The Indie Author’s To Do List

Now that I’ve finished an early draft of my third novel, and sent it off to my beta readers, I’m thinking about the other tasks that I have to complete before publication. I’ve taken a look at the ‘To Do’ lists that I prepared for the previous two books and, to be honest, I could easily become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work still to be done. There’s the front and back matter, cover design, editing, proofreading, listing with Nielsen and BDS (for libraries), formatting etc. etc. And that’s before I even think about marketing.

The job of an independent author isn’t just to write a novel, but it’s similar to managing a project. However, unlike business projects, which may involve huge teams of people, the independent author is responsible for the whole project from start to finish. Although it is possible to hire help for certain tasks, ultimately, the overall responsibility for delivery rests with the author.

To Do List

I therefore thought it would be interesting to share a mock-up of a typical Indie author’s to do list. I hope that it might be helpful to others, especially new authors. I personally find a ‘To Do’ list invaluable because you can keep track of exactly where you are up to, and mark off your tasks as you complete them. I use grey highlighting to cover the areas that are completed, and use either bright highlighting or red italics to draw certain items to my attention. In this way I can tell at a glance what jobs still need to be tackled. By breaking tasks down in this way, and keeping track of them, the process will seem less daunting.

The following ‘To Do’ list includes only those tasks that have to be undertaken once you have produced your first draft of the book. Therefore, it refers to those activities that I would normally start organising once my book is with my beta readers. Here goes:

Task Done
Arrange cover design asap. N.B. Need both a Kindle and a print version.
Front and back matter.  

 

Write online press release.  
Allocate an ISBN number and register the book on Nielsen Title Editor website for the print version (takes 3 working days to show), (for the Kindle version Amazon allocate an ASIN number).
Libraries – Register with BDS once book is on Nielsen database: http://www.bibliographicdata.co.uk/ before I publish.
Write a series of blog posts related to the book, which I can publish at regular intervals until publication.
Re-read ‘Slur’ and ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ to make sure there are no inconsistencies in the three books (as it’s a trilogy).
Draw up a list of quotes from the book and from early reviews that I can add to Twitter.
Do a newsletter for people on mailing list announcing the launch (once available for pre-order), telling them about the Goodreads Giveaway & any other launch promotions.
Deal with feedback from beta readers once I receive it (deadline is 11th April).
Edit using editing software.
Arrange proof-reader in advance then do final proofread myself when he has completed it.
Arrange eARCs to all reviewers. Try to give them at least three weeks before I launch. Arrange any interviews.
Format for Kindle, upload, make available for pre-order and announce via newsletter.
Format for CreateSpace – Refer to typesetting instructions under ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ folder.
Upload to CreateSpace. Then approach bookshop with launch date (once I know when I will receive my print copies) & set up promo activities. N.B. Have to order a print proof first and check that before ordering my copies.
Organise a Goodreads Giveaway as soon as the book is published (make sure that the Kindle and print versions are linked together before I do this).
Send for personal copies from CreateSpace once the print version is available (this should cover friends, libraries and book shop signing).
Organise book shop signing. Make sure I have all the promotional materials ready for the signing e.g. A4 display stands for book posters, and that I have sufficient stock of the two previous novels.
Add the book to Booklinker to get the short form link.
Change profiles on WordPress website (all relevant pages), Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook to include the new book, and replace old author photos. N.B. Must include the Amazon link once it is available.
Notify everyone about the launch – Twitter (pin launch tweet), schedule a new release tweet for next few days, FB, mailing list, blog, text friends if not active on FB etc.
Organise any ads in relation to any launch or pre-launch promotions (see below).
Once the book is available, possibly organise a book promotion in relation to one or both of the first two books in the trilogy.
Make up a marketing list for any additional promotional activities that may prove fruitful e.g. book trailers, radio interviews etc.
Do sales to libraries – Would have to approach re AGG at the same time as I haven’t done yet.

 

Your own ‘To Do’ list might vary depending on, for example, whether you are producing a digital or a print version of your book, or both, as well as other factors. However, the above list will hopefully give you some ideas to consider.

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Breaking the Writing Rules

Recently I have noticed a profusion of articles and blog posts by people involved in the publishing industry with titles such as ’10 Ways Not to Begin your Novel’. The suggestions of ‘things to avoid’ include having your protagonist waking up from a dream, prologues, going back in time and many others. The reason they give is that these types of openings are overused and are therefore sure to get your book rejected by publishers.

