Part of the Indie Author Series
I'm delighted to introduce Fiction University's newest Indie Author faculty--the awesome Angela Quarles. It's been so long, I don't even remember where I first met Angela (probably here), though I do have fond memories of our first face-to-face meeting at an RWA conference in Anaheim back in 2012. She's been burning it up lately on the indie track, and I'm honored to have her join us here to share what she's learned during her indie journey. And excited to hear what she has to say about this publishing path.
Please give her a warm welcome.
Take it away Angela...
Welcome to the new Fiction University blog series: The Organized Writer. Let's face it, writing demands a lot of time, which can be challenging in the face of a social life, family life, and various life obligations. We don't have time to fritter away. The other faculty members have done an excellent job covering much of the indie industry, so I thought I'd do something different and kick off my time here with a series on getting and staying organized as a writer.
Today, I'm focusing on creating what could be called a Production and Marketing Bible. You've probably heard of or have created your own Story Bible to keep track of your story's characters, settings, and other important info you need when writing that story or when writing other stories in the same series. But I'm going to touch on a different kind of bible, and that's one I find essential when I'm gearing up to launch a new book and marketing it post-launch.
The importance of a centralized holding place
Why do I find it essential? I was helping a fellow writer last year post her book to BookLife and because she'd expressed frustration with filling out the form before, I sat down with her. We opened up the form page and immediately the problems started as she went from question to question. She had to go to Amazon to look up her ISBN, then had to pull up her agent's email to look up some other piece of data, then she had to run upstairs and hunt for a thumb drive that might have her book cover on there, etc. etc. She was getting frustrated again as she had to hunt down each piece of information for her book which she had scattered in bits and pieces in emails, internet sites, thumb drives and more. She had no centralized location for any of this data. A form that took me at most five minutes to fill out took her much longer, with frustration as an unwelcome side dish.
We have to fill this stuff out constantly for each book, whether it's to request a review, upload it to various vendors, enter it in contests, or any other activity that requires the essential information about your book. My solution was to create a Production and Marketing Bible, and the tool I use is Microsoft OneNote. However, the principles can be used on other programs like Evernote and the like. So, this won't be a tutorial on how to use OneNote, but rather how to create your Production and Marketing Bible in your favorite Notes-type program.
What is a Production and Marketing Bible?
For me, it's my online brain to keep track of data I have to reference or cut and paste over and over again in any marketing efforts, or to keep track of essential information about the book specific to its production. I also use it to record marketing efforts, so I have historical data to refer back to on future books. I like OneNote, because I can access it on my phone or tablet, as well as my computer. But there are other programs that do this as well. The important thing is to have a "dumping ground" for this important info that you can access easily, wherever you are. Fellow author Sidney Bristol brought up a good point when I discussed it with her: it's vital to have a spot like this that can be shareable across platforms (including your phone or tablet) when you hire a promoter or virtual assistant: they need access to this data too.
I like having it in one notebook, because sometimes I'm filling out stuff on several books, and it saves me from having to open up each book's file and cluttering my computer's desktop. I used to keep track of some of this in Scrivener, in that book's file, but found it cumbersome to open that book's file each time I needed it. I also couldn't add to it when I was mobile. The important thing is to experiment and see what works best for you, your lifestyle, and how your brain likes to organize. At the end, I'll share what other authors use for their Production and Marketing Bibles.
Store Your Metadata in One Spot
One of the first things I do when I have a book that's in Production mode is create a new tab for it, and then create a Page under it called Book Data. I then start inserting data as it finalizes.
On it I insert the metadata I refer to often for this book: cover artist, ISBN numbers, pub data, buy links, tagline, any short blurbs, as well as the official blurb, and any sales copy (in various lengths) I've come up with. This makes filling out forms a breeze because I can just come here, even on my phone, and copy and paste the data they need. Here's a screenshot of my latest release's Book Data page:
Other Book Info to Store and Track
You'll notice on the right side I have many more pages, and these can vary by book, depending on my needs. Here are the things I have put in my Production and Marketing Bible (some of which is below the fold in the picture):
Keeping track of edition numbers for my ebooks. I give each vendor a unique number, coupled with that book's version number. So a new book would be 1.0.200 for Amazon, or 1.0.201 for Nook. The first and middle number would update depending on how big of a revision I have done to it, much like software version numbers. Having vendor numbers tacked on is helpful if you want to figure out where a pirated copy came from, etc.
Data specific to each vendor. For instance, on Amazon's page, I list every link to its product page in every country, as well as any shortlinks I use, like the ones specific to backmatter. I also date and keep track of keyword and category changes, so I can correlate it with my sales data to see what's working.
Updates. This is like a change log you might see with some software. This is where I list the date and what I've changed in the book (after it's published) and whether it got a new version number. I also list things that aren't time sensitive that I should change/add on the next update so that when I do get around to updating my backmatter, I have this handy.
Formatting info. I do my own formatting, so here I list special design markup info for my print and ebooks
Review info. I keep track of links to reviews as well as a page that has a review email already written out so that all I have to do is copy the whole, personalize, and send.
Stats. I also keep track of any stats I'd like to track, dumping in there screenshots of sales data or rank.
Facebook parties. I create a page and prepopulate it with posts, so that when my time slot comes up, I can easily cut and paste in my party posts. This has proved helpful after the fact, as I steal from it for future parties.
