When your office is a coffee shop…

I’m writing this post outdoors. I’m at one of my favourite coffee spots in Buderim on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and my view (see the pic above) from where I sit goes across a lot of green to the coast. One of my other fave spots to write is at Mooloolaba Surf Club – with the ocean right there in front of me. I know how lucky I am.

Because I work from home for the day job I tend to do most of my creative work away from home – it helps my brain separate the two very different types of work so that I can jump straight from corporate into creating. That means I spend a lot of time in coffee shops and cafes.

There are, however, some unwritten rules around working in coffee shops that you should follow if you don’t want to wear out your welcome.

1.Don’t sit there and drink the free water. I have a general rule of a coffee (or whatever) at least every hour.

2. Try and avoid the rush times. I tend to avoid cafes that I know have the Mum rush straight after school drop-offs and usually also steer clear of the busy breakfast and lunch rushes. This is especially the case on weekends when many places here on the coast do brunch. And yes, most of my writing work happens on the weekend.

3. If you are there at mealtime, order something to eat – especially if it’s a popular café. Otherwise, you’re depriving the owner of being able to fill your seat with a paying customer.

4. Never spread out across a big table. If there is a counter, I tend to use that or will select a table for two. I also try and sit out of the way of general traffic.

5. I try not to take long phone calls when I’m working in someone else’s space. If you can’t avoid the call, keep your voice down. Oh, and pop your phone on silent – even if, like me, you’re secretly a tad proud of your personalised ringtones.

6. Don’t sing along to the music – even if you do so at home (although every so often I do find my shoulders bopping up and down). Also even if the music being played is not to your taste, resist the urge to ask the owner to change their playlist or station. If you don’t like it, then find somewhere else to work.

7. If you’re there to work, don’t take your kids – or your animals – as you won’t be able to focus on keeping a proper eye on them. There is, of course, an exception for those exceedingly good dogs that are content to lie still under your feet – but only in dog-friendly cafes…

8. Don’t complain or do the loud heavy sighing and tsk tsk thing if other people – who aren’t there to work – distract you. If you don’t like a busy cafe or loud voices or noisy children, find somewhere else that’s quieter. Or put your earbuds in and listen to music. Your choice.

9. Keep an eye on what can be seen on your screen – especially if there are children around. Also be careful of audio files on social media.

10. Don’t abuse the free wi-fi. Just don’t. And, if things get busy and you’ve been there for a while, it’s probably time for you to vacate your spot to allow someone else to enjoy it.

11.  These days plenty of people find their favourite coffee shop via Instagram, so show a little social media love back to your coffee shop with a post or two.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me. I’m on holiday at the moment, so apologies if I don’t get around to responding to comments.

2018: The Creative Goals

I fell sadly behind on my writing goals last year. I’d planned to publish another two novels and also two astro ebooks – and sell loads of them – and it just didn’t happen.

I drew up my production schedule and, because I didn’t pin it anywhere, promptly forgot about it. I told you the other day how my attention to detail and focus is a tad like Dory’s didn’t I?

That doesn’t, however, mean that 2017 was a lost cause…

What I wrote in 2017

I wrote most of the first draft of I Want You Back – about 60,000 words worth – before ditching the lot and starting again at the end of April. The story just wasn’t working. You can read the post here.

I’ve instead split it into three novels. I’m calling it the Careful What You Wish For mini-series. I Want You Back is the first, then I’ll do Tiff’s story and tie everything up with Alice – completely wrapping up what I started with Baby, It’s You.

That essentially put me about four months behind schedule and I finally completed I Want You Back towards the end of last year. It’s been re-worked, edited, copy-edited and proofread. All it needs is a blurb and some formatting. Don’t ask me why I haven’t released it yet because I wouldn’t be able to give you an honest answer – and that’s mainly because I don’t know myself.

While I was figuring out the story I also wrote a good chunk of Tiff’s book and a few chapters of Alice’s.

Finally, on the novel front, I used nanowrimo to write the first 60,000 words in something new and more grown-up. It has the working title Happy Ever After, but I daresay that will change. If you’ve ever wondered about the trials and tribulations of writing and publishing a novel, I’m blogging it weekly…well, there was a break for Christmas and I’ll be back with an update next week. You can find all the old posts here.

