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January 16, 2014

The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers

Today my special guest Amy Denim is doing my Thursday Thirteen for me. I know—score! She’s here to tell us about business plans and her new release The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers. Check out her easy 13 point plan below.

Oh, and Amy is giving away a copy of her book, so make sure you leave a comment below.

Welcome, Amy!

Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans by Amy Denim

Thirteen Questions to Build Yourself a Business Plan or The Thirteen Minute Business Plan

Have you thought about putting together a business plan? But, oh, it’s such a long and complicated process. Ugh. Why bother, when you could spend your valuable time writing. But, wait, what’s this? A guide to help authors write a business plan on coffee breaks?

Okay, so I find when things get boring and staid that some humor and creativity makes it all much more fun. And let’s admit that a traditional business plan is anything but fun. But having one can be an important part of taking control of your writing career. To get you started I’ve created a quick and easy set of questions that hit all the main parts of a plan and it really should only take you about a coffee break to complete it.

Okay, put your thinking cap/top hat/beanie with the helicopter rotor /tiara on. It’s time to think about what you really want from your writing career.

These questions are to get you started thinking about your goals, but don’t go crazy and spend hours making lists and/or daydreaming about your success as a writer, I want you to do these on a coffee break.

I call this the Coffee Break Business Plan. This is all about basic goals, which you can expand on to create a full-blown business plan, so spend only a few minutes thinking about each of these questions. Write a couple of sentences to answer them or make yourself a nice bullet-point list. If you’d like a template to print out to help you with this exercise, you can download one at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com/Books/Resources.

Grab a cup of coffee and a pen

Write down the answers to these questions.

1. How many books do you plan to write? In what genre?

2. What’s your projected word count?

3. When will you finish each project? Or, how much time will you need to complete each project? (Don’t forget to build in time for critiques, beta readers, editing, and all those other activities… besides actually writing the book.)

4. How will you publish these books? Traditionally, self-published, a hybrid approach?

5. If you’re self-publishing, what services will you need and how much will you spend on those?

6. Who is your competition? Who else writes books like yours?

7. How will you sell and market your books?

8. How much money will it cost you to publish and market? What services might you pay for to help you do that?

9. How much money do you plan to make, and when will you see that revenue?

10. When do you plan to achieve these goals?

11. What resources do you need (like a budget template, word count tracker, a reference book about business plans) to complete your plan?

12. When can you review your goals to see what you’ve accomplished and what you need to revise?

13. What rewards can you set up for yourself to say “Job well done!”

There you go. You just created a basic business plan. For real. Laminate that sucker and put it up big and pretty in front of your computer. Every time you sit down to write, take a look and focus on writing to achieve those goals. If the IRS comes knocking, you can wave it in their faces.

If you’d like assistance expanding your business plan I can help with that too. Leave a comment on the blog today, ask questions about business plans or anything else you’d like and one lucky commenter will win a copy my new book The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Authors: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career. But, if you can’t wait to win it, it’s available now on Amazon.

Amy DenimAmy Denim writes business books for writers and contemporary romance. She loves hot heroes (like chefs and cowboys) and curvy intelligent heroines (like chefs and cowgirls.)

She’s been a franchise sales coordinator, a lifeguard, a personal shopper, and a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. But now she spends her days reading and writing at her local library or in her book cave.

Amy started out her writer’s life scared out of her wits because she didn’t have a business plan, hadn’t yet created an online platform, wasn’t on Twitter, didn’t have a Facebook fanpage and had never even heard of Goodreads. She just wrote books. So she spent a year becoming a publishing industry information fiend and now does consulting for creatives on how to use take control of their writing careers. She started Coffee Break Social Media to help writers and artists learn to use SM platforms effectively (without the scare tactics) but still have time to create. She believes business plans and social media can be every writer’s friend, sometimes they just need an introduction.

Visit Amy on her author website at www.AmyDenim.com or for tips and tricks on the writing business at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com.


