Writing: The Production End of Your Business Plan

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WRITING: Writing as a Business

So, obviously, I don’t have enough to do today. You’re getting two blogs, you KNOW I don’t have enough to do today.
As a result of my laziness, I’ve been online googling and Pintresting things related to writing as a business. My sales are down, I’ve got a mini-launch coming up. I need to be thinking more about the business side of things.

I’m not the best person at businessing (yes, I just turned that noun STRAIGHT UP into a verb), but I try. When I DON’T sell, I generally know why–I’m not putting enough effort into advertising my wares. I can say this, of course, until I’m purple, but the fact remains: I have a full time job, a long transit time. I have people in my life who want to see me periodically. And…

And.

I HAVE SHIT TO WRITE.

The reason this is in all caps is simple. Paging through suggested business plans for indie authors, I saw a lot of what you’d expect–use social media x number of times daily, make  number of public appearances, set advertising budgets and goals, take the business side of this seriously, save your goddamn receipts. All the stuff you’d expect. And, then, some stuff you wouldn’t: spend a few minutes each day clearing off your desk. Give thanks to the Lord for your successes every night. Once, memorably: don’t forget about your family.

All right, that’s all well and good. Very thoughtful. But there is one thing–ONE THING–almost every single one of the ‘plans’ I checked out neglected.

Can you guess what it is? I bet you can.

It’s the production plan. You know, your manufacturing end of the business spectrum. You know. WRITING.

Not a SINGLE ONE of these plans (and I looked at five or six before throwing up my hands) allotted time, or even SUGGESTED time, for WRITING A BOOK.

Once I realized, I was horrified. Have we gotten so involved in social media, patting ourselves on the back and looking like internet-educated professionals, that we’ve forgotten how important it is to ACTUALLY WRITE A BOOK?

Don’t get me wrong. If you want to sell copies, you absolutely DO need to treat your writing endeavor as a business. You need to have selling goals and ideas. You need to advertise. You need to tweet your little heart out.

But before all of that, you need to sit down and write something.

And if you want that thing to sell, you need to not be thinking about how many social media likes you’re going to get, what suit you need to wear to your book signing, whether or not you’ve given thanks for your successes today, whatever. You need to be thinking about your story, your characters. You need to be writing, at least a few words a day. And you need to enjoy it. Because otherwise, why are you doing it? For fame? Gosh, good luck getting famous with a self published novel on the internet. I know, I know, some people have done it, but they’re few and far between.

And their books were good. Because they took the time to make them good.

I promise you, before they started coming up with elite social media strategies, these people wrote. And they enjoyed it. Because they’re writers, and that’s what they do.

A lot of ‘writing as business’ blogs tend to shame writers a little for ‘not treating their writing venture as a business’, and this, frankly, is toxic and unwise, and IMO part of what kills indie quality. It isn’t a damned business. It’s a book. What happens AFTER is the business, and yes it’s part of your business plan, but so’s production. Can you imagine a toothbrush-making company’s business plan without x number of toothbrushes required for success? No? Of course you can’t. Because in order to sell, they need a PRODUCT. So do you.

I’m begging you guys. Don’t lose sight of your writing for the sake of ‘business’. Selling copies is important if you want to make a living, yes–but it’s a means to an end. It comes after the product. And, while it should be respected, your writing deserves the first respect.

Because, as a retail veteran and not as a writer at all, I will tell you–if the product’s no good, or just plain isn’t there, no one will come back for seconds.

So, when you’re coming up with your business plan, please take a few seconds and allot some time to creating the product you plan on selling. Because, if you’re really busy, that’s the thing that should come first. You might want to consider adding a ‘production plan’ section to your business plan, detailing roughly how much and when you need to write to stay on track. You might not stick to it, I know–but this way, at least you’ll know when you haven’t. And just having it in there will remind you, in all of this mess, about what’s really important.

Because you aren’t writing to get famous (and most of us aren’t doing it to pay the bills). You’re writing to write. Because you have to write. Because you’re a writer.