Sales Promotions. When I run a 99 cent sale, or even the time I was lucky to snare a BookBub ad, I kept track of not only which advertising places I booked and their dates, but I also recorded the results, including screenshots.
Blog tour stops. If I do a blog tour, I make a page for each stop and write the post in there, or otherwise use it to organize what I need to send to each, if it's just a spotlight or excerpt post.
Audiobook production. I used this space to keep track of steps I needed to do, narrators I contacted, responses, and decisions. Once I have one live, I'll most likely use it to keep track of marketing and sales.
Book tweets. Handy to grab when you're running a sale. I've got them already created, with hashtags, and under the 140 character limit.
This is by no means exhaustive, but this gives you a peek into what I track and how. The important thing is to find a centralized spot to keep this kind of information to save yourself the time and effort later on. OneNote also has handy to-do lists, so I've found it helpful to put those in the various areas that make sense at the time I'm thinking about them, or use them like a checklist for when a book goes live. Some of this I do in my planner though, so typically this is for recording action items I'm afraid I'll forget before the time comes.
Wait, there's more!
In addition to tabs for each book, I also have tabs for the following:
Websites. This is where I keep track of various online profiles, vendors, or websites that I utilize.
Bios. I have a page that has all of my social media links in one spot, as well as pages for various versions of my bio. Some places require different lengths, so I've found it handy to have all the different lengths kept in one spot to quickly click to when filling out forms. Again, this saves a little time having it in the same notebook so that I don't have to open up a different file where I have bios, or have to duplicate my bio info in each book's data.
Alternatives to OneNote
I'm definitely not saying OneNote is the only way to track this info. There are other ways to do this, and what you use will depend on what makes sense to you--everyone's different. I talked to some fellow writers to ask their methods and here's what some of them said.
Author Sidney Bristol uses Google Drive for her quick reference guide. Here's what she shared with me:
"It started as individual word documents for each book that contained things like, publication date, a history of prices, rankings, ISBNs, my keywords, a few grade points on how those keywords worked, blurbs, covers and buy links. When I started working with other people and doing a large chunk of my writing work on the go, I needed something I could access anywhere, anytime--and most importantly--in a medium I could offload easily to someone else AND continue to update. Going to a Google Drive sheet was the no-brainer option. Inside one, large document, I use Heading 1 titles to organize by series (or "single title" as my catch-everything-else). Under that I use a Heading 2 for the book title, and under that is each book's information. When I have an assistant or a promoter to work with, they have all the information they need at their fingertips to accomplish a handful of tasks. And the best part? There aren't versions out there to be updated. I update in one place, and everyone gets the most up to date, current information. As a big, uber bonus? It's also on my phone and tablet, so if I need to reference something while, I don't know, standing in line for a latte, I can."
Author Beth Caudill likes to I use Curio (Mac only), though she's also used OneNote because of its accessibility when mobile, as well as to collaborate with authors on a PC, since notebooks can be shared across platforms. For Curio, she says she uses it because:
"...it is like an unlimited digital vision board. I use mindmaps to store research, plot points, character notes, etc. for my stories. Then I put inspiration photos all around and add notecards where necessary. You can include website links, links to files - like Marketing information, Blurb Worksheets, and sales / profit spreadsheets. I also add a note about the songs I've used in my playlist. Easy to organize for 1 story or create a main project with sections for each book in a series so you can easily check back for information on previous books or make notes for future books."
Author Ellis Leigh likes to kick it old school using paper for some of it. She keeps her metadata in her traveler's notebook. She keeps one for production and one for basic title info (ISBNs, pub dates, length, tagline, etc). She found it easier to access for quick things instead of opening OneNote. However, when she runs ads, she uses a spreadsheet:
"It organizes my info, is easy to copy/paste from, and I keep a running log of advertisers and ROI scores."
Author Robin Covington uses Microsoft Word to keep track of each of her book's information. She creates a document for each book and stashes the book's "...blurb, ISBN, all buy links, other important links, prominent reviews, data on length, word count etc."
Do you have a Production and Marketing Bible? What do you use? Feel free to share any tips you have or share what else you track that I didn't cover. If you don't have one yet, did this give you some ideas and direction? Also, please feel free to comment with any aspects of organizing for a writer that you'd like me to cover in future Organized Writer posts.
Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound
About Must Love Chainmail: A Time Travel Romance
Trapped in the wrong time, she needs a knight in shining armor, but this damsel in distress might be the real savior.
A damsel in distress...
With a day planner attached to her hip, the last thing Katy Tolson wants is a romance that threatens her well-ordered life. She's set to marry the safe--but bland--guy, but something's not quite...right. A careless wish thrusts her through time into medieval Wales and into the arms of...
A knight in somewhat shining armor...
Sir Robert Beucol, half-Norman and half-Welsh, lives with the shame of his father's treason and vows to reclaim his family's holdings and thereby his honor. To prove himself to his king, he must be more Norman than a full-blooded Norman. What better way to show loyalty than to fight his mother's people? He has no desire to be sidetracked by the mysterious wench with pink toenails, peculiar habits, and passion smoldering behind her cool, collected exterior.
A rebellion that challenges both...
The Welsh uprising fits perfectly into Robert’s plans. Katy’s on the other hand? That’s a no. As they embark on a perilous journey through the heart of Wales, each passionate encounter pulls them closer together, but farther from their goals. When everything they value is at stake, can they save each other and their love?