Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
January 30, 2013

TICK-TOCK: Timelines in the Author Business Plan

Writers In The Storm welcomes back literary attorney, Susan Spann, with her next installment of her  author’s business plan series.

susanspannBy Susan Spann

Today we take the discussion of author business plans “on the clock” with section five of the author business plan – the Development Timeline.

This Development Timeline section actually contains a group of schedules – one for each phase of the work the business plan covers. Timelines prove most effective when authors use calendars and establish concrete dates, so even if your initial planning is done in general blocks of time, the finished Development Timelines should incorporate actual calendar dates. Remember: the key to timelines is flexibility: use concrete dates, but don’t be afraid to revise them as you go.

An author’s “Development Timeline” should have (at least) three timelines:

1.  The Writing and Editing Timeline tracks the author’s writing schedule. This timeline starts when the author’s pre-writing research begins – or, for works that don’t involve research, on the first day of outlining (for the plotters among us) or writing (for the pantsers).

Plan, and build in time, for at least two rounds of revisions – and as many more as you customarily need. (My novels go through at least seven drafts before my agent sees them.)

This timeline ends when the manuscript is polished, final and ready for publication.

2.  The Production and Publishing Timeline varies depending on the author’s path to publication. Independent authors should start this timeline when the completed manuscript starts into production. For traditionally published authors, the timeline begins either with querying (for unrepresented authors) or with delivery to the author’s agent or publisher. In all cases, this timeline concludes with the novel’s scheduled release date.

Between day 1 and release, the production and publishing timeline lists the relevant milestones the work will need to meet. These might include things like “editor’s comments integrated,” “copy edits finished,” “digital conversion,” and “cover art approved.”

This timeline is hard to construct until you know which path your work will take and the various milestones the book will pass in the process, but treat it like a work in progress – revise it as you go.

3. The Marketing and Distribution Timeline incorporates all of the dates and milestones the author will undertake in the marketing process. All authors must market themselves and their work – regardless of publishing path. Identify goals and schedule them.

Most authors find this timeline very helpful when it comes to tracking and keeping on top of marketing efforts. And remember: the marketing section of your business plan already contains a lot of the information you need.

Your homework between now and the February business plan post is trying your hand at the writing timeline for your current work-in-progress.Remember to include enough time for edits! And remember – the timelines, like every other part of your business plan, are there to help you and always subject to change!

Do you already use a calendar or timeline for your writing? Have you prepared development timelines to help keep your work on track? Please let me know in the comments – I enjoy hearing your thoughts on the topic too!

About Susan

Susan Spann is a publishing attorney and author from Sacramento, California. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, July 2013), is the first in the Shinobi Mystery series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori. Susan blogs about writing, publishing law and seahorses at http://www.SusanSpann.com. Find her on Twitter @SusanSpann or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanSpannAuthor

0 comments on “TICK-TOCK: Timelines in the Author Business Plan”

  1. Great post Susan,
    I am a big fan of goals and scheduling. While I don't call it a development timeline, I find that it is the only way to get a project done when I want it to be done.In fact, I take it to a daily level with a word count goal during the Writing and Editing Timeline portion of the plan.

    1. Thanks Jim! I actually have daily word count goals myself, and they're so helpful when it comes to reaching "the end." Ultimately, the title isn't important - it's knowing how to schedule in ways that motivate you to succeed - and it sounds like you've got that right where it should be!

  2. Great post, Susan.
    I have a timeline (Laura, you'll be proud of me - it's an excel sheet) for writing and editing broken down by word count and then pages/day to edit. I make sure to factor in days off and days I know I won't be able to get writing done when life or other work commitments take priority.

    1. Sounds like a great method to keep yourself organized, Orly. In fact, spreadsheets have huge power to track and also super flexibility - I might have to give that method a try. It's a lot more powerful than lists!

    1. Thanks Van. I hope it helps you plan your own success too! It's so true that discipline is what transforms us from bundles of wriggling ideas into successful novelists - without it, we'd never reach the end at all!

  3. I need a daily timeline. I get stuck in front of my computer all day for way too many hours and the wear and tear is beginning to show. I had a timeline in my head of when my book would be drafted, edited, finished, the cover would be done, the manuscript uploaded, etc. But I had no idea what it took to market the thing. (I'm a first-timer). This part is exhausting and all-consuming.

    All I want is to start my next book! And I don't see that happening any time soon...