In addition:

  • Between this site, and anyways and the astro site, I wrote over 350 blog posts.
  • I wrote a 3000-word feature article for Wellbeing Astrology on mid-life transits and,
  • I spent most of April and some of May writing 2018 horoscopes for the astro diaries I contribute to.

That’s a lot of words.

What’s in store for this year?

  • Release I Want You Back on all the normal platforms
  • Complete and publish Happy Ever After – or whatever it ends up being called
  • Complete and publish the Tiff book
  • First draft the Alice book
  • I’ve set aside November for nanowrimo and the first in a cozy mystery series I’ve been wanting to write for ages – The Rambling Rose Mysteries. It will be set in Queenstown and brings back Max and Richie from Wish You Were Here – as well as a whole heap of other characters.
  • I’ll also finally package up blog content from the astro site and pop it into a series of ebooks
  • I’ve built in 3 weeks in April and May where I won’t be doing any writing at all. I’m off to France with my husband to visit a friend and have a mosey about…maybe for more ideas? This will be the first decent stretch of time I’ve taken with no writing commitments in I can’t remember how long.

Because I can’t help myself I’ve mapped it into a project plan of sorts. This year I’m printing it out and pinning it where I can’t miss it.

Naturally, dates etc will be dependent on my editor’s and cover designer’s availability, but I tend to hit a certain percentage of a target, so I might as well make the target a big hairy-arsed one!

What about you? Do you set writing or creative targets for the year ahead?

2018 – The Business Plan

Here at The Hungry Writer, my business partner (Kali, Adventure Spaniel) and I have been busy doing some future planning.

We’ve been brainstorming, whiteboarding and thought balling. We’ve tossed around ideas, set some blue sky targets, taken a helicopter view of the situation and gone for a stroll through the blame garden. We’ve confronted the variables of our economic landscape and recalibrated our thinking in terms of our client base moving forward. We’ve looked to reposition our offerings in line with the goals underpinning our mission statement and with a view to nurturing and cherishing our ongoing commitment to excellence at every level. Outcome focus as a means of achieving positive deliverables within a realizable factual matrix. We’ve drawn a line in the sand and we have some clear visions regarding future-proofing the company and generating passive income.

Kali in planning mode

What does this mean? I poured a wine and started to write some stuff down. Kali alternated between snoring and wagging her tail encouragingly. By the time I finished my wine, I had a business plan for 2018.

Vision Statement

To be a financially successful independent author.

3-year strategy for focused growth

  • Increase product offering
  • Increase independent income to day job levels
  • Do more speaking at conferences and workshops

5-year strategy for focused growth

  • Continue to increase product offering
  • Increase independent income to mid-six figures
  • Be known as a successful writer

Values – my WHY

Success, for me, is defined as living (or being) the following values:


  • The financial freedom to travel, explore and create
  • The professional freedom to choose and pursue my projects


  • The financial independence to build my own income and success
  • The professional independence to work with teams of my choice

Make a difference

  • Fiction: To be known as an author whose books provide a happy ending and whose stories make a bad day feel better
  • Astrology: To provide readers with the tools to expand their potential and increase their good day ratios

The Challenges

  • I have good traffic and social media presence on the astro site – am currently ranked in the top 50 astrology sites – but have no product to sell.
  • I have products to sell as The Hungry Writer but have limited traffic to the site and limited awareness of my books. It surprised me recently when regular visitors to my page via the weekly links were unaware that I’m an author.
  • I work 3-3.5 days a week in a corporate gig, so time to create needs to be tightly structured.

My Priorities: 2018 in focus

Double the number of products offered for sale.

Currently, I have 7 products for sale:

  • Baby, It’s You (Amazon)
  • Baby, It’s You (ibooks)
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry (Amazon)
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry (ibooks)
  • Wish You Were Here (Amazon)
  • Wish You Were Here (ibooks)
  • Wish You Were Here (Ingram Sparks print on demand)

In 2018 I’ll:

  • Release I Want You Back on all platforms
  • Release (working title) Happy Ever After on all platforms
  • Package and release six astro ebooks for sale on Amazon.

Double business income year on year and keep an eye on the numbers

Despite fiction being responsible for over 80% of my cost base, it accounts for just over 22% of my writing income – the remainder comes from freelance astrology commissions. This needs to begin to even out.

Just as I monitor the numbers on the websites, I have to take my head out of my own arse and do the same with book sales. Monthly.