Clipartsalbum_16620 Books

Personally, I think this reasoning is crazy. Just because a particular approach has been used previously doesn’t necessarily mean it has been done in the same way. Similarly, because the opening to a book is of a certain type, it doesn’t follow that the book will have anything else in common with other books that have used the same type of opener. Of course, to justify their reasoning they often cite that it will put readers off. Really? Are readers concerned over whether or not a book has a prologue, or has the current dislike for prologues got more to do with publishing fads?

When I wrote my debut novel I opened it with my protagonist waking up from a dream. I had been reading books for 40 years prior to publishing Slur and I can honestly say that I cannot recall another book that opened in this way. It may be that I have read one years ago and retained it in my subconscious, but it isn’t as though every other book I read begins with a dream. Certainly dreams have been used to effect in novels, but does this mean that we should put a ban on the use of dreams in case they become overused?

This brings me to the bigger picture: if the publishing industry insists that we avoid openings that they consider are overused, then why restrict this ruling just to openers? Why not put a ban on jaded cops? Flawed heroes? Middle class chic lit full of dating and/or career dilemmas? Romance novels where boy meets girl but fate conspires to keep them apart for most of the novel until they finally end up together? Or, before this latest trend gets too clichéd, why not put a ban on the female cop who thinks she tougher than all the guys, but has a vulnerable side known only to the reader?

The important point I’m trying to make in all of this is that what’s more important than the type of scenario you create is how well it’s executed.

Another ‘rule’ that drives me to distraction is that it’s now become unpopular to replace the word ‘said’ with alternatives. Although we were encouraged to come up with more creative alternatives at school many decades ago (in my case anyway), those alternatives have now become anathema in certain quarters. I can understand how the overuse of alternatives can become jarring, but there are instances where certain words are more expressive than the word ‘said’ and they can convey the mood of the person speaking.

Gossip

The ‘point of view rule’ is another example that came to my attention recently through a book that I read. This is a rule that most writers follow, and I try not to break this one myself because it can become confusing if an author switches point of view mid-scene. However, in ‘Child 44’ by Tom Rob Smith there are many instances in the book where the author switches POV from one paragraph to the next. Yet, this is a bestselling novel, which has received rave reviews in the popular press. I don’t know whether it was a conscious decision on the part of the author to take this approach, but I found that it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book and there were only one or two parts of the book where it caused confusion.

While there is a lot of good advice out there, which can improve your writing, sometimes I feel that there is too much. It is impossible to take it all on board especially as so much of the advice is conflicting anyway. Too much emphasis on ‘the writing rules’ can make your writing become stilted, so I think the best thing is just to enjoy your writing. Any howlers can be sifted out at the editing stage anyway and if there is any advice that doesn’t make sense to you, ignore it.

Rant over, for now, but if there are any writing rules that irritate you, please feel free to have a moan in the comments below. 🙂

Signed, Rebellious Indie Author.

P.S. My opening for Slur is staying.

Why do you Love Being an Author?

During a recent email chat with an author friend we were discussing how frustrated we become when other work pulls us away from writing our novels. I commented that it was probably because other work didn’t give us the same sense of satisfaction as writing novels. This led me to thinking – just what is it about being an author that is so satisfying? So I thought it would be interesting to try to pin down some of the reasons:

Escapism – When writing a novel you can escape into your own world which can be anything you want it to be. That does beg the question – why is my writing world full of violence, bad language and warped characters, and why does that give me so much satisfaction? Hmmm!

Creativity – I gain a sense of fulfilment in having created something from nothing and I’ve no doubt it’s the same for other authors. Your book is like your baby that you feel proud of and it gives you tSatisfied Readerhat special feeling of having nurtured it from start to finish. A lot of us are familiar with the buzz of holding the print version of our own book in our hands or seeing it on the shelf in our local book store or library.

Reader Satisfaction – It’s lovely to receive feedback from readers and know that somebody has enjoyed one of your books.

Organisation and Planning – In the (non-writing) world of work, good organisation was always one of my strengths and I think that both non-fiction and fiction books require good organisation skills. You have to be able to plan the chapters, and carefully interweave the main plot and sub-plots. Organisation and planning are also important in achieving a good balance with the pacing of a novel. Because of my organised nature I actually enjoy these challenges.

