It’s not enough just to write books in today’s publishing industry. Like it or not, you will be running a small business if you pursue publishing books.
You can get organized on paper or you can build elaborate computer spread sheets. But I’m here to tell you a shoebox of receipts and notes on sticky pads ain’t gonna cut it.
I recommend highly that you get organized NOW before all hell breaks loose in your career. It’s murder being as busy as heck and trying to develop a system for tracking everything…and writing and doing promotion and self-publicity…and learning the business…and sleeping.
Here are a few organizational tools that I could not survive without in no particular order:
1) Book Production Tracking Spreadsheets. I have one for my print published books with traditional publishers, and another one for tracking production of my self-published books. They are VERY different animals–the things authors need to do in each type of publishing stream are completely different.
2) An expense tracking sheet for self-publishing. I do one for each book I work on during a year. Makes taxes easier.
3)A bookkeeping program for recording all writing-related income and expenses and automatically generating a Profit and Loss Statement for tax purposes.
4) A reviewer list: These are long-time, loyal fans who love my books and have volunteered to get advance reading copies of my books and post reviews within a day or two of their release on various websites.
5) A Vendor List: This has contact info for all the various contractors I use to produce a book–cover artists, developmental and copy editors, business card guy, book mark printer, promotion firms, t-shirt guy, you name it. When I see a great piece of work or get a glowing recommendation from someone I trust, I add that vendor to my list. If my usual person can’t do what I need, I have a quick back-up without having to do a ton of research.
6) A file with all my official author photos, all my covers, cover flats, banners, and thumbnail images in it and clearly labeled. I keep my most current bio with this stuff, too, because if I need my bio, I probably need some pictures, too.
7) A spreadsheet with the name, hair, and eye color, and general description of all the main characters of my books. You’ll be shocked how often you refer to this after you’ve written a few novels, particularly if you write series.
8) A spreadsheet with all my titles, publication dates, and ISBN’s, sorted by series. Another list I go to all the time.
9) A list of all my self-published ISBN numbers, Bowker numbers, and BISAC codes for each self-published book.
10) A list of media outlets (i.e. radio stations), bloggers, review sites, magazine editors, etc. to contact when I have a book coming out.
11) A back-up copy of my Mail Chimp mailing lists. I keep these because I’m paranoid that I’ll lose these lists someday. They’re worth more than gold to me.
12) A PAPER list of all my user names and passwords related to my writing.
13) Contact List of writers: I keep emails and phone numbers of all my writing friends and acquaintances. I use it to ask quick research questions, get advice, or just vent.
14) A calendar/appointment book/app. Write down every deadline or due date the moment you learn of it. You won’t believe how many little details will come along that are SO easy to let slip through the cracks. The devil’s truly in the details in keeping airborne all the balls you will have to juggle.
I’m emphatically not a natural list maker, but my life is a hundred times easier if I have a place to drop pieces of information as I get them, and to retrieve pieces of information as I need them. It’s also vital to step back now and then and look at the big picture. What deadlines are coming up, where are the converging crises down the road that you need to start minimizing now? Spreadsheets are a great visual snapshot of what’s racing toward you.
Whatever organizational tools you use, the key is to use them from the very start, tweak them to fit you perfectly, get comfortable with them, and use them faithfully. The day will come when you’re so busy you can’t see straight, and only these lists will keep you on track when your career gets hot and heavy.
And yes, that’s a great problem to have. But make no mistake: successful writers pretty much without exception work their TAILS off. And they HAVE to work efficiently. You might as well develop that efficiency now since huge success is just around the corner for you!