Work smarter

  • Traffic on both sites responds to new content (see graphs below), but this is time-consuming to produce, so I need to be smarter and more focused on my content offerings
  • Repackage where possible (astro posts)
  • Develop a calendar for blog posts and batch post and schedule in advance once a week to maximise time I can spend creating content that will be income producing in the future

Increase email list- both astro and fiction lists

  • Develop a schedule for newsletters – and stick to it
  • Develop a “lead magnet” for each brand to grow mailing lists

Increase general brand awareness

  • Draft list of potential speaking topics and begin actively seek out opportunities
  • Develop press releases for all new fiction
  • Begin developing networks in Sunshine Coast and Brisbane
  • Increase traffic to The Hungry Writer – target is 40,000 views in 2018. It was just on 30,000 in 2017.

  • Increase traffic to Jo Tracey Astrology to 500,000 views (it was just over 400,000 in 2017)

Checking in…

I’ll check in on progress on a quarterly basis – sort of like my own mini CEO roadshow.

What about you? If you’re an author (indie or traditional), have you planned how you’ll grow your author business this year? What’s your ‘why’?



Introducing The Hungry Writer – and wrapping the week

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this week’s wrap-up is coming to you from a different website.  I’m phasing And Anyways out and am in the process of transferring some of the content across to here.

Why have I done this?

I originally created the author page midway through last year with the aim of showcasing my books and a focus on building my author profile – with a view to, of course, selling more books. There’s no point creating a product if no one knows about it.

And Anyways started life in 2012 as an overflow blog for everything I wanted to write about that didn’t fit on my astro site. With very few exceptions my astrology readers didn’t want to know about my travels, my life, or my writing. They just wanted the astro. Given that there’s a lot of them – almost 400,000 visitors in 2016, that’s what I give them. But I still wanted to write about my life – my travel, my experiences, the things that inspire my fiction. And anyways was created.

Yet, as I’ve begun publishing fiction the site address – a nod to a phrase I use constantly – has proven to be problematic. This came to a head a couple of months ago when there was a lot of confusion about what my site address actually was for the RWA program.

It’s become clear that I have 2 personas:

  • Jo Tracey who writes DIY astrology and
  • Joanne Tracey who writes fiction

My site statistics tell me:

  • There is negligible crossover from the Jo Tracey Astrology to either joannetracey.com or andanyways.com. Even when I’ve specifically linked in a post or a newsletter.
  • There is a little traffic from anyanyways.com to the astro site
  • There’s a lot of traffic from andanyways.com to joannetracey.com – and vice versa.

This tells me that the rambles of the hungry writer (my tagline for and anyways.com) and the books created by the hungry writer – based on those rambles – belong together.

It hasn’t sat well with me to have these posts on a different site from the books they inspired.  Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry are both set partially in Bali. Baby, It’s You, Big Girls Don’t Cry, and I Want You Back are set mostly in Melbourne – as will be the catchily titled Book After I Want You Back and Book After The Book After I Want You Back. Wish You Were Here is split between The Cotswolds in England and Queenstown, New Zealand.

In splitting the sites I’ve compromised both my traffic and my reach – and made life harder for myself from a content creation viewpoint. Yes, I’m a travel and lifestyle blogger, but primarily I’m an author.

To cut a long and increasingly boring story short, this site, The Hungry Writer, will be where you’ll find all my posts.  I’ve purchased the domain the hungrywriter.com.au and will be pointing it in this direction over the next week or so.

I still have some tweaking to do and widgets to set up, but I hope you can find your way around here ok.

For my and anyways readers, there will usually be one writing post a week going up here – probably on a Wednesday. For my author page readers, you’ll be seeing more travel and lifestyle posts. I’d really love it if we can all get along.

And for my astro readers? Jo Tracey Astrology is remaining unchanged. You’ll find it where it always is – here. I’m also keeping my Sunshine Coast blog separated for now too. If you’re interested in places to go, see and eat at on the Sunshine Coast, you’ll find them here.

Ok, without further ado, let’s do a quick wrap of the week. Other than redesigning my website, what else went down?

What I struggled with…

Time zone changes. Where I live – in Queensland – we didn’t go to daylight saving. This wouldn’t be that much of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that mine (and my husband’s) work is based entirely back to Sydney. I’ve kept my work laptop configured to Sydney time, but even so, it’s seriously doing my head in.

