List 111There are two ways to pass the time from first draft to release: doing your revisions first and everything else second, or overlapping the two processes. There’s something to be said for both approaches, but it will be easier to figure out which one is right for you if you create a detailed task list of everything that will need to be done before you make your first sale.

Given how logical having such a list to work from is, I’m surprised that I can’t think of one I’ve seen in the past, other than in the form of the tables of contents of books on self-publishing. That kind of list is fine for orientation, but it inevitably falls short of what you really need to work from.

Why? First, because a good book will lay out all the available alternatives, and you won’t want to use all of them (e.g., you’re not going to use CreateSpace AND SmashWords AND a full service print on demand author service, you’re going to use just one). And, as with a fork in any other type of road, each time you make a choice it will usually lead you to other, and different further choices.

Second, information on self-publishing gets out of date very quickly, and the best books on self-publishing don’t seem to get updated very often. And finally, it’s a rare book that covers everything. So no single book is going to tell you everything you need to know.

There are a lot of good reasons why taking the time to create and update such a list will pay off.  Here are some of the better ones:

  • Creating your list will help you realize what you haven’t learned yet, if you’re new to self-publishing. Identifying the blanks early will help you pull together the information you’ll need to make smart choices you won’t later regret.
  • As you learn more and read more, you’ll have an orderly place to archive the tips and tasks that appeal to you.
  • You’ll get a better sense of what order different tasks need to taken in, as some tasks will be dependent on earlier tasks and/or decisions.
  • You can appreciate the performance and lead times for particular items, such as editing, proofreading, cover design, and so on.
  • You’ll be able to plan your own time better, and be more realistic in your expectations of what you can achieve and when.
  • You can get a break from rewriting by working on some of the long lead time items on your list, like finding an editor you’d like to work with.

As you can see, to get the most out of your task list, you should integrate scheduling into it as well. That way you can knock off some of the long lead time items first, so that you’re not sitting around later with nothing to do but wait for someone else to do something at their own speed. You may also want to integrate costs into your list, so that you can make better decisions on an all-in basis rather than making one purchase at a time, perhaps finding that spent more than needed on early items leaving too little for later, important ones.

As you can see, which way you decide to proceed – revise first and do everything else second, or working on both at once – will have a lot to do with how anxious you are to get your book to market.

With that by way of introduction, here’s my first cut of such a list, for the moment only at a high level (except for the first topic).

I.  Revision Phase (November 15 – _______, 2015) [Budget: $______]

  • First revision: read beginning to end for consistency, plot cleanup, trim back where possible, etc. (one month)
  • Research editors and proof readers (simultaneous)
  • Second revision: work on text sentence by sentence on laptop (one month)
  • Choose editor and proofreader (simultaneous)
  • Third revision: print out and read aloud; transpose hand-written changes from hard copy to laptop version (six weeks)
  • Send draft to and work with editor (t/b/d)
  • Final version to proofreader

II. Publishing (_____, 2015 – _____, 2015) [Budget: $______]

  • Choose platform (e.g., CreateSpace, SmashWords, paid Publisher, etc.)
  • Decide on formats (Hardcover, softcover, eBook, etc.)

III.  Cover Design and Text (_____, 2015 – _____, 2015) [Budget: $______]

  • Select cover art from stock photo sources
  • Pick designer

IV. Promotion Plan (_____, 2015 – _____, 2015) [Budget: $______]

  • Release simultaneously on all platforms, or begin with Kindle only?
  • Update reader/reviewer list from first book
  • [much more]

If you’re reading this and have a good idea how you would fill it in, then you’re in great shape. If not, then you would probably find that spending some more time reading “how to”  books on self-publishing might be time well spent.

Find the first entry in this series here.

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