In a recent consultation, a client asked me a shrewd question: What is the main thing you see authors do that delays publication?
In publishing, there are many places where a project can stall. That shouldn’t be too big of a shock if you’ve worked in any industry where a project passes through multiple sets of hands. It’s rarely anyone’s fault, per se. However, every member of the chain of production in publishing a book has responsibilities which, if fulfilled faithfully, can make the process go as smoothly as possible.
The fact that the client asked this question made me really want to work with them. After hanging up, I also realized the answer could help a lot of authors as they worked toward self publication. So, here’s my take!
Two Things to Remember…
There Will Always Be Delays
I have never once participated in a publishing project—self published or traditionally published—whose release date wasn’t moved at least once. The goal is to move it as few times as possible in order for the author to be able to make marketing and sales plans. Since multiple peoples’ efforts are involved, any delays early in the process can cause a chain reaction. It’s really easy to have that happen at any point, so easy that you should expect it to happen at least once.
You Have the Right to Change Your Mind (But There Will Be Consequences)
I’ll admit it—this blog might seem a little bossy. So, it’s important I remind us of the bottom line: you are the client and this is your book. If you decide at the last minute you don’t want to include a chapter, that you forgot to mention something important, or that you don’t like the typeface of the book, it’s well within your rights to say you’d like it changed. Especially with Print on Demand and the fact that you can always update ebooks, you can even make changes after publication.
However, there are consequences. Not punishments—just natural consequences based on availability and resources. When you change your mind about something in your book, those changes will not turn on a dime, and they may take you over your budget. But if you really want them in order to be happy with your book, those details could be worth the trouble.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here are some of the places your book project might hit potholes.
The authors I work with mostly run their own businesses, and that means they have packed schedules. Sometimes it’s hard to fit me into their schedules, and weeks can pass before we address an important issue together. Since my ghostwriting projects require collecting raw material from these folks, if I don’t get what I need, I have nothing to use when writing. There are a few ways to stave off this issue.
Schedule dedicated book time. Business owners sometimes have trouble themselves, and writing a book can often feel like it’s something you’re doing “for you.” Setting the book as a higher priority that requires time to be set aside is the top way to keep the project on track. For example, one client let me know that they regularly don’t schedule company meetings on Friday and made that time available for talking to me if necessary. Another regularly schedules two hours every morning for his own personal projects. If you can set that precedent for yourself, it can keep you flexible and responsive to working on your book.
Share pre-recorded materials. If you record meetings, filmed presentations, instructional videos, podcasts, or virtually any other relevant content, it can save you lots of face time with me. Each contract I write has a confidentiality clause, and I’m dedicated to using any information you share with me according to your comfort level. If I have discussed your goals and plans for the book at the beginning of the project with you, sometimes this is enough for me to get a big chunk of the work done.
Assign a point-person to coordinate information sharing. The people who work side-by-side with an author often know how to access a lot of useful resources. If you have colleagues or employees who know you and are familiar with your goals, you can save yourself time by putting me in touch with them.
Regardless of which one of the above appeals to you, to keep things on schedule, you will need to work with me to connect and get into agreement on the different priorities in your book.
A Changing or Expanding Table of Contents
Scope creep happens in every field. In website design, someone might decide they want to add a blog page, or a new form, or a video. In a nonfiction book, introducing new topics once an outline has already been set means we have to hit the brakes and put the project in reverse. Unless we’ve already had a conversation on that topic, we’ll need to backtrack and have that conversation.
Not everyone wants to work with a predetermined outline. Some people would rather explore and brainstorm with me first before building that structure. That’s totally ok! Just understand that if you want to have that more organic approach, you might be looking at a longer timeline as you develop and shape the structure of the book around those ideas.
Delayed or Incomplete Feedback
Even if someone else is writing the book, an author still needs to sign off on the content. Some authors are fine with simply skimming or even outsourcing the review to someone they trust. So far, the authors I’ve worked with want to have more direct input—they want to look at it and comment on it themselves. For a person with a business, that time investment can seem daunting. Understandably, it doesn’t always happen quickly either. An author might have a heavy hand with edits, and the revision process almost always takes longer in that case. (This is also ok!)
Feedback doesn’t just apply to the initial process of writing the manuscript. Once the book has been edited, there are occasionally sections that need to be rewritten. Those need to get the author’s blessing too. Additionally, design feedback—particularly cover design feedback—can often be delayed or incomplete. This leads into my discussion of another possible source of delays.
Changing Your Mind
Authors change their minds over more than just covers, but that’s where I’ve seen the most pivoting. Everyone judges books by their covers. It doesn’t mean the potential readers are correct about what is inside those covers, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to their buying habits. Most adults understand this, and authors can often be anxious about their cover designs. That’s why complete honesty about one’s design preferences in the very beginning is vital to keeping a project on track.
As the person managing the project, I want to see examples of book covers my authors love and ones that they hate. I want to know what books they’ve bought and that their colleagues have bought. I want to be told what their least and most favorite colors and typefaces are. The goal is to get as much knowledge up front as possible so there aren’t any regrets or reasons to backtrack down the road.
Always Set a Realistic Timeline
Taking into account that there are always potential delays, it’s important to create a lot of cushion in the publishing schedule. Even though it doesn’t take as long to get a book out as with a traditional publishing schedule, self-publishing doesn’t happen overnight. Better to have reasonable expectations and meet them than to keep shuffling the pub date further and further down the calendar.
Thinking about taking those first steps on the path toward a published book? Let me know here!