Shop Talk: Publication Calendar for Hybrid Authors
Welcome back. I am Rekka, writing science fiction and fantasy as R.J. Theodore, and you, my audience, are coming to me one of two ways. You are either watching this video as my R.J. Theodore YouTube monthly shop-talk or you are listening as a subscriber, hopefully, to Hybrid Author Podcast. The podcast is audio only and, of course, you have audio and visual on YouTube. Consume how you like! Please interact, though, and share it with a friend, subscribe, et cetera. Leave a review. Those would all be great, wonderful things.
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So, the topic for this month, May 2019, is the orderly?—perhaps. Panicked?—definitely—process of scheduling out a hybrid author’s publication calendar. So I, myself, am a hybrid author. Conveniently, since that is the name of the podcast, anyway. I have a trilogy of books coming out through Parvus Press. Flotsam came out in March of 2018, Salvage comes out this September of 2019, and Cast Off should be coming out in 2020 at some point, I do not have a date yet. And so those are my traditionally published books.
I am at the mercy of the publisher's calendar, of course, that’s part of the deal. As a result of that, I don’t know, necessarily, when things are going to happen, when they are scheduled to have copy edits, etc. These things tend to pop up, so what I really need to get in the habit of doing, I’ve realized, is not be crunched for time when I’m trying to meet my own publishing schedule. I have several various stream of publishing. I have my Patreon, at patreon.com/rjtheodore where I publish monthly episodes of Phantom Traveler and those episodes are paired—sometimes, I might be a little bit behind—with an illustration. That content comes out monthly.
Now, I started off 2019 by writing a bunch of those episodes. I wanted to do the drawings monthly just to keep up my illustration skills, so when I fell behind, I didn’t have a back-up because I didn’t batch those. But I did batch the writing. Now, the end of this month is the last batched episode of Phantom Traveler. So I need to be moving ahead on writing the rest of those for this year. That’s June through November. I do take December “off” from the Patreon content, but I will probably be using December to catch up on illustrations—the way things are going.
So, yes. I have content going out through Patreon. From last year’s Patreon—and I will hold this up for the viewers on YouTube—I have a collected book of the 24 episodes that I did in 2018. In 2019, as I said, I’m only doing them monthly. I decided that 24 was a lot. I’m writing the same amount of words but—am I writing the same amount of words? No, I don’t think I am. I used the illustration to take the place of the other episode each month. So this book is now in some form of process to move toward publication. I wanted to have it out this month, that was my original plan, it might have been earlier originally. Originally. I keep adjusting because Salvage has been a bit of a process and I have made a lot of major revisions to the opening of Salvage, more than expected, honestly, and so that has caused me to fall behind on quite a few of my self-publishing goals.
So what I decided to do was treat this like a publishing house and come up with a production schedule for when I wanna release my books. So then I can work backward from there. So what I did was I started a timeline project in Asana. I have tasks in there for each step of the publication process, for each of the books I’m planning to release going forward, as far as I am aware of them. So that it’s not just, “Oh, I wanna release this book in August.” It’s, “I wanna release this book, therefore I should have scheduled my copyeditor by such and such date.”
What I want to do is get back to what I learned in my brief, one year of interior design in college. I am very grateful that that year was not wasted, and that I learned a lot about process. It was the first time that I’d ever had an instructor who said, “This is due way out here, but what I want to see from you is this step and then this step and this step in the interim. So picking out your fabric swatches, picking out your paint chips—” Things like that which, I don’t know when I might have started it. You know, well hopefully I would have started it right away. But as things start to fall behind, how do you stay on task?
The best way, and the thing that I really learned in that class, in that curriculum, was to make sure that I had a plan for each week. What was I going to be working on? And I sort of do that. I have a planner book and I write out, at the beginning of each week, what my tasks are that week, what my goals are. I have goals for each individual day, the top four things I need to be working on. I make the top thing a personal project, I make the other three things, things for work or other people. I’m trying to keep my focus on my own goals as primary. So I do that every week, but it doesn’t let you look ahead months, you know, a super number of weeks ahead. So I’m using Asana as a way to map out the production schedule for a book.
There was a service that seemed like it was going to be really handy and I cannot remember—it might have been called—no, I don’t know. Sorry. It was $10 a month, which at the time seemed pricey. Now, if it did what I wanted it to, it would have been really handy. But it didn’t let me do things out of order. Like it wouldn’t let me even consider that I had the cover done until I had earlier stages, like the draft, done. Sometimes you have the cover done first and you’re just sitting there and you can’t check it off. It was just a little frustrating. I couldn’t look ahead and say, “Well, I can’t be working on the draft right now because it’s with a reader, what else can I do?” And because I can’t check off the draft, I can’t move on to the next thing.
