Joanna Penn writes non-fiction for authors and is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F.Penn. She's also an award-winning podcaster, creative entrepreneur, and international professional speaker.

Your Author Business Plan by Joanna Penn

You are an author. You turn ideas into reality in the shape of a book.

You turn the thoughts in your head into valuable intellectual property assets. You understand how powerful the written word can be. Now it's time to use your words to create a business plan to take your writing career to the next level — whatever that means for your situation.

I'm Joanna Penn and I've been a full-time author-entrepreneur for almost a decade. In this book, I'll guide you through the process of creating a business plan that will help you achieve your creative and financial goals.

It's relevant for fiction and non-fiction authors, as well as those who want to include other products, services, and income streams. It's also applicable whether you're just starting out or if you already have a mature author business. A plan helps at any stage of the journey.

•Part 1 covers your business summary and author brand, taking you through the process of deciding the overall direction for what you want to achieve and who you want to serve.
•Part 2 goes into the production process around your writing, publishing and licensing, products and services.
•Part 3 covers your marketing strategy and author eco-system.
•Part 4 goes into the financial side of your business, from mindset to revenue and costs, as well as paying yourself now and into the future.

The final chapter will give you a framework for simplifying your plan and turning it intoachievable stepsacross a chosen timeline.

In each section, I give examples from my own business plan and there are questions for you to answer, templates, and resources that might help along the way, as well as example business plans for different kinds of authors.

It's time to take your author career to the next level. Let's get started on your business plan.


Joanna Penn is what used to be called a multi-hyphenate. She writes bestselling fiction. She has a career advising writers. She has a major podcast for creatives that has a worldwide audience. And she has all of this because she plans. Every year, Joanna reviews her business plan and tailors it to the year ahead. Planning works. And Joanna has thoughtfully decided to share her business planning tips, so you can take your business to the next level. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch



  • "If you're looking to learn what a business plan is and create a simple, effective plan for your stage in the author journey, this is the book for you. Joanna gives lots of personal examples and explains how each section can apply at various stages of the author career. Highly recommended for career authors."

    – Kate M. Colby, Amazon 5 stars
  • "Easy to follow, and to the point. Excellent summary, complete with instructions for putting together your own unique author business plan. Easy to follow, and to-the-point (with no fluff). Highly recommended for every author."

    – Garrett Hudson, Amazon 5 stars
  • "I've heard many times that indie authors need a business plan, but I had no idea where to start until I read this book. The book breaks the business plan into sections, and using her own experiences, Joanna explains what to put under each section and lists questions you should ask yourself. Then there are author business plan examples, so you can see how it all comes together. Once you reach the end of the book, you'll have a business plan to help you on your journey."

    – Nicole, Amazon 5 stars



What is a Business Plan?

A 'business plan' might seem like a dry, soulless document — the complete opposite to the creative words that you pour onto the page for your books. But think again.

Business is creative

Look around you. People working in some kind of business created much of what you see. Business creates jobs and meaningful work. It fuels income and enables money to flow between people. It turns ideas into reality.

If you can reframe business as creative, then you can also reframe your business plan that way. You are actively shaping your future writing career, and what could be more creative than that!

If you can articulate what you want, you can turn it into reality

You might think you know what you want to achieve and how to do that, but when you try to write it down, you may well discover that your thought process is fuzzy and you haven't quite worked out what you want to say. That happens with our books, and will likely happen with your business plan, but the very act of writing it down will help make it clearer.

You'll discover where you're being over-ambitious, or over-complicating things, or trying to do too much based on the time you have. You'll also find aspects that will challenge you and help you face the fears that are part of every creative life.

You'll also consider the reasons behind what you want. So often we plow ahead into busy tasks and getting things done without ensuring that our actions will lead us to an endpoint we want to pursue.

Writing your plan down will also help you to turn it into reality, because you will have to articulate what you want to achieve. As you go through this book, don't just answer the questions in your head. Write them down and turn your plan into words. You might be surprised by what you find.

A business plan has a high-level strategic focus

Your business plan will have a section on the books you're going to write, but it won't detail how you will actually write them. It will have a section on publishing, but it won't include the steps for how to publish a book.

Your plan should be high-level. Think of yourself physically rising high above and looking down on your author business as it is now and where you want it to be in the future. You can't see all the detail from high up, but you can see more strategically than if you're down in the weeds.

A business plan is more than a goal … or a dream

I have a dream to see at least one of my novels turned into TV or film. This is a pretty common dream for fiction authors! A dream is something that you would love to achieve, but there are so many things out of your control that even if you do everything 'right,' it still may not happen. You can dream of being a brand name author like JK Rowling or Stephen King or Yuval Noah Harari, but there is no guarantee that you can achieve it.

A goal is something that could be achieved if you take consistent action toward it for the long term

I have a goal to become an award-winning author, recognized by my peers for the quality of my craft. At the time of writing this book, I am award-nominated. I made the final five for the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Ebook Original in 2017. I sat in the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City, on the edge of my seat as my name was read out as a finalist. I didn't win, but I keep taking steps toward this goal.

I focus on improving my craft, and I write the best thrillers I can. I work with professional editors and continue to submit my books to awards. I cannot include "Win an ITW award" on my business plan, because it is ultimately out of my control, but I can include, "Write the next thriller" or "Invest in a craft course to learn more about endings," or, "Allocate $X for editorial feedback." Of course, if I achieve the goal of award-winning author, I may well take a step closer to my dream of seeing my novel turned into a film or TV series. These steps compound over time as we improve the craft and the business.

Make sure your business plan includes practical steps toward your goals rather than dreams that are out of your control.

A business plan can be in any format

You're not going to present this to a bank manager. You're not pitching for funding and you don't need to justify anything to anybody. You don't have to share this with your significant other, your writing group or the internet. This is for you, so your business plan can be whatever you want it to be.

You can draw it with colored pens or make a collage, or you can use a spreadsheet. You can hand-write it in a journal, or you can type it into a document. You can use the downloadable template or you can use the Companion Workbook available in print. Whatever works for you.

A business plan is a living document

You're not going to make one business plan for the rest of your life. Whatever you think you want, it will inevitably change as your writing career progresses, the market shifts, and your life develops. Start where you are and expect it to change.

Make sure you date your plan and keep the historical versions. It's always interesting to look back and wonder, "why did I want to do that?" Inevitably, something will make sense to you at the time, but later on, you might change your mind so it's good to keep track of your reasons why.


•What is a business plan?

•Why do you want to create one for your author business? Why will you spend time on this?