I’m in the process of winding down my copywriting and resume writing business (though I will continue to provide services to past clients upon request). I’m also refining my new business plan, which will focus almost exclusively on publishing fiction and nonfiction. So, this seems like a good opportunity to write about business plans.
The first step to any business venture—and professional writing is most definitely a business venture—is to analyze. You can either start by analyzing yourself or start by analyzing the market.
As per the recent advice I received from professor and journalist Louis R. Carlozo, I would recommend making a list of your strengths and your passions. When listing your strengths, consider what would make you marketable to your target audiences—if you’re writing for publication that may include readers, editors, agents, publishers, and booksellers. When listing your passions, focus on things you want to write about. For me, an abbreviated list of my passions includes autism, neurodiversity, speculative fiction, and social justice. Also per Prof. Lou’s advice, I recommend writing a mission statement (a list of your values, your commitments, and your purpose) followed by a vision statement (a projection of what your career will look like in the future).
Use these lists and statements as touchstones when analyzing the present market. For example, if you take a look at the publishing marketplace today, you will see fewer traditional opportunities with fiercer competition, but you will also see many more entrepreneurial opportunities with lower points of entry (meaning the cost of being a writing entrepreneur and the obstacles you face are fewer than they were before the Internet, social media, ect.). You should also assess the marketability of your passions. For example, speculative fiction is still hot, but cross-genre fiction is hotter. Autism is still getting a lot of media attention, but neurodiversity still hasn’t hit its stride in the mainstream. And, unfortunately, there’s still plenty of social injustice to make social justice a timely and significant topic.
Analyzing the market requires some research, but it’s worth it. You don’t want to waste time investing in a trend that’s dying out. Instead, you want to be aware that a trend is dying out and determine how to create (or take advantage of) a new trend that can propel your career forward. Your topic doesn’t have to change, but your approach will be different.
When assessing the marketplace, you also want to take a look at successful writers who do the kind of work you want to do so you can learn what worked, what continues to work, and what might work for you. Timeliness is important here. Focusing on how your favorite author landed her first publisher 20 years ago won’t help you to land your first publisher now. The market has changed too much for a 20-year-old approach to be relevant. Instead, you want to find out how a new writer you enjoy landed her first publisher last year. That’s knowledge you can use to achieve your goals.
So take some time to consider your strengths, your passions, and your markets. In the next post will discuss the importance of diversification.