An Indie Author’s Guide to Planning Book Production

An Indie Author’s Guide to Planning Book Production

The week between Christmas and New Years is my favorite week of the year! Everything is ending, and everything is beginning. I get to set up my calendar for my family, filling in the blank days with stickers for birthdays, reminders of appointments, homeschool schedules. I get to take my work planner and look at that blank slate and plan and plan and write and plan and imagine. I get to dump all of the accounting information for the year into storage, and start off with reconciled balances and new numbers.

I am a total planning junkie. If my creative brain is looking for a way to procrastinate from the work that needs to be done, you can bet that you’ll find me at my planner, sticking little encouragement or Bible verse stickers throughout the coming week.

I am an indie author, so my deadlines and productions schedules are set years in advance, but they’re set by me. Which means that if I go through a period of conferences and more conferences and conventions followed by Type A flu, pneumonia, strep, and sinus infections that spread through my family, thus knocking me out of any definable work from mid-September to mid-November (what an autumn we had that year!), then the world is not going to collapse around me. However, that also means that I need to get out my dry erase markers and my year-at-a-glance laminated calendars and start shifting things around.

So, how does that kind of planning work? How can I look at July 15, 2023, and know that I have a scheduled release for book 7 in a series when I’ve only written the first four of those books yet?

Here’s what I do:

  1. I look at what my daily work goals are. For some people this is a word-count goal. For others, it’s a “write for 3 hours” goal.  You design this around you and your personal goals.  I’ve written 37 books. I know what a day’s worth of production looks like.
  2. I look at my planned series. How many words do I want in each book? How long will each book be? Basically, how long do I need to plan for each book to be written?
  3. At this point, I know what my daily goals are.  I know what my series looks like. Now I look at the time in front of me. If I can write each of the books in the 3-book series in two months, and I’m starting January 1st, then I need to remember that in the middle of the second book, my kids will be on spring break from school. So, I’ll have to add that time into the plan. In addition to planned breaks in work, I always add 2 weeks to every book for any kind of emergency (and that one fall, I needed 2 months – hence the shift of work!) Every two books I give myself a “catch-up week”. If I’m on target, that’s a free week. If I’m not on target, I know I have 5 days of buffer time to work with that won’t throw my entire world off.
  4. I account for editor time. I have two editors. Both need time with each book and I need time on the other end to implement changes.
  5. I account for beta reading time. How long do I need to give each beta reading team for each book in the series?
  6. How long will it take to format the ebook and paperback and have them ready for publication?
  7. Now that I know all of this information, I look at the day I could publish the last book in the series, then work backward with the intent of publishing each book in the series every two months, with 90-day preorders built into those time periods. It doesn’t matter if I could publish book 1 on April 1st if I can’t have book 2 ready by June 1st, which is my reason for starting with the last book and working backward. Doing this might mean that book one is completed, edited, and ready to publish by April 1st, but it might not actually publish until July 1st. I have patience and a plan. I’d rather feed my readers a new book every two months than have them read book two in a series and have to wait four months for book three.
  8. With two weeks of padded time built into each book, that leaves me plenty of time within the schedule to adjust for any kind of emergency, writing block, extended snow days (one year we had 17 snow days from January 1 – March 20!), family vacations, etc.
  9. Between each series, I give myself a full week off. No sitting at my computer and working at all! It gives me time to think in the background about the next series so that when I sit down and plot it out, it’s had time to percolate. And it gives me time to binge-watch some murder mystery show or binge-read a set of Agatha Christie novels and gives my brain a reset.

I plan two years in advance. And, I’ll be honest, I put my plan on annual wall calendars using dry erase markers so that I can shift if I need to. And, I have often had to shift book releases forward. Many things have interfered with my time to write or my ability to concentrate on writing. But, as an indie, that’s okay. I give myself that grace. It’s wonderful to have the freedom of setting my own publication dates.

(That said, having a strict deadline from a publisher this year was WONDERFUL – I couldn’t push it forward and I didn’t have a choice but to perform – which tells me that I can do it that way if I need to.)

So, how do you plan for publishing? Do you have a plan, or do you just write, then publish?

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