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Quarterly Planning For Indie Authors: Work, Rest, And Play Your Way To Writing And Selling More Books — Self-Publishing Conference Highlight

Quarterly Planning for Indie Authors: Work, Rest, and Play Your Way to Writing and Selling More Books — Self-Publishing Conference Highlight

Creative business is not business as usual. Authors often define success very differently from your average business owners, work from different drivers, and find most planning methods are too one-dimensional and mechanical. This session from ALLi Director Orna Ross provides a simple creative planning method designed for febrile creative minds.

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Watch the Self-Publishing Advice Conference Highlight on Quarterly Planning for Indie Authors

Authors often define success very differently from your average business owners. This session from @IndieAuthorALLI Director @OrnaRoss provides a simple and creative way of planning for indie authors. Click To Tweet

This is a post from SelfPubCon (The Self-Publishing Advice Conference), an online author event, run free twice-yearly, in association with the Alliance of Independent Authors.

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Read the Transcripts on Quarterly Planning for Indie Authors

Orna Ross: Hello, everybody. Our final session of SelfPubCon, the tools and tech conference for indie authors.

I hope those of you who have been enjoying previous sessions have had a good conference. Feedback on Twitter is really positive. All the sessions that we’ve had so far have been really fantastic, so I’m feeling the pressure now, doing this last session.

What I’m going to focus on today is quarterly planning, and quarterly planning for indie authors is the name of the session. And what we’re going to be looking at is, where this kind of came out of in my own work is that, working with authors I find that very often an author has, maybe, a marketing plan. They usually have a plan of some kind for how they’re going to finish their book. They may or may not have the marketing plan. They may or may not, in fact, most often do not have a profit plan, or a product plan, or an idea of how it all hangs together. And so, this method of business planning for authors is about author business. It’s about creative business. It’s about recognizing that we are in business, and that is new for authors who have previously defined themselves as artists or professionals, careers, artisans, craftspeople, all sorts of definitions, but it’s really pretty new that authors start defining ourselves as businesspeople in the mainstream, and as indie authors, we have to, and that’s what we do. That’s what we must do, and I’m not going to get into that today.

But what we’re going to do is look at a method which kind of integrates everything all together and makes it possible for you to take hold of all the different aspects of your work as an indie author.

So, what is that work? Let’s just see if I can share my screen here with you.

So, hopefully you are now seeing my presentation, as opposed to me, and you could hop into the comments please, and just let me know that all is as it should be. And while you’re there, just say hello and tell us where you’re coming in from today, I know it’s early now on Sunday for a lot of the world, but for some of you, it’s going to bed time.

So, it’s one of the most exciting things about SelfPubCon, and the reason that we run it for 24 hours is that it is global, it’s all over the place. So, I am told we are working. So, that is fantastic.

All right. Let’s have a look then at what is going on here. So, before I start, I want to say that what I’m going to talk about today, I have an hour here, and this is a long-term thing. This isn’t something like some of the other presentations, where you get a clear, small, defined piece of work to do and off you go and do it, and you’re sorted. This is a tool, and this is our tech and tools conference. This is a tool, but it is a tool that is very much part of you, that grows with you, that changes as you develop. It’s a loose tool. It’s not a very rigid thing and it’s creative and therefore it has to be very personal. Also, a lot of planning methods are very analytical reasoned and, to be honest, a lot of them, you can spend a lot of time doing the planning and not much time doing the stuff that actually makes creative flow happen and makes your creative business work. And this is, sort of, the anti-planning plan in the sense that planning is really important, but it isn’t important that you get everything right all the time. It’s a messy process, because it’s a creative process and we allow it to be messy.

One of the big things is to kind of take the pressure off. So, it’s going to be an introduction to the concepts, and to the ideas, and I hope you get some useful thoughts at a minimum to take away.

If you have pen and paper, you can take notes about stuff that I’m saying that applies in particular to your business, because every single one of us, just like our books are completely different, our author business is going to be completely different as well.

And I use author business to describe everything that you do, including the writing, including the marketing, including the social media, including everything. Your business most encompass all of these different aspects of your job.

So, if you find that you want more of this, I run a creative planning for authors membership, which has a monthly workshop where we tease out, in detail, some aspects of creative planning. These are not large-scale webinars. They are very small. So, everybody gets individual attention, and their questions about their particular business books where they’re at get answered in the session. So, if you want to do more, you can take up that.

But let’s get to it now. So, what I want to kick off by saying is that, as, and those of you who have done any sort of planning stuff with me before will have heard me talk about this, you’re not just a writer, you’re an indie author. And as an indie author, you are also a publisher, and you also are a business owner. So, they are three big functions, and if you’re not thinking and planning around all of that, that can explain where things are not going so well for you, if they’re not, if you find that you’re blocked in any way, if you find that your business isn’t making the kind of profit that you would like it to be making. If you’re not selling as many books as you feel you should be selling, these are individual problems that will be found within the creative writing, the creative publishing or the creative business buckets.

