What is an Author Success Plan?

I don’t know if it’s just me, but an author success plan seems too formal of a term. It’s filled with obligation and things we don’t want to think about: the business side of writing.

Unfortunately, there is a business side to writing. It can be gross and annoying to deal with, but if we want to put our writing out there, it needs to be dealt with at some point or another.

You can leave it for another time, but when you get around to it, you might have this big mess to deal with, and who wants that? Sometimes it’s best to do the hard work before diving into the creative.

That’s where author success plans come in handy. They make us get clear about our books and writing lives before we do the creative work, which could mean more success for us long-term.

So that’s what today’s post will be about. Defining what an author success plan is, why you need one, and what to include in it.

What is an Author Success Plan?

Before we go any further, we’re starting with a definition:

Success plan: a success plan outlines two things – what you think success is and the steps you need to take to get there.

Success plans go by many different names: business prospectus, business plan, success maps, goals, road map to success, book proposal, etc. But it all means the same thing: what does success look like for you, and how will you achieve it.

Why Do You Need an Author Success Plan?

“Why do I need any of this? It’ll take away from the creativity of writing a book and it sounds so corporate,” you may be muttering to your electronic device right now.

And that’s okay. I’ve thought the same thing for years. Business sucks, and I didn’t want to deal with the “practical” because I wanted to focus on the creative.

But we need to shift our mindsets, especially if you want to sell our creations. You need to adopt the attitude of an authorpreneur. (An authorpreneur is “an entrepreneur that offers products and services […] based on their book(s).”)

Joanna Penn, K. M. Weiland, Jerry Jenkins, Jenna Moreci, etc., are authorpreneurs. They have built programs around books to help them reach an audience, market their creations, and help other authors do the same.

And you can bet your tail feathers that they have a plan to help them maximize their profit and reach. They are combining business and creativity to obtain their definitions of success, and that’s due to the mindset they’ve adopted.

ethnic woman writing notes in notebook
Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

Writer’s Digest: 8 Reasons to Develop a Business Plan

Writer’s Digest outlines eight reasons why you need a success plan:

  1. It helps you hone your message or story into a viable product. A business plan forces you to create a focused book pitch that clearly states your book’s benefits.
  2. It helps you determine if a market exists for your book. This step determines how many potential readers exist for your book and where to find them, justifying the time you’ll spend on creating your book.
  3. A business plan helps you produce a unique and necessary book. Part of your market research involves looking at your competitor’s work to identify any gaps you can fill to make your novel stand out.
  4. It makes you create a marketable structure and content for your book. Refine your book further by finding any missing pieces to your manuscript.
  5. They allow you to tweak your idea for maximum product viability. “If your book sounds compelling, necessary, and unique after you make any final changes, you’re ready to begin writing.”
  6. A business plan offers you an opportunity to plan for success. Whether you self-publish or traditionally, you need to promote your book. Failure to do so will cost you sales, which we don’t want.
  7. They help you evaluate your readiness to publish. “Author platform can help fiction writers land publishing deals [and] create successful books.”
  8. It helps you determine whether you’re a one-book author. The more books you write, the more you sell. Consider spin-off books, sequels, and series because they can help you create a business, brand yourself, or attract a traditional publisher. (It’s why so many authors write trilogies and series.)

You don’t need to do this before writing a book, but it needs to be considered at some point in your novel-writing process.

How to Create Your Author Success Plan

Hopefully, by this point, I’ve convinced you that you need a plan in place for your success as an author. If I have, I know you’ll want some tips on how to go about writing yours.

Don’t worry I’ve got you covered! Here are my tips for creating an author success plan:

Step 1: Ask Yourself These Three Questions

Before we get into the how to develop a plan portion of this post, we need to clarify what success is to us and our long-term goals. Joanna Penn wrote a few articles on the topic of creating an author success plan, and she uses these three questions to determine what success is for her and how to achieve it:

  • What is your definition of success – for this particular book and your writing career?
  • How will you track and measure that success?
  • What do you want to do with that success? What is the point in your work?

Of course, you can use whatever question you want, but the purpose of this is to get down to the nitty-gritty of why you want to write and publish a book. The best thing about this is that there is no one right answer. It’s a personal experience for everyone.

All I ask is that you take the time to dig deep and get to the heart of your why. Block out the noise of society, friends, and family. What they want or think doesn’t matter. It’s what you want that does, and it’s the only thing that will drive you forward.

An example of these questions in action

Let’s say I want to have 10,000 views on the blog within a month. That would be a successful month for my website.

I can easily track it through my WordPress stats page. To hit my target of 10,000 views in a month, I’d need to have at least 333 people visit the site each day, give or take.

