I’m writing this very short blog entry on Tuesday morning because . . . well, because I’ve been up to my neck and at my wits end trying to put the finishing touches on All Saints’ Day of the Dead since Friday. The good news is, the book is now up on Amazon. The bad news is . . . well, I suppose at this stage of the game, for me, there really isn’t any bad news. It’s all just lessons to be learned. So, in that spirit, here’s a quick list of advice/lessons learned on completing the final stages of your book.
Schedule! All of the pain I’ve experienced in the last two weeks, which have been super hectic, could’ve been avoided if I’d bothered to schedule my work more carefully. In fact this has been my main mistake with All Saints–being way too nonchalant with the schedule. I won’t belabor this point (because I don’t have time), except to say that 1) remember that everything basically takes longer than you expect it to and 2) if you are not actually looking at the calendar–plotting weekends, holidays, and laying in “padding” in the form of extra days at each stage of the process–you are essentially planning to run late.
Put the Manuscript into “Final” Format ASAP. Much of my frustration in the last 24 hours has been in working with the formatted version of my manuscript. For either a Kindle or a Paperback version of your book, you’re going to need to upload a file that’s formatted fairly differently than the version you probably wrote the manuscript in. The margins are different, the headers are different . . . if you want your book to look good, there’s a lot of little formatting details that have to be just right in the final document. I’ve found that you don’t have to pay someone else to do this for you. It’s not really that hard to format the final Kindle/Paperback version of the manuscript, but it’s can be tedious. And you really have to go through it with a fine tooth comb, checking for paragraph indentations, font size, alignment . . . all kinds of stuff. Next time, I’ll get the my manuscript into this final version sooner, giving me more time to find and fix little formatting details that need to be exactly right before the book goes live.
Give Yourself a Runway. This is basically just an extension of the scheduling idea, but it’s probably worth isolating the point. Which is this: schedule your “post production” activities such that you have at least two weeks of “runway” before you launch the book. I learned this lesson in the Air Force, actually . . . or, at least I thought I did.
The military has it’s own language. We called it a “front end” system. The basic idea is when you’re planning to deliver anything, you need to complete each stage of the process as soon as you practically can, rather than taking any “extra” time you’ve been allotted. So, don’t take two weeks to do something that takes one day, for instance. Because if you wait until the last day of the two week period to do the thing, you’ve put yourself in a position where only one little thing has to go wrong to fuck up the whole thing. What if you get sick? Or your computer breaks? Etc.
There’s a name for this phenomenon. It escapes me now, but it’s the idea that the task will expand to fill whatever time you’ve allotted. So, instead of taking all the time you have, only take the time you need.
My goal all along has been to get All Saints’ Day of the Dead out before Halloween. And technically, I will accomplish that goal . . . but it hasn’t been easy or fun. And, truth be told, I’m sure there are one or two (or three or ten) little inconsistencies still lurking in the text that me and my fantastic editor missed. That’s just what happens when you put yourself in a position where you have to cram.
So let that be a lesson to us all. Get your shit together early. Look at the calendar far in advance, and plan everything based on how long it takes to do the thing, rather than on how much time you have.