Taking a sip from my espresso, I get ready to write the hell out of my next book. I know what time the book needs to be done, I just have to get there. I am not a person that does well without deadlines. If you give me a project and I don’t set any deadlines for it, it’s doomed. It’ll either never happen or it will be fourteen years (give or take) before I actually get around to it. Before I even start writing the first bullet on my outline, it is essential for me to create a production schedule first.

How do I set good writing deadlines?

Organization is key when beginning to write a new book, having software to do it is essential to success, and knowing the publishing pipeline will help you produce one book a year or more. Some authors prefer to use a notebook to organize their writing, but I find that messy. Also, if you store your deadlines and files on cloud-based software, you can have it at all times, even if you travel out of the country. The idea behind setting the deadlines is not the act of setting the date itself, but by what means you do so. Having something that goes off on your phone every time you need to do something is way more effective, in my opinion, than writing deadlines down somewhere and forgetting about them.

What software should I use to write deadlines?

My personal favorite software to use ever is Asana. Asana is task-management software where you can set up different projects, assign people to certain tasks, set repeating deadlines, and all in all, keep everything you need to do in one beautifully organized place. It also comes with a free phone app. Oh, did I mention the entire thing was free?

Asana also allows you to purchase a premium plan ($9.99 for an individual license), which gives you access to project start dates, private projects, task dependencies, and a timeline feature. I find that I don’t need these, but having task dependencies would be nice. Being able to tell yourself that you’re not allowed to do one thing before you do another is great for staying organized. I tend to create subtasks under one specific task and know I need to get all of those subtasks done before the main task is complete.

Overall, Asana is beautiful to look at and easy to use. You can even color-coordinate your projects so if you’re writing multiple things at a time you can tell what goes where instantaneously. Honestly, Asana is the only way I stay organized. There are other programs out there for task management, of course, like Monday, Smartsheet, and Trello, but Asana comes highly recommended on any “Top Ten Task Management Software” lists, so even the internet agrees that Asana is great.

When should I set deadlines?

I was trained as a game design major and have a BFA in Game Art. That being said, the game design industry is all about the production pipeline and setting deadlines to get to a finished game. Publishing is exactly the same way. While you may be producing a book on a much smaller scale and are wearing multiple hats (book designer, author, editor, marketing agent, and publisher), the pipeline is incredibly important.

If you do any searching on the internet, you will find dozens of guides on how to create your publishing pipeline. How early should you start to market your book? When should you contact reviewers? That being said, the pipeline for producing a book has been well established over hundreds of years of book manufacturing. Some guides, however, are RIDICULOUS. They tell you that as a self-published author you should be producing four books a year. What the HELL? I don’t know about you, but if I tried to write four books a year they would be utter garbage.

When I’m tackling one book a year (yes it is possible, and yes you can do it!), I plan my projects a whole year in advance. If I have multiple projects going, I schedule them out year by year. This is how I build my pipeline for each book:

  1. What genre is my book? Does it fall into a publishing season?
  2. How long should I market the book before its release?
  3. How long do I expect the book to be in the hands of editors?
  4. How long will it take me to write this book? (let’s aim for 6 months in this example)

Let’s get into it, shall we?

What are publishing seasons?

Publishing companies operate in seasons. All this means is that certain types of books are published at a certain point in the year. Big publishing companies have already done the work to figure out when the best time to publish certain types of books is. Why do the research yourself when you could use a publishing calendar that a Big Five company uses? Romance, Self-Help, Business, Cooking, and Design books all do incredibly well in January through April. Adventure, Fantasy, and Travel books are hits over the summer (May through August). Academic, Horror and Paranormal books are released from September through November. Everyone wants to read something spooky at this time! December and January are the best times to publish Children’s, Cookbooks, Illustrated works, and novelty books.

Part of these release times have to do with the subject matter of the book, and part of it just has to do with sales. When are parents more likely to buy their kids a brand new book? Christmas. What do people want to read on Valentine’s Day? Romance (maybe they’re lonely?). By thinking smartly about when you’re going to release your work, you can save a lot of time and also appeal to audiences that are already looking for something similar to read.

Write your Book Backwards

You heard me. We’re not going to be writing backward, but planning backward. Now that you know what your publishing season is, how long do you take to market your book? Most guides recommend six months, and I agree. By taking six months to market your book, you can contact dozens of reviewers and get people reading your book before it even comes out by giving them an Advance Reader Copy. These are proofs of your book (called galleys) that go out to reviewers. This process takes a lot of time and often reviewers that take unsolicited work (meaning they didn’t ask for it) are booked out for months. By giving yourself time and contacting them ahead of time, your pipeline can flow smoother.

Now that we know we need six months to market the book, how long do you expect the book to be in the hands of your editors? I use two editors and myself as the third. I give each editor outside of my own circle three weeks to complete their types of edits and send it back to me. I then need three days to apply the edits per round of editing. All in all, this editing process could take almost 8 weeks. Give yourself wiggle room, here! I add an extra five days in case any deadline mishaps happen on the part of the external editor.

The final portion of this puzzle is figuring out how long it takes you to write a book. I average 2500 words a week, but I could go much quicker if I was writing full time. Do the math, figure out how many weeks you would need to get your work done, and mark it down. I also give myself an additional month away from my book so I can forget what it looks like. That way, I can come back to it with fresh eyes. After you’ve worked backward, you should have a finished schedule. All that’s left to do is plug your deadlines into Asana, and you have a production schedule, baby!

I spend a year to write, publish, design, illustrate, and market a Middle Grade book. If you’re a one-man show (like me), this timeline could look entirely different for you. Figure out what works best with the constraints you have. Go easy on yourself! Give yourself cushion room to miss deadlines and take breaks. Writing a book is HARD, even though some people would like to say it isn’t. By staying organized, you give yourself more time to enjoy writing your book and reduce stress when it comes time to market it.

What is your favorite task management software? Tell me in the comments!