I’ve always wanted to create a web app that does what I wanted it to do, but that’s, you know, one more thing that I don’t have time to do. Would someone out there please create a web app that lets me manage my production calendar and lets me be a little bit more flexible with it? That lets me, you know, look ahead, rather than doing things in the prescribed order of actions. I don’t remember what that—it was called like Book Calendar or something, I don’t remember. It didn’t work out, so don’t go use it. Maybe it’s better now, but I have a feeling it probably evaporated rather than expanded.
I’m using Asana as my task manager. I’m using Asana because I use Asana for work and other things as well. It seems like the less places I’m splitting my focus, the better. Unfortunately, what it means is that I have a litany of tasks that I get emailed about every morning from Asana, and I tend to just delete the email without reading it and going, “Yeah, when I log in I’ll look at my task list depending on which area of my life I want to work on.” I have things that are just house chores and feeding pets that don’t get fed every day. Because we have lizards and their metabolism. You know, things like that. It can be a little bit of a heavy load to look at, but I think it’s offset by the fact that I only have to look at one place.
I have a publication timeline, and when I add tasks and due dates, they appear on a calendar. At the beginning of every month I can see and look ahead and say, “Oh, I really need to be working on that draft!” or “I really need to schedule that copyeditor,” or “I haven’t reached out to beta readers yet, I’d better get on that.” So for each of the seven—I think?—current projects I’m working on, I am creating this calendar.
What it’s showing me is that I’m going to have to be working on more than one thing at a time. I can’t just focus on this draft and then get to the other stuff after. Because it’s just not going to happen that way. So I’m going to have to say, “Okay, my morning writing time will go to this. That gets an hour. Then my lunch time, I might be able to work on this aspect, which doesn’t need me to be in that creative flow state so much as just focused. Or in the evenings, I’m on the couch, I can be working on this.” So that’s something that I’m just working into my current process.
The thing that occurs to me, if I’m being completely honest, is that when I wrote Flotsam, I was not doing anything else except for my day job. I wrote Flotsam and I wrote it in a month of hours in the morning and maybe a couple hours on the weekends. So I said, “Hey, cool, I can write a novel in a month.” So, later that year, I did the same thing with Salvage. I wrote a novel in a month. Twenty-five days, 88 thousand words. That was NaNoWriMo, that was my first NaNoWriMo as Municipal Liaison for my region. So I was attending all the write-ins. I thought that I would lose writing time to all the driving, but, frankly, the writing time at the write-ins was far more focused than that supposed extra time that I would have been writing at home. Which, of course, the truth is if I had been at home and not at the write-in on a Saturday afternoon, it was very unlikely that I’d be writing at all. Because Saturday afternoons tend to be other times. Grocery shopping or other chores or going out for a bit. By going to a write-in, it guaranteed that I wrote. I would also write in the mornings, and then really be on a roll.
I got it in my head that I could write a novel in a month. So, you look at the year and that’s twelve novels. Well, obviously, I did not even come close to that. And then, the challenge that came after that year, was that now I am traditionally published for that series and so I am beholden to the contract, to the publisher. When they send me something, I drop everything to work on whatever they’ve assigned me. Even though they don’t expect it the next day, but I want to get it back as soon as possible. But it disrupts my calendar.
So now I have a calendar and I’m treating myself as a publisher. And I have my multiple projects and my multiple steps and this has been transferred into Asana, but I can’t hold up Asana to show you that. So I sat down and I figured out when these release dates are. I included the traditionally published things on there because they need to be on my horizon, if I can’t schedule them in specifically because I don’t know what the schedule is until something comes back from the publisher.
I’m trying to treat myself like I am a publisher of multiple books. I just also happen to be the author of all of these books as well. So, trying to balance how I work through this process. What I’ll have to be working on at the same time. I have Fringe, that—again, I’m holding up for those of you watching the video—I have beta reader comments and I’m going to read through that. My deadline for rereading that is June 8th. That gives me about a week, almost two weeks. That’s just for rereading it. At the same time, I want to be drafting the novella that I’m going to release in October. That is going to be drafted concurrently with the reread of Fringe; I’m not going to use my hour in the morning to read Fringe. I will be reading Fringe on the couch in the evenings because we always say we’re going to put on a movie and then we don’t and then I fall asleep. So instead of sleeping, I should just read.
Then I have an outline that I will be doing concurrently with the reread and the draft, and I will just have to figure out at what point in the day I work on the outline. Maybe I’ll do that on the couch. Because it’s not something where it’s like drafting where I have to really be in a flow state. I’m problem solving, so I could potentially work on it when I’m just sitting on the couch, as opposed to needing to be out here by myself with no interruptions. It takes a lot of thought, it takes a lot of work, but it’s more piecemeal than just trying to unhinge my logical brain from my creative brain and let the fingers do all the work.
So these are three things that I will have to be working on at the same time. There are probably even more steps that I can’t see because I’m not looking at my calendar view. But it’s going to help me say, “Okay, you have to find a balance if you’re going to hit all these things.” I’m not saying that seven projects in one year is something I want to make a habit of, but I want to try it.
