Refine Your Production Schedule - Resolutions - Indie Pub It
This is part of a continuing series on small changes you can make throughout the year, instead of sweeping, scary New Year resolutions that tend to crash and burn long before you read this post.
Each suggested task is a year-long adjustment to your indie business that could reap some very nice rewards.
Indie publishing is a game won by increments. Most of us write in small doses because we don’t have the luxury of full time writing. We squeeze production into our spare time. We don’t hit best seller lists the first month out but (often) end up selling more over the long term than last month’s #1; a copy here, a copy there.
Check the intro post from January for more on this idea, if you haven’t seen it already.
Here’s the on-going list of tasks:
January: Review Your Backlist
February: Strengthen Your Sales Pipeline
March: Improve Your Hourly Word Rate (Prolificacy, Part I)
April: Write More Words This Year Than Last Year (Prolificacy, Part II)
May: Refine Your Production Process
June: Refine Your Production Schedule
Extend Out Into The Future
When indie authors first start publishing for themselves, the default mode of production and release is an on-demand one. You’re free to write what you want, when you want, and release it when it’s done, as soon as it’s done. This on-demand mode of publishing can feel like the ultimate authorial freedom, but you’re not helping your business grow if you’re not planning what to write, and when to release it.
Instead, you should develop an actual production schedule that includes not just a list of what you’re going to write, but:
What you’re going to write, for the next year at least
When you’re going to write it (first draft)
When you’re going to produce it (plotting, if you’re an outliner; editing; formatting; publishing)
When you’re going to release it.
As a good rule of thumb, you should aim to release a book 90 days after you’ve finished the first draft.
If this sounds horribly restrictive and anal, and you like being able to write whatever you like, whenever you want to, then try this simple exercise:
Write down all the books you would like to write and release in the next twelve months.
Now, reflect back on what you’ve published in the prior twelve months.
Do the number of titles compare favourably? Or does the list of books you’d like to get written look much larger than the number you actually produced in the last twelve months?
Were there any delays in publishing a title because contractors (formatters, editors, cover designers) couldn’t fit you in right away?
If the number of books you publish in a year doesn’t concern you at all, if you’re publishing just to be published, rather than wanting to make decent money from it, then developing a production schedule for the year ahead isn’t necessary. You can continue to write as the mood and inspiration strikes you.
On the other hand, there are some strong advantages to a) knowing what you’re going to write and when, and b) having a production lead time of at least 90 days before the release date:
The most obvious advantage is the control you’ll gain over your career. There’s a sense of confidence that comes from planning your business out in this way, and you’ll save a great amount of time over the eternal question of what to write next.
You can move from one project to the next smoothly and without delays. You can also swap between projects as the mood strikes you (yes, there is room for inspiration and creativity in planning!), as your deadlines will tell you when you need to complete components of a project.
Contractors love you
Because you know exactly when you will be finished with a manuscript, and when you will need the services of a choice contractor, you can book them well ahead of the needed date, and know that they will work on your book at the agreed-upon date. In the meatime, you can be working to complete the book, right up to that submit-date.
If a contractor is particularly busy and popular (which describes most of the very good ones), you can work your production schedule far enough ahead, and in enough detail, so that you can always hire them when you need them, and not have to sit around waiting for their three month lead time to lapse before they even look at your book.
You can also give your contractors deadlines (reasonable ones), because you know exactly when you need the work completed to meet your release date. This helps them figure out if they can meet your production schedule or not. It also gives you a chance to book alternative contractors, and still meet your own release date.
Better Advertising and Promotion
Most of the really effective advertising and promotion venues are in such demand, they book space anywhere from 30 to 90 days ahead. If you already know you’re going to have a major release in four months’ time, you can plan the promotion now, and not miss out on the best advertising spaces.
Most of the commercial review sites and reviewers also book their reviews for weeks and months ahead. If you have a 90 day lead from completeled MS to release date, then you can send out ARCs for review as soon as you’ve finished your book, and receive professional reviews on or around your release date, instead of weeks later.
Cracks your whip for you
If you’re working without a production schedule, you will probably not notice if a book takes a couple more weeks to write than it might normally take you, or that the next project is starting two weeks later than it would have. You won’t notice that the number of pages you produce daily are dwindling slowly but surely….
A good production schedule provides deadlines for your work. You’ll know immediately if you’ve missed a deadline and you can take steps to catch up on the lost time.
Because you are indie publishing, the wheels of industry don’t grind to a halt if you miss your self-imposed deadline, but it’s a very good way of monitoring your overall effort and effectiveness.
There are some personalities that actually work better with deadlines, and you might find that having end dates for projects makes you work more efficiently than before.
How to build your production schedule
Here’s two very simple alternatives:
Start with the release dates
Write down all the titles you’d like to release, and when you’d like to release them. Using a calendar, work backwards from the release date, adding in deadlines for when the manuscript must be completed (and production to start), to when the writing must start, to when you need to start plotting the book.
Once you have a few projects scheduled, you’ll be able to tweak as you need to, to make the schedule one you think you can meet. You might find you have to shift release dates up to accommodate the size of the project.
By working from the release date backwards, you can take advantage of buying seasons – the Christmas rush, summer fiction sales, specific holidays and events like Easter, Valentine’s day, etc, which can give you promotional tie-in opportunities.
Start with the start date
This method is more straight forward. Build a list of books you’d like to write, in the order you’d like to write them. Starting with the first book, use today’s date as the start point, add in a plotting deadline, a writing deadline, then your release date, 90 days ahead. Repeat for each book on the list.
You can tweak your release dates once you’re done.
Columnist: Tracy Cooper-Posey writes vampire romance series and hot romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published over 45 indie titles to date, including her latest fantasy romance, The Branded Rose Prophecy. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated four times for Book of the Year. Byzantine Heartbreak won the title in 2012. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com.