Self-publishers, you are your own project manager
Independent authors are often criticized for being too quick to hit publish. This observation carries the veiled assumption that they do this because they are overly eager to get their book to market. But just as often, authors publish before they should because of publishing fatigue. They lose steam during the last stages of book production—the last 10 percent—and they hit publish just to be done with it. And when this happens, they leave important tasks incomplete.
Much Can Go Wrong
Like any long-term project, self-publishing a book takes energy, endurance, and organization. Finishing your book and getting it through the editing process can be draining, especially if it has taken longer than you thought it would. In addition to editing and revising, there are multitudes of other details to attend to, and so much can go terribly wrong at the very end.
Many authors want editing and interior book design to be the last stages of the publishing process, and they overlook important post-editing tasks. Does the book have a proofreader? Is there an ISBN? Does the cover designer have it?
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
With a clear publishing plan, you can avoid the perils of the last 10 percent.
- Remember that good communication smooths the process and reduces the possibility of errors getting through. If you have assembled a team to assist you with self-publishing, make sure they are talking to each other.
The designer will likely have questions for the copyeditor, and the proofreader will want a copy of the copyeditor’s style sheet. The proofreader will also need to proof the cover. Don’t forget the spine, where typos are often lurking.
- Use a checklist, and include every task that needs to be performed before the book can be published. There’s plenty of help online. Here are a couple of checklists: one from Jane Friedman and another from Joanna Penn.
If you’re using someone else’s checklist, no matter how good it is, customize it for your own purposes. Do you want the print cover to have a barcode? Who is responsible for securing permissions? Put these on the list.
Use a project management tool such as Asana or Trello, or a shared Google Doc or Sheet, where everyone on your book team can meet. Post your checklist here, and your people can see (and confirm) what they’re responsible for and when it needs to be done.
- Sometimes, especially for newer authors, the copyeditor can become a de facto project manager. Your copyeditor wants you and your book to succeed, and they will very likely alert you if they see a mistake on the horizon. Cultivate a good relationship with your copyeditor, and don’t hesitate to ask for guidance.
It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Work from a list. Keep communication flowing. Ask for help. It’s so simple. So often, though, these processes break down, and the result is reflected in your book’s quality. If you take care of the last 10 percent, this doesn’t have to happen to you.
Carla Douglas is a writer and editor and co-author of You’ve Got Style: A Writer’s Guide to Copyediting. Find her at @CarlaJDouglas.