But as we go through our day, it doesn’t help as much to think, oh, I’m a writer, I’m a publisher, I’m a business owner. We can’t really work with that. It is true, and it’s the umbrella under which we work, but what we can work with is a sense of ourselves as makers, managers, and marketers, marketeers, actually.

Not just marketing the books, but selling them, getting them across the line, getting readers to actually commit to paying for books. So, we wear these three hats as we go about our business, and one of the reasons why indie authors are challenged is because each of these is a big deal. Being a good maker, making great books, and that means writing great books first, but then also producing great books, designing, all of what goes into editorial; all of that goes into making a really good product.

Then managing the whole thing, getting it all done without getting yourself into a state, having clear processes and actually having profitable outcomes. That’s what the manager thinks about and looks after.

And then there is the marketer, the marketeer, who must go out there and let people know. You can have a brilliant book, and other products and projects to sell, and not sell any of them because you’re not doing the right things. And very often, authors think it’s about working harder and doing more tasks.

Creative business planning is the opposite of that. It’s very much about getting selective, drilling down, understanding exactly what you’re about as an author, and actually working from that on a daily basis. So, I’m going to show you a method that takes you from the start, where you begin to get a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve at the end, and then reverse engineering back through time for that, and that’s what this presentation is going to do.

Just very briefly, first, if your writing is not going well, it’s because you’re not, in that moment, creative enough, or you haven’t yet got a creative process that gets books through you and out into the world. Same with book production. If you’re getting stuck and you’re not getting beyond it, it’s because you’re not applying a creative solution.

Same with marketing and promotion. If you’re stuck there and things aren’t happening, it doesn’t mean that you have to turn into a mad, crazed, salesy type of person. You’re not able to do that, anyway, so don’t even try. Apply creativity. And business, yes, even the money, my contention is, if an indie author business is stalled, it’s because you haven’t got creative enough about your business, and I don’t mean creative accounting.

What I mean is that you need, as an author, and this is something that you don’t sit down and kind of work out once, and then you’ve got it. This is something that is really why you are an author. As you are developing, as you’re growing, as you’re expanding, as you’re writing more books and producing them, and bringing in more readers around you, you’re developing all the time a sense of yourself under various headings; your values, what really matters to you as a person, your mission, what you would like to change in the world, your passion, what you really enjoy doing.

And when you bring those together, you get this place I call the (inaudible). It’s kind of a mash up of it all, and there is where you find your ideal reader. Your genre is there, your niche is there, your subcategories in Amazon are there. You need to know what is uniquely you, in the books that you are putting out. And if you’re putting out different kinds of books, you need to do this for each of these different parts of you, and strands of you.

And this is what I mean by, applying more creativity. Very often, if we get stuck, we look for an answer from somebody else, and they may not have the answer for you in your business. Because, as I said, it’s very unique to each of us. We look for a quick fix and very often it’s about going deep and spending time, rather than applying something that’s just going to tick a box.

So, a lot of the great tools that we have had on the conference, over the past 24 hours, if they’re not handled within a context where you understand what it is you are trying to achieve at the end, then you can just spend your time flying from one very nice, shiny tool to another, but not actually making any progress. So, this session is all about planning your way to progress and to your definition of success. That is the endpoint.

So, we need to create a plan. Our creative business operates in exactly the same way as our books operate. Some of us are pantsers, and some of us are plotters. So, if everything is going fine for you, if you are producing well, and the books are getting through you and out into the world, and you are increasing your sales, then you’re fine.

But if you’re finding that you’re stuck anywhere along the pathways. So, you’re not writing enough, you’re not producing enough books, you’re not producing enough profits, then there is a block somewhere in your process and perhaps in more than one place.

So very often, we don’t know that. We don’t know what we need to do to approach our business in a creative way. We don’t know enough about our own creative process in the first place. So, we can be too conventional in how we go about our day, especially if we’re already in day jobs that are highly structured, or if we have a long history of day jobs that were managed in a very conventional business sort of way, we can get stuck into being a bit boxed like that.

If we don’t know, actually, how do we put a book together? What is our process? Tim Lewis was talking, in the session, about the tools, about how much time he’s spending at the moment, since lockdown, getting his processes straight, and you need to put a bit of investment into that, but the outcome and the payoff is huge.

And the other thing that I find authors don’t know about is, they don’t know how to shape assets, and they don’t know how to shape their process and, again, we don’t have time to go into exactly what I mean by assets, but creative assets are your books and your process, and everything that is in your business shaped in such a way that it is working for you. It is doing what you want it to do.

