As I attempted to navigate the world of independent publishing, I was asked to put forth some rules to make the journey easier for those who came afterward.
Have a plan. If you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably never get there. Also, it lets you know how far behind you are.
Start with the end in mind. This is a corollary to the plan, but you need to map out a specific destination. If you don’t know how the crime is going to be solved, or how the lovers are going to overcome their differences, the story suffers.
Do your homework. I talked to lots of people when I write a book. Some, like police officers, for specific advice, and some, like readers, to know how I am doing. People are generous with their time, but don’t waste it. You can look up the written procedure for a vehicle search on line and you can check Good Reads to see if someone regularly reviews books. If you show you have done some research, they will be flattered and will answer all your dumbest questions.
Talk to people. Maybe this should have been number (3) but, after you do your homework, you will have a better idea of who to talk to. What shortcuts are permissible and what must never be missed? Only someone who does the task regularly can tell you that.
Ask someone who knows the answer. I thought this was obvious, but then I ran into people who had asked “all their friends” and still hadn’t found the answer. If all your friends are visual artists, you need to find someone else to ask about quantum singularities.
Be willing to revise your plan. “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” That quote has been attributed to a variety of people. As has: “When I am faced with new facts, I change my mind. What do you do?”
Check references. Even if you love their book covers, book ideas, etc., still check with people who have worked with professional that you hire. You need to know if they respond to emails, use language you can understand, and have worked in the industry.
Keep a calendar. On paper or on your phone or both. Mark out the important dates and all deadlines. I recommend you keep a paper calendar on the wall in your office as a visual reminder and a calendar on your phone for convenience.
Take time to organize. Even if it is a row of boxes marked “first book”, “second book”, “publicity” and “public speaking”. Put everything related to that topic in the box. It may take you five or ten minutes to go through the box, but you know everything is in there.
Reward success, or at least reward completion. If you have completed a chapter or make phone calls to three libraries or book stores, or edited 100 pages, reward yourself. Make it a true reward, not more work. Take a walk or call a friend or binge watch Outlander.
Remember there is an end to this. You can become discouraged when pieces of your writing are scattered around the office (or dining room table), you know the story doesn’t flow, and you have no clean clothes because you forgot to do the wash. Take a deep breath and remember every writer gets to this point during the process. Pick something and do it.
Say “Thank You”. Often and in public.