Kudos – If I’m honest it’s always flattering when people take an interest in what I do although I also get a little embarrassed sometimes. Even though there are increasing numbers of people publishing books, it still attracts a lot of attention when you say that you have written and published a book.Money Pile

Huge Potential for Financial Gain – Yes, there’s a golden carrot dangling on the end of that metaphorical piece of string. The trouble is, every time you try to grasp the carrot, somebody yanks the string and you find you’ve got a bit further to go until you reach your reward. But as long as we can see the carrot, we’ll keep trying to grab it.

I’m speaking for the majority of authors, of course. There are some who are already reaping large financial rewards, which provides further encouragement for the rest of us.

Now for the things I don’t love so much:

I don’t think I’m very good at the whole marketing and promotion thing. I’ve never been one for selling myself. I’d rather shy away and get on with my writing but I expect a lot of authors are like that, which is probably why we choose to do what we do.

TimeThe other negative aspect for me is that there aren’t enough hours in the day. This is another one that I often hear other authors complain about, especially independent authors. It would be wonderful if we could devote all of our working hours to writing and have somebody else take care of all the promotion, editing, proofreading and formatting etc. but for most of us that isn’t feasible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. What is it about being an author that you love or are there any aspects of being an author that you’re not so keen on?

Anyone fancy a carrot?

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Using Editing Software to Improve your Writing

At the moment I am immersed in the final edits for my debut novel “Slur” and I am using some editing software that an author friend recommended. I have found the software particularly useful so I thought that I would share my findings. The software that I am using is called Prowritingaid. I haven’t used any other editing software so I can’t comment on other products but this specific product offers a number of features.

Editing Software

The main problem that I wanted to address is that I suffer from adverbitis. By that I mean that I have a tendency to overuse adverbs. I also default into using the passive at times when it would be better to use the active especially for a crime thriller, which should be fast paced. I think this is probably down to the fact that I am used to proofreading student theses, which are written in a formal style in accordance with university requirements and therefore use the passive rather than the active. Unfortunately, if you are used to working in a particular style then it can become hard to break the habit. I therefore invested in Prowritingaid at my friend’s recommendation.

You can choose from six main styles of Creative, Academic, Business, General, Technical and Web Copy. Once you have set your preferred style you can then choose what you want to check for. I chose Writing Style Report, which flags up adverbs and use of the passive but you can also run a full analysis or various other checks such as repetition, overused words, consistency, plagiarism etc. depending on the writing style you are aiming for. In fact, there are a total of 23 Highlightingdifferent types of reports/checks to choose from.

Prowritingaid makes it easier than editing your work yourself because when you are working so close to your work you can fail to notice things. The software pinpoints instances in embarrassing, brilliant highlighting so you can’t fail to notice them, and at $35 per year it’s substantially cheaper than hiring an editor. It also means that you retain control over your work. I must admit that I cringed at the number of times I used ‘quickly’, ‘forcefully’, ‘really’, ‘slowly’ and ‘quietly’. I had also used more powerful adverbs such as ‘maliciously’ and ‘subconsciously’, which can make an impact if used sparingly, but overuse lessens their impact so a good trim was necessary to improve the quality of my work.

Another good thing about this software is that you can upload a sample of your work to the site to trial it before buying. Here’s the link if you want to give it a whirl: http://prowritingaid.com/. I’d like to add that I’m not being paid by the suppliers to write this blog post. I just wanted to share this useful discovery.

How the Police Have Been Helping with My Inquiries

One of the things I still hadn’t done when I last worked on my debut novel ‘Slur’ was to check police procedure from 1986. Because I don’t like to halt the flow when I am writing I often highlight sections to be researched later so I knew I had a few areas of investigation that I had to revisit. As mentioned on this blog previously, I returned to my novel after several years, and I was amazed to find how things have changed from a research point of view. Oh the wonders of the Internet! It makes me wonder sometimes how we all coped before.

PolicemanIn order to look up some details on police procedure I approached a wonderful organisation called the Police History Society. Their website is at: http://www.policehistorysociety.co.uk/ and, as well as providing a wealth of information, the website has links to the websites of regional police forces.

My novel is set in 1986 so I required information that is specific to that era. I therefore sent an email to the contact email address on the website on the off chance that someone would be able to help me. To my amazement, not only did they take the trouble to reply, but one wonderful retired officer took time out from his visit to family in New Zealand to contact ex colleagues and search the web for the information I needed.Police hat

I am happy to say that I have now finished the research for my book. I have clarified the wording that the police would have used when they read somebody their rights on making an arrest back in 1986. It was important to me that I got it right because I want my book to be as accurate as possible. I’ve also clarified a few other points of law.

