[355] How to create and launch your own planner

Do you love the idea of launching your own planner…but feel unsure where to start?  

In this post, I  share everything I’ve learned from launching my own - the Social Media Diary and Planner -  which is now in its fifth year. I break it down, step-by-step - from how to come up with a profitable idea for a planner, to finding someone to design and print your diary (and how much it will cost) to marketing your planner. 

I’ll also compare the pros and cons of getting your planner printed yourself versus using a print-on-demand service like Amazon’s Createspace. 

{Click on the player above to listen to this post as a podcast episode and/or read on for the blog post. Scroll down to the bottom to read the show notes including all the links mentioned in this episode.}


Step 1: Market research 

While it’s tempting to start with the creative stuff, it’s important to start by carrying out some research to see if there is a market for your planner or journal. Skip this step and you could end up wasting an awful lot of time and money. 

Remember that most online sales convert at just 1-2%, so if you’re hoping to sell hundreds or thousands of copies of your planner, you will need an audience to sell to.

If you already have an audience of people who would be likely to buy your planner/diary (e.g. an email list and/or engaged Facebook group) share your planner idea and ask for feedback. Start by asking quite general questions e.g ‘I’ve got an idea for a planner. Is this something you think you would buy?”

Don’t have an audience? Find 5 to 10 people you think would be the ideal customer for your planner and ask them if they can spare 15-20 minutes for a quick phone/Zoom call to get some feedback on your idea. And please read Step 5 of this post before you take your planner idea any further. 

Sadly, getting a few positive responses isn’t enough to justify creating your planner. If you sense there’s some interest, you need to go deeper. This might include sharing your ideas/pictures on how your planner will be structured, what it will look like and how it will be laid out. Not only will this help you validate your idea, it will give you useful feedback that will help you create a planner your ideal customers actually want (rather than what you think they want).

While research is important, it’s worth remembering that you won’t know for sure if your planner will sell until you ask people to pay you for it. This is why I recommend starting with a test offer (more on that later). 

Step 2: Decide on a topic for your planner

Nice-looking stationery is all very well, but if your planner doesn’t solve a problem for people, you’ll probably struggle to sell it. 

Let’s take my Social Media Diary & Planner as an example. It’s an A4 desk diary that features key dates and awareness days that can help you plan out your content for the coming year. It is also has planning templates that can you help you create annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily content plans. So the media diary solves two key problems for the people who buy it: not being able to think of any/enough content ideas and not having a clear content plan to follow. Not publishing regular content can decrease your visibility, authority and credibility - which can have an impact on the bottom line of your business. 

When I think about all the successful planner creators I know, there is also a story behind why they decide to create their planner.  Which is generally about solving a problem.

For example: 

  • Ryder Carroll created the hugely successful Bullet Journal because he had ADHD and struggled to focus 
  • Alisha Cormack created the Bridechilla wedding planner when she got engaged and realised that there was so much b**shit in the wedding industry
  • IVF coach Monica Bivas created the IVF Planner after seeing couples to keep track of their medical treatments/appointments - but also their emotional journey 

A successful planner also needs to solve a problem (or several problems) and create a transformation.

Remember that your planner doesn’t necessarily have to solve a practical problem e.g. not being able to think of ideas. It can also solve an emotional problem/need, such as wanting to look stylish around your peers. 

At this stage, it’s also important to think about how you might build a community around your planner. For example, Danielle La Porte’s Desire Map brings together people who want a different approach to goal setting. People who want to create goals around how they want to feel rather than what they want to achieve. That shared identity and set of values is really powerful. 

Step 3: Plan the content of your diary - page by page 

One of the most common questions I get asked about launching a planner is: how much does it cost to launch your own planner.

In order to get a quote from a printer, you will need some key information.  This includes:

  •  How many pages you want
  •  Size (e.g. A4, A1) 
  •  Type of printing 
  •  Weight and type of paper 
  •  Finish (e.g. gloss/matt) 
  •  Type of binding e.g. spiral or perfect bound 

If you don’t have all of this information to hand, you won’t even be able to get a quote from a printer. 

