Time for Success! Creating Author Timelines

Thanks for joining us as we continue our step-by-step approach to writing an author business plan!

The fifth section of the author’s business plan is the Development Timeline.

The “Development Timeline” actually consists of multiple timelines, one for each phase of the author’s work. When preparing your timelines, use a calendar and establish concrete dates. The initial planning may be done in “time block” increments – for example, “write draft 1: 6 months” but the final timelines will prove most effective if you translate them to actual calendar dates.

Life happens, and changes are often required. That’s O.K. You can always revise the timelines to account for delays or other movement in the writing and production process. Establishing concrete dates up front will still help keep your projects on track.

Let’s take a closer look at the different timelines you should consider including in the Development Timeline section of your plan. Each can be as detailed – or as general – as the individual author finds most effective:

1.         Writing and Editing Timeline. This is the timeline which establishes the author’s writing schedule. For some authors, this timeline is established by contract deadlines. But even if you don’t have a contract, establishing a definite deadline will help you develop the skills you’ll need when third-party deadlines become an issue. It’s never to early to start writing purposefully and on a schedule.

Plan for at least two revisions in addition to the initial draft – and as many more as  you customarily use. (On average, my novels see eight full drafts before completion.) Some authors create many drafts, some few, but everyone needs time for editing.

A timeline tip: Some authors like to build in “padding” so the timeline can adjust easily in the event of unanticipated delays.

2.         Production and Publishing Timeline. This timeline takes the completed manuscript from “The End” to the shelf. For traditionally-published authors, this includes everything from submission to the publisher to the date the book hits shelves. For independent authors, this timeline focuses on the production process – digital conversion, working with the POD press, and anything else required for the novel to change from a final word processing document to a finished book.

Learn how long each step in the publishing process will take. Use concrete dates. This will help you ensure your work stays “on track” for timely publication.

A timeline tip: Don’t cut corners and combine the production timeline with the marketing timeline. An accurate production timeline will form the basis for the marketing timeline, but keeping them separate will help you see where marketing efforts should start.

3.         Marketing and Distribution Timelines overlap the calendar dates in the first two timelines. Once you have your writing and publishing timelines set, you can start preparing a timeline for your pre-release, release phase, and post-release marketing efforts. It’s much easier to know if your marketing efforts are on track if you know when each milestone should occur.

For example, an effective author blog should start before the work is published. If you want to start guest-blogging to help build buzz for your novel, that should precede the novel’s completion too. Once you see when each step in the process is scheduled to happen, you can match those dates to your marketing efforts.

Effective timelines may seem difficult, but if you follow the steps above, you’ll find that each timeline helps you make the ones that follow. The key is flexibility: create concrete dates, but build in wiggle room & don’t be afraid to revise as necessary during the process.

Remember: the timelines are your timelines – it’s your plan! Make the schedule work for you!

Do you have questions about timelines or author business plans? Have you written a timeline for your novel? Do you write from a plan?

Jump into the comments and let me know! I’d love to hear from you!

For those who may have missed an installment, here are links to Part 1 (the Overview), Part 2 (Writing the Dreaded Synopsis), Part 3 (On Pre-Release Marketing Mountain), Part 4 (Marketing for Release Weeks), Part 5 (The After-Party: Post Release-Phase Marketing), and Part 6 (Know Thyself! Making Comparative Analysis Work for You).