Thanks,
EFR

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5 thoughts on “Writing: The Production End of Your Business Plan

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Not because I have a book to sell, yet, but because of strategy. I’m leaning toward not putting my book out there until I’m virtually done with the next. I feel like having a few books available makes every book release that much more important, because if you put a new book out there you might get a few new readers, who might be likely to purchase your older work, thus increasing your numbers for that older work. I don’t know. In any case, you’re right, it boils down the basic fact that you’ve got to produce in order to sell. In a way, every book you put out there seems like an advertisement for each previous book, and the next. A few books in, you should find the situation where each new reader gets you more than one sale (on average). In any case, this is how I’m looking at it. Yes, I want my book to sell when I get there, but I don’t expect much to happen until I have a few under my belt (I’m also a pessimist, and so I don’t expect anything after that either, but you never know.) As a reader, I would say that provided you continue to hammer out things done as well as Aurian and Jin, and do what you’ve been doing on social media, your reader-base will continue to grow, but also as a reader, I’ve already bought Aurian and Jin and I’m not going to buy it again, but the next book, yes, I’d pay for that, and so I think, perhaps, that proves your point, which I take to be: Write a damn good book, tell people about it, repeat.

  2. Oh man. Sorry, Dave, I just saw this.

    I’ll tell you, by the time I put out Aurian and Jin I was about 25,000 words into the rough draft of Death Dealer (the third book in the series). So I agree with you. It’s wise to write ahead, a) to cover for your dead spells and also b) because it’ll make your series as a whole more cohesive. Being so far along before publication allowed me to go back in A&J and make certain elements in Little Bird fit better, and I’ve never regretted doing it. I mean, after all, I’d waited twenty five years to publish a novel; why shouldn’t I wait a few more months?

    Writing a lot of good books in a short amount of time will help you build readership better, I think, than most cockamame marketing schemes I see. You can shout your business plan to the rooftops, but if you don’t have anything to sell, nobody’s buying. On the other hand, I think it’s important to think of it NOT as a marketing thing, NOT as a means to a production goal: there’s a lot of marketing jargon amongst indie writers. A lot more than I think is strictly necessary for a thing that doesn’t pay the bills for pretty much anyone: I understand aggressive marketing when your home and car are on the line, but indie authorship tends to be hobby far more often than profession, with all the luxuries of love and long labor that come with a hobby. Is it good to sell well? Hell yes it is. But if I have a choice between writing for an hour and marketing myself for an hour, I’ll take writing, because it’s the thing I’m in this for.

    Sorry, that was probably way more response than you ever wanted.

    When your book comes out, I will of course be in line for a copy. 🙂

  3. A lot of people offering business advice make a living out of offering business advice. They’ve never had a real ‘thing’ to sell and probably don’t understand the concept of production to market. They live in a self-perpetuating loop of selling advice on selling.

    I saw a recent diagram about what you should do six months ahead of your book being released. No mention of working on the book in that six month period, and I imagined the halfwit author following every stage in the strategy and the night before launch realising ‘shit, haven’t written the book yet.’

    Chris

    1. I’ll tell you. I considered writing a book called ‘A Book About How to Sell Your Book About Selling Your Book’ for a long time. Then there started being cracks in the quantum fabric of reality and stuff, and I went “eh. Too meta.”

      But yeah, the business that’s grown up around this business is somewhat incredible. The thing that broke my heart a little: I saw some of these things on the blogs of other authors. I’m guessing writing the book was the assumed first step, but most business plans do include production so. Y’know.

      Hello, by the way!

      1. Hello.

        There was a time when people sold snake oil, then moved into pyramid selling, now they offer cod business advice on the internet. I like the persistent idiot who keeps trying to advise me about search engine optimisation. He/she/it still hasn’t grasped that my literary creation (Toten Herzen) crawls all over every search engine going. They’re more famous than his/her/its crummy SEO company will ever be.

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