This means sitting down and planning out exactly what you will include on every page of your planner - even down to how many pages you want for each month of the year. This is generally known as a flatplan. 

This is important because you can only print a perfect bound book (and, essentially, your planner is a book)  in multiples of four pages. This means that if you decide to add or take away content at a later stage, it could have a big impact on your project (and your budget). If you go for spiral bound, you can add or take away pages in multiples of two, but if you don’t plan out your content thoroughly beforehand, you could still create problems for yourself further down the line. 

it’s difficult to estimate how many pages you will need without knowing how you planner will be laid out.  Sites like Canva and Creative Market have planner templates you can browse for inspiration. Pinterest is also a great place to look for inspiration. 

At this stage, you also need to some research on the correct paper weight for your planner and best method of binding. If you want to create a product people can use (and possibly carry around with them) for a full year it needs to be hardy. 

Skip this stage and you could end up with customers complaining that the cover of their planner has ripped or that they can’t write it in (because the ink is seeping through to the next page and/or smudging everywhere). And the last thing you need is a ton of refund requests to deal with. 

Your printer will also want to know the weight of the paper you want on your cover and whether you want a matt or gloss finish 

Most printers will be happy to advise you and/or send through paper samples. It’s important to touch/feel the paper yourself before you get anything printed. I’d also suggest buying some different planners so you can compare size, binding and layout plus how easy they are to use. 

There are instructions on how to create a flatplan for your planner (and flatplan templates), a checklist of information you need to supply a printer with in order to get a quote and a list of all the printing terminology you need to know in my online masterclass: how to launch your own planner. 

Step 4: Calculate your pricing 

Having mapped out the content of your planner and worked out your print specifications, you can start to gather printing quotes for your planner. I’d suggest getting at least three so you can compare. 

While it may be tempting to outsource your printing overseas this may not be the best practical solution. While it can be cheaper, if there is a problem with the printing, it’s much more difficult to fix if your printer is in China. This is definitely something to bear in mind if you want to launch a seasonal planner i.e. one that runs from January to January. Not only will you need to allow an additional time for the initial print and delivery, if you are unhappy with any aspect of the printing, it could take weeks (or even months) to fix. This is not to say it is a bad idea, but for your first planner it may be best to stay local.

Once you have some printing quotes, you can estimate how much it will cost you to produce each copy of your planner. Then, based on how much profit you want to make (and research on similar products on the market) you can decide on the price of your planner.  

When costing out your planner, remember you also need to include things like:

  • Packaging (and postage, although you may want to add this on to each order)
  • Fulfilment i.e. getting the planner packaged up and sent out 
  • Stripe/PayPal fees
  • Design 
  • Proofreading and editing 
  • Marketing 
  • Your own time 

There is a comprehensive list of the costs you need to consider in my online masterclass on how to launch your own planner. 

If you don’t want the hassle of organising your own printing, there is the option of using a print-on-demand service like Createspace, Lulu or Ingram Spark. With this option, you upload your artwork file for your planner to their website and, every time someone orders a copy, it is printed and sent to them. This cuts down on packaging and fulfilment costs, but you will still need to pay for design, editing and proofreading. 

While print-on-demand is often less expensive per copy, you also have less control over the process.  So if something goes wrong, it can be much more difficult to fix. Many people mistakenly think that using a large, established platform means you have a ready made audience to buy their planner. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You will still need to work really hard to market your planner. 

There is a detailed comparison of DIY printing versus print-on-demand in my online masterclass on how to launch your own planner. 

Step 5: Do an audience audit

Remember that most online sales convert at just 1-2%, so if you’re hoping to sell hundreds or thousands of copies of your planner, you will need a large enough audience to sell to. You can use my audience calculator to see if you have enough people in your audience right now to make your target sales. 