  1. kathleen

    Great advice!

    • Shelley Munro

      Hi Kathleen,

      Thanks for stopping by. Aimee certainly makes writing a plan sound very achievable.

  2. Dawn Montgomery

    Awesome post! I’ve been trying to figure out how to write a business plan, but most stuff I’ve found fails to hit the points you’ve mentioned!

    Thanks for the post and the print out.

    • Amy Denim

      Glad I could help. Be sure to let me know if you have any questions while you do your plan.

      • Dawn Montgomery

        Will do, definitely!

        • Shelley Munro

          Thanks again for such a great post, Amy!

  3. Mary Kirkland

    That’s a great post. Really good advice. I can see where having a plan like this would really help a writer.

    • Amy Denim

      Yay! Help for writers is why I wrote the book in the first place.

  4. Kirstie

    I recently had my first novel published, and my hope is that one day, I can give up the day job to write full-time. I never even thought about a business plan, so this is great advice, especially for a newbie like me. Thanks!

    • Amy Denim

      This is the perfect time for you to do a business plan. Lost of authors get stalled after the blush of that first book. Make yourself a plan and you’ve got a much higher chance for success in the future than those that don’t have one!

  5. N.J. Walters

    Great tips. I’m guilty of mostly winging it. :)

    • Amy Denim

      Oh, yeah, aren’t we all!?
      I winged it for years and didn’t get half as much done as I had hoped to. Hopefully a biz plan will help.

  6. Nancy Henderson

    I love this. I’m going to get this book. I think I’m a terrible business person. I try to learn all I can on this subject. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amy Denim

      You’re not alone. So few of us writers even think about the business side of writing, much less actively learn about and work on our business skills. Welcome to being a pro!

  7. Kelley Harrell

    How did you know I needed this? Thank you for the jumpstart to getting a plan set out.

    The resource link above didn’t work for me, however.

    Best to you!

    • Amy Denim

      I’m not sure why the link isn’t working, but try typing http://coffeebreaksocialmedia.com/books/resources/ into your title bar. It should take you right to the page to download any of my resources. Hope they help.

  8. Vicky Burkholder

    Wow. Amazing advice and much appreciated. Thank you! I’m printing out these questions now.

    • Amy Denim

      You can also download a worksheet with the questions on it if you’d like.
      Glad you like the ideas here. Good luck on your plan, be sure to let me know if you need help.

    • Amy Denim

      Nothing wrong with print on paper! :)
      Loved your brain boosting tips. My favorite is definitely #1 (Yay! Chocolate.)
      I’ve got one for you too. The scent of sage and rosemary are great for concentration. Get the essential oil at your local health food store an rub a little on your temples when you sit down to write your business plan.

  9. Jennifer Leeland

    Wow! I stumbled onto most of these (of course it too 7 years. LOL!) but the one that ALWAYS stumps me is #7.
    I need a whole book on marketing. This is awesome.

    • Amy Denim

      I hear ya! Marketing is a stumper for lots of authors. So, I’m working with my favorite marketing guru, Diane Whiddon, to write The Coffee Break Guide to Marketing for Writers this year. It’s scheduled for release in November.

  10. Debra S.

    Hi Amy, Great tips and so easy to accomplish in just a few hours. It’s a much user-friendly approach to writing a business plan.

    • Amy Denim

      Why does everyone always have to make it so difficult and complicated to write a business plan? It’s most of the reason I wrote the book. Glad I could help. :)

  11. Teresa Noelle Roberts

    A great thing to read at the start of my first full year as a full time writer. I have a rough outline of what I want to accomplish this year, but your thirteen questions will help a lot with fleshing it into a real plan.

    • Amy Denim

      Good on you for getting your goals in writing. You’re further along than most. Be sure to let me know if you need any other help getting your plan in order.

  12. Sarah M. Anderson

    I’m already doing a lot of this, just…in my head. What did you mean by having it to wave in the IRS’ face? Could you explain how a formal business plan would help in that situation?