In terms of court procedure, I found the following link useful: http://www.cps.gov.uk/victims_witnesses/going_to_court/giving_evidence.html.

I thought I would share this information because I am sure that other UK authors writing in the crime genre will find it useful. Additionally, it would be interesting to hear from other authors how you approach research. Do you carry out all your research before you start writing, do it as you go along or leave it all till the end? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below. Incidentally, does anyone remember the old style police hats that UK police used to wear (per the above images)? It’s making me all nostalgic.

Writing Process Blog Tour

A big thank you to Georgia Rose for nominating me for the Writing Process Blog Tour in which readers can find out a little about my work and how I go about it. The Writing Process Blog Tour also gives you the opportunity to find out what other authors are working on and how their writing process works. You can view Georgia’s blog post here.

‘A Single Step’ is Georgia’s first romantic suspense novel, and is the first book in The Grayson Trilogy. It will be joined by ‘Before the Dawn’ this summer and finally by ‘Thicker than Water’. You can find out more about Georgia at http://www.georgiarosebooks.com/.

I have to answer four questions about what, why and how I write, then link to the blogger that tagged me, and tag two or three more authors in turn.
Here goes:-

1) What am I working on now?

Having published two non-fiction books, I am currently editing my first novel, which I originally started writing 15 years ago. I have also written the first 8000 words of my second novel although a lot of it is in outline form. The first book is a crime thriller set in 80s Manchester and the plot involves two main characters, Julie and Rita, who have been accused of a murder they didn’t commit. The second book is also a crime thriller set in Manchester but it follows the lives of a brother and sister as they grow into adulthood. It explores the effects of a harsh upbringing on the brother and sister and shows how that impacts on their lives in later years.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I would have to say that a big difference lies in my characters. Where some crime thrillers focus mainly on events, I like to give equal emphasis to the characters. In fact, some readers may feel that I give more emphasis to the characters. I regard my novels as being about ordinary people who are faced with extraordinary circumstances, and I take a look at how my characters react to those circumstances.

In my debut novel two young women are accused of a murder they didn’t commit. The way in which they handle that situation differs immensely and this is due partly to their different upbringings and outlooks on life. The main character, Julie Quinley, is more vulnerable and therefore finds it difficult to come to terms with the accusations. This drives her almost to the point of breakdown but she has an inner strength that sees her through. Her friend, Rita, on the other hand, has had a tougher upbringing and, as a result, she has a more resilient personality. She is brash, flirtatious and feisty, and she doesn’t let anything stand in her way.

Because I like to represent my characters as real characters, this is reflected in their behaviour and the way in which they speak. Unfortunately this means there is a lot of bad language in the book but I feel that this is necessary to give an accurate portrayal. Otherwise the novel would lose some of its authenticity.

3) Why do I write what I do?

ImaginationI’m the product of an overactive imagination and I constantly have ideas floating around in my head. These will come to me at the most unexpected moments, for example, when I am out walking or in the middle of the night. I therefore keep a notepad by my bed. Sometimes I can wake up with whole scenes written inside my head and I will have to quickly jot them down before I forget them.

The reason why I choose the particular topics that I choose is because of my life’s experiences. I’ve seen a lot of life, both good and bad, and for me writing is a form of catharsis. My first book actually started off as a feel good book. I began writing it when the children were young and I would reminisce about the great nights out that I had in my 20s. This meant that the book had a real chic lit feel initially. Then I felt that it needed to have more substance and a bit of grit so I started thinking about what would happen if it all went wrong and something was to destroy that party lifestyle. This resulted in the addition of a new first chapter, which begins with the arrest of the main character. The second chapter then goes back to the events that led up to her arrest.What if

With my second book, I have again asked the question, ‘What if?’ What if I was to take all of the bad elements from people that I have come across throughout my life and combine them into one really bad character? (This character is in fact represented by the father in the book.) What if the outcome of a problematic childhood was to harbour future problems for the people involved? What if those problems were to have a devastating effect?

4) How does my writing process work?

As mentioned above, if an idea comes to me I have to jot it down, then I’ll type it up as soon as I get the time. That idea may be the concept for a whole novel or it might be a particular chapter or scene within a novel. If it’s a concept for a novel, I will instinctively know whether that idea is worth developing further. At the moment I have outline ideas for about 20 novels. The most frustrating thing for me is finding the time to develop those ideas into full-length novels in between undertaking client work. I always start with an outline and I like to think of that as a framework that I can then build onto. I try to build up that framework in sequence but if a scene for later in the book comes to me I will add that in and then return to an earlier part of the book. Once I edit the book I can ensure that it flows well from chapter to chapter.

