It’s almost time…
In ten days, the last book in the Matt Archer series, Redemption, will be published. It’s a big moment for me. First completed series–wow. But for those of you still contemplating publishing your first book, let alone your sixth, I thought I’d give you a little download of what I do to prepare.** To the timeline!!
Six Months Out: Get on my editor’s calendar. Schedule the cover artist. Work up a timeline on tentative publication date. Yep, I do it that early. I know there are others who can do this with days’ notice, but I’m a planner. It makes me feel a little better to know where I’m going and when. Plus, it gives me a harder deadline, which ensures I keep to a schedule. Oh, and DON’T SKIP THE EDITOR. All writers need one. I promise.
Four Months Out: Have the first draft ready to send to your critique partners. It’s time for tough love, baby. This is the “they’ll rip it apart, you’ll cry, then make it better” montage. And it’s critical. Don’t spend a year polishing a draft that might have major problems. Get your hardest feedback early. It’ll save your timeline.
Three Months Out: Have the first (already critiqued) manuscript ready for the editor. Sometimes I cut that a little closer (with Redemption, I did it with only two months to go. Lots of nail biting).
Two Months Out: Start looking at blog tour and blast dates. I work with a couple of great tour companies who set everything up for me: Reading Addiction Blog Tours and I Am A Reader blasts. They book up fast, so give yourself plenty of time. I like to run these promotions after the book is out (usually a few weeks after launch) but if you want to run it concurrent to launch, you might do this step a bit earlier. Not all authors use blog tours, but I find them effective in getting early reviews and exposure to new readers.
One Month Out: Have the book edited to close final draft, and send it out for beta reads. This will give you enough time to make tweaks and changes if anything comes back (and it usually does).
Two Weeks Out: Final read-through. Catch those typos. What I do is create a PDF of the file, then load it into GoodReader on my iPad. For some reason, typos just hop out at me when I read the MS on something other than my laptop. Some authors like to read/proof via hard copy. Whatever works for you, it’s time to pull out the stops. This is also time to start planting teasers, running giveaways and pumping up your readership on social media. Starting even earlier is good, too, but if you’re launching a first book, it’s hard to maintain reader interest unless your book is up for pre-order.
One Week Out: If, like me, you want to format your eBooks yourself (I like the control it affords me over the files…plus, it’s not that hard and saves me about $200 each time I publish), it’s time to get started. You can save yourself a TON of time setting up your Word template to mimic the requirements for Smashwords when you first start your manuscript, but that’s a post for another time. Since Smashwords is the most stringent, if you set your MS up that way from the get-go, you can easily use Calibre to make an .epub for B&N and Kobo off that file. Amazon works well with only a few small changes, too.
Day Of: Start loading. TEST EVERYTHING. You can download the sample files, email them to your tablet (or download to your reader) and check to make sure they look right. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY TRUST THE TOOLS. Sorry for all the caps, but these uploaders aren’t always perfect, so check everything, otherwise you might get bad reviews for the formatting itself. Before you hit publish, test, test, test. Test your Table of Contents. Test your links. Flip through a bunch of pages to make sure they flow correctly. Check to make sure that you can flip to white text on black background and that the font size can be changed within the reader.
Pushing the “Publish” Button: This might seem simple–and it is, except for the nerves of it all–but you want to make sure you have your product information all loaded correctly, without typos. You want to make sure your pricing is right. A note on publishing: Amazon rarely takes more than six hours to appear online. Smashwords is almost immediate. Kobo varies, but is rarely more than twelve hours while B&N can take up to two days. iTunes, if you go through Smashwords, can be up to two weeks. No, really. So keep that in mind when you are ready to launch. I usually do a soft launch as soon as the book appears in Amazon and SW, then a big launch once all sites have the book.
Next Month: Plug the book, thank readers, and connect with your audience! I also usually buy myself a little gift to celebrate (pedicure, or the like)…then dive back in and start writing the next book.
Because that’s what’s next–a new book. : D
**This post applies primarily to self-publishing. A lot of this info is transferable to traditional publishing (or prepping to query agents), but the timeline will be TOTALLY different.**