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My Weird Indie Publishing Project: Why You Need A Written Plan

Before I started My Weird Indie Publishing Project — breaking a giant memoir into separate stories to publish as a series — I learned a lot about marketing. I intended to apply what I’d learned in this project. But I got side-tracked…

Being sidetracked is like being the bird who abandons the worm which will feed him to chase that bug over there that might fly away before the he gets there.

But you can learn from my mistakes. That’s why I’m blogging this event. Today’s overall lesson from the school of “OOPS” is about “YOUR plan” for publishing and marketing your series and why you need to write it down.

1. “Pick a Lane and stay there.”

The world will always keep cranking out newer and shinier things to consider. Once you’ve decided to do something, in this case, a series, create your plan of how you’ll do it. Stay focused on that one you’ve already chosen. I didn’t, and I’m paying the price.

I got side-tracked by “Magpie behavior”. I already knew how I wanted to do my series and had even already started writing. Suddenly there was an opportunity to do that in a group as an apprentice of the guys who had done the strategy successfully. It would have been fun to have a group to interact with instead of being alone in an isolated rural mountain town with absolutely no one who has a clue what I’m doing. But they wanted $5,000…

So, naturally, being stunned unconscious by the cost of that opportunity, I whip-lashed and joined a different school. But the school I joined did it differently. That act split my allegiance — my plan? or their plan? But in life, as in The Highlander, “There can be only one.”

If I had stayed with the original intention — to use a strategy fiction writers’ use as my marketing plan — I would be having a different experience now. Oops!

2. Map out YOUR plan in your own words before you start writing!

Sure, I had learned about the technique, mostly from books and podcasts. And yeah, I took notes, a 3-ring binder full of notes! But that’s as far as my actual planning had gone. In WRITE to MARKET, author Chris Fox cautioned readers to do the exercises for each chapter now, because you won’t get it unless you do. I thought I’d do them later. I didn’t.

Now, wading through the very thick muck I created by floundering around with no written plan, I realize the importance of doing that.

Sure, I had all these notes and a general plan — in my head. But that’s not where you want your plan when you’re in the middle of writing the series.

At least for me, when I’m writing, I get lost in that world and barely handle all the other responsibilities in my life. I have a part-time job, two cats, and no partner. I do it all. And when it snows, as it did so generously a week ago, I’m the one responsible for shoveling. I also don’t have a cook, a maid, a grocery shopper, or even someone to change the cats’ litter box. I alone am responsible for my life and all the stuff it takes to do it.

So there was no time in my writing of Book 1 in the Burnout to Bliss series to revisit all those notes about what I had learned! Part of this gig, doing a series, is to crank out the books in a timely fashion — at least every 90 days! YIKES! No extra time to write the plan that should have been written before starting to write!

So now, after already publishing Book 1, one month away from publishing Book 2, I’m taking the weekend to “catch up”.

Today I will create MY marketing plan punch list.

I’m reviewing those notes, especially from Chris Fox, who was the most helpful. His book not only illustrates the effectiveness of his ideas with his own books, it  also stresses “start where you are.” His is the book that inspired me the most (and was most clearly written!).

3. Create a TIMELINE of dates for each step of your marketing plan.

What are all the things you’ll do to make sure your book is known about? How will you promote it? List those as steps. Now put dates beside each step so you can make that timeline.

I had a rough idea and a notebook full of notes, but I had missed this step and now I’m paying for it.

Today I will create a marketing aka Launch timeline.

3.  Create your timeline, “From Draft to Launch.”

LOL! I wrote a blog post about that and I bet you didn’t do it, either. See how we are? We always think, “Nah, that doesn’t apply to me.” And now I’m paying for that, too. Because I have been through the publishing process with other books, I do have a fairly good idea how long things take — e.g., rough draft to polished text, how long it takes to find the book cover artist I want and how long that person needs, etc. not to mention professional editing and then my revising my book based on that…

But having it in your head is so not helpful when you need to check it for dates on the timeline!

