Welcome back to Day 3 of the Indie Panel. I’m really excited about today because it’s more nitty-gritty. More personal writing and business stuff.
But, if you’ve missed the first few days you might want to catch up first:
Meet the Panel
DAY 1: Why they did it AND Who should consider it
DAY 2: Editors (who, what why) AND Finding your vendors
DAY 3: Processes & Timelines
DAY 4: Promotion
DAY 5: Resources
DAY 6: Things I’d do differently & Myths and Advice
What’s your process? How much do you do yourself (covers, formatting, etc.)?
Other than cover art, I’ve almost always done every other step of the process myself. I suspect this is due to being something of a control freak (a good trait for a self-publisher) and having an aversion to deadlines to get material to editors, proofreaders, formatters, etc. I do *not* recommend that approach, though, and have moved away from that approach myself. Doing everything yourself takes you away from doing what only you can do – writing your stories – and increases the chances that you’ll publish something with easily spotted errors in the text.
In terms of the writing process itself… I write a first draft as quickly as I can, using “sprints” to focus my efforts. (A sprint is a timed writing session, in my case fifteen minutes long, where all outside distraction is shut down and I write as fast as I can, ignoring typos, poor verb choices, etc.) As I finish each sprint, I’ll jot down notes of additional story material that come to mind as I write, and I begin to add those in during my revision process. The revision process, for me, is an in-depth scrubbing and polishing of a single chapter at a time, adding in new material, deleting bits I don’t like, enhancing the sensory and setting detail, and getting each sentence just right. After that pass, I do a read through – out loud, using a text-to-speech program – to check for flow, catch missing/repeated words, etc.
Process? What’s that? LOL. We’re supposed to have a process? 😉
As for how much I do myself, I hired out for almost everything at the beginning, but I’ve since realized that formatting is something I need to do myself. When I worked with a freelance formatter (L. K. Campbell, who is extremely professional and wonderful to work with, not to mention very affordable), I got back a superior product than what I’m able to produce (I’ll be the first to admit that), but I was much less willing to change things up (switch out my back matter, add buy-links for new books, correct typos, etc) because I had to pay to get it reformatted. And I do think that an indie author needs to be able to control such things – changing up back matter is crucial. So now I format with a push of a button through Scrivener. It’s not as pretty as it was when Lucinda did it (embedded glyphs for chapter headings and scene breaks) but it’s very functional, passes all the retailer requirements, and most importantly, I’m able to swap out back matter whenever I want (as well as create customized back matter for each retailer).
I also do my own print formatting, but I’ve never found that all that difficult. I used to use the free templates through Createspace, but now I’m using Joel Friedlander’s templates. They’re not free, but very affordable and they’re truly gorgeous. And extremely easy to use!
As I mentioned yesterday, I use freelancers for editing, although I’ll self-edit as much as possible. I’m one of those crazy people who edits as she writes (I’m obsessive about getting things perfect before I can move on), so my drafts are actually very clean and close to final to start with. Then I run it through critique partners and beta readers, make my revisions, then send off to the editor.
I do NOT touch cover design. You have to know your limitations, and I know that’s mine.
“Process” sounds like a repeatable thing. Every book is different, but as close as I can tell you my process goes: Write the Disaster Draft (8-10 days), put it away and work on something else. Come back, rip the DD apart on paper while taking notes of every non-line item that needs to be addressed. Enter changes and as much of the bigger picture notes as possible. While doing that, all the things I’m not sure how to address I put notes next to the notes (btw, in case you want to know how nuts I am, first round ink is purple, second is green…hey we all have our thing. Don’t take my pens!) Then a read thru with all my Edit Cards stuff (which I’ve talked about elsewhere). Then off to the CPs who are ah-mazing. When they come back, I run through doing the quick and easys and making notes. Then, I make “Revision Cards” and work through any big things they caught. Then I do an edit read thru with my Kindle reading it aloud to me. Then the book goes off to the Copy Editor. (Have I put you to sleep yet?)
