Monday, May 10, 2021

Keeping Book Production on Schedule

By Elizabeth S. Craig

Running a writing business isn’t exactly a piece of cake. It often feels like juggling a lot of things at the same time with varying degrees of success.

But it does follow a certain cycle, which definitely helps, once you’ve established a production routine.

I have three active mystery series and want to make sure that I stay on track with every part of the process to keep anything from falling through the cracks. This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in writing multiple projects in a year, here’s how I do it. I hope that it might also help those who work on just one project in a year by helping remind them of the different cogs in the machine.

First off and most importantly is the draft itself. I set a reasonable goal that I know I can achieve daily without even thinking about it. Eighteen years ago when I had a baby in the house, my goal was 15 minutes a day. Now it’s 750 words. For you it might be a lot less—again, it’s whatever you can easily handle.

While I’m drafting the story and getting in the last 1/3 of the manuscript, I contact my editor to get on her schedule. At this point in the process, I’ll know about how long it will take for me to finish my draft and proofread or revise it.

Proofreading is next on the list. I read through the story and correct typos and awkward sentences. If something bigger needs to be addressed (continuity errors, parts of the mystery that don’t seem to make sense), I note it on a separate document called “Things to Fix” and the book’s name. After the proofreading draft, I go through and fix the things that need fixing. Then I put the chapter breaks in (I don’t put them in as I go along because it puts my head into editing mode).

After proofreading, I send the manuscript to my beta readers.

After the betas make their comments, I send the book to my editor.

I also send the manuscript at this point to my ARC readers along with a short newsletter thanking them for being early readers/reviewers.

While my editor and ARC readers are reading through the book, I go ahead and list the book as a pre-order on the retail and distribution sites I use. (For me, this is KDP, IngramSpark for print, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, and Google Play.)

I don’t do a lot of promo, but I will usually schedule a Goodreads giveaway for the first book in the series (sometimes the current book) and a Freebooksy promo for the first book. I also (using a template I’ve already prepared) create a newsletter for my readers. I make sure my website is updated with the pre-order and that I’ve updated what I’m currently working on.

At the same time I’m doing the above promo, I’m also still writing—I’m outlining the next book in the series I’ve just finished a book in. It takes me about a week to write the back cover copy and the outline for the mystery. They’re often about 35 pages of typed notes (with handwritten additions in the margins and on the backs of the printed outline).

With the back cover copy, I ask my cover designer for a cover for the recently-outlined book (the cover conference would have been on our mutual calendars for months). Once that’s done, I add it and the back cover copy to my website under the “coming soon” section with an estimated date for release. I also get on my cover designer’s calendar for 3 months out (when this process will be happening again).

By this point, the edits will be back in from the editor and ARC readers and I make changes to the manuscript. I set a goal for working through them.

As soon as the edits are done, I add the back matter, run it through formatting in Draft2Digital, and upload the book to the sites where I have the pre-order info loaded.

Then I start on my next project, which will be a book in one of my other series which I would have outlined several months earlier (after finishing a book in that same series). I work on the first draft during the pre-order period for the upcoming release.

A couple of days before the release, I make sure the newsletter is ready to go and that I have graphics and text to announce the launch for my Facebook and Instagram ready to go. I also load the book on KDP Print since they don’t offer pre-orders…that way the print edition will be ready to go on release day.

On release day, I respond to comments and emails and make sure my LinkedIn and website are updated again. I continue working on the new project. I send the finished book to my betas as a thank you.

Glancing over this, it seems like a lot, but it’s all manageable if you do a little at a time. The key to what I’m doing is that I work on more than one aspect of production in a day. Given the day, it might be an outline and a newsletter. Or it might be loading to KDP Print while also creating promo graphics. Or it might be working on my next project while adding back matter to the upcoming release.

One thing that helps with this, for me, is the fact that I’m switching modes. It’s difficult for me to work on one thing all day long. This keeps things fresh while also knocking things off my list.

What does your production schedule look like? Do you have any questions for me?

Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, the Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries, the Village Library Mysteries, and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently. Follow her on Twitter where she shares writing links @elizabethscraig or at her blog where she offers tips for writers: BLOG. She lives in Matthews, North Carolina with her husband and is the mother of two.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks for hosting me here at IWSG today!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Elizabeth, thanks for providing us with such great insight!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm amazed that you can work on so much at a time. But having a 750 word goal a day is not bad. I'm not published so don't have a schedule yet, but I am trying to write almost everyday, and I'm moving toward finishing my first draft.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Alex: Appreciate the invite on the blog!

Natalie: 750 is very doable for me!

nashvillecats2 said...

You are extremely busy writing wise Alex. I must get motivated to finish my book when other issues are sorted. Loved the post found it extremely interesting.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Yvonne--Good luck finishing your book!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

It's a lot to juggle, but you've been doing this so long that you have your system down pat.

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for sharing the way you organize everything, Elizabeth. It's a challenge enough to do that for one series, let alone three! One thing I like about your schedule is that it allows for some flexibility. That way, if something changes, you can adapt to it and not fall too far behind. I think that's important.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Diane--It makes it easier to have a system!

Margot--Flexibility is really key! Thanks for coming by

diedre Knight said...

Wow! You do have ironclad plans! Excellent advice. Your confidence is encouraging - I gasped when I read that you announce your book before getting feeding from your readers ;-) You've clearly got this! Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Diedre: Thanks so much for coming by! Glad you found some tips from the post. :)

Mason Canyon said...

Great tips for staying on track, Elizabeth. It's amazing that you keep so much going on at one time.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Mason--Once you get used to it, it's not so bad!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Elizabeth, You always inform and inspire me. Question: On the 750 words a day. What happens when you have completed your first draft and you begin editing. Do you still write 750 words during the editing process and if so, how do you keep track when adding new words, changing words and deleting words or sentences? I hope that makes sense.


Blogger said...


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Teresa--I keep track of my words added (for me, it's almost always words added because I write short) in a text document and add it up as I go. :) With the descriptions of settings and characters added in the editing process, it adds up pretty quickly. Thanks for coming by!

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kjmckendry said...

Wow! This is amazing! I'm getting ready to publish my first book and I have to say I'm a little overwhelmed by everything but the tips here are great!