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.