    • Amy Denim

      First of all I need you and everyone reading to know that I’m not an accountant, tax professional or attorney. I’m just a professional author who has study the business of being a writer and like to talk about it. This does not constitute legal or tax advice. You should consult a tax professional for your own circumstances. (All that means, don’t sue me…)
      That being said, I think authors need to have open dialogs about the business side of things. (Thus, why I wrote a book about it!)
      So here’s the actual answer I have for your question.

      The name of the game is audits. If you’re planning on, or are, filing business taxes as an author you, along with the rest of us American tax filers, could get audited. They’ll want you to prove that your writing is actually a business and not just a hobby. There are eight questions you can use to determine that (they’re on the IRS website here – http://www.irs.gov/uac/Business-or-Hobby%3F-Answer-Has-Implications-for-Deductions). Having a business plan can help you answer yes to each one of those. The more paperwork you have the happier your cute, but nerdy IRS agent will be. I discuss all of this at length in the book. Hope that help, but let me know if you have more questions!

  13. A.S. Fenichel

    Very interesting. I’m curious to read more and see if a written plan for each project can help me with my overall goals. Great post.

    • Amy Denim

      I bet it can! *wink*

    • Amy Denim

      So little of the business info out there is for us creative types which is why I thought writers might find this book useful. Glad you like it.

      P.S. – I’m a huge Bones fan!

  14. Sabrina York

    Great info. Thank you for sharing. I also like the “Coffee Break” angle because we are all crazy busy.

    It doesn’t take much time to put together a plan!

    • Amy Denim

      Yay, coffee! Oh, I mean, yay, coffee breaks! hee hee.
      I think a lot of us get scared on how much else we have to do besides write and how it all takes time away from our writing time. It’s a huge part of why I started the Coffee Break Guides for writers. Glad it could help you!

  15. Alice Audrey

    Great information. I’m relieved to see I already have answers for most of this.

    • Amy Denim

      Rock on, well done!

      • Sarah M. Anderson

        Hi Amy,

        Okay, good answer! And no worries, I PROMISE not to sue you based off of your very excellent advice! I think I would do fine in an audit, but you’re right–that’s a good piece of info to have!

        Thanks again,

  16. Pearl

    huh, extensive. 13’s the easiest.

    getting the right beta testers is key. the wrong ones can be so discouraging or overly misleadingly encouraging.

    • Amy Denim

      You would think number 13 would be the easiest, but a lot of authors forget or don’t think to reward themselves for the hard work. Great point about critique partners and beta readers. They can make and break your career (just like a good or not-quite business plan!)

  17. Colleen@LooseLeafNotes

    I have never had a business plan or a balanced check book but I admire people who do! It stretched me and I learned a lot from the first book I wrote, but I don’t know if I ever want to go through it again!

    • Amy Denim

      Yeah. Checkbooks, not so much my thing either.
      I think there are lots of authors in your boat. That first book takes so much out of us it’s hard to imagine making a career of hundreds isn’t it? You know what can help make the whole thing a whole lot less overwhelming? A good business plan! *wink*

  18. Marie Tuhart

    Thanks, Amy. Great information. How would you adapt these for 3, 5 and 10 year business plans?

    • Amy Denim

      Great question. Good on you for thinking ahead. In the book, I ask authors to think about 1, 3, 5, 10 and 25 year plans.
      My suggestion is to use these ideas as a starting place for expansion. Look at your one year plan and see if you can separate your goals here into the following categories:
      • Writing
      • Career
      • Honing My Craft
      • Time Management
      • Financial
      • Me Time

      It will help you manage when thinking a lot farther ahead.