And if we don’t have a sense of that, if we don’t have a sense of ourselves as the manager or the creative director of everything that we’re doing, we can become very confused and we can become very, very busy without very much in terms of outcome.

So, I’m just going to quickly go through the seven stages of the creative process, because these apply no matter what you’re trying to create.

And this really will be a whiz through, but we start up here with number one. The intention to create something. We just know that we want to do it, and we decide we’re going to. The idea that we have for this creation though, will need incubation. Sometimes it’s incubated before we get the idea, the intention, but even then, there is an incubation period after the intention comes to us and we need to give it that time. And very often, in that time, we can get a bit frustrated with ourselves and a bit annoyed with ourselves, but actually what we’re doing is incubating the idea.

While incubating, we investigate. That means researching in the conventional sort of way, as we think of research, in the library or on Google or whatever, but also researching our memory, researching our imagination, and getting a really clear sense of what it is that we want to do.

Just clear enough that we can begin the next stage, the formation stage, the beginning to create some sort of draft or blueprint of what it is we’re trying to make happen.

After the drafting comes the stage called elaboration, which is where we deepen the idea. We expand it, we add to it a bit. When we see what has worked, we do a bit more of that.

And there is also the clarification, the correction stage. This will be the editing in a novel or a book, I should say. It’s about refining the idea, getting closer to what it is we were trying to do.

And eventually, it comes to a point where we can say, hey, it’s finished, I did it. It’s done.

And you go round and round the wheel, it’s not linear at all, you go back to the incubation and you go onwards again, you know, the creative process isn’t a tidy circle like this, but this circle helps us to understand the different stages of the creative process because there’s absolutely no point in trying to draft if you haven’t done your incubation. There’s absolutely no point in trying to edit if you haven’t done your deepening.

So, it’s really important that you get the stages into the right stage of the process. And the other thing is that it applies to everything. So, it’s easy to see, maybe, how this applies to your book, but maybe not so easy to see how it applies to your business profits or how it applies to your marketing plan.

But everything we make from, you know, this morning’s breakfast to the most elaborate lifetime’s work as an indie author, everything we make is going through these phases, and we’re in the middle of a lot of them, and that’s why things can get really confusing.

So, what I’m going to go through with you now, up to here is kind of background, so you understand where I’m coming from. What I’m going to bring you through now is a process that you can apply to plan things a bit better for yourself. I use different terms which are here on this slide as well. When we’re thinking about what we want to make happen, we often mix up goals, intentions, plans, and so on.

So, here’s the terminology that I use. We map for long-term stuff. So, when we’re thinking about our lifetime’s work as an author, or we’re thinking about the next decade, what we’re going to get into, or the smallest period here, the next year, we’re mapping, we’re putting down a general kind of sense of what it is we want to do, and we’ll begin here with the year, with the new year that is coming. We will begin just by asking you to take a look at that year and just begin to, kind of, make a map of what it is you would like to happen across that year. When we look at the medium-term time, so, the quarter, the month and the week, we’re looking at plans. So, we’re not saying this is definitely going to happen, but we’re making a plan for it and, as part of the creative planning membership, every week, we set our intentions for the week and then we come back at the end of the week and say what we have accomplished.

Very often you find you’re planning one thing, and by the end, when it comes to logging the accomplishments, you may have accomplished something completely different, or it may all have gone according to plan. And different weeks are different, and it doesn’t matter as long as you’re moving in the direction you want to be moving in.

And then, when it’s shorter, so less than the week, a day, or the session that’s in front of you, we’re in the realm of creative intention. Now, we mean it, we know what we’re going to do for this period of time. We know exactly where our focus should be. We’re not going to get distracted by other things. We’re not going to start noodling about other possibilities. We’ve reduced it down to here, and here we know what we have to do, and we need to get on with doing it.

That’s why I have this time period here down in the bottom right-hand corner, which is creative time because time isn’t just linear, time also is each moment, and some moments can be very deep and full of flow, and some moments can be very shallow and gone without us even having connected with them.

Creativity is always about connecting with where you are right now, and it isn’t worried about what’s going to happen in the future, and it isn’t kicking yourself over what happened in the past. It is just fully present, engaged and, in a sense, you become a conduit for something that is bigger than you, that is flowing through you. We have this experience often in our writing. If we apply creative principles, we can have that experience in our book production, even doing our accounts. I know you don’t believe me on that one.

