This post at Writers Helping Writers sure seems relevant to me this year — Creating a Publication Timeline for Your Next Release
Publishing your own book is a lot like juggling—and not those harmless little balls, either. Try a couple of balls, a chainsaw, a set of Ginsu knives, and a litter of kittens. …
Well, it’s not that bad. Minus the chainsaw for sure. Things can go wrong, but not THAT wrong.
This post suggests the following checklist:
Write the draft, revise the draft, hire an editor (I assume the include more revision here), cover design, formatting, marketing, hitting publish. They often lump a lot off stuff together. They then assign estimated time for each step, which seems optimistic of them.
In my experience so far, along with “everything takes longer,” you can add, “at least one thing will take even longer than that.”
BUT, all this isn’t the only thing to consider, because there’s also tactical questions such as: How close together do you want to release a novel and its sequel? How long will the boost to visibility and thus royalties last after you release one book and does that mean you should adjust the release date of the next book, if that’s possible? How often do you want to run promotions and do you want to do that right before or possibly right after a new release? Or a month later? Two months?
Anyway, this post is very formal about it, with a spreadsheet that has each task and sub-task, with how long it might take to complete plus the date on which it should be completed. I’m sure that’s a good idea. Well, I’m not that sure. Updating all those dates would be a pain after life causes some deadline on your spreadsheet to whiz past unnoticed and suddenly you’re behind. I think I would be inclined to look at a spreadsheet like this and add a month to it. Maybe two months, just to be safe.
I think I do it more like this:
A) Complete the draft, or get it nearly completed. Books are SO different from each other. I don’t like to predict how long any given title will take. Once you have the draft nearly finished, THEN you can consider the timing of everything else.
I would never in a million years put a book up for preorder before mostly finishing a draft. What if something went wrong? What if I got stuck, as happened with INVICTUS for THREE YEARS? I do not have a gambling temperament, I guess.
B) Except, whoops, order the cover before the draft is near completion. Otherwise you may be waiting for the cover after every other duck is cooperatively lined up in a row, which is frustrating. I think I have all covers in order for the rest of the year, or nearly, so that’s fine.
C) Once the draft is completed, or nearly completed, pick a preorder date that seems reasonable given the amount of revision you think you’re likely to need to do and how long that ought to take. Add a month for proofreading. Or two months. Add an extra month just to be safe. Put the book up for preorder …
… and here is a tactical consideration. Did you know that if you put a series book up as a preorder, that changes something important on the series page? I did not know that until very recently.
Usually, if you are on a series page such as this one, at the top, the page will helpfully tell you how many of the books in that series you already own and offer you an option to buy the rest of the series with one easy click. BUT if there is a later installment in that series that is up for preorder, as with this series, then the helpful “Buy the rest of the series now” button will vanish. It will not come back until the preorder date arrives.
This is a serious consideration if you are publishing a series book. If you’re going to run a series promo, it makes sense to have that button at the top, encouraging people to buy the whole series. So, do you want to put the next book in the series up for preorder? Are you sure? If you do put it up for preorder, possibly it would be better not to link the new book to the series. Just let Amazon fail to realize it’s a series book. Then you can tell people it’s there and direct people to it, but without losing the “buy the series” button on the series page. You can link it later, after the preorder date has passed.
I didn’t know a thing about this when I put TASMAKAT up for preorder six months in advance.
C) If it’s the first book in a series or a standalone, sure, do a preorder. If it’s a series novel, CONSIDER putting the book up for preorder, and if you do a preorder, decide whether to link the book to an existing series.
What is you have a book already scheduled for release March 1? That becomes a tactical element when considering whether the next one should release in April, May, June, or exactly when would be best? Opinions differ. This year, you will have noticed, I’m releasing a new book every two months with some unevenness to the schedule. That is, the INVICTUS books are closer together because of the (sorry!) cliffhanger in the middle. Also, I’m guessing the TUYO World Companion will be ready for release shortly before TASMAKAT. We’ll see how all this goes.
D) This is also the time to think about promotion, not later. Before the release? After? According to David Gaughran, it’s best to have moderate sales build over five days, not sales spike and then fall. That’s also a consideration when deciding about preorders, which will intrinsically cause a spike-and-fall pattern. If you set up a five-day promo, put the weaker performing promotion services at the front and built to the better performers, says Gaughran. I’ve never done it that way. Next time I will. If he’s right, then with luck that will keep sales from falling as fast after the promo. Though I found the benefit of the March promotions lasted right through April, so that wasn’t bad.
E) Beta readers. Revision.
Did you know you have to schedule promotion no more than a month ahead with some services, but three months ahead with others? Maybe you better think about that now, before completing revision. This is where is starts to feel like you’re juggling kittens.
F) Proofing. More proofing than that. NO, MORE THAN THAT.
Is the cover ready? If not, that may become an urgent question shortly.
G) Formatting, which you hardly need to consider on a timeline. It honestly doesn’t take long. It’s boring and tedious, yes, and that makes it stand out as a Thing You Have To Do, but honestly, an hour or two will take care of it for a normal-sized book. (I’m gritting my teeth at the thought of formatting the paperback and hardcover versions of TASMAKAT. Maybe I better plan two or three days so it doesn’t get so infuriatingly tedious.)
There you go, you are now ready to hit publish or let the book release.
WAIT. No matter how good your proofreaders are, maybe you better proofread it yourself ONE MORE TIME.