Today I will create my timeline for Draft to Launch.

But, yikes!, that’s not the only thing that goes on the timeline.

4.  Merge the two timelines! A single timeline for a project is absolutely required!

And I knew that in a different life as one who worked her way through the doctoral program in graduate school and, as a professor, who wrote grant proposals! But I also know that learning a skill in one context doesn’t automatically generalize to another. That is, what I learned about planning in the education context did not carry over to the writing context! YIKES!

Today I will create one timeline by merging the “draft to launch” and “launch” timelines.

5.  Map out your series before you start writing the first book! And I thought I had, in the Introduction for Book 1, BURNOUT — How a desert Lizard Restored My Faith. But at this point of the writing — I’m about to scrap 2/3 of the draft for Book 2 and start over — I can state emphatically that a few sentences indicting what the book is about does not come close to A PLAN.

I got so excited writing Book 2 and anticipating Book 3 that I merged them! “Wow, I’m having so much fun and it’s coming out so fast…” YIKES!

Now, because I announced in the first book how it would go, I get to delete all that Canadian stuff and get back to cycling in California. Oofdah! If I had written the beats, the story with examples before I began writing, I would not have ended up in Canada!

Before I write another word in Book 2 (which was 186 pages on Friday, but now is 61), I will generate the story beats.

That act will make the writing go faster and ensure that I write what I intended, that I stay on target.

You simply have to provide some guidance for your Muse or she’ll take you to some incredible world where you’ll have a hard time getting back.

6. Remember who you are, where you are, and why you’re writing. Remember the article I wrote about “Know your why?” Well, turns out, there’s even more involved than that.

WHO ARE YOU?

We get sidetracked from our original intention when we forget who we are. I’m suggesting you write this out, too, because it will help you stay on track. Who are you?

For example, I am older than the guys I’m learning from and can no longer spin twenty plates at once. I must go at my own pace. I will be writing this blog once a week, but I will not also be podcasting or following fifty blogs so I can ask them for an interview about my book or if I can write a “guest article” for their blog (great ways to launch a book!).

WHERE ARE YOU (as a writer)?

Honoring where you are will help you stay on your path. Where are you as a writer? Write it down.

For example, I have written 4 books but have yet to recover the publishing costs, much less make a cent on any of them. I am an absolute beginner at marketing. I chose to do this weird indie publishing project to practice what I had learned in the first 6 months of 2016.

Why I’m writing this series has already been addressed in a previous blog post, but here’s the gist of it: I am a retired professor with no family who

  1. wanted to leave a legacy for my nieces who know me from infrequent visits because they live so far away, and
  2. was led to believe that I’ve had some experiences which might benefit others (please see Beta Readers article for that quote at the end).

Bottom line: if I had written the steps of My plan before I got started, this would have been a lot more fun and I would have made fewer mistakes. Remember the post about my horrible “First Launch?” I’m still reeling from that one.

But what sustains me, what keeps me going is the realization of who I am, where I am, and why I’m doing this. Keeping those things in mind is loving myself through to the finish line. I have to remind myself daily that I’m a beginner, I’m learning, I chose to do this project a specific way to practice what I’d learned, and practice always involves errors…

I’ll do the work necessary to get back on track. I’ll make my punch lists today — write out all the steps for “Draft to Publish” and “Lunch” and merge those steps into one list with dates.

Because I am still getting help from “the guys” (you’ll have to read BURNOUT to meet them), I got a sufficient Cosmic Thump in the nick of time to do a course correction. Maybe I’ll write about that next time!

I CAN do this! And so can you!

Til next time, please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi

Get Book 1, BURNOUT — How A Desert Lizard Restored My Faith, HERE.

If you already have Book 1 but still aren’t on the mailing list to be alerted when Book 2 comes out, JOIN HERE.

Finally, please note that I will publish updates about this project even if they’re brief and follow an article with a different title.

Thanks for reading! Make it a great day! ~Pam

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