While the book is at the copy editor, I reach out to everyone who helps me launch: My formatter, friends, readers, prep my blog, update Goodreads, set up the books on Amazon, BN & CreateSpace (who publishes the paper copies), create the book page on my website, update links, start chatting it up on twitter and facebook….panic a bit.
At some point in all this, I’m working with my cover designer on a cover that says the right thing and is still eye-catching. I know the more muted hues are hot right now, but I like vivid. I want people to spot a Bria Book and see the colors and the vividness and think, OOOOHHH look at the pretty colors. Especially since I don’t do hot books and won’t be putting half-clothed folks there.
When it comes back from the CE, I make the changes and clarify anything I don’t understand. Then I run the book thru Ginger for anything I might have missed, then send it to the proofreader. We’re typically somewhere in the 3rd month with this book at this point. Typically, he catches 2 or 3 things (hopefully that’s it!) and sends it back. At this point I add the front and back matter and ship it off to the formatter. She does her magic. I do a check of all the versions then upload them all and BAM! as easy as that, I’m published. 😉
I write the book. 😉 I format myself, find the stock image or arrange the photo shoot myself. And I market all on my own. But EVERYTHING requires a team behind you 😉
I’m involved in every part of my book when I self publish.
I tend to hire my cover artist while I’m writing the book. She generally takes my suggestions in mind and creates a cover. We go back and forth on image, font, etc. Finding images that haven’t been used on other covers is very important to me. I don’t want my book to look like a repeat of someone else’s, and I want it to look as—if not more—professional than my traditionally published covers. Sometimes I’ve even gone to photographer photo shoots (as was the case with the cover for HOLD ON TO ME) and got to be on set when the models were posing for my specific cover. That was a trip.
After a book is done, it goes to my critique partners, I input their suggestions, and then I send it to my editor. My editor and I go back and forth on revisions, then when it’s fairly clean, we send it to a proofreader. I’ve found the proofreader to be invaluable because she ALWAYS finds things I, my critique partners, beta readers, and even my editor miss.
After I have the proofread copy of my book, I give it one last read through then send it to an e-book formatter. I know how to format an e-book myself for the different vendors, but it’s a long process and I invariably forget how to do it and have to relearn every time, so this is one of those things I prefer to hire out. While the ebook version is being formatted, I format the print version via CreateSpace and get that all set up to go live. After that, it’s just a matter of uploading files and putting a new book out for my readers.
My process is ever-changing. I’m in the midst of publishing my 4th book right now (look for it in online stores on next Friday), and doing almost everything differently from the first three. The only part of the process that has remained the same is that I’m very involved in cover design–but my sister does the hard artistic part that is beyond me–and I still do my own formatting.”
I’ve done my own formatting and cover design before but I’m not very good at it and find it tedious and time-consuming. Now I hire out pretty much everything so that my focus can be on the writing. When I’m drafting I write 6 days a week and usually finish a manuscript in about five weeks. Because I’m a bad multitasker, I generally focus on one project at a time. I do most of my changes and re-writes as I go, so once the draft is done I just do a quick self-edit before sending the manuscript out to a line editor. After the line edit I hire a proofreader for a final read through before sending it to the formatter. Then I get the book to ARC readers and up on Netgalley for early reviews. I don’t do very much promotion prior to release. Usually I tease the book on facebook and my blog, often posting the cover and excerpts before the release. When the book is released I send out the links to my mailing list and post links on facebook and my website.
I do very little of the non-writing work myself. I do a first draft (I’m somewhere between a plotter and a pantser), then revise it into a second before sending it off to my editor. Once that’s done, I run it past proofreaders for one last look and send it off to my formatter. I don’t handle any of the editing, formatting, proofreading or cover work because they’re just not strengths of mine.
I do most of the work of self-publishing myself. I write and self-edit. I do almost all of my own marketing. My husband does all of my formatting, but I always hire out cover design. Sometimes I use a proofreader, but not with every book. I like having a lot of control over my own product, so I do a lot myself.
