by Lesley-Anne Longo
Published at 2023-05-31
What is a publishing plan? Honestly, a publishing plan is exactly what it sounds like! It involves scheduling and planning for the writing and publishing of your manuscript, from start to finish.
And why do you need a publishing plan? Well, publishing can be an amazing journey...but it can also be an overwhelming one. There's the actual writing of the book, the editing process, then the steps of sending out manuscript submissions, or, if you're self-publishing, finding a typesetter/cover designer/etc....there's a lot of items to juggle in order to end up with a finished book. A well thought out publishing plan can help you manage aspects of this process that you didn’t even realize were involved! The tips below can help you develop the right plan for you and your project, to help you manage your publishing journey with ease.
In this blog, I'll identify key components of a publishing plan, beginning with the writing of your manuscript, followed by the editing process, and then taking steps to prepare your manuscript to send out to publishers.
The first part of the publishing plan that an author has to consider is the actual writing of the manuscript. If you’ve already done this, good job! That’s one part of the plan you can check off.
However, if you haven’t written or finished your manuscript yet, it’s a good idea to consider a schedule that will help you get started on the writing, continue the writing, and finish the writing. How can you do this? We know that writing is a demanding process, one with many starts and stops. And we know setting a schedule is easy to do on paper but much harder to actually carry out in practice.
Consider your manuscript: what you are writing and what your goals for your published work are. This can help you draft a schedule. You can set goals to write at least 250 words a day, 2000 words a week, a chapter every two weeks...whatever is realistic and achievable for you. The "achievable" part is key, because ther's nothing worse than setting a goal for yourself and falling short. Attempting to write a chapter a day is a quick path to getting burnt out! Slow and steady is the key here.
Once your manuscript is completed, the editing begins. This process can take varying amounts of time, depending on the level of editing that is required. What are your options? Substantive editing, copy editing, proofreading...how do you know what your manuscript needs to make it shine?
At TEC, we can actually provide an assessment of your full manuscript to determine what will be needed. What this involves is:
From here, we can provide an even more detailed quote for editing based on the findings of the assessment. The assessment will also provide a more accurate idea of how long the editing process will take. We go over all our findings with you in a post-assessment meeting, to ensure you know exactly what will be happening during the editing process, should we move forward. This is also a great time to discuss any queries the editor may have had while reading and assessing your work.
And we will always recommend a strong copy edit, regardless of whether or not we feel the manuscript needs substantive work. A copy edit corrects faulty grammar, incorrect punctuation, misspelled words, and inconsistencies (in spelling and in other ways, like number usage or formatting style). If your writing is already clear and sharp, this process can move fairly quickly.
If you want to learn more about the different types of editing and what is involved as you build your publishing plan, definitely check out our resource guide "Building Your Publishing Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide for Authors," which expands on the handy information in this blog and will help you build a publishing plan that works for you!
During the editing process, allow time for any finalizing of details the project may need. For example, are there any permissions or copyright work that you need to do? If you want to use an excerpt from a story or if there is a particular illustration or image you want to use, we can clear permissions with the copyright holders on your behalf.
Or perhaps you have someone in mind to write a preface for you, or an introduction? Have you contacted this person and can they meet your deadline?
Once the editing is completed and your manuscript is undergoing its final polish, it’s time to start thinking about your publishing options.
This is an important decision you will have to make as an author. Do you want to publish traditionally through a publishing house, or would you prefer to publish your work through a self-publishing company?
If you decide on self-publishing, it is important that you choose a reputable self-publishing company to work with. Unfortunately, there are many self-publishing companies out there that are all too eager to take advantage of authors. As an exercise, check reviews of self-publishing companies on an unbiased site, run the company’s name and “scam” through a search engine, or, if you’re part of a writing community, ask around to see if anyone you know has had a great experience with a company they’ve used.
An important note though: Self-publishing often requires that you have designated storage space for the books when they are delivered and that you have a strong marketing plan in place for promoting your book. Some self-publishing companies can help you with marketing, but you can be assured it will be for an extra fee.
If you decide you want to find a traditional publishing house for your book, one of the most important steps in this process is making sure it is a good fit.
Once you have a list of possibilities, it's time to begin to draft cover letters, write a synopsis, develop a marketing plan, and other necessary submission package items. Each publisher has different requirements and it is important that these materials reflect their specific requirements.