If you don’t have a big enough audience, you have two choices. You can either focus on building your online audience to the size you need to launch a planner. This may take at least a year but could save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Here’s how to build an audience. 

Or you can explore the idea of doing a short print run to test your idea. This will almost certainly reduce your profit, as shorter print runs are generally more expensive. But it will also reduce the risk of you making a loss on your planner (and ending up with a stack of planners gathering dust in your loft/garage).

At this stage, you should also ask yourself some tough questions about whether you have the authority to launch a planner on your chosen topic. For example, if you want to launch a planner for yoga teachers, but you’re currently working in banking, you may find you don’t have the credibility to make enough sales. In this case, it would be better to spend some time building your audience before launching a planner. 

Step 6: Create a test offer

You can carry out tons of research, but won’t know for sure if anyone wants to buy your planner until you ask people to pay you money for it. 

This is why I believe you shouldn’t print your planner until you have made enough sales to at least break even. 

Instead, create a test offer. This is where you get a designer to create an image of your diary, create a simple landing page (a web page where people can only do one thing i.e. order your diary) and invite people to pre-order their planner at a reduced cost on the understanding that they may need to wait a bit longer for their planner. 

I use Leadpages for building landing pages.

Step 7: Pitch your test offer

Once your test offer is ready and you have worked out your ‘break even’ figure, you can reach out to your hottest leads and offer them the chance to purchase your planner at the pre-order price. I’d suggest making this a limited time offer. Your hottest leads are generally people you already have a relationship with i.e. those who are already working with you or have done in the past. As a result, high-touch strategies e.g. personal messages, voicemails and phone calls may be needed alongside automated emails and/or social media updates. 

Step 8: Hire your designer and printer

Once you’ve hit your ‘break even’ point, it’s time to hire your designer and printer to create your planner. For design, I’d recommend getting recommendations from friends, family and colleagues. Ideally, you should work with someone who has worked on similar projects and has a background in book/magazine publishing. 

There is a checklist on how to find a great designer in my online masterclass: how to launch your own online planner. 

Step 9: Create your launch plan

I’d suggest a 12 week run up to your official planner launch. 

  • Month 1: Warm up your audience by starting conversations and getting feedback on the planner you’re hoping to launch (See Step 1). 
  • Month 2: Focus on creating and launching your test offer 
  • Month 3: Having gathered enough pre-orders to break even, you can sell your planner at the standard price leading up to an official launch date when you post out the planners. 

Doing it in this way builds excitement and anticipation amongst your audience so that when their planner lands on their doormat they can’t wait to share pictures on social media. 

This should give you around 6 weeks from your test offer to ‘make’ your planner. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it any longer or your audience might get fed up waiting for it. 

Step 10: Launch 

If you have followed all the steps set out here, at this point, you should be able to enjoy the results of your hard work and watch the sales drop into your inbox.

Want more advice and support on how to launch your own planner? Check out my online masterclass: how to launch your own planner. 

Podcast shownotes

  • Who should listen to this podcast (3:06)
  • How to find out if there is a market for your planner (4:05)
  • Who do you know that will buy your planner? (08:25)
  • How to decide on a topic for your planner (and what problem does it solve for your audience?)  (14:58)
  • What you need to know before going to a printer (17:09)
  • How to choose a printer (and why a local one is best) (24:22)
  • Key costs to consider when working out how to price your planner (26:53)
  • Pros and cons of printing yourself or using a print on demand service (31:37)
  • Key points to consider when thinking about your buying audience (38:37)
  • How to presell your planner before you create it (41:36)
  • How to market and create a launch plan for your planner (48:20)

Resources

Masterclass: How to launch your own planner

Podcast: How much does it cost to create your own planner? 

Audience Calculator: Work out the audience size you need that you need with my audience calculator

Graphic design with Canva

Self publish with Amazon Create Space

Self publish with Lulu 

Self publish with IngramSpark

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn