Monday, December 2, 2013

What's Your Publishing Plan?

by Gamal Hennessy

The end of the year is a good time to look back on the progress you've made in your craft as a writer. It's also a good time to set goals for the New Year. For those of us who are predisposed to planning, the end of the year is the best time to set up a publishing plan. I'm going to try and show why this kind of plan is useful, what it is, how you can create one and what its limitations are.

Why Have a Publishing Plan?
The main benefit to a publishing plan is that it can help you manage your two most important resources; time and money. Few of us have unlimited hours to develop our craft (See Do You Really Need to Quit Your Day Job?) and while independent publishing is affordable, it's not cheap (See So How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish?). Creating a plan can help you allocate enough time to reach your publishing goals in terms of output (See Why Do We Word Count?) and ensure that your costs for publishing don't interfere with any non-publishing expenses you'll have to deal with in your life.

What is a Publishing Plan?
The publishing plan is basically a projection of all your creative and writing business projects for a given period. It could be based on any goal you decide to set, and it can be broken down into any time period you like.

For example, my publishing plan for 2014 is to release two books that I wrote in 2013 and write two books that I'll release in 2015. Some people can break it down into quarterly, monthly or even weekly goals, but I prefer to work on an annual basis and have the goals from one year linked to the previous and subsequent years to maintain a steady output.

How Do You Create a Publishing Plan?
Creating a publishing plan is a three step process:
  1. Set your goal for your desired time period. Keep in mind that we're talking about publishing goals, not necessarily income goals. A publishing plan can help if your goal is 'publish one novel per year'. It is less helpful if your goal is 'sell a million copies'. I don’t have a plan for that yet.
  2. Breakdown your publishing efforts according to the four stages (See The Four Stages of Novel Development) so you give each project time for each stage it requires.
  3. Layout your activities based on your timing and goals. It helps to schedule extra time for each stage, since life has a way of disrupting plans.

Examples of a Publishing Plan
As I stated earlier, my goal for 2014 is to release two books that are already written (A Taste of Honey and Dark End of the Street) and write two more (A Touch of Honey and Smoke and Shadow). Based on that goal, my monthly plan gets broken down into a creative goal and a business goal and looks something like this:
  • Jan: Pre-launch Taste of Honey/ Production of Touch of Honey
  • Feb: Launch Taste Book 1/ Touch Production
  • March: Launch Taste Book 2/ Touch Completion
  • April: Launch Taste Book 3/ Begin Production of Smoke and Shadow
  • May: Launch Full Taste Novel/ Touch Post Production
  • June: Production of Smoke/ Touch Post Production
  • July: Vacation
  • August Production Smoke/ Post Production Dark End of the Street
  • Sept: Pre-Launch Dark/ Production Smoke
  • Oct: Launch Dark/ Smoke Completion
  • Nov: Catch Up
  • Dec: Catch Up

It helps to keep a few things in mind when looking at this plan. First, I’m planning to release A Taste of Honey in Four stages to test a marketing theory I discussed a few weeks ago (See The Case for Episodic Novels). Second, I give myself six months to write a book based on the fact that the plots are already done (See Building a Better Novel). I also build in two months to play catch up just in case life gets in the way. If everything goes according to plan (and it never does), I can use those two "extra" months to get a head start on the publishing projects for 2015.

What Can't a Publishing Plan Do?
For all the possible benefits of a publishing plan, there are some things it isn't good for:
  • You can't schedule pre-production creativity. Inspiration and ideas come when they come and no plan can force the creative mind to find its muse.
  • You can't anticipate non-writing emergencies. Things like illness, layoffs, family issues and other unplanned events can completely derail a publishing plan which can force you to start all over again.
  • You can't control third party responses. If you hire editors, cover designers and other professionals, you can influence but not control how fast they work. If you're looking for an agent or a traditional publisher there is no telling how long you might wait.
  • The plan can't make you stick to it. If plans are antithetical to your nature or if you have a PhD in procrastination, a publishing plan might be more trouble than it's worth. If you don't have any concrete goals and just write for the love of the craft, a publishing plan might be beside the point. This is primarily a business tool. It shouldn't interfere with your creativity.

So what are your publishing plans for 2014? Please let me know in the comments.

Have fun.

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