What frustrated me…

My astro website was down for what amounted to 2 whole days. This was due to an outage of the server that it’s hosted on. Beyond annoying.

What I didn’t see…

Sunrise. We had a couple of days of rain here this week – we really needed it – but mostly I didn’t see the sunrise because it’s now peeking its head above the horizon at about 5.20am – and getting a minute earlier each day.

What thrilled me…

Seeing the purple flowers appear on the jacaranda tree in the verge. There’s also a papaya tree, but that’s another story.

What I learnt…

The name of this plant – also in the verge. Thanks to my instagram followers, I now know that it’s an Ixora.

Where we lunched…

In our unrelenting search to find the perfect place to have a beer on a sunny afternoon – I know, it’s a challenge most sensible people would shy away from – we tried out Guru Life. I loved the spicy corn fritters, the pineapple wallpaper on the counter, the leafy courtyard, the mis-matched furniture and the duck pond.

You can read more about it here.

Also on the Sunny Coast site, was something on another beer garden/bar/Mexican restaurant – La Canteena.

Phew, that was my week – how was yours?

Marketing strategies – and why you need one…

Midway through last year I had a crisis of confidence. I’d already published Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry and was about to publish Wish You were Here. I was proud of what I was doing, but at the same time aware that no one knew my books were were out there. That had to change. I had to start getting my message out…but how?

Did I need to find an agent? Maybe start the run around of publishers again? Or, was there a part of the publishing cycle I was missing? There was: marketing.

The way I figured it, if I had a contract with a traditional publisher, they’d do some marketing for me, although as a newbie author, I’d also be required to do quite a bit of it for myself too. It followed, then, that if a publishing company had a marketing department, then I’d need one too.

Why invest in a marketing strategy?

Because I wanted to sell more books.

As I’ve mentioned before, this business of writing is, for me, a business. I do it because I love it and I do it because I want to be successful at it – and success for me is measured in terms of sales and, therefore, income.

Besides, what’s the point of writing a book that’s as good as I can make it, and spending the money on a great editor and a cover I’m proud of to have no one buy it?

What to expect from a marketing strategy…

It really depends on who you use and what you want to achieve. If you want to sell more books, a good marketing strategy should give you the tools and the information to help you do that.

I chose Mel Kettle, from Mel Kettle Consulting, to help me with my strategy. Mel and I had got to know each other (virtually) though various forms of social media and, despite having been in weekly fitbit challenges with each other for a couple of years, we’d never met in real life.

Mel broke my strategy down into 3 parts:

  1. What do I want to achieve?

First up was an introductory session. This was where Mel got to know me, my motivations, my background and my goals – all of which were important for the next step. Mel is based in Brisbane, so rather than do this by skype, we arranged to meet when I was on the Sunshine Coast last July. I won’t post the photos because I think I had dreadlocks…ok, I know I had dreads.

Anyways, this was the most challenging part of the process for me – it was also arguably the most valuable. Why? Although I’d said that I wanted to sell more books and be successful as a writer, when asked I had absolutely no idea what that looked like.

Mel asked me questions that I couldn’t answer – not properly. Questions like:

  • How do I measure success?
  • How many books do I intend to sell this year?
  • Next year?
  • The year after?
  • How do I see my business looking in 5 years time?
  • How much am I prepared to invest?
  • How much work am I prepared to do myself?

Answering questions such as these was a huge step for me. From this I was able to develop my business strategy to complement Mel’s marketing strategy.

  1. How do I want to achieve it?

The second part of the process was a brainstorming or planning session.

We worked through strengths and weaknesses; examined opportunities; and looked at where I tend to waste my energy (I didn’t tell her about my procrastiwatching, procrastibaking or Midsomer obsession…but I think she knew). We also identified issues that were obstacles to me achieving my goals. In my case these were summarised into just 2 areas:

  • Limited time – I work 4 days a week (sometimes 5) and they are long and full days involving me being away from home for over 12 hours a day (3 of which are spent commuting).
  • I have competing priorities – As well as my partition job, I also dabble in some freelance astrology writing, and maintain a content-hungry astrology blog.

The key take away for me was learning to prioritise the time that I have available, and committing to set aside a particular chunk of hours each week to focus on marketing activities.

  1. What do I need to do?

From this planning session we agreed some actions – some of which I could put into place immediately, and others that would require a little more thought and commitment. These were clearly outlined in a strategy document for me to follow.