Once your components are ready, then it's time to send the manuscript packages out. Many publishers ask that submissions be sent electronically through a portal, emailed to a specific address, or mailed in the old-fashioned way.
If you choose to go the traditionally published route, this work is an important part of your publishing plan. What is the best fit for your book?
Publishing is a pursuit that requires investments of both time and money, and it’s a good idea to have a rough outline of how much money you might need to save before you embark on your publishing journey. This may take a bit of time, but it is better to know before you begin the process the cost than to be surprised at the outset.
Today, most publishers require that your book be edited before it is submitted, so editing is an important part of the publishing plan. If you're still in the writing phase of your publishing process, it can be a great idea to start reaching out to editors for quotes once you've got a solid draft in front of you. You'll need to know how many words your manuscript is, as this will help editors gauge how much time they'll need to complete any editing work on your book. Be aware that higher word counts mean higher costs — doing a copy edit on a 40,000 word manuscript is going to take a fair bit less time than a 120,000 word manuscript!
Let the editors know your word count, your desired timeline (if any), and what type (or types) of editing you're looking to have done. The quotes you receive back will help you get a sense of whether you can proceed with editing once the drafting and writing is finished, or whether you might need more time to save up.
The submissions process takes a good amount of research and time, which you should take into account when planning and budgeting. What this step involves is looking up different publishers, examining their catalogues, backlists, and publishing mandates, and deciding if they are a good fit for your book. As previously mentioned, this will also involve creating any number of documents that will be submitted with your manuscript, including cover letters, author bios, chapter outlines or a synopsis, etc. This step requires more budgeting of your own time than money.
If you’ve decided to go the self-publishing route, that’s great! However, you should be very much aware of how much it will cost you to publish your book this way. Many self-publishing companies offer a variety of services that you can choose from, and some offer comprehensive packages for publishing your book that include things like editing, design and layout of book and a cover, and maybe even some marketing.
For example, if I wanted to print through BookBaby, for 100 copies of a 6 x 9 soft & gloss cover, 250-page print book and ebook combo that requires formatting and a basic cover design, and print-on-demand for global retailers (including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), plus ISBNs and a dynamic layout, that’s already $2,231.00 USD. If I add book promotion services on to that, the total jumps to $3,428.00 USD. Of course, there will be some services that are lower, and some that are likely higher as well. That’s why it’s important to look into these things.
There are other options that allow you to design your own book through portals or by using templates, and you may find these options are more to your liking financially. So, do your research, ask for quotes, and see what services are out there and which ones you think your book will need, and budget accordingly.
Using social media in a planned and thoughtful way can help you promote your book well and get your name out there. As TEC’s Social Media Editor Jean puts it in her blog A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media for Writers & Editors:
Today is a great age for freelance work and entrepreneurship! Literary professionals and freelancer editors can carve out a space for themselves to advertise and promote their work on various social media outlets. You don’t need to have marketing or PR professionals. You don’t need an executive team to curate what, when, or how you publish and market the things that you do. Social media gives you the breathing room to build your brand, content, and audience the way that you want to. And for writers, it means that self-publishing is within the realm of possibility if you dedicate some serious time to building your social media presence.
Remember that you need to build a strong social media presence during the writing of your book so that when your book is published you have an audience who is ready to hear about it and keen to help you promote it.
Many authors make the mistake of creating a social media presence upon publication of their book, then trying to build an audience using a lot of self-serving content to promote their book. The right way to build an audience is to start the process months or even a year in advance. Build an audience by providing great content, join writing communities, and get involved. Once you’ve built up a good number of followers who follow you for the right reasons, then start teasing the release of your book. Lastly, avoid buying followers in the form of bots — sure, your numbers are inflated, but remember, bots can’t buy books, only real live people can.
In the end, creating a publishing management plan is important because it helps to guide your project from manuscript to published book, no matter what publishing direction you take. It will give you a realistic expectation of how much time and money the process is going to require, and helps you manage your expectations of how things are going to progress. These are all important steps in the publishing journey, and the plan helps you map out each step of the way. Our resource guide, "Building Your Publishing Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide for Authors," will give you all the information you need to create a customized publishing plan that will work for you and your needs, so make sure you take a look!