Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Step By Step, Inch By Inch--Putting the plan together

As promised, I'm back to chronicling my journey into self-publishing. The decision was in place in August—ahead of my self imposed drop-dead-date. Now what? Obviously, I was going to need to let people know when my book would be out, set up a list of tasks necessary to turn out the best product I could, and set the marketing and promotion machinery into motion.

I decided to approach the process like other (traditionally published) authors approach the release of their books—with an eye to what tasks would fall on my shoulders.

First task: Polish the manuscript…again.

I'd already worked with critique partners, an editor, taken classes to address the areas of my craft that needed work, received input from industry professionals, and rewritten countless times. I was well aware of my weakest points and I needed fresh eyes with proven expertise. I contacted two editors—one for content and the other for mechanics. Yes, I agreed to pay them. After all, this is a business.

Second task: Cover art.

Covers are important. They attract attention and they give clues as to the type of book one can expect to find beneath it. I have a background in art and I made numerous attempts to produce something I was happy with, but nothing was right. I had no vision, and the learning curve for the technical aspects of the job was more than I was willing to take on. After looking around I found fellow Sisters in Crime member Tracy Hayes. She is a graphic artist as well as a writer and her website for her Pastiche Studio showed off her range of talent. I contacted her about doing the cover art and she agreed to read my manuscript and see if she could come up with something appropriate. Yes, I'm paying her, too. After all, this is a business.

Third task: The launch date.

Because I had no idea how long this process would take, I decided to give myself 5 months from announcement to launch. This was totally me playing head games with myself. Too little time, and I'd drive myself and everyone around me crazy, too much time and I'd lose that feel of upcoming excitement. I also promised myself I could be flexible in case something went horribly wrong—or right! This is a business. I have to be adaptable.

Fourth task: The announcement.

I needed a vehicle to announce my forthcoming book. Single announcements on the social networking sites and groups I belong to were just that: single announcements. Too much me me me, and I'd become a pariah. I needed a blog where I could talk about all the things I wanted in regards to my book and people could come and visit when they wanted without feeling like I was shoving myself and my book down their throats. "Things I Learned From My Horse" was doing well, but I'd dedicated it to my horse-oriented audience to whom I'd made an implicit promise. On that blog they would read about the animals they love and how they insinuate themselves into our daily lives, not about my life as a writer. The only thing that made sense, then, was to create another blog. You're reading it now.

Announcing the publication of my book would be the start of the next step: Marketing and promotion. We all know that one announcement simply isn't going to do the job—it's simply the kick-off to a more complex game. After all, this is a business.

Fifth Task: Marketing and promotion.

This is where the learning curve would be steep. I've had some experience in real-world business marketing—enough to know I don't know enough. To give myself credit, however, I have been paying attention to other authors and the things they've been saying about their own processes of dealing with the marketing and promotion burden the publishing industry has pushed off onto them in these tough economic times.

My plan was to immerse myself in marketing and promotion strategies. Yes, I know my audience and had already created a blog, but that wasn't going to be enough. I gave myself permission to take a break from writing to do research. I would read everything I could, listen to what people had to say, ask questions, and seek out experts. In essence, I'd let it wash over me until things started to stick and a plan began to form. At some point I would need to get back to writing so without a marketing plan there was too much of a risk that I'd fritter away the 24 hours in each day, duplicating my own efforts and chasing down non-productive avenues. Essentially, I needed to learn how to be efficient. After all, this is a business.

How it plays out.

In the coming weeks, in between the fun of character interviews and guests, I'll be posting more information about how each of these steps is playing out in real life. After all, this is a business, not a mandate handed down from above. There's bound to be some mistakes, unexpected successes and a few ah-ha moments. Join me!


  1. Thanks for sharing this process with us, Susan. I'll be sending you some suggestions for promotion as your launch date nears.

  2. I love living this vicariously through you! This is such an exciting process. I can't wait to see you succeed with this!

  3. I'm impressed, Susan! You're clearly a businesswoman. ;^)
    And I'll be dropping in regularly to see how things are going and learn from your efforts. I might need to create a similar business.


  4. Fantastic, Joyce! I know you've got a creative mind. Can't wait to find out what you've got up your sleeve!

    Thank you, Susan! Wishing you much success as well!

    Thank you, also, Edith. For me, this is clearly a business--I'm very comfortable with the whole structure. I'm hoping my process can provide some useful information to others who are considering the same (or similar) thing.

  5. Susan, you are quite the detail person and business woman! If I self publish, I'll be referring to your plan:).