Okay. So, let’s just take a look at where you are right now. So, this is where the planning process begins. It begins with you and where you are, and I don’t have time to go through all these different aspects, but it’s really good if you can do a kind of summary just of where you find yourself right now, no judgment, no, I should have, I failed to do this, you know, I thought I would get such and such done, the lockdown has really thrown all my plans in a bucket, and none of that. Just a summary of where I am, summary of your strengths and weaknesses. So, wearing each of your different hats. So, as a maker, as somebody who is making books and other media to promote those books, you have strengths, you have things that you’re good at, and you have things that you’re not so good at.

You have phases of the process that go easily for you, you might love the drafting phase, hate the editing, it might be the other way around. You have strengths and weaknesses. Again, no judgment. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Just note down what yours are. Much better to work with your weaknesses, and around them, than to ignore them and pretend they’re not there.

Then, if you make a note of particular opportunities that are there for you, that excite you and delight you, and there are so many opportunities for indie authors that you can get carried away on this one, and a lot of us do, we can skip from opportunity to opportunity without actually developing the ones that are most important to us.

So, referring back to the values, the mission, the passion, the (inaudible), the niche, the micro-niche, the genre, who you are as a writer, what you want to be, what sort of legacy you want to leave, referring to all that big stuff or the opportunities, what are the opportunities for you right now, and what are the threats? What’s out there? Opportunities and threats are where you look outside of yourself, at what’s going on in the world. Sometimes, things happen to us that we have absolutely no control over, and that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

And then it’s also good for you to do, if you haven’t already, for you to do a list of comparable authors and to have that list, and to keep adding to it whenever you meet any author that you feel is comparable to you in any way. Specifically, in relation to your genre, your niche and your micro-niche. So, another thing to just kind of make a note of, who are the comparable authors for your books? And this is something, as an indie author because you’re the publisher, you really need to know this. You really need to know what is selling out there, what are readers enjoying in the kind of book area that you want to be in, and you want to be a player. And finally, just to make a note of what is your unique value, why should readers care? What are you bringing that isn’t out there already? What’s special about you and your books?

This is a daunting one for us all, it’s very hard for us to think of ourselves in those terms, but just like every child is special, and unique, and different, and has something to offer, it’s the same for every adult and every writer, and there are loads of books that are not being written that need to be written. Do not let yourself be put off by the fact that a lot of books are being written and published, that’s irrelevant when it comes to creative planning and creative work that you’re going to do.

So, once you’ve made a note of where you are, the next thing is to get a sense of where you’re going and, just skipping through this, we mentioned it already in terms of values, your passion, your mission, what you want to make happen and all of that, in here should also go your profits. What sort of outcome do you want monetarily, financially from your author business? Because you are in business and your answer might be, nothing, I don’t really care. I’ve got a day job and I intend to keep a day job; I’m writing for my own pleasure. That’s absolutely fine. That’s not really what this session is about though, and it’s not really what the creative business planning membership and method is about, it’s very much about people who want to actually make a living from their writing, ideally, but certainly make profits from their efforts.

So, if that’s where you’re going, if that’s where you want to go, then you need to get that down. And the other thing you need to think about it as an author is influence. What is it you’re trying to influence? What kind of influence do you want to have? What are your books offering again, it’s part of that, but also, who are you hanging out with? Who would you like to hang out with? What do you want to see happen?

As an author, as somebody who has decided to write books, you do want to have an influence, whether you know it or not, you want to get inside the mind, the heart, the soul, the imagination, of a reader and stir them and stir them to something. And I don’t know what that is, but make a note of it. Get it down there.

So, after you’ve worked out where you are right now and where you’re going, you need to have a think about how you’re going to get there. And the most important thing in this list here is the creative conditions you set up for yourself.

So, very often, we’re having a big fight with ourselves because we’re not doing what we think we should be doing creatively, and really what’s wrong is that we haven’t set the conditions in place. So, creative conditions include time, space, your relationships, people’s awareness of you as a creator, how important it is to you. There are so many different conditions that you need to have that make creating easier for you. You might need to get out of the house and go to the cafe. You might need to bury yourself in the basement of the house, you might need music playing, you might need silence, you know, whatever it is, whatever your creative conditions are, whatever gets a good flow going for you, make notes about that, but more importantly, start setting those conditions in place and all the time, we refine that.

I mean, I’ve been writing and publishing books now for, I’m not going to say how many years, it’s shockingly frightening, but I still am improving my conditions and getting a clearer sense of myself as a writer and what I’m trying to do, and you know, why I’m putting all this time and effort and everything else into it. So yeah, your conditions are really, really important.

Also important is your product ecosystem. If you’ve been listening to the Advanced Self-Publishing Advice Podcast, the AskALLi podcast, with Joanna Penn, we’ve been talking a lot about other products and a product ecosystem, more than one stream of income, not putting everything on your books. So, make a note, if there are other things that you would like to do to supplement or be part of your mission and passion as a writer.

