Writing a Business Plan For Your Book: the Development Timeline

Today we return to the series on How to Write A Business Plan for Your Book with a look at the fifth section of the business plan: the Development Timeline.

The “Development Timeline” section 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 (at least, to the extent you can)–but also remember, this is YOUR timeline, and unless you’re under contract, the dates can change. Sometimes, they even change if you are under contract…but that’s less common, and trickier.

You can also plan your timelines in block-style increments – for example, “write draft 1: 6 months” but the final timelines will prove most effective if you translate them to actual calendar dates, either after you finish the initial plan or when you put it into effect.

Life happens. That’s O.K. You can always revise the timelines if you need to adjust for delays or other issues in the writing or publishing process. You should still try to create  concrete timelines up front, because it helps keep projects on track.

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

1.         Writing and Editing Timeline. This establishes your schedule for writing and editing the manuscript. Sometimes, this timeline is established by your contract deadlines. Even if you don’t have a contract, however, it’s useful to establish definite deadlines to write and edit each book. It’s never too early to start writing purposefully and on a schedule.

When preparing your writing timeline, plan time for at least two revisions in addition to your initial draft – and as many more as  you customarily write. (My novels average eight full drafts before completion–so it’s completely up to you.) Some authors create many drafts, some few, but everyone needs to edit. Make sure you build that time into your plan.

Timeline Tip: If you build in extra “padding,” your timeline is more easily adjustable in the case of delays.

2.         Production and Publishing Timeline. This timeline starts with a completed manuscript and ends on the book’s release date. For traditionally-published authors, this timeline starts when you send the book to your agent (or to your publisher, if you work with the publishing house directly) and includes everything that happens from then until the date the book hits shelves. For self-published authors, this timeline includes all the steps in your production process, from obtaining cover art to digital conversion, working with the press or online retailer to set up pre-release sales, 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 when you plan this timeline, to the extent you possibly can. This will help you ensure your work stays “on track” for timely publication.

Timeline Tip: Don’t cut corners and combine the production and marketing timelines. Accurate production timelines set you up for success with the marketing timeline; keeping them separate helps you keep the processes separate.

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 prepare a timeline for your pre-release, release phase, and post-release marketing. Writing a marketing timeline is helpful, because it not only keeps your marketing on track, but reminds you when it’s time to begin each phase of the marketing process. 

Writing timelines may seem difficult, or tedious, but if you create them, you’ll quickly discover that they keep both you and your book on track. 

The key to successful timelines is flexibility: use 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. The more effort you put in to preparing them properly in advance, and the closer you can stick to the plan, the greater your chances of publishing success. 

If you’ve missed any part of this series, here are links to the previous installments:

Part 1: How to Write a Business Plan For Your Book

Part 2: The Business Plan: Overview

Part 3: The Business Plan: Summary / Synopsis

Part 4: The Business Plan: (Pre-Release) Marketing Section

Part 5: The Business Plan: (Release Phase) Marketing Section

Part 6: The Business Plan: (Post-Release) Marketing Section

Part 7: The Business Plan: Competitive Analysis

If you have other thoughts about the timeline section of the business plan, or questions about this or other publishing law and business topics, hop into the comments–I’d love to hear from you!



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