I do everything but editing/proofreading on my own. I write in series, so I’ll usually make the covers a few books in advance, then format the book myself once I get it returned from editors.
How do you create a timeline for publishing… (do you)?
I don’t create a formal timeline, but I do make a rough estimate as to how long going through each draft and revisions should take in terms of trying to line up things like cover art. My goal is to have the manuscript ready for publication when I start work with the cover artist, as I’ll have the most thorough understanding of the final details of the story and corresponding ideas for the cover, but to date I’ve always underestimated the time it will take to finish the manuscript. For this reason, I don’t announce publication dates ahead of time, outside the occasional vague range.
My timeline (as much as there is one) is mostly dependent on when the editor can fit me in. So I look at my calendar and estimate when the manuscript should be ready for editing, and then take it from there. Then her turnaround (as well as what type of editing I’m getting – content/developmental editing will require more work from me after getting her critique) will dictate the rest of the schedule. Keep in mind that some of the best editors have backlogs of several months, so plan ahead when looking for your editing team. For example, I know several editors who are currently booking for May and beyond right now. I almost always get the cover before the book is written – sometimes before the book is even started.
Mine is based on the process above. But more impactful of it is that I have a really crazy-intense day job and until I start making enough from my writing to quit or do something part-time, my timeline is always going to have to be, “When my day job allows me to put out a book I’m proud of that I think readers will like.”
I’m a hybrid author, so I have to arrange everything around my publisher’s schedule so I’m not competing with myself.
My readers are voracious, and they’re constantly asking for new books. That—for me—is the biggest motivator to keep writing. My goal is 4 books a year because this is a full time job for me. I support my family with my author income, and I love what I do. Every book is different though, and sometimes my plans go awry, but when I start my year I usually have a good idea how many books I’m going to put out and when they will (tentatively) release.
Once the book is with my editor, it’s time to focus on covers, back cover copy, and the backmatter. At that point I’m fairly certain the book will be out in about a month, maybe a little longer. When the cover is ready, I’ll do a cover reveal with an estimated release date or range of dates.
I’m big on calendars and schedules. Without them I flail around aimlessly and never get anything done. Usually I map out my writing/publishing schedule several months in advance. I give myself about five weeks to write and a sixth week to self-edit and get feedback from beta readers if needed. Then two to four weeks for editing and formatting. I’m much better at planning these things out now that I have more experience—I know how long each step should generally take so I can plan accordingly.
I don’t really do timelines…I eschew release dates in favor of just letting books release whenever I’m done with them. I’ve done a couple deadline-based releases recently and I have to say, I never want to do them again. I’m very fortunate that my editor and formatter are very cool about my, “Hey, here’s a book, hurry up and work on this so I can get it to readers, will you?” approach to publishing.
I am terrible at keeping to any kind of timeline. I always think I can write a book much faster than I actually can, which means I’m always running behind. Lately I’ve been looking ahead to the upcoming year and having a loose idea of how many books I want to publish, but I don’t plan anything specific that would get messed up if I run behind. I try to mainly concentrate on the book I’m working on now and then worry about that next book when it’s time to write it.
I know that I need a launch roughly every 60 days or less to keep the ball rolling on my sales, so I just pick an arbitrary date every other month as my “book launch,” then calculate deadlines backwards from there. Proofreaders need about a week to typo hunt, so they need the book a week before launch date. The copy editor needs a week, too, so that comes two weeks before that. I need two weeks to edit the book myself, so that’s one month before launch. And then I need about six weeks to draft, which extends back to overlap the editing on the previous book. I don’t have a formal calendar for drafting or self-editing, but I do book dates with my editors and proofreaders a few months in advance.
Want to check one of the authors out? Just click on their name. 🙂
But, we’re not done yet! Three more topics to cover next week with a lot of questions that came in about marketing. Make sure to check back Monday!