What’s on your self-publishing production schedule?
I’ve talked before that part of being a professional writer meant you needed to show up every day (thanks, Steven Pressfield). Showing up every day ready to work your tail off means you need a plan. You need a self-publishing production schedule.
You also must hold yourself accountable.
Unless your plan is to show up, sit there, and watch Netflix. Which is a plan I do love and would support. Trust me if that job paid I’d be doing it. But until the job materializes that type of behavior isn’t going to get you very far in your writing career.
As a professional writer, one of the many things you need to have as part of your business plan is a publishing production schedule. You need to know where you want to go and when you want to get there so you can plan how it’s going to happen.
If you love to plan this is going to be your favorite part of writing. You can even get a shiny new notebook and colored pens (that’s my favorite part of planning, the office supplies). Just don’t get so entrenched in writing the plan you forget to write the book.
I personally feel it’s important to have a timeline and I make all the authors I work with create one. That way they’re not shocked when waking up one day, 4 years have gone by, and the book still isn’t finished.
Time flies so fast and if you wait until the “right” moment. If you wait to start until you have the perfect plan. It may never happen. It’s called the Maybe Someday scenario.
You also don’t want to plan on starting Monday or tomorrow because that rarely happens either.
If you’re serious about making a living at this writing thing, then treat it as such.
There are many factors that will go into creating your publishing schedule. Questions if you don’t already know the answer too you will need to set aside some time to figure out. The answers are important to your career. You don’t want to wing it.
Sit down, grab your fancy office supplies, and ask yourself the following:
- What genre am I going to write?
- How long is my manuscript going to be?
- How much time do I have to write each week, each day?
- Where and what formats do I want to publish in?
- What is my marketing strategy?
You can download this handy worksheet to help you set up your production timeline.
Create Your Production Schedule
Be on your way to making a living at your writing!
All of these questions are important even if they may seem basic because they set the parameters for your timeline. You need this information. While of course you can wing it but trust me it will be much harder to make progress that will make you happy.
For those of you who know exactly what you want to write bravo. For those like me who want to write lots of different things, this first question might be harder.
Knowing the book genre you’re writing will help you to determine the second question because different genres run different lengths. If your plan is to write a historical romance those will typically run 80,000-100,000 words. If you’re writing a cozy mystery, those will be more like 40,000-60,000. These are just estimates but keep in mind, every additional word you write will require more time. Not only to write but to edit (the dreading editing).
Once you’ve decided your genre and approximate length you need to determine how much you can write each day and that will be dependent on how much time you have. I can’t stress enough DO NOT over-commit yourself as you will set yourself up for frustration and failure. Not to mention a huge amount of stress.
If you only have an hour to write each day and you can typically churn out 500 words in an hour then use that as your baseline. If you can only manage writing 5 days a week then aim for a goal of 2500 words a week. And 5 days a week is respectable.
I used to be able to write 7 days a week, and I loved it because I don’t usually look at my writing as work. However, as my kids got older and I took on more chauffeuring responsibilities I find that a 6 day work week is much better for me. Saturdays are filled with so many activities I need a day off. Not from writing but from the stress when I can’t find a long enough stretch to write. It was too much pressure and made me unhappy. And an unhappy me is a poor writer. If I’m not mentally in a good place, it makes writing that much harder which then itself is frustrating and on and on.
I still work Saturdays on social media and things I can get done 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there, and it works for me.
Anyways back to the main topic, not my mental health because that conversation could go on for many blog posts.
Using the answers, you came up with to those 4 questions you can create your timeline. If your goal is to write a 50,000-word cozy mystery and you can average comfortably 2500 words a week, then it will take you 20 weeks to write your book.
The FIRST draft anyway.
Which to me is always the easiest. It’s when I start revising that I find all the inconsistencies and crappy writing and the major work starts.
Until you’ve been through the entire process a few times, it can be more of a guesstimate as to how long your revisions will take. I usually tell new authors to allow the same amount of time for revisions as they did for their first draft which in this case would be another 20 weeks.
It’s not many authors who can write an almost perfect first draft. And if you can kudos to you. You’re awesome! Please teach me.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking. WOW, that’s a long time away and I don’t want to wait that long to publish my book. I know it can seem like a long time away, 40 some odd weeks.
But that’s ok.
It gives you 40 weeks to market. And it’s never too early to start. Marketing your books is just as hard and time-consuming as the writing part, if not harder. The more time you take to build your author platform and build a following the better off you’ll be when your book releases.
Now keep in mind 40 weeks only gets you to a final draft. You then need to factor in editing, which I recommend you do at least twice if not three times. One content and two line editing. Then time for formatting which is the quickest part of the process.
Editing turn around time will largely depend on your editor. I have one who takes 3 weeks to line edit a 50,000-word novel and another who can do a content edit in a week. Then I need time to make my corrections based on their feedback. Again, if this is your first one it will be harder to figure out, but I allow 2 weeks on my end for each round. It usually doesn’t take that long, but I’d rather have too much time than to rush.
In the middle of all this editing fun, you will need to take the time to get your cover and start marketing. If you’re also a graphic designer along with a writer yay for you, this will be easy. If not you will need to research and find a designer who designs covers in your genre and has a look you’re going for.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. For me, I sometimes don’t know what I want until I see it. And that often brings out many versions I don’t like at all first which can be frustrating for all parties involved in the process.
You don’t want to start the cover process too early because you never know what turn your book may take regardless of what your initial intent was. You want to make sure your storyline is pretty solid. If your man-eating unicorn turns out to be a man-eating fairy then having a mean looking unicorn on the cover won’t make any sense and you’ll waste money having the cover redone.
You also don’t want to start too late because you need to start marketing this awesome book of yours and having a cover helps.
You will see on the worksheet you downloaded that I have the cover and marketing elements worked into the middle of the progression. This is a guide as you need to do what you feel comfortable with.
I encourage you to block out some time on your calendar and put your production plan on paper. Then come back and let me know how it’s going.
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