Some of these dates, it really only makes sense to release them at certain times. For instance, this novella that I want to release in October, is a spooky story. So I want to release it on a Halloween. But it also comes immediately following the events of Salvage which comes out in September. And if Cast Off, book three, comes out the following September—I don’t know that for sure, but there’s a good chance—if it comes out the following September, then it will be, if I waited for the next October to release the spooky novella, it would come out at the wrong time. So, really, that novella needs, in my opinion, to come out this October. So that’s why it’s coming out this October.
Fringe is the 2018 collection. Does it need to come out this year? No, but I would very much like to finish it up because it’s got cover art. If you’re watching the video, you can see, it has cover art. I already have the beta readers’ feedback. I just need to revise it, copyedit, and release it. That way, anyone who’s bought The Bantam online will be able to purchase a copy of Fringe. Then I’m, you know, moving on from there.
I have more ideas and more stories in this universe, and I don’t want to keep putting them off. So I might go back to this model in 2020. When I say ‘this model’ I’m referring to writing, basically, the chapters—the episodes?—of a season. I may not continue the illustration thing that I started to do in 2019 because I’m falling behind on it already. And I need to put those in my calendar, I haven’t put those in my calendar yet.
So this year, and how this goes, will help me shape future years. But if I’m going to attempt it, my point is, that I need to attempt it. And I need to be organized about it. And I am very typically an organized person, but I really—Okay, when I get a plate of food, I eat my way around the plate. I don’t get a little of this, a little of this, and a little of this. I will eat all of the cauliflower and then all the steak and then all the gravy, or whatever’s on the plate. I have been training myself to take a little of each bite when I eat. I need to be training myself to work a little bit on each project, if I’m going to meet these goals that I’ve set for this year. And then I will learn from that and I will say, “Are those the goals that I want to set for 2020 and beyond?” I don’t know, we will see. Possibly not, possibly not seven things.
I have already considered that I need to rethink about the way I want to do Patreon. As I mentioned, I might go back to just writing enough to make a novella for the year. I may make that a different project, and release them as short stories to my patrons and then release it as a collected anthology. I have a Peridot Shift anthology that I’m planning to release. I thought I would do it this year, but because that novella is coming out by itself now, that was originally going to be part of the anthology, I think I will wait and hold off until next year. Because those stories are going to be all over the place in the chronology of the book. So that one’s not as critical because it’s going to confuse somebody anyway.
So, yes. I need, as I said, to try this out. I would suggest this, if you have multiple books and multiple storylines and multiple threads and multiple projects and market releases that you were planning, Patreon versus Amazon in wide and all that. So that is my suggestion, and that’s what I’m enacting. We’ll see how this goes. I may not talk about this again next month unless it really proves to be effective or not. I think I’d rather play the long game and see at the end of the year how this worked out. So next time it will be a different topic and then maybe in December I will use my Shop Talk to review the entire year, or record it as a separate thing.
Anyway, thank you to you who listened or watched on YouTube or through the Hybrid Author Podcast. This is the May 2019 Statement of Intent for this Hybrid Author/Hybrid Publisher. I’m really curious to see how this goes. I have a lot of projects. I have bitten off a lot, but I have a very strong jaw and I will chew through it and we’ll see how I decide to move on from there.
If you have similar goals or have experienced similar attempts, please let me know how they went. You can reply @hybridauthor on the Twitter. The Twitter. You can tell me directly @bittybittyzap on Instagram or Twitter. You can, if you are a Patreon supporter, you can leave a comment on Patreon. If you are a shy type of person, you can just send me a note through the website and I will read it that way.
I’m really curious to know if you’ve attempted something like this. I’m talking seven projects at once which are publishable-length books, some shorter, some longer. Also working your schedule around a publisher’s schedule. So, yes. This is the Grand Experiment. If you have any similar attempts, I wanna hear about it.
If you are just, at this point, gawking and you want to help a friend gawk, you can send them a link to this episode and share it. Or subscribe and leave a rating and review on YouTube. I’d appreciate it. Also, iTunes. Again, depending on how you are consuming this content.
All right, thank you so much for listening and/or watching. I will talk to you in a month. Please remember that if you want more advice and tips and such, you can listen to the We Make Books podcast which recently launched on May 14th. I am talking in those episodes to Kaelyn Considine who is the acquiring editor at Parvus Press, and we answer lots of writing and publishing questions. From the nitty-gritty like How Do I Get My Advance to broader topics like all sorts of stuff, Going to Conventions, for example, the episode that will be up this week. May 28th is an episode recorded at the SFWA Nebulas. So do check that out.
All right, and, of course, if you just want to hear more of my voice but not anything useful, you can go listen to Nice Articulation which is the podcast that my husband and I now run. That is us opening toys and just having a nice chat for about half an hour. Yes, these are also going on my schedule.
All right, I’ll talk to you all next month. Take care, everyone. Have a great month of writing and publishing.