You need to also have a profit and a salary account set up in a bank, so that you can see your profits going in there, and whatever you’re paying yourself going in there, so that you’re not finding that you’re just paying editors and you’re just paying designers, you’re paying everybody else, everyone else gets paid and you get nothing at the end of it, or you’re even in debt.

So, you need to start thinking about profit, and that begins with having the bank accounts set out. And in fact, our next workshop is going to be on the last Friday of this month, the workshops are on the last Friday of every month, our next workshop is actually going to be about profits and how to plan for profit. So, the other thing you need to understand and know is tools and tech, the topic of this conference, really important, and your tools on your technology are really, really vital and your techniques. But again, as I said, they have to fit into this overall umbrella that we’re looking at. When you get the right tool and a good piece of tech, it can really make a difference to you as a writer and as a publisher, and I really hope that some of the tools and technologies that we’ve brought to you for the conference has been helpful on that.

Assistance is another thing you would have to think about you. If you’re at the start, you probably don’t have a budget for assistance, but you might want to do what lots of businesses do, and authors seem to find unthinkable which is, work out your budget in advance for the year, and actually fund your business up front, invest in your business and yourself, and invest in the assistance you need to take you further, faster. And you could have more profits in the end by actually doing it that way around.

And finally, your own process, how are you going to get there? This, more than anything, it ties into the creative conditions, but actually knowing your process, do you write fast or slow? Do you write best in the morning or the evenings? Long bursts, do you need dedicated time? Some people can snatch the writing on the go or whatever they’re doing, other people need or feel they need a lot of time. And then questioning your process, if you do feel you need devoted time, it’s going to be much harder for you. Why do you feel that? Just because you’ve always done it that way? Have you actually tried doing it another way?

Experimenting and exploring your own process is an ongoing part of knowing how you’re going to get where you want to go.

And then the last bit, and we’re really bad at this, generally speaking as authors, how am I going to know I got there? Because the thing about being an author is, when you finish the book, there’s the next book.

And you know, you pay yourself this month, but you’ve got to pay yourself again next month and life just keeps on rolling on. So, how are you going to actually know that you’ve arrived? So, you need measures for this, and your measures for your production is your books, how many books have you actually got, or your other products, if you’re doing supplementary premium products or you have a service on stream, as well; what you actually get through and out the door. That’s one of your measures.

Influence is another measure, your reader engagement, followers, fans, and relationships with other influencers, that can be measured. You can actually, and with social media metrics and stuff like that, it’s actually very easy to measure how you’re doing on the influence thing now, which would have been really quite difficult before.

And profits, actually measuring the money, just looking and seeing, okay, I did make a profit, and here’s how much I made, and here’s what I’m going to make next time out.

And the most important metric and measure of all is your own personal satisfaction. What actually makes you feel good? I have this name for it called, The Creative Happiness Quotient, and giving yourself a score from one to 10, about how happy it’s all making you at the moment. If you were putting in a planning method that was making you feel stressed and like you weren’t living up to yourself and making you feel, you know, small or inadequate in any way, well that would be completely wrong, and that’s why you have to measure your own personal satisfaction as much as you measure your money in the bank, your readers, followers, and so on.

If you have questions, do feel free to put them into the comment section, and I will try to get to them at the end. I know I’m throwing a huge amount of at you here, but I wanted to get as much in as possible.

So, that idea of looking at where you’re at and just giving yourself a simple score from zero to 10 is a really useful thing to do.

And I just want to briefly, another little wheel for you, I’m big into wheels and circles, because that’s the creative way. It’s not linear and straight lines. This is the business, the creative business success. This applies to indie authors or to anyone who’s running a passion powered business. Anyone whose business is not just about making money, but is also about something else, and particularly digital business. So, again, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it, but I want you to just understand, these are the things that you need to be doing in order to get from where you are now to where you want to go.

These are the things that you’re probably already doing, and you’ll be doing them to a different level of competence or expertise, depending on how long you’ve been at this, whether you got a blind spot, whether you’ve got a block and, which things you like to do more than others, and so on.

So, this is a way of just, this is your whole business in front of you. Everything you have to do is contained in this little wheel. So, let me talk you through it. I’m going to begin on the right-hand side, which is where most writers begin when they’re thinking about what they’re doing, here with the maker. So, we spoke with the three hats earlier on, the maker hat, it’s the little yellow hat here. The maker is the person who makes the books. That includes the writing of the books and the actual book production. The maker also makes media around the books. So, you might think of that as marketing, but it is actually a maker task. It’s one that you need to bring your creativity into and that you need to link in and tie in with your books as much as you possibly can.