We then agreed to catch up in three months to see how I was going against these actions. This too was a super valuable part of the process as it kept me accountable for my results.

Was it worth it?

Yes. Without a doubt.

Mel came up with ideas I hadn’t thought of, and simplified concepts I’d thought were too complex or time-consuming. Before writing the plan, she’d taken the time to understand me – and my goals – and tailored the strategy accordingly.

I’ve completed a number of the action items on the list, but others I’m yet to do. A few more will be appropriate for when I publish I Want You Back. Most importantly, the strategy Mel devised for me can also be used to grow my readership and email list on the astrology blog – and sell product through there as well.

The bottom line is that paying for a marketing strategy is a little like reading a diet book. It’s not enough to read it – and just having it won’t guarantee you success…you actually need to live it and commit to it. Nor will it bring overnight success – it takes time for improvements to be seen, but when they are, if you’ve been keeping a track of your sales before and after, it’s relatively easy to measure the impact of your strategy.

The way I figure it, I’ve paid for a tool – if I sit on my arse and don’t use or refer to it again, I’ve wasted the money.

When should you do this?

There are some marketing actions that you can do from the start – before you even have anything published. These are things like:

  • Creating a website
  • Creating a blog – and creating regular content for it
  • Establishing your presence on social media.

For other actions, it’s best to already have some books out there. Not only do you have something to measure your results against, but you can also spread the expense across each of those books – rather than attributing it to just one.

The biggest message though? It’s all very well having a marketing strategy, but you have to have something to market. Speaking of which, I have today’s word count to finish!

Business Planning for Indie Authors…

businesswoman thinking

So anyways, one of my goals this year is to grow my writing business. Given that it is a business, it needs to be treated as one – and for that reason it needs a business strategy.

I began the process of this in the middle of last year and invested in some marketing consultancy. As an aside, I used Mel Kettle Consulting and she was fabulous. I’ll tell you all about why indie authors need marketing strategies and what to expect from the process in a separate post.

Part of the outcome from this work was an examination of my strengths and my weaknesses – and, most importantly, required me to talk about what it was that I wanted from my business. I have to admit, at the time I hadn’t thought as long and hard about these things as I should have. I threw some figures around, but hadn’t put a lot of science behind them.

Since then, I’ve analysed the data – and developed a longer-term plan. It’s one that has actions and dates and numbers attached to it. Of course everyone knows it’s not a strategy doc until it’s in a power-point presentation, but I consulted with my business partner (Kali, Adventure Spaniel) and we decided we couldn’t be faffed.

In building my strategy I looked at:

WHO I want to be: My vision

WHAT I aim to achieve

HOW I’ll implement the strategy in 2017

WHY I want to do this. What values are important

Ok, here goes:

Vision Statement

To be a financially successful independent author.

3 year Strategy for focused growth

  • Increase product offering
  • Increase independent income to day job levels
  • Begin speaking at conferences and workshops

My Priorities: 2017 in focus

1. Double the number of products offered for sale.

Currently I have 5 products for sale:

  1. Baby, It’s You (Amazon)
  2. Big Girls Don’t Cry (Amazon)
  3. Big Girls Don’t Cry (ibooks)
  4. Wish You Were Here (Amazon)
  5. Wish You Were Here (Ingram Sparks print on demand)

By the end of 2017, there will be 10.

2. Double business income year on year

Despite fiction being responsible for over 80% of my cost base, it accounts for just over 22% of my writing income – the remainder comes from freelance astrology commissions. This needs to begin to even out.

3. Increase email list- both astro and fiction lists

  • Double down on content offerings
  • Develop a calendar for blog posts and schedule in advance
  • Develop a schedule for newsletters
  • Marketplace for astrology list

4. Increase general brand awareness

  • Attend Romance Writers Conference
  • Draft list of potential speaking topics and begin actively seek out opportunities
  • Develop press releases for all new fiction
  • Begin developing networks in Sunshine Coast and Brisbane when relocated

Values – my WHY

Success, for me, is defined as living (or being) the following values:

1. Freedom

  • The financial freedom to travel, explore and create
  • The professional freedom to choose and pursue my projects

2. Independence

  • The financial independence to build my own income and success
  • The professional independence to work with teams of my choice

3. Make a difference

  • Fiction: To be known as an author whose books provide a happy ending and whose stories make a bad day feel better
  • Astrology: To provide readers with the tools to expand their potential and increase their good day ratios

Checking in…

I’ll check in on progress on a quarterly basis – sort of like my own mini-roadshow.

