Balance: Writing Time and the Demands of Independent Publishing

The general advice is that the best way to sell your current book is to write your next book. And I agree. I also follow the creed that I should finish my work, make it the best I can and so forth, and that got me thinking, because I have a lot of work to finish, and a lot of books to write, and, to be quite honest, I find balancing it all, quite difficult.
I used to wonder why, when the returns were so much better, and the advantages so much greater, not everyone was ‘going indie’. Well, now I know. The short fact of the matter is that it’s not for everyone, that some people just want to write and they want someone else to take care of organising the cover, the formatting and uploading and all the administrative side of having a writing career. And I don’t blame them.
I love writing, but I also love the publishing side of the writing. I love the control and the freedom to make my own schedule and all the rest of it but I wish, I very much wish I had more time to write, and I have to accept that I don’t.
For instance, I aim at writing around 5,000 words a day when I don’t have university commitments. In truth, I usually only make around 2,000, and that’s because it is one thing to write the book, but quite another to actually get into the hands of readers.
So, what else do I do with my writing time? Here’s a list of tasks, sort of in the order they get done in once the last word is written:

  • ‘Shelve the book’: i.e. let it sit for a minimum of four weeks while I write something else, or several somethings else. This helps cut the apron strings and lets me get back to it with fresher eyes and a clearer head, when I start editing.
  • See if there’s someone in my Beta circle with a bit of time to go through and do a read for continuity, spelling errors, grammar and so forth, and send the book out to them.
  • Design the cover: which involves thinking up a vague cover, hunting down suitable cover art and altering the initial design to suit what’s available, and paying for and downloading the art. Format the cover art for each platform, ensuring correct sizes are achieved prior to upload (five formats in all).
  • Put the cover art/photography credits in the front matter of the book.
  • Print out thumbnails with credits and place on file for ease of reference.
  • Once the four weeks is up, and the beta results are in, edit using the beta, and go through one beta at a time, if multiples were sent out. Make sure the beta readers go into the editing credits if they have been kind enough to do an edit as they’ve read.
  • When the beta results have been incorporated, do another in-depth edit, and format, then nuke the manuscript to remove all formatting.
  • Do a CreateSpace format, first downloading a fresh template for the formats to be used, registering the title on CreateSpace and remembering to add the CreateSpace ISBNs to the manuscripts prior to starting. During the CreateSpace format update the Nuke document with any corrections made. Rebuild the base document.
  • Format a Base manuscript from the Nuke document and cover art, and format it appropriately for all other platforms, by opening the Base document and then using ‘save as’ prior to making alterations. Add in platform-specific links to each platform-specific document. Do this one platform at a time. Format PDF for two platforms, Word 97 for four platforms, HTML for two platforms, mobi for two platforms. This can take a while.
  • Upload the manuscripts to each platform. It may be better to upload to a single specific platform a day, in order to allow writing time on upload days.
  • Record the title’s ISBN, ASIN, or Product Codes as they are assigned on the different platforms.
  • Record the publication date for each platform.
  • Record the site link for the title on each sales channel.
  • Blog the releases - BRIEFLY, share the platform links, try not to annoy social media friends too much.
  • Continue writing the next release and keep up with editing and cover schedule during this process. Also, don’t forget to maintain royalty and sales records for each title.

With Dean Wesley Smith’s advice onpricing in mind, I am about to start tracking the time I spend on each title so I know how much I owe myself. This will be much easier now I have worked out what records I need to keep.

So, when I say I sometimes lose my writing time, this is why. For instance, we're four weeks into the new year and I have three 35,000-word Young Adult novels in the shelving stage, and I am hoping, by the end of the week, to have a 90-95,000-word science-fiction-fantasy blend novel at the same stage.

If I was traditionally published, they'd be off with an editor and I'd have a couple of months' grace, before having to work on them again. As it is, I'm staring down the barrel of the four-week mark for two of them and will be looking at the third in a fortnight. I also have to design and build them covers.  In addition to these, I have a 6,000-word short story at the Cover and Format stage (and it's been there for around 6 weeks).

If I'm not to fall behind in my writing, I'm going to have watch how much time I spend on non-writing tasks, and be careful not to rush anything in order to keep from having quality issues. The publishing schedule might be a little less stressful as an independent author, from the point of view of not having others waiting, but it is just as demanding, and needs to be treated with the same degree of care.

I am enjoying it, but I do feel the loss of writing time, and I almost miss just being able to hand a manuscript over, but the trade-off for control of the different elements that make up a project, as well as the ability to monitor my own royalties and sales, and maintain control over my rights is, for me, at least, worth the extra time. It's challenging, but it's not too much different to traditional publishing. You still have to try and produce the best product you can.


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