      Now think ahead to twenty-five years from now. Think big, here and imagine what kind of author you want to be. How will you answer the questions when you’ve got a bunch of books under your belt.
      Yes, of course things in the publishing biz are going to change a lot of the next couple of decades, but go for it. Imagine you are the super successful author you’ve always dreamed of being and write those down!
      Once you’ve got those big dreams in writing, work backward. What do you need to do ten years from now to make those twenty-five year goals happen? What do you need to by five years from now to make those happen? And three years from now? And this year?
      There you go, you’ve got a long term plan.
      There’s a lot more detail in the book, but let me know if I can help with anything more.

  19. Lauren Fraser

    This is fantastic. I was just talking to my crit partner about how I need to write down all my goals and plan of action for the year. This should help alot with that.

    I’m looking forward to your upcoming book on marketing since that is a big one for me.

    • Amy Denim

      Yay! Get your crit partner to make a plan to and then check in with each other. We’re all more likely to stick to our goals if we know we have someone to be accountable to for them!
      I hear ya (and lots of other authors) about marketing. I swear I’ll get the marketing book out this year for everyone! (It’s on my business plan *grin*)

  20. Cris Anson

    Wonderful questions and a great blog. Thank you for being so informative.

    • Amy Denim

      I’m glad you like it. I’m happy to help. Talking the writing biz is a big passion of mine!

  21. Shelley Munro

    Amy, welcome again. I have tended to wing it with my writing, but breaking it down this way makes it seem so easy.

    Thank you for such a great post!

    • Amy Denim

      Thanks so much for having me on today. You’ve got some great fans and followers and there have been some great questions!

  22. Charlene Leatherman

    Wow! Thanks to both of you – Amy for doing the hard work of coming up with a coffee break business plan and Shelley for bringing it to our attention. It is now laminated and above my desk.

    • Amy Denim

      Awesomesauce! Laminated business plans make my heart go pitter-patter (in a good way, not a heart murmer kind of way.)

  23. Heather

    All good questions to ponder. My T13

    • Amy Denim

      Loved your T13. Sometimes we writers forget that a really important part of the writer business is READING!
      The Goodreads Reading Challenge is my way of reminding myself of that goal every year. We’ve got about the same goal of 100 books this year.
      P.S. I LOVED Lois Lowry’s The Giver!

      • Heather

        Thanks, Amy, and thanks for coming by to read my post! :)

  24. Deborrah

    It will be nice to have something in front of me to keep me on my toes. Thanks for sharing.

    • Amy Denim

      Oh, yeah. That little reminder that you see everyday will do wonders. It will be so motivating!

  25. CountryDew

    These are great questions. I am stuck in a life rut and maybe something like this would move me on out of it. Something to think about!

    • Amy Denim

      Down with life ruts! Use that plan to make all your dreams come true!

      Seriously though, I really do think it will help.

  26. Karalee Long

    Hey, Amy. Okay, so I have to buckle down and figure out a business plan. I’ve been dodging that for a long time. Must get your book. BTW, I’m over halfway through your Social Media Coffee Break. Good stuff even for a tea drinker.

    • Amy Denim

      Aww, I’m so glad you like the social media book.
      Hopefully the business plan book will be helpful for you too. I think it will. *wink*

  27. Grace Greene

    This is so great. I keep trying to focus and write a business plan. I have heard from so many how important it is! I’m going to bookmark this page! Thanks, Amy!

  28. HiDee

    Love this post – it gives me a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  29. Christina Phillips

    I’m in desperate need of putting together a business plan. Thank you Amy for making it look doable, and Shelley for hosting such a great T13 :-)

  30. Ana Morgan

    Wow. What a fantastic list. Breaking the seemingly impossible into components makes it possible to tackle and accomplish. Thank you!

  31. Brenda Maxfield

    Thanks so much for sharing. It often comes down to the same advice for writing: Put butt in chair. Write. I can always distract myself with a million things to avoid a writing a business plan. Which of course simply means I need to do it! ha!!

  32. Lindsay

    Should a business plan be a yearly thing? Or should it cover some specified period of time (say, 5 years), or is it open-ended? I’m not sure how I would answer questions such as “how many books do you plan to write”.

  33. KateAllenton

    Thank you for sharing.