What do you think of when I say Process Improvement?
Be honest. Does this term make you roll your eyes, yawn, maybe even snore a little bit?
Coming as I do from a professional background of insurance and project management, I’ve become familiar with my fair share of processes. I’ve documented my fair share of process maps. And I’ve suggested my fair share of process improvements.
Why wouldn’t I be able to do the same thing with my writing process?
I got this idea when I was recently asked to bake three cakes for a church bake sale. When I approached my task, would I even consider making each of the cakes start-to-finish before starting the next one? You know, mixing the ingredients, pouring the batter in a pan, putting it in the oven, baking for an hour, taking it out … then starting over with the second one?
No! Of course not! I would mix three batches of batter, then fill three pans, then bake them all together. Right? All three cakes would come out of the oven at the same time.
That would be much more efficient.
A week ago, I started writing a new book. It isn’t just a new book, it’s the start of a whole new series. And I started thinking, the way I’ve written my last two series — twelve books — has been like preparing three separate cakes start-to-finish instead of baking three cakes at once.
You’ve often heard from authors that writing a book is only a small part of publishing a book. For authors who publish independently, like me … meaning, without a publishing house … that is so true. In addition to taking on the role of author, I also am at the head of all the other tasks too. Those tasks I can perform myself, I do. Those that I can’t, I outsource, or hire out.
In order to determine where my process could benefit from improvement, I created a process map of the steps I take to create a book. Here it is:
As you can see, it’s quite detailed and intense. The black lines between the tasks indicate that many of the steps are repeated. Look at the first box, Research. Sometimes, depending on the story, I research, then I plan and plot, then go back and research some more, then plan and plot some more before I start writing. Sometimes only once, sometimes multiple times.
Notice the multiple iterations between write and edit. I actually go through five rounds of edits, some that I do myself, some that I outsource to professional editors, before I move on to the final proofread.
After the proofread, the writing is done. But look at all the other tasks! These are all the post production tasks that transform that typed manuscript into the professional-looking paperback or ebook that you read! This is the half of the process that I felt I could improve on my efficiency. Back to the cake example. The writing of a book could be the mixing of the batter. The post production tasks of a book could be the baking of a cake.
Instead of creating this series as I have always done, doing all steps start-to-finish on each individual book, why don’t I try baking all the cakes at once?
In the book world, this concept is called Rapid Release. As it relates to my process, here’s my new approach:
1) Research, plot, and plan book 1.
2) Write book 1.
3) Research, plot and plan book 2.
4) Write book 2.
5) Research, plot and plan book 3.
6) Write book 3.
Once the first three books are done — move on and do all the rest of the steps, from edit, all the way to release for all three books TOGETHER. Schedule the books to be released 3 – 6 weeks apart. Promote them as a group instead of each one separately.
Doing it this way would definitely shake things up a little! But what problems would I be solving by changing my process?
Stay in the zone. When writing a book, an author is in a creative mindset. She is opening her imagination, listening to her muse, creating as the spirit leads her. Editing and revising requires a different type of mindset: detail-oriented, following the grammar rules, looking up spellings. Very different. Post-production tasks require a different mindset again. Working through the multiple other processes for formatting the book, creating a marketable cover, knowing how to submit to all the retailers, each with a different process, then, the whole separate world of effective promotion! It’s a lot to know. And each of those vendors are constantly changing their rules. Staying on top of those changes alone is a full-time job!
First and foremost a writer, I enjoy being in the writing mode the best. I want to stay there as long as I can! I can do some of the following steps, but it’s the writing that I love.
More books released in a year. When I took a calendar and mapped out my daily word count writing goals, and estimated timelines of the subsequent steps, it appears I can release more books in the year 2020 than I would if I do the “One Cake At a Time” process. In fact, this may be a stretch goal, but I do believe I can put out my entire series in 2020, instead of what would normally be a two-year series under my normal timeline. And, instead of the books becoming available to readers every 4 to 5 months like my normal timeline, I believe they’ll be getting the books much faster, 4 – 6 weeks apart!
So … hopefully this discussion didn’t make you yawn or snore! Let me know: what do you, as a reader, think of the Rapid Release process? What are the pros and cons? And, how have you improved processes in your own life? Have they worked?