What about you? If you’re an author (indie or traditional), have you planned how you’ll grow your author business this year? What’s your ‘why’?

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2017: The Writing Goals

2017 goals word abstract on napkin

So that was 2016. Tomorrow night we’ll be raising a glass to it and sending it on its way. There’s no denying 2016 was difficult – for me personally, and for many of you too. Yet it was also a year that brought with it some pretty big highs. I guess, though, that’s what you need – a mix of highs and lows. It’s what gives the year texture. Plus, it’s the lows in life that make us uncomfortable enough to change what isn’t working.

Another thing I’m a believer in is setting myself goals. Aside from the fact that if you don’t know what you want to get done, you’re unlikely to get it done, I’m not great with boundaries. Having a set of goals and deadlines helps me not only remember what it was I declared so confidently on the stroke of midnight last year, but also keeps me on track. It can somehow help to balance out the highs and lows – or at least bring the lows more into your favour. As an aside, my resolutions are usually declared confidently somewhere before midnight as I’m rarely still awake for the main event.

2016 was a big year – even if my output doesn’t show it:

  • Published Wish You Were Here (in October)
  • Released Wish You Were Here to print on demand – and got so busy with selling the house I didn’t tell anyone about it
  • Revamped the cover of Baby, It’s You so it aligns with the other two
  • Wrote a 3000 word feature article for Wellbeing Astrology in April
  • Spent much of February and March writing 2017 horoscopes for these astro diaries.
  • Between each of my 3 websites (Jo Tracey Astrology, And Anyways and this one), I wrote over 280 blog posts.

Put it all together and that’s an awful lot of words – and doesn’t count re-writes and edits…and boy were there a lot of them for Wish You Were Here.

Anyways, I’m keen I have to continue the momentum. This, the writing, is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. That means that if I have to continue to do the juggling thing in order to afford to live and pay the mortgage and other essentials like location scouting trips (ahem) until I have enough of a back catalogue or enough of a following to make a living, then that’s what I‘ll do*.

Which leads me ever so neatly into my writing goals for this year:

  • Publish another two chick lit novels.
  • Publish the first two astro workbooks in the Tuesday Toolbox series
  • Release Baby, It’s You and Wish You Were Here on ibooks and kobo
  • Release Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry to print on demand.
  • Sell loads of all of them (and yes, I have a number in mind)

Because I’m a project manager, I did, of course, pop everything I need to do into a project plan. Yep, I’m sad. I’d print it up and stick it on the wall, but I think my real estate agent would frown at that.



Of course, the dates will be dependent on whether my editor and cover designer etc can fit me in, but that’s ok, I have contingency built in.

To make sure I wasn’t losing track of it all, I also filtered the tasks to whoe when I’d actually be writing. It looks like below – and, all going well, frees me for a completely new project at the end of the year.



What else?

The key to all of this is increasing my mailing list, so I’ll be working on that this year too. I have the same sign-up form over at and anyways, so if you signed up there, you don’t need to do it here as well.

So, that’s my year taken care of- what are your writing goals for 2017? Go on, let’s get them out there- so loudly that the Universe has to take notice!

*It doesn’t follow that I won’t whinge or dramatically declare just how totally stressed I am from time to time.

Project Management for Indie Authors…

Project Management

Wish You Were Here is off being made ready for publication. This time I’ll be having the file converted not only to kindle and ibooks formats (epub and mobi files), I’m also having it converted to paperback file as well. Anyways, this is the last step before I press publish. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. I’m second guessing pretty well every decision I’ve made. Whatever…

Now, I’ve done a few project plans in my life- I know a thing or two about them. I also know that the key to any good project plan is the following:

  • Work backwards. Yep. You heard me. Backwards. From your due/ live date.
  • Identify any dependencies and milestones on your critical path.
  • Ask the “what if” and “what has to happen before” questions.
  • Clarify (you’ll see this word used a lot below) and triple check everything- there is no such thing as assumption

These tasks are to get your ebook out there to your waiting public. If you’re also doing print on demand (which I will be as well this time), you’ll have additional tasks that will include such things as barcodes. It will also impact your cover design…don’t worry, I’ll post on this when I work it out for myself! Don’t forget, you’ll also have marketing and social media activities as well…we’ll talk about that another time.

