasing your novel.
As for the threats you could face, think of the worst-case scenario for your novel and consider what solutions are open to you. A common threat for a self-published author occurs when he first approaches a printer and is told that the more copies of his novel he prints, the lower his printing costs will be. Keen to minimise his costs, the self-published author agrees to have 3,000 copies of his novel printed. However, later, the self-published author finds that he cannot sell more than 500 copies of the novel. In the end, he will have the added expense of paying storage fees for his unsold novels.
The ‘Development Timeline’ will give you an idea of how long you will take to reach each milestone in publishing your novel. Possible milestones can be any of the following:
• When will you obtain an ISBN?
• When will your manuscript be sent to the printer?
• When will the first print-run of your novel be completed?
• When will your novel start selling in the bookshops?
• When and where will the reviews of your novel be published?
• When are you going to be interviewed for the local newspaper?
• When can you expect to receive the first payment from the bookshops?
This is the ‘Who’s Who’ of any business plan. In your novel business plan, you need to prepare your biography. Do not tell your whole life story here. Instead, stick to details which might be relevant to your novel. For example, the main theme of your novel is about saving the environment. Now, consider writing a biography along the following lines:
‘Joe Blogs was born and brought up in Madagascar. He read law in the United Kingdom and now works as a solicitor in one of the most prestigious firms in Manchester. He has an interest in horticulture and is a strong proponent of energy conservation. He is working on his second book.’
Then, prepare a list of the people who will be involved in getting your novel printed and sold. Include people like the typesetter, printer, distributor, family members and friends who have agreed to help you with this project.
Most business owners spend a lot of time preparing this part of their business plans. However, as a self-published author, you don’t need to trouble yourself with things like balance sheets, earnings projections and capital requirements. Instead, prepare the following cash-flow forecast to know where you stand for 2,000 copies of your novel.
• The first step is to ascertain just how much money you could make (‘Total Cash In’). For instance, the cost price for your novel is RM1.20. The publishing industry standard is to fix a retail price that is nine times more than the cost price for your novel. This means that you should fix a retail price of RM10.80 for each copy of your novel. Multiply RM10.80 by 2,000 to get a total of RM21,600.00.
• Next, determine how much money you have spent publishing this novel (‘Total Cash Out’). This will include fees of editors, typesetters, lawyers, accountants and artists. Add the percentage of sales that will be given to the distributor, office supplies, postage, transport, website development charges, storage fees and advertising costs.
• To know exactly how much money you will make from your novel, subtract the ‘Total Cash Out’ from the ‘Total Cash In’. If you get a negative number, you’re losing money and should consider trimming some of your expenses. For example, not every author needs to pay for a fancy website. You can still have a web presence by creating a free blog from Blogger.com.
Now that you know all the steps to creating a viable business plan, you will be one step ahead of the majority of self-published authors. Stick to your business plan and you might find that, instead of losing money, you’re quite likely to make money from your self-published work.