    1. Don't despair Lorna!

      You might be surprised, but writing down that timeline can sometimes help you keep track and stay on top of it. When I first started writing fiction, my schedule was all over the place. Between juggling family and work, the writing seemed to fall through the cracks. Once I made a commitment to it, though, and wrote down reachable goals (I started really small - 30 minutes 2 times a week, and ramped up from there) it helped.

      It sounds like you've finished (or almost finished) the first one, and are in the marketing phase for it. If that's the case, I actually recommend scheduling time to work on the second one too - it may sound like a lot to be juggling two books at once, but you may well find the writing time recharges you and gives you the energy to jump back into the marketing efforts for Book 1.

      Either way...hang in there!!!

      1. Thanks for the pep talk and the good advice.

        I have finished Book 1. The time I get writing zany blog posts keeps me sane, so there is a great deal of logic to the plan of committing some time to writing Book 2. At some point, Book 1 will start to flutter its own wings. I just know it!

  4. I have the luxury of experimenting with timelines on my own books, while testing the results with my coaching clients and their books.

    We've finally nailed down our Production and Publishing timeline. My own personal writing timeline is going through a complete teardown and rebuild because my writing is going through metamorphosis, so I'm not even sure which of the old rules still apply.

    And, because thus far it's been the least important to me (despite the fact that I've written books about marketing) we haven't really begun a marketing timeline, outside of what's in Best Beloved's brain.

    But seeing it laid out like this, which matches what we've been doing in real life, is gratifying and helpful.

    1. Thanks Joel - I'm very glad my suggestions confirm what you're doing. It's always very helpful to see that others with experience are using similar tactics, because it confirms that you're on the right track.

      Congratulations on getting your timeline nailed down - and don't worry about the marketing one. The fact that someone's even been thinking about it is a great start, and I'm sure it will come together exactly when it needs to!

  5. Susan, both Jenny Hansen and Laura Drake have tried to convert me into the world of "excel" exceeds or succeeds? But ... however ...on the other hand ... I need to do it my own way. Sooooooo, by the next time you get back here, I will have finished my goal of the last edit draft of my first agent submission ... and I will get to my next WIP from 40K to 80K and follow a time-line of x-number of words a day to do each of them.

    Can you do a post of how a hybrid markets? Love the idea of being a hybrid ... like a new car ... a sleek new model who gives the best of both worlds. And as always, thanks for your great posts 🙂

    1. I'd be delighted to do a post about hybrids - I think I have two more posts left in this series (maybe three, I need to check) and I'll do at least one post on hybrid authors after that. Thanks for the great suggestion!

      Also, congratulations on finishing the last draft and working up the new WIP! Sounds like a great progress timeline to me!

  6. A little late here to read this but I too reblogged it because it is fascitnating. I'm on a yahoo group with a goal of 100 words per day times 100 days, blogging and some other things don't count. But editing and research along with words on the page do count. Personally I'm almost to the end of my second year. Jan 30, 2013 was day 314 for me. Funny it took me a few day ones to stay on it. But once I made it to 100 days and received a certificate the next 100 toddled along. No matter how worn out and tired, I always find time for 100 words. It doesn't take much. Right now, I'm ging through polishing the first three chapters due to a whim I had to pitch my manuscript before I had finished it. I never expected to be asked for anything I was busy plugging along towards the end. Whoops request back up make the beginning shine and move through to the end. I'm sure if it is accepted there will be lots more editing to be done but hey that's how it works right? But I don't worry about time since I'm widowed and not working a regular job.
    If I was organized I wouldn't staill have a car full of things from the last trip from emptying the storage unit last Saturday. Not ot mention a patio full of things and kitched too. All requiring me to sort, toss, keep, sell or give away. I like writing better lol.

    1. You make such an important point here, C.K. - it's not about the amount produced as much as it is the regularity of the production. Most authors are great procrastinators (and the Internet hasn't helped) but one thing a schedule does is keep us rolling forward at some pace - what pace we can set to work for us!

      Good work keeping with it and making progress! And congratulations on the agent interest - that means you're on the right track for sure.

  7. This timeline is great. It can be believed discipline is key to writing. Without it, your novel can never be fully formed.that is great.

  8. Glad I read this. It reminds me that I am so much more productive when I plan. I did it when I was studying and when I worked, but not for writing?! Now I am going to plan to plan as soon as I can!

Subscribe to WITS

Recent Posts





Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved