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Project Management for Self-Published Authors

Part of running your books as a business, is treating various tasks like a project. This is where project management tools and tips come in. Author Peter Mulraney shares some great tips in this guest post to help you properly launch a book by treating it as a project and planning it out.

I suspect that most of us think project management is a domain belonging to specialists, using sophisticated software applications, like MS Project. That might be true for projects with billion dollar budgets, but project management can be applied to small administrative projects or events with tiny budgets, like writing a book or organizing a book launch.

In fact, if you use project management, the launch event is simply one task to be planned and managed in the course of producing and publishing a book.

In its simplest form, project management is no more than identifying the tasks that need to be completed, to produce whatever it is you are creating, and determining the sequence in which those tasks need to be completed to deliver your desired outcome.

Project management for writing and publishing a book.

Principle 1: Project Scope

Determine what type of book you are writing, how many words it will contain, when you plan to publish it, and the money available to fund the development and marketing of the book.

Write those things down. In project management speak, this is all about defining your deliverables and setting your budget.

Principle 2: Planning

The secret to project planning is known as chunking. This is breaking down the process, from deciding what to write all the way through to launching the book, into individual tasks.

Once you have identified all the tasks, map out the sequences of tasks and determine their dependencies. That means working out the order in which tasks need to be completed, identifying those tasks that can be done at the same time and those that can’t be done until another task has been completed. One of the traps to avoid is linear thinking; ie thinking you have to write the book before you can do anything else.

Planning is where you start thinking about marketing and audience building tasks, because these activities can be done at the same time as writing.

Another planning activity is to allocate resources to specific tasks. Okay, you know who is doing the writing, and the initial edits, but who are your beta readers? Who is you editor? Who will be doing the cover design? Record the answers to those questions during planning or at least identify them as tasks that need to be completed.

This is also the time for working out how you’ll fit everything into your timeline. How many words per day do you need to generate to create that first draft? How much time will you need to edit and revise? When will you need to engage editors, cover designers and beta readers?

In project management speak this is known as developing a work breakdown schedule, and the secret is to break each task into its parts. Editing, for example, is not one task. Consider the structural edit, the copy edit, the format edit etc. If you intend to publish on multiple platforms, develop a checklist for preparing the file for each platform – so that your Kobo file does not end up containing your Amazon end pages.

Planning is the part where the big boys use MS Project but you can do it using a simpler program, like Excel or Bento, or you can do it with sticky notes stuck onto the wall. I like to use Excel because it allows me to move things around, and I can filter tasks into different streams of activity. It also allows me to put a target date next to each task and to record its status: not started / in progress / waiting on someone /completed.

The final planning task is to develop the plan of the book. It’s one thing to plan the overall project. It’s another step altogether to develop the plan or outline of your book before you move to the actual writing activity.

Principle 3: Execution or Doing the Tasks

Complete each step in your plan. Sounds easy, but this is actually the part that requires the most self-discipline. Execution is where you sit down and write everyday, and do all those other things required to develop your author platform, promote your work and build your audience.

This part ends when you publish the book.

Principle 4: Close

Publication marks the end of the development of your book. The writing is finished. The book has been launched.

Your book will have a life supported by its marketing plan, which you developed as one of your project’s tasks, but you need to close the project of its development.

One of the benefits of completing a book-writing project using project management is that you’ll have a project management framework you can apply to your next writing project. So, before you close your project, conduct a post publication review of what worked and what didn’t so that you can tweak your framework for your next book.

Peter Mulraney is a crime writer based in Adelaide, Australia. He is the author of 7 books including the Inspector West series of crime novels, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men who find themselves living alone, and Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic. In August 2015 he released 2 coloring journals and 2 adult coloring books under the Sharing the Journey banner. You can read the serialization of his latest Inspector West story on www.petermulraney.com and follow him on Twitter @PeterMulraney1.


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