So, that part of your social media posts or your launch materials, or whatever. You’ve got to make those, they’re going to take away writing time, you know, book making time because you have to make those and they have to be creative and great, and as interesting and connected to the motions that made you write the books in the first place, as possible.

So, these are the two maker bits over there on the right-hand side, then coming down here into the marketeer. I call it marketeer because it’s more than marketing. It’s not enough to just market. You must market in a way that gets a sale. So, that doesn’t mean we never give anything away free, we actually do, but we do it in a way that has a pathway that somebody can take. We’re not forcing anybody to do anything. The wonderful thing about business for creatives in the 21st century is, it’s come round to operating much more like us than ever before. So, we generally don’t like pushy sales and we don’t want to be pushy salespeople and that, actually, it’s a huge block for a lot of authors, in terms of their own success, but actually it just gets right in the way, they can’t get beyond that.

But you can get beyond that, you don’t need to stay behind that fence at all. And how you do that is by putting on your marketeer hat. And this is a fun hat as well. This is very much about connecting back to the vision, to the mission, to the passion, and then going out there with your stuff. So, the marketeer works in two ways, through partnerships, which is other authors, I was talking about the comparable authors earlier, but also anyone who’s working in your sphere, anyone who is a connector between you and your readers, that could include booksellers, librarians, literary event organizers, ALLi, you know, there are loads of things and people that could fall in here.

Your marketeer has a plan. Again, this doesn’t mean that it’s phony and you’re just trying to use people to get somewhere, it just means that you’re actually directing your creative energy into the proper place and allowing you to do its thing, allowing it to flow. The other thing that a marketeer does is projects.

So, it might be a launch, a three-month plan around how I’m going to actually get this book that has just come out, just come out of my brain, out into the world, nobody knows about it. How am I actually going to make sure that people get to know about it? So, the marketeer wears that hat, where it’s all about looking out into the outer world and trying to get people to do what we want them to do.

And then we come to the manager, and very often authors and creatives, generally, look at the manager as some kind of headmaster or wicked witch, or, you know, somebody who’s trying to constrain them, and it can be a whole area that indie authors just don’t go there, just ignore it. And if you do, you just won’t get where you want to go. You’ll quickly find that you’re not producing books or anything else, and nothing’s moving. You’re stuck. So, just looking at what the manager does, the manager actually sets up, I was talking about the creative conditions earlier on, sets up the creative and commercial conditions for the maker and the marketeer to thrive. So that the maker and the marketeer can actually do their work, certain things need to be in place.

So, the first thing that a manager thinks about always is assets, and assets is a huge topic, I’m not going to get into it now, but your books are your assets, your process is your asset, you have lots of things in your business already, your intellectual property is your asset. Lots of things in your business already. Your manager has a clear understanding of all of these assets and what they are and what they’re doing, and how to grow them so that they’re working for you separately from you.

The manager is also the person who makes the decisions about the tools and the tech. So, having looked at this conference, the manager will go off and, maybe, purchase a tool or experiment with a tool, download a free tool and try and see, does this actually improve the process? Does this actually improve the profits? Makes those kinds of decisions.

And the other thing is that the manager is always thinking about the processes. The publishing process that you’re going through, where you are on that process, what stage you’re in, what timings things are going to happen under. I mean, one thing you always noticed about the indie author community is that the longer somebody has been doing this, the longer they give to the actual marketeering process and the other things that are needed to reach readers.

So, the manager is aware of the resources in the business, how much money you have, how much time you have, and what is the best use of that. And keeping the manager hat on is what keeps the business working and working well.

So, that is the overview. And that, as I said, that last slide is your creative business in a nutshell. But then you come back to today and, you know, how am I going to turn all of that? And how do I know where I am? And how do I know where I want to go? And all of the things that the earlier slide, up at the start of the presentation, referred to. How can I actually take all that and think about now, and where I’m going right in this moment?

So, I’m going to talk about looking at the next year. So, we are now in the first month of the last quarter of 2020, what a year it has been. So, we’re looking forward to 2021, and this is a good time to begin to think about the year ahead.

It’s not a good time to start thinking about the year, after the Christmas hangover has abated, and you’re beginning to look at January one. This is the time that you begin to think about next year, five years, 10 years. What are the things, because you’ve taken on something that isn’t a short-term endeavor, what do you want to see unfolding over the time that’s coming, and particularly over the next year?

And so, I’ve called this presentation, quarterly planning, and we base our planning, in Patrion, we base our planning on the quarter for a reason. It’s really simple, quarter’s work. A quarter is a really good period of time for you to begin to start thinking about how it changed everything for me. How I do it is, 12 weeks, and then a week off, roughly speaking.

And looking forward to that week off is always really good, you know, knowing that it is there, because I think I didn’t actually refer to it back on the slide, as I should have. And in fact, I’m going to take you back to just say it here. As creatives it’s creative work, creative rest, and creative play.