  1. What day do you want to go live? Set your date. I’m an astrologer, so naturally, I’ve cast a chart for this. More importantly, my book finishes in Queenstown, and as I’ll be there in a few weeks, that was always going to be my end point. Hubby and me at my launch party in a bar in Queenstown.
  2. If you’re doing a pre-sale on Amazon you’ll need to have your final file in 10 days before the live date.
  3. Before you list on Amazon, you’ll need your:
  • Catalogue in Publication number (CIP)- allow 10 days
  • ISBN numbers for each format (available on the spot, but required for your CIP)
  • US Tax Nos…or the equivalent. Allow 8 weeks.
  • Your Synopsis/ description
  • Your cover
  • A file in the correct format
  1. File conversion. If you’re outsourcing this, allow ten working days, but clarify with your provider. For this you’ll need your:
  • CIP numbers
  • ISBN numbers
  • A Bio
  • A dedication
  • A cover
  • An acknowledgement
  1. Proof-reading. If you’re outsourcing this, clarify with your provider. If not, allow sufficient time to pass through at least twice. I’d suggest allocating at least 2 weeks to this task- more if, like me, your talent is not in your attention to detail.
  2. Copy edit. Allow 4 weeks for your editor, and another 2-3 weeks for you to accept or reject any changes.
  3. Structural edit. Allow your editor 4-5 weeks (but clarify). Then schedule yourself (depending on your other workload) at least 4-6 weeks to absorb the feedback and make the required changes. If you need a second pass, this time could double or triple.
  4. If you’re outsourcing your cover, allow:
  • 2-4 weeks to go back and forward with your designer
  • 2-4 weeks to agree a design.

These are your major food groups, and will form your critical path.

If you’re doing promotions such as a blog tour, or getting advance reviews, you’ll need to allow time for your book to go out for these. You’ll also need to add tasks for these.

In the absence of project management tools, I just knocked up a quick excel spreadsheet. It started life as a set of post it stickers along the wall- my very favourite way of planning projects.

Other hints?

  • Set your own deadlines and stick to them. These will be the dates on your critical path. If you were publishing with a traditional publisher you’d have deadlines- just because you’re doing it yourself is no reason to let your standards and schedule slip.
  • Don’t forget to add in time for obtaining quotes, agreeing quotes, researching suppliers (eg designers, editors etc), and, well, life to get in the way.
  • Mark your dependencies in a different colour or highlighter. Eg, ISBNs are a dependency for your conversion, your CIP request, and your Amazon listing.
  • Clarify due dates with your suppliers e.g. editor, designer, etc and those helping with your marketing
  • Project managers always have contingency up their sleeve…just don’t tell anyone (even yourself) about it…

Good luck!

3 steps to project management for indie authors…


For much of the last twenty years I’ve wrestled with project plans for a living. What’s that got to do with writing and indie publishing? Quite a lot as it happens.

Being an indie publisher isn’t just about writing a book and hitting publish on Amazon (or your platform of choice). As soon as you make the decision to publish independently, you become…wait for it…an independent publisher. And that means that you need a budget (we’ll talk about that next time) and a project plan. At the very least. In short, you need to do for yourself all the things that a traditional publisher would normally do for you.

Really? Yes, really.

The hard fact is, publishing a book is a project in itself- and all projects have three key steps:

  • Quality or scope
  • Time
  • Budget

Any decision you make in any of these areas will have an impact on something else:

Quality or scope

Every project has what we call CTQs- or Critical To Quality. It goes without saying that you want this book to be the absolute best version of itself that you can make it, but you may have other deal-breakers as well.

Amongst other things, you need to decide on the platforms you’ll release to, the editor/s you’ll use, the cover design process. You’ll also need to consider how long you have to write the book, and what you’re prepared to do to make it the best it can be. Another question at this point you’ll need to think about is what success for this book looks like. Is it reviews, sales, or something else?

What comes out of this exercise are the tasks you need to complete, the time in which you’ll need to have them completed, and the budget you’ll be working within.


It’s here that you need to determine your release date- and what you need to do to get there. Do you need to pay someone to complete a task that you planned on doing yourself? If so, you’ll need to re-cast your budget. Are you moving the date forward? This could mean having to make do with one editorial pass rather than two. Perhaps you decide to save time and money by designing the cover yourself? The choices you make in regards to time will impact both quality and budget.