How do I attract that traffic? Well, I post articles on my website consistently about topics that my audience would like, comment on, and share.

What do I want to do with that success? Eventually, I’d like to market my books, etc., to those viewers so I can make money. I also want to help other authors reach their goals. So I want my content to be informative and provide value.


  • Success looks like 10,000 views in a month.
  • How to do I get there: consistently post content that is informative and valuable to others. If I do this correctly, they will like, comment on, and share my content.
  • The point: Build an audience to market my books to, build authority, and help others.

Step 2: Set SMART Goals

I won’t get into too much detail because I’ve already covered it extensively in this post. But once you have your definition of success, you’ll need to find a way to achieve that, which is where SMART goals come in:

SMART goals are part of author success plans

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. They are designed this way to get you clear about what you want and how to get within a reasonable timeframe. It’s just another tool that you have to help you make your dreams a reality.

Step 3: Write Your Author Success Plan Down

There are many different ways that you can do this. You can try to treat it like a business proposal or prospectus and lay it out in various formats, like charts, graphs, etc., or in a spreadsheet or even a journal. It’s all up to you.

Self-Publishing School has a journal that you can purchase that will get you through your first book. It gives you a daily, week-by-week, and monthly break down of what you have to do each month. (It is probably very pricy – I couldn’t find a price tag for it on their website.)

Marissa DeCuir uses a spreadsheet to track their wins (completed goals), works-in-progress, and overarching dreams. Each section gets a column and reminds you of how far you’ve come and where you want to be while including those all-important smaller steps to get you there.

I like to use a notebook or Google Doc to keep myself on track. I find that physical copies are more motivating because I can tape them to the wall. I want to see them because it serves as a constant reminder to keep me motivated and dedicated to my vision.

Things to Include in Your Author Success Plan

Here are some things that you may want to include in your plan:

  • Marketing strategies
  • Costs (you’ll want to create a budget for yourself.)
  • Writing goals
  • Publishing goals (this will look different if you want to traditionally or self-publish.)
  • Branding goals (such as making sure your messaging is present across social media channels, newsletter, and website.)
  • Personal goals that may conflict with your author goals
  • Business goals.

What you add is up to you. I’d include writing, marketing, and publishing goals and a budget, so you have a well-round view of what it’s going to cost you in time and money.

Step 4: Celebrate the Victories

Our to-do list will never end, which is why it’s so important to take a moment to celebrate the big and small wins. Those may not come a frequently as the things that you need to do.

TCK Publishing sums up this sentiment beautifully:

So remember to celebrate your milestones and all the hard work you’ve put in. If you’re aiming to earn that $28,000 from writing this year and building from nothing (no list, no website, you only just wrote the book and got it back from the designer), celebrate your steps! Pat yourself on the back when you put the book on Amazon Kindle. Give yourself a toast when the first copy sells. Treat yourself to a movie when you break $5,000 in sales. Stand up and cheer (and maybe get some other folks to cheer with you) when you’ve hit the halfway point.

Always notice and appreciate your wins. Scientific studies have shown that thinking positive, rather than focusing on obstacles or things yet undone, has [various] benefits, including improving our physical health and boosting our personal resources.

Essentially, celebrating the good in our lives helps our mental health. And being in tip-top shape both mentally and physically is what we need to succeed.

man with fireworks
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Be Flexible

This bit isn’t necessarily a tip but a reminder to be gentle with yourself. We’re living through unprecedented times, and everything can feel topsy-turvy. So if you don’t hit a milestone that you “should have,” don’t beat yourself up about it.

You can’t control everything, and if you need to take a break. Take the break. Your book and dreams will still be there at the end of the day. All you need to remember to do is to come back to them.

Author success plans help you realize your publishing goals — whatever they may be. They don’t need to be fancy or complicated, but something that gives structure to those goals. Your plan should also give you a birds-eye view of how to get from point A to point B and how much it’s going to cost you.

Think of it this way. You’d do something like this if you wanted to travel across the country. You’d plan out where you’d like to go on a map and note down all of the expenses before deciding which route to take.

So do the legwork before you sink your time and money into something that may or may not align with your vision. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Do you have an author’s success plan? Why or why not? If you do have one, does it work for you? Any tips for the newbies out there? Please leave a comment down below!

Stay safe, everyone.

Until next time.



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Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams is a writer and editor for a local marketing agency. She has formerly worked as a writer for the Investing News Network and as an editor for Whetstone, a bi-annually published literary magazine. Aside from writing, Danielle has an unabiding love for all marine life and the outdoors. She loves taking long hikes with her husband and cooking delicious meals in the kitchen.


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