We need to plan all of these because, as creatives, we need that creative rest, that conscious creative rest, that conscious creative play. If we’re only working, we’re very soon going to find ourselves drying up. So, we have to integrate, as well as integrating the maker, the monitor and the marketer, we have to integrate it in a way that allows for work, rest and play across the year, and across the week, and across the day, and even across the hour, perhaps, but certainly across the day, and across the week, across the quarter, across the month, across the year.

So, looking forward to next year, then, perhaps this will be the first time that you will actually look at what you’re going to do next year, and not just think about, I’m going to write such and such a book. But what I’m urging you to do here, as part of this creative planning process for indie authors, I’m urging you to also think about what your marketeer is going to do next year, and what your manager is going to do next year to help everything along.

So, looking at the year, you just literally break it into four. It is that simple, what you see there in front of you. It’s three months, roughly to each quarter, and as I was saying before, I kind of whizzed back there to talk about the work, rest and play, as I was saying, it’s really a fantastic period of time because it gives you enough time to really get a proper chunk of work done, a month is rarely enough with a book, but three months makes a difference to every book and to every business.

So, it gives you enough time to actually see something happen, and to follow a plan through from start to finish and get a sense of achievement. It’s manageable in your mind in a way that the year is not, and then you can break it down very easily, which is what we’re going to do now, in a moment, you can break it down very easily across the quarter to see how everything is looking for you and get a really good sense of what’s coming up in the immediate short to medium-term.

So, we begin, and I’m not going to go through these planning sheets with you, but I just wanted to show you how they work and the thinking behind them, because you don’t need a planner like this, actually, at all, a notebook and pen are enough. What you do need is to understand the principles that I was talking about earlier in the presentation, and to apply them into the timeframe that you’re in at the moment. So, here’s how we do this using these planners.

So, we would look at the creative intentions for the year to come, and we would come down to one top intention, under the three headings of work, rest and play.

So, just to give examples, under the work thing you might say, okay, by the end of next year, I’m going to have £10,000 in my profit account, or having paid myself a salary for the entire year. Okay. That’s it. I’m just putting a big goal there. We might say, I’m going to have finished a book, three books, the rate some people go, it could be 10 books, you know, whatever the work outcome is that you want to see, what’s the most important one to you? And I’m going to just throw it out that it might not be getting the book done, it might actually be setting up some of the processes and some of the other things, but you need a top intention for the year.

And then, a rest intention for the year too. Every year, you should be taking a creative retreat of some kind, preferably by yourself. So, this would be in addition to any writers conferences you might enjoy, or whatever. A retreat that’s all about rest, all about just getting quiet, not doing anything, getting off the technology, you know, digi-fast for a week, preferably two, completely getting downtime. Nothing is more nurturing, and more rewarding for a creative than creative rest.

And also, creative play. So, you should also be planning something that gets you excited, that you really enjoy, your definition of play, whatever that might be. And these are things that, you know, it’s not about spending time with your family, and all the other things that are what you might call things that life draws from us and needs from us, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about things that nurture you. Things that make you feel better about yourself, things that fill your creative well. So, planning in a vacation that is, play is all about uptime. So, it could be something physical, that often works really well for authors. It doesn’t have to be though, but it should be your definition of play.

Into the planner, also would go then, just any major events that you know are happening next year. Things that can’t be ignored and that you simply must do. And just to remind yourself, because the year plan’s an important plan, you pop in your top value, your mission for next year, what it is you’re offering out to the world, you know, your mission statement. What’s driving you and empowering you to do all that you’re going to do because, let’s face it, it’s not an easy job, that we’ve given ourselves. So, we need big motives to keep us there and keep us connected. So, good to have that in on your yearly plan.

Then you just do a simple map of the maker, manager and marketeer intentions.

Just mapping out the work intentions across the four quarters, Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4.

And down here then comes a little, my favorite part of the maps, is the profit log and map. So, you will put in what you actually had as an income in 2020. So, income is all the money that comes in the door, and it’s a figure, but it’s not a very useful one in terms of actually making a living and running a good business, but it’s good to see how much is actually coming in.

Much more interesting is what is left at the end of it all, and goes to you as a salary, and that gets noted in here. How much did you actually pay yourself in 2020? And then, in addition to your salary, your business should have some profits that it holds, and you need an account for each of these.

So, if you’re operating off one bank account, you’re going to be very confused. So, you need your income account where everything comes in, and out of that goes your tax account, your profit account and your salary account. So, you need to have separate accounts for all of those so that when you look into that account, that income account that everything comes into, you don’t get a false sense of security with a whole load of money sitting there that you don’t own at all, that isn’t actually yours.

