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