With the first book I developed the outline as I developed the plot. So, I would start with a loose outline then eventually develop it into a chapter by chapter overview. This would help me to keep track of where I was up to if I had to spend a long time away from my novel because of other work commitments. I also worked out a timeline and had a character profile for each of the characters as well as a list of places featured in the novel.

I did a certain amount of research at the outset but once I’m in full flow I hate to disrupt my continuity so I did put off some of the research until the book was written. That means that now I’ve reached the editing stage I’m still having to do some fact checking regarding police procedure. Thankfully, the Internet has moved on considerably since I started writing the novel so that makes it much easier.

I am tagging three excellent authors:

Taylor Fulks

As well as being an award winning author, Taylor is a Registered Nurse First Assistant specialising in open heart surgery.

Her debut novel My Prison Without Bars is based on Taylor’s own true story and gives a harrowing account of her experiences as an abused child. It won 1st Place in the 2013 Indie Reader Discovery Awards, and was the 2013 Readers’ Favourite International Book Awards Gold Medal Winner. US readers can purchase the book here.

You can visit Taylor’s blog at Taylor Fulks, and can find out more about Taylor and her writing through her website: http://taylorfulks.com/.

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 Charlie Plunkett

Charlie is the author of a series of ‘true diary’ books that chart the milestone moments in her life. These include: The True Diary of a Bride-to-be, The True Diary of a Mum-to-be and The True Diary of Baby’s First Year. Her latest book 100 Little Words on Parenthood involved 100 fabulous writers and bloggers who share what parenthood means to them in exactly 100 words.

Charlie is currently working on a number of exciting writing projects and she will be sharing details of these in her forthcoming blog post. You can find details of all Charlie’s books and visit her blog at: Charlie Plunkett.

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Yasmin Selena Butt

Yasmin was born in London. She has previously worked as an English language trainer, a music writer for The Times and a marketing freelancer. She has also written over a thousand poems, exhibited her fiction and photography and performed her debut reading at Proud Galleries in Camden.

The title of her debut novel Gunshot Glitter was inspired by a song by Jeff Buckley which appeared on ‘Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk’. Gunshot Glitter is a crime thriller which was self-published to retain complete creative control. You can see more reviews of Gunshot Glitter at: Goodreads.

Yasmin’s blog is at: http://yasminselenabutt.wordpress.com.

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Charlie, Taylor and Yasmin’s blog posts about their writing process will follow in the coming weeks.

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Refreshed, Reinvigorated and Ready to Go

I probably should have preceded this blog post with one headed ‘Fatigued, Frustrated and Fed up’ as that’s exactly how I felt just a couple of weeks ago. It’s a good thing that my holiday came when it did as I was well in need of it.

Hols 3

‘Why was I feeling so FFF’d up with everything?’ you may ask. Here’s why:

Fatigued because I’ve been working weekends for the last seven months as well as working Monday to Friday. Basically, me and my husband have been renovating my mother-in-law’s former home as she sadly passed away last September.  Although the work was mainly cosmetic we underestimated just how long it would take to complete. We also didn’t realise how much the continuous weekend working would take it out of us, especially as we have both been fully stretched in our Monday to Friday occupations recently.  Plus, we’re not as young as we used to be and at times like this it really shows.

Frustrated because I desperately want to publish the novel that I wrote several years ago. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy lately that I can’t even find time to edit it let alone put all my promotional and marketing plans into effect.

Fed up due to a combination of the above two. I do tend to push myself too hard at times, to the point where I feel extremely tired but I still find myself dissatisfied if I don’t achieve all of my goals. I planned to launch my novel in May or June and it galls me to have to accept that I will probably need to postpone the launch date.

Hols 1

Hols 2

On a more positive note, two more weeks should see the end of the house renovations and then I’ll get my weekends back – at last! I’ve also spent two blissful weeks lazing about in the sun so I’m feeling much more refreshed and ready to tackle the mountain of client work that is waiting for me. Not that I’m complaining about my client workload – it’s always good to have plenty of paid writing, proofreading and editing work. Getting my weekends back, however, will be an absolute bonus. It means that I’ll be able to take some time to chill and recharge my batteries at the weekends. I might also manage to squeeze in a couple of hours on my novel if I’ve been too busy during the week. Bring it on!

I’d love to hear how other authors find the time to organise a heavy workload particularly those who have other commitments as well as being authors. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box below.