Time to talk about PLANNING!
I love planning and I love organizing. As someone who deals with anxiety, planning (especially paper planning) has really helped me manage that better. I’ve mentioned before that I essentially work two full-time jobs – a day job and my author job. Planning is essential for me to keep track of everything I need to do, whether that’s personal, day job, or author stuff. Today, I’ll talk about about planning out my writing goals. (P.S. – if you’re not interested in the process and just want to hear about my 2019 publishing plans, jump to the end of the post.)
I typically plan about 18 months out, and reassess every six months. Right now, I’m assessing how the first half of the year went for me, adjusting dates for the rest of 2018 and planning out my 2019 writing schedule. That means I already know which books I’m hoping to release next year! This is the nitty-gritty detail planning, figuring out which months I’ll write which book, when it’ll be due to my editor, etc. I have other ideas for things I’d like to write/publish in 2020 and beyond, but I’m not going to really drill down on those until I get closer to those years.
As someone dealing with chronic health issues, planning too far out in advance doesn’t serve a purpose, so 18 or 24 months out is best for me. If I have a rough health week (or month, or even year like I had in 2017), that throws everything else off and pushes releases back. That’s why I don’t announce release dates anymore until I’m sure the book is absolutely finished…I don’t want to disappoint anyone because I had to delay finalizing the book for any reason.
When I start planning, I actually start with an Excel template. I got a free one online (it’s on this page near the bottom, which I then modified). There are lots of other templates out there, but this one works for me. Here’s a blank version of how mine looks.
I use this calendar to make notes and color code my tasks vs. tasks of other people (like editing). Each book gets its own column, and I chart out the months that different tasks will fall in. Remember, this is an 18 month calendar, so this covers books I’m working on for the rest of this year, into next. I write down all the tasks for each month in the “Tasks Overview” column, which gives me a sense of how many books I’ll be working on during a given month. I also color-code the tasks (see the simple key in the top left corner) so I can easily see what each task is. I also use this to track marketing (like release days, creating covers, etc.), other projects (like producing print books), and I make a note what income I’m expecting from my books in those months, to help me plan expenses (this is a business after all). Most vendors (like Amazon) pay two months out, which means if someone bought one of my books in January, I’ll get the royalties from that in March, so having a quick snapshot of what I’m estimating helps me out a lot. I also note personal stuff, holidays, and work events (like work travel). May and June are particularly stressful at the day job, so knowing that, I can arrange my writing to be more low key during those months.
This spreadsheet is just for high-level tasks like writing, editing, and tracking releases. Once I have a draft schedule here, I then write it out on paper to see how the year flows. For that, I use this template from Calendar Labs. (Yes, I’ve hidden all the details, but I’ll give you a sneak peak as to what’s coming at the end of this post.) I still use color coding, and this helps me see my plans in another view.
Because my brain sees the year outlined a little differently, it can help me see things I missed. January, for example, I’m currently scheduled to work on THREE books at the same time (that means I’m writing and/or editing three books, on top of tasks for other books). I might be able to do that in January, but I’m going to see if I can move one task into December to keep things balanced. This year, at one point, I was working on FOUR books at the same time, which was really pushing it for me. I need to learn from experiences like that and not push myself as much in the future, so I’m trying to balance my 2019 schedule more.
Remember these are are just the high-level tasks (writing, editing, release dates, etc.). Publishing a book involves HUNDREDS of other tasks, which I keep track of using a digital project management system (more on that in a future post). These tools are just to help me narrow down when I’d like to write/edit/publish the books. Once I have a draft of what I’d like to work on, I check the dates with my editors to see if those dates work for them. Editors can often get booked a year out, so that’s one reason why I start planning next year in July; it ensures I’ve got space in my editors’ calendars. If those dates don’t work for them, then I rearrange the calendar again until we’ve got a good plan for 2019 that everyone can work with.
So what am I planning for 2019?
More time at the Seaside. Right now, the Seaside Valleria series is planned as a 5-book series. I’ve released Rush (book one), Ripple (book 2) is releasing next week (!), and book three will be released late summer/early fall of this year. I’m about to start writing book 4, and I’ve planned for both books 4 and 5 to be released next year.
More Royals (of course)! I’m pretty sure I know who this will feature, but I won’t reveal it just yet. Stay tuned!
Another fun Vallerian spin-off series! I won’t announce what this is until the next Royals book is released, but I’m really excited about it. I’m hoping to release 1-2 books in that spin-off series next year, too.
If all goes to plan, that means I’ll be publishing FIVE books next year! I don’t know if I’ll make that goal (who knows what might happen life- or health-wise next year), but that’s what I’m hoping to do. I’ll give another update on this at the end of 2018.
Did you enjoy this peek into my author process? Comment on this post and let me know (if you’re receiving the blog by email, just click “Read More” to navigate to the blog page to comment).
This is Post 88 of 100 as part of the #100DaysofMKAuthorLife.
P.S. – Shameless Plug Time! Ripple (Persy & Sully) (Seaside Valleria #2), is coming out next Tuesday, July 3rd! If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, you can do so via the links below.