Beginning with the End: Basic Project Management for Indie Authors

Independently Wealthy? Exploring the Alchemy of Self-Publishing

by Megan Haskell

You’re an indie author. You’ve written a book and think it’s pretty good. You’re ready to publish.

Slow down, bunny rabbit. The art might be finished, but the business has just begun.

Project Management

If you’ve ever worked for a major corporation, I guarantee you’ve dealt with project management in some capacity. But in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a not-so-quick definition:

Project management is the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria. A project is a temporary endeavor designed to produce a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables) undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies.

~~ Wikipedia

Phew, that’s a mouthful. Let’s try an example:

The Book Launch

Think of a project as an event. It’s going to happen on a specific day in the future. Everything you do is leading up to that event, and every task needs to move you closer to your objective. In our case, a successful book launch.

What is success?

I’m not trying to be cute here, but success is entirely defined by you. Maybe you want to launch your book into the top 100 on Kindle. Or maybe success simply means having the book available for sale. You have to decide on your goals for the project, but you need to decide up-front so that you know what you’re aiming for and can define the steps and strategies necessary to achieve that goal.

For now, we’re going to keep it pretty basic. Success means we’ve made a book available for sale in print and digital form, and we’ve announced the launch to as many outlets as we can, while staying within a small advertising budget.

Step One: Begin at the End

I like to start with our target launch date. Why? Because then you can determine your deadlines. Deadlines are the bane of my existence, but without them I wouldn’t accomplish anything!

In the beginning, while you’re still writing the first draft, you can keep it a little vague. For me, it was “I want to publish Book 3 in June.” That works…until it doesn’t. As soon as you start hiring other professionals to work on your project, you need to be more specific to make sure your deadlines are reasonable. So as soon as I sent the manuscript off to my developmental editor, I changed my project timeline: “Book 3 will launch June 12.”

Okay, we have a date. Now what?

Step Two: Service Providers

I’m going to assume you already have a budget and have selected the editors and service providers you want to hire. If not, go read this post first. Come back when you’re done. I’ll wait.

You’ve now decided who you need to hire, and how you’re going to pay for their services. How much time does each of them need to complete their work? Is there an order in which they have to operate?

For example, your developmental editor might have a two-week turnaround for her critique. She has to finish her work — and you have to revise the manuscript based on her suggestions, say two more weeks — before your copy editor can start work. If your copy editor takes another two weeks, you need two more weeks for changes… Well, you can see we’re already at least eight weeks away from publication.

There are also tasks that aren’t dependent on others’ work, like the cover design. Assuming you hire a cover designer, he can start work at any time, but the cover must be finalized before you run a reveal or submit files for publication.

What other tasks need to be completed before you can publish your book?

  • Formatting
  • Filing the Copyright
  • Scheduling Promotions
  • Writing Description
  • Uploading to distributors: Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords, etc.

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list. But hopefully it’s got you thinking about your goals, and the steps needed to achieve them.

Step Three: Get Out Your Calendar

At this point, you should know your target date, the tasks that need to be completed, how long they’ll take, and their order of operation. Now it’s time to create your timeline. You can use a calendar, or even a word file.

We’ll use a simplified version of my upcoming book launch as an example.

Start at the end, with your launch date: 6/12/17.

What needs to happen before the book is available for sale?

Manuscript Preparation

Advanced reviewers need to receive an ARC, with enough time to read and prepare a review, at least two weeks: May 29th.

Which means the manuscript must be formatted and ready by May 28th. Prior to that, I need to incorporate the copy editor’s comments. This can take up to a week, so she needs to be done by May 21st at the latest. To keep it within the normal working week, let’s call it May 19th. She needs a month for her work, so she’ll start on April 24th. See where I’m going with this?

Let’s see what we have, so far:

  1. Proofreader Start: 4/24/17
  2. Proofreader Return: 5/19/17
  3. Final Formatted Manuscript: 5/28/17
  4. Send ARC: 5/29/17
  5. Book Launch: 6/12/17

What else do we need to do?

Build Buzz

Want to run a cover reveal? That needs to happen at least a few weeks before the book launch, let’s say the week of May 15th. The final cover and all related material (book description, author bio, etc.) needs to be to the book bloggers who want to participate in the reveal by May 8th. We also need to contact the book bloggers and ask them to participate, or hire someone else to do it. This is going to take some time, so let’s start working on that sooner rather than later. How about April 20th? That means the final cover and book description should be ready by April 19th.

Now how are we looking?

  1. Book Description: 4/19/17
  2. Final Cover Design: 4/19/17
  3. Start recruiting book bloggers for cover reveal: 4/20/17
  4. Proofreader Start: 4/24/17
  5. Create Press Pack (description, author bio, head shot, links, etc.): 5/7/17
  6. Send final cover and press pack to cover reveal bloggers: 5/8/17
  7. Cover Reveal Week: 5/15/17
  8. Proofreader Return: 5/19/17
  9. Final Formatted Manuscript: 5/28/17
  10. Send ARC: 5/29/17
  11. Book Launch: 6/12/17


Pre-order Requirements

Are you going to run a pre-order? There are pros and cons, but let’s put it up for a month so we can get the full benefit of the cover reveal: May 15th. But now we need to make sure we get the pre-order set up in advance. I like to give myself a couple of days, just in case: May 13th.

  1. Book Description: 4/19/17
  2. Final Cover Design: 4/19/17
  3. Start recruiting book bloggers for cover reveal: 4/20/17
  4. Proofreader Start: 4/24/17
  5. Create Press Pack (description, author bio, head shot, links, etc.): 5/7/17
  6. Send final cover and press pack to cover reveal bloggers: 5/8/17
  7. Set up pre-order: 5/13/17
  8. Pre-order goes live: 5/15/17
  9. Cover Reveal Week: 5/15/17
  10. Proofreader Return: 5/19/17
  11. Final Formatted Manuscript: 5/28/17
  12. Send ARC: 5/29/17
  13. Book Launch: 6/12/17


As you can see, the tasks quickly add up, but if you begin at the end you’ll get them all done.



Megan Haskell, Author

Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. Thirty-ish years later, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes. Only now, I’m building my own fantasy worlds! I’m the author of the Amazon best selling series,The Sanyare Chronicles, and Program Director of O.C. Writers. You can find me on my website at, Facebook, and Twitter.

*O.C. Writers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. By clicking on the book links anywhere on this site, we earn a small commission from your purchase.

2 thoughts on “Beginning with the End: Basic Project Management for Indie Authors

  1. I have indie published eight books, but I’ve never seen a more comprehensive discussion of the work involved before. Cheers, Megan.

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