And then knowing how 2020 went, having filled out the figures for 2020, then you fill in the figures here for your intended income next year, your intended salary next year, your intended profit.

So, that is your map. It’s very simple. Just doing that is enough. You don’t need to do any more than that.

And then we go from the year into the quarter. And it’s a similar process then, all the way through, it’s just that the maps are broken down a little bit differently, depending on the timeframe.

So, here on the left, you will put in the things that you’ve just put into your yearly map, then get translated over here in summary so you see in front of you, what it is you’re about. And then up here, you map the creative work that you want to do this quarter, the creative rest that you’re going to take this quarter, the creative play that you’re going to get involved with this quarter, and the quarterly profit plans, and the tax account, and everything is all in here, and you will just map it out. And again, it’s very simple. It’s one little column of things to fill out, but it is revolutionary when you start to actually follow it.

And then at the end of the quarter, down here, you actually log what happened. What are your top three accomplishments for that quarter? What are you most proud of having done? And then, what needs attention for the quarter to come.

Then we get into the month. This is the monthly planner with just the days of the month marked out. And again, the maker, what’s the maker going to get up to? So, you put your work intentions up here, across the three months of the quarter. So, month one, month two, month three, and then down here, you look at the maker, the manager, and the marketeer, the different things that they’re going to do.

The maker, what are they going to produce and to publish? The manager, what are they going to process and profit from? And the marketeer, what are they going to promote and sell?

And in here, again, we have the profit map and log, what the balance you opened with, what went out this month and what you ended up with, and then what needs attention work-wise next month.

The day planner, then. Every day, you can whip one of these hours, but again, as I said, you can just use a notebook. You just, up at the top, make sure you have your work, rest and play intentions listed, so that you know what they are for the week. Good to have three a week in each. Very often, when we look at our calendars, all we see is other people’s things that they want us to do, but if we get our calendar done out with these first, then we’re nurtured enough to very happily go and meet and do things with other people. And then you just get really granular about what you’re going to do today on the work front, what you’re going to do today on the rest and the play front. See, I’m not letting you off that rest and play hook, you have to actually plan that, you need to put it in there and observe yourself, observe how difficult it can be, sometimes, for you to take a creative rest, for you to give yourself the joy of some creative play. That is very telling, and it’s just something that’s really worth noticing.

You circle here, which type of activity that you’re involved in, and then you tick when it’s done, giving that nice sense of accomplishment. And this is a map of the day, so you can map out any key times that you want. And again, at the end of the day, you note your accomplishments really quickly; well, I did this for work, I did this for rest, and I did this for play.

Oops, sorry. Yes, I got that backwards, didn’t? I skipped to the day, I didn’t notice that we didn’t do the week, but anyway, it’s a very similar process. So, I’m actually going to just say, you just do your intentions, list them out, this actually makes completing the day one easier. So, you go from the month, to the week, and then to the day.

So, that is it. That is how the creative planning process works. It’s an overview. I hope it has also given you some ideas, and some things to think about in relation to your own creative business.

If you’d like to know more about the creative planning workshops, the monthly membership, there is, as I said, a monthly workshop, we have the Facebook group, which you might like to go to anyway: facebook.com/groups/gocreativeinbusiness, and membership gives you, you know, the workshop each month, tasks to do, gets you thinking specifically about your own business, the downloadable planners, we fill them out the session, and we hold each other accountable in the Facebook group.

So, if you’d like to go deeper with any of this, that is the way to do that, and you will find that at ornaross.com/planning.

So, that is it for my session. I’ll be hooking up with Tim Lewis, very shortly, to say goodbye to SelfPubCon, October 2020. Do jump in and enjoy the sessions, lots of great stuff there for you.

And thank you very much for joining me today for this session. It’s my joy, this stuff, I absolutely love working with authors and helping them to see where their own specifics need a little, kind of, clearing of the pathway, and getting the blocks and barriers out of the way, and the different stuff that can make.

I no longer, unfortunately, am able to do that on a one-to-one basis. But yeah, I hope you got something from it, and I will see you on Twitter. We are live tweeting today, post-conference, and we’ve got lots of giveaways and things coming up as well. So, watch out on Twitter.

I’m going to be actually raffling a consultancy session with a year’s membership of the workshops. So, that will be on Twitter a little later on. Have a great rest of the conference, and great rest of the weekend. Talk to you soon. Take care now. Bye-bye.

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. I dislike business. I want to outsource my book marketing. Who does that the best?

    Best regards,

    Donna S. Cohen RN

    I just used BookLocker to do my book. I had an editor with forty years of newspaper experience. Now, I would like to recoup my investment. Who is the best person for that…and please do not say me.

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