A Business Plan for Self-Published Authors

In theory, self-publishing allows the author to keep all the profits and control the entire publishing process. In reality, many self-published authors have sustained financial loss as they don’t understand that, fundamentally, the publishing industry is a business. Therefore, authors who aspire to succeed at self-publishing a manuscript should create a business plan as explained below. To make more sense of the process, assume that the idea is to self-publish 2,000 copies of a manuscript for a novel.

The Executive Summary

Think of the ‘Executive Summary’ as the blurb on the dust jacket of the novel. Therefore, write a paragraph of no more than 500 words that contains the following information:

  • Name of the lead character and what he does for a living.
  • The lead character’s main opposition and conflicts.
  • What the main theme of the story is.
  • How should readers feel when reading the story?

Description of Business

Prepare an in-depth analysis of the novel. Here are examples of the things to list out:

  • A 1000-word synopsis of the novel and the genre it falls into.
  • The kind of readers envisaged reading the novel.
  • Is the author going to obtain an International Standard Book Number (‘ISBN’)?
  • Have all the necessary intellectual property requirements been complied with?

Market Strategies

List every marketing option possible. Then, choose no more than three options and work out a detailed strategy of how to market this novel. To make this process more effective, divide this section into the following:

  • ‘Before Publication’ – list any agreements entered into with editors, online publishers, marketing experts or distributors.
  • ‘After Publication’ – prepare a press kit to use to invite reviewers to review the novel.

Competitive Analysis

In business, people use what is commonly called a ‘SWOT’ analysis. ‘SWOT’ stands for:

  • ‘S’ – Strength: what makes the novel special?
  • ‘W’ – Weaknesses: would readers want yet another novel in the same genre?
  • ‘O’ – Opportunities: what opportunities are there to maximize sales of the novel?
  • ‘T’ – Threats: what is the worst-case scenario for the publication of this novel?

Development Timeline

This will provide an idea of how long it will take to reach each milestone in publishing the novel. Possible milestones can be any of the following:

  • When an ISBN is obtained.
  • When the manuscript is sent to the printers.
  • When the novel begins to be stocked in the bookshops.
  • When reviews of the novel are published.


Here, prepare a biography of the author. Rather than telling his life story, stick to details which might be relevant to the novel. Consider writing a biography along the following lines:

‘Joe Blogs was born and brought up in Madagascar. He moved to the United States in the 1990s and now works as an attorney in New York. 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 the novel printed and sold. Include people like the typesetter, printer, distributor, family members and friends who have agreed to help with this project.

Financial Concerns

Do not complicate matters by preparing tedious balance sheets and earnings projections. Instead, prepare the following cash-flow forecast to know where the author stands for 2,000 copies of the novel.

  • Ascertain how much money can be made (‘Total Cash In’). For instance, the cost price for the novel is $1.20. The publishing industry standard is to fix a retail price that is nine times more than the cost price for a novel. This means that a retail price of $10.80 should be fixed for each copy of the novel. Multiply $10.80 by 2,000 to get a total of $21,600.00.
  • Determine how much money has been 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.
  • Subtract the ‘Total Cash Out’ from the ‘Total Cash In’. If a negative number emerges, consider trimming some of the expenses involved. For example, there is no necessity to pay for a fancy website when an author can still have a web presence by creating a free blog from Blogger.com.

Creating a viable business plan ensures that an author is one step ahead of the majority of self-published authors. Stick to this business plan to ensure that, at the very least, no money is lost when embarking on self-publishing a novel.


Fishman, Rick. The Author’s Business Plan (Accessed 5 January 2011)

Riley-Magnus, Deborah. Writers Write. Successful Authors Write a Business Plan. 13 October 2009 (Accessed 5 January 2011)

By Aneeta Sundararaj

This article was first published on Suite 101.com: http://suite101.com/article/a-business-plan-for-self-published-authors-a328587

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