The Insidious Business Plan By C. Hope Clark

Groan and moan all you want to, but the successful writers do some type of business plan to figure marketing and income projections. You do not have to take the financial details down to nickels and dimes, but you need a map to your destination. Dislike the business stuff? Then write for self-satisfaction; there is nothing wrong with that. When you write, you are a writer. When you sell, you are a businessperson. If you do not like the business aspect, then write for your own enjoyment.

Strategic planning works for any endeavor. You establish the big goals, then back up and set benchmarks or stepping-stones to reach those goals. Say you want to write a mystery novel and earn your living as a mystery writer. You have bills to pay and lots of obstacles without a plan to overcome them. Come up with a plan. You create your own projections based upon your family, living standard, time expenditure, and dreams. You may freelance part-time because you like the day job, but plan like a full-time writer to capitalize on your energy investment. Make a plan to reach those dreams.

1. Where do you want to be at the end of one year?


I want to have a mystery written and in the editing stages, have half the bills paid off to prepare for your future of writing fulltime and still working the day job. I’ll be writing 20 hours per week and earning a quarter of my income from writing. I’ll pay off a third of the bills and set up a savings account. (Have measurable goals for specific bills, not general ideas.) I don’t want to acquire any new debt.

2. Where do you want to be at the end of two years?


I want to have the book under contract and another mystery at least half written. I’ll have three-quarters of the bills paid off to prepare for writing fulltime. I plan to have X number of dollars in the bank for emergencies. I’ll be writing 30 hours per week and earning half of my income from writing.

3. Where do you want to be at the end of three years?


I plan to be writing 40 hours per week and earning all income from writing…or how about under contract for one book and shopping another? I’ll have the bills paid off, six months worth of expenses in savings and affordable health insurance.

4. How much income do you need for the first year, second year, and third year?

You decide but remember as you pay off bills you need less income unless you put the difference in savings. Try hard not to spend it. Define each year based on the bills paid off, savings going in the bank, and growing needs of your family. Save as if your life depended upon it.

5. Where will that income come from for each year? Be specific.

Define the dollars you expect each year from writing, the anti-writing job and the other family incomes.

6. For the first year, what are your planned quarterly writing accomplishments?


Keep thirteen queries in play at all times. Sell ten percent of them. Submit half to markets paying over $50 and half to markets paying under $50.

See what I mean by specifics? Define your own but make them measurable and accountable.

7. For the first year, what are your planned quarterly marketing accomplishments?

Open a website that clearly explains your niche, strengths, history, and resume. Order business cards. Study professional writer groups for membership and rewards. Start a monthly newsletter.

8. For the first year, what are your planned quarterly sales accomplishments?

For each quarter, list income and numbers of sales planned. At the end of each quarter, compare what you actually sold to your initial projections.

9. For the first year, what are your planned quarterly expense expectations?

List your living expenses and writing expenses. Cut back on living expenses where you can. If you fully intend to make an income from writing within three years, go ahead and count your career on your taxes as “writer.” If you do not have an income (i.e., profit) by the end of the third year, you are a hobby writer according to the Internal Revenue Service and are not entitled to deduct your expenses.

10. Who is your customer base?

Mystery readers? Middle-aged moms? Baby boomers? Retired veterans? Not specific enough. What are the age range, gender, income level, and geographic concentrations of your reading base? You cannot land an agent or a publisher without defining your customers because they are part of your book proposal. As a freelance writer, you sell articles to magazines, but it’s the correct composition of readers that determines your sales and popularity with the publications. Know who reads your stuff. Putting it on paper and defining your stereotypical reader hones your focus for future articles.

Your business plan protects your assets and investments even in the writing world. Knowing where you want to go and noting the landmarks along the way make for an easier journey.

The above contains excerpts from The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success, by C. Hope Clark, founder of