A Picture Perfect Christmas releases next week and I can’t wait to share this continuation of Liz and Ryan’s story with the world. If you missed last week’s post about the inspiration behind the book, check it out here. But just because I had a good idea to make my readers happy in the form of a Christmas story, it didn’t mean it would be easy.

Between plot brainstorming sessions, I took a serious look at the timeline in order to nail down my deadlines. Starting with deciding on a release date that would give me enough time to pull in seasonal readers but not start too early while folks were still in the mood for fall. I opted for mid-November.

Now, if I’d learned anything from my traditional publisher, it was that the production process involves a lot of steps that must be coordinated. And while I’d only been focused on the marketing side of things in previous books, this time it was also up to me to make sure the files were edited, formatted, and uploaded on time.

I gave myself the few days of November as a cushion, then blocked out my schedule to do all the formatting in October, which meant official editing in September, which in turn meant I’d need to do my personal revisions with my critique partner in August, and therefore needed to have the first draft of the story written by the end of July.

Yikes! There’s nothing quite like writing a Christmas story in the middle of the summer, but that’s what it would take to make this crazy idea work. So I adjusted the air-conditioning, made some hot chocolate, found a Spotify playlist of instrumental Christmas music, and dove in.

Of course, my critique partner (the amazing Laura Hilton) found things to change to make the story stronger, but I had the manuscript to my freelance editor ahead of schedule. So far, so good.

However, once the urgency of writing the manuscript was behind me, I knew I needed to get organized and work on my launch timeline. And not just for this book, but also for the others I was planning to release in 2019 since staggered release dates would result in overlapping deadlines.

It was time to think like a publisher.

While it took time to create, I now have a master spreadsheet outlining all of my processes including a standard launch plan to duplicate with future books, comprehensive blurbs and links for every book I have out, a production status overview, planned promotion list, and master task list arranged by date. 

For A Picture Perfect Christmas, I made line items for every single thing I had to do from designing the cover to uploading the files to creating memes and even adding the book into Goodreads and BookBub. It was a crazy long list but I knew that by working through each item, I wouldn’t forget anything along the way. And then I assigned personal due dates for specific milestones so I’d know if I was on track or not.

(As an aside, I’m already planning the release of the first book in my Within the Castle Gates series for January and looking ahead to the second book which I hope to release in March. So, once I had the master launch plan created, it was easy to adjust the dates for the next releases and then weave those tasks into my master to-do list. Which is why last week I was scheduling social media posts to promote the upcoming release, writing a new book, had a third manuscript with an editor, and was also searching images for cover designs.)

Once I had myself organized, I could work down the list. One of the first tasks was designing the cover for A Picture Perfect Christmas. With a cover image and an unedited version of the manuscript, I was able to put the ebook up for pre-order on Amazon. Then, with that link created, I could turn my attention to more of the items on my list.

A few of the highlights of this road to publication have included formatting my official interior files and finally being able to include teaser samples and links to upcoming books in addition to a master list of all of my books. I used Draft2Digital to convert that document into a variety of other formats…then uploaded those new versions to BookFunnel so that I could offer an advance reader copy (ARC) to my review team. Formatting the manuscript for the print version took a bit more time, but at least that was something I’d done for my earlier non-fiction books. (If only designing a full book cover was as easy as just the ebook front cover!)

Now that I’m one week away from the release of A Picture Perfect Christmas, I can certainly say that I’ve learned a lot behind the scenes that I can apply to those next releases and have already adjusted my master spreadsheet. But by working ahead on a schedule and having given myself a cushion, I’m now able to focus on the marketing alone…and wait for more of those early reviews to get posted.

As always, the road to publication of a book ends in the hands of readers like you! If you haven’t already reserved your copy of A Picture Perfect Christmas, you can pre-order the ebook today. If you prefer print copies, that publication process is different and it should be showing up on Amazon and other retailers any day now.

A Picture Perfect Christmas: The Road to Publication