The scheduling of editors and cover designers

Someone on Facebook asked me to talk about scheduling of releases with special emphasis on scheduling designers and editors.

The question was: since I talk about publishing three or four books year, how do I make sure that cover designers and editors fit in my schedule, because some of them need to be booked well in advance?

I have to admit, that I am probably one of the worst people to talk about this, because I don’t have a rigid publishing schedule. I will not formally announce a publication date of my book to my readers unless I know for certain that it can be ready by that date. Amazon penalises you when you don’t make a pre-order date. You can release your pre-orders earlier, but if you need to delay a book, you lose the ability to do pre-orders for a year.

The subject of pre-orders is one for another post, but you can think of pre-orders as a type of publishing schedule, and a pretty rigid one at that.

In the past year or so, I have not been putting up any books for pre-order for more than a few weeks, and then only when they were done.

Why do I talk about pre-orders when the question was about editors and cover designers?

It is because the availability of editors and cover designers can be quite unreliable and can throw your publishing schedule out of whack. It can happen that after a talk with my editor, I realise that I need to do another draft and change few things around that will make the book better. I want to be able to have that opportunity. I don’t want to have to release a book that has flaws just because I said I’d make a particular deadline. Similarly, I don’t want to get into trouble for delaying a pre-order because the book cover is not ready.

When do you get covers?

Recently I have been designing my own covers, and those are usually done before I even start writing the book. I find it helpful to be able to look at the image to see what sort of feel the book needs to reflect. I know a lot of people who get their covers done long before they start writing the book. It is a bit more tricky with editors, because they can only start working on the book after you have finished it.

Even then, I would only put a book up in my public publishing schedule—which means I announce a publication date to my readers—once the first edit has been done and has not revealed any major problems that I need to work on.

I think if you want to keep a fairly regular three month schedule on which to publish, the key is to bank material. Because stuff goes wrong, people are late and problems arise.

When I first started publishing, I had no material other than the books I was working on, and I would publish them the very second they were done. I don’t do that any more, and hang onto books until such time that releasing them is going to be beneficial to me.

For example, I am now holding back the publishing a book that is done because I know there is going to be a slack time later in the year. I have just secured a Bookbub on one of my other titles, which will keep my sales going into December, but since I am going to be away the entire month of January, that is going to be a slow period, and so I delay the publication of the book until immediately after. This also gives me the time to have a draft of another book done, so that when I return in February I can hit the ground running.

I think that really is the key to publishing regularly: to make sure that you have some material in reserve that is done and ready to go. That way you’re not dependent on the speed at which cover designers and editors work, because you do not want to be that annoying person on a too-tight schedule harassing them. That will make sure that they don’t want to work with you again.

Some cover designers, like Tom Edwards who I use for my Ambassador series, have a full schedule months in advance. In this case, I would order the cover long before I start writing, I would plan to work on a different project while I am in the pipeline for this cover, and I will do the same with editors. I have to main editors, but I also keep the names of others on file in case the editors I normally use can’t do my work within the few months that I have allocated for it.

I schedule my new releases about three months in advance, which is when I announce a date to my readers, and I don’t announce that date until I am 100% sure that I can make it.

If you want to publish on a very rigid schedule a year or more out, you’ll have to book these people much further in advance, but you also have to make sure that you can actually deliver the material to them. Writing is a bit of a fickle thing, and some people are able to do this, but I know I would not. Not only does life happen, but sometimes the book just won’t gel and you need to spend more time on it. In this case, I feel it is useful not to have such a rigid schedule. I can say with reasonable certainty that I will publish a new book within the next three months, but I am not always sure what it is going to be. If I have to book ready that I’m thinking of releasing, great, but if not, I like to have something else in reserve.

Remember, with publishing schedules, there is only one person doing this to you and that is you yourself. So whatever your choices in working with editors or cover designers, you are the one who makes the choices. If you want a particular designer, but they are booking five or six months in advance, then it is your choice to plan yourself around it, or to choose someone else. I would go with the more awesome cover.

Remember that nothing in this industry says that you have to publish like clockwork every three months. The world will not come crashing down if you publish a book two months after another book and then you have a break of four of five months before you publish the next. Just make sure your books are awesome. That’s more important than making the date.

The comments on this blog are closed, but this post is syndicated to my Facebook page, where you can comment and ask further questions.