This is the tough one.

We’ll work through this in a separate post, but you’ll need to make decisions regarding your spend on:

  • Editing
  • Cover design
  • Marketing
  • Sale price

There could be other expenses too that need to be factored in. Say you want to use a line from a song? That will cost. Sometimes a lot. The resultant impact to your budget could mean you need to re-draft part of your story. That could have a flow-on effect to your release date. Maybe it means you miss your window with your editor and have to wait for another. Now your whole schedule is out.

What are your financial goals for this book? Do you expect to earn back your investment or are you taking a longer view? How many copies do you want to sell? In what time frame? What do you need to do to achieve this? Do you need to factor in marketing or advertising spend? If your objective is to break even with this book, you’ll need to work out how many copies at different price points will get you there.

As indies, we need to do all of this for ourselves…it’s not just about turning up for the fun stuff. Such is the life when you head up (ahem) a publishing empire…

Next time: Project planning for indies.

What is an ISBN and why do you need one?


My copy edit should be back soon, but in the meantime, there’s plenty of getting ready to publish stuff I can be getting on with. Now that the cover has been decided, let’s talk numbers. If you’re publishing your book as an indie author, there are two that you’ll need:

  • An ISBN
  • A CiP

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a standard 13 digit number that uniquely identifies books published internationally. It will usually appear on your copyright page at the front of the book.

Print books must have an ISBN, but there’s a reasonable amount of confusion after that- with a lot of contradictory advice online. Essentially, if you intend to sell your book it’s probably a good idea to get one. And when I say get one, you’ll need one for each format the book is being produced in:

  • Mobi for Kindle
  • Epub for Kobo and ibooks
  • Paperback (includes print on demand)
  • Hardback (if you’re going there)
  • Etc

ISBNs can be purchased singly, in blocks of 10 or in blocks of 100. I buy mine in blocks of 10 from Thorpe-Bowker. One ISBN will cost you $44, and 10 will cost you $88. Yep, you do the maths on that. If you’re only intending on publishing one book and listing it only on Amazon, you might purchase just the single ISBN, otherwise, you’re better off having them there to allocate when you’re ready. Speaking of which, if you buy a block you can allocate them at any time.

For each title I allocate an ISBN for:

  • Mobi for Kindle
  • Epub for Kobo and ibooks
  • Paperback (includes print on demand) …even though I haven’t yet published any of my books in paperback.

If you intend selling your book physically in bookstores, you’ll also need to buy a barcode– retailers need them for inventory management. Thorpe-Bowker sell these as well. Again, there’s contradictory information out there re when you need a barcode. On the off-chance that a major seller happens to read my fabulous offering and orders a trunkful for sale, I’ve purchased a barcode for Wish You Were Here that I’ll have Jacinda pop into the back cover for me.

Barcodes can be purchased in packs starting from $45 per barcode (it gets cheaper the more you buy) and are also available in ISBN/barcode combo packs. There are free barcode generator tools out there as well- google it- but I find it easier to manage all my numbers in one place.

Anyways, back to the ISBN…Once it’s been allocated, it can’t be re-used. This means that any new edition of the book will also need a new ISBN. Reprints or re-issue for things like typos or new covers aren’t generally considered as new editions- it’s more about changes to the text or material that are considered substantial enough to make it a new “book.”

Oh, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that you don’t double up on your allocations.

As for actually getting and allocating ISBNs? The process is super easy and takes about 20 minutes. I tend to complete this task once I have my cover nailed.

Check out Thorpe-Bowker for the FAQs.

Cataloguing in Publication (CIP)

For Australian publishers (including Indies), CiP is provides a catalogue record for publications before they are published. It’s operated by the National Library of Australia and is free. The CiP number should appear on your copyright page.

What you need to know about a CiP reference is that you don’t have to have one- or rather, there is no legal requirement to have one. It is, however, used by libraries and book-sellers to place orders and search for books. As such, it’s a nice to have. And, did I mention that it’s free?

Again, the actual process is quite simple, but you will need to have your ISBNs allocated- you need these in your application.

I apply for the CiP as soon as I have my ISBNs. It can take up to 10 days to process and you’ll need to have them before you have your files converted for publication.

What’s next? Now I need to hunker down and write my back cover blurb- possibly the hardest part of the entire process…yes, really.