Monday, August 12, 2013

How may day job makes me a better author Part Deux

Last month I blogged about some things I've learned and some skills I've developed in my day job that have helped me manage my writing career. It turned into a long post so I cut some -- here's the rest of it.

Don't think I'm the most organized person in the world, because I am SO not. My office area is a mess that makes my family shake their heads. I usually know where things are but sometimes I don't and that frustrates the hell out of me.

Over the years I've developed a system of organizing my work. I keep folders on my USB/computer, one for each book as I write it, also one for each publisher and within that folder another folder for each book for AFTER it is contracted, where I store documents like edits, cover art requests and blurb forms, as well as publisher-specific information (e.g. who to contact) and royalties. I have numerous other folders too, such as one for blog posts, one for critiques, one for each course I take, one for writing ideas, articles on craft etc etc. I had to learn how to organize reviews, and I have a folder where I keep copies of all my reviews. I create a Word document that includes the entire review, the link to the website, and a short quote from the review. Each review is named with the title of the book and the review site. This makes it easy to quickly find the review with a quote and the link to the review site when I want to promote that book.

I make a lot of handwritten notes when I'm working on a book, and I have a paper file folder for each book as well as a digital folder. I have a new file cabinet where I keep those files; in the bottom drawer are books that are already published; in the top drawer and more accessible are ones that are in progress, or are finished but not published, because I'll need to access them at some point when I have to fill out a cover art request or write promo blogs. Also sometimes I re-use research that I've done for a particular book.

Recently I was having a look at  Microsoft's OneNote - it looks like it could be a really valuable tool for me. Rather than a paper folder with scribbled notes, I could have an electronic folder where I keep notes, research, links, pictures etc. The only problem I see with it is, I write on my lunch hour at work on a laptop and I don't have internet access on it. Not sure how to get around that one. Anyone else use OneNote?

I have folders for magazines and newspaper articles I clip and save for ideas. I have folders for paper correspondence from my publishers, the IRS, CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), etc. I also have a binder where I keep notes from courses and craft books I've read.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to track submissions, and another to track sales/royalties, with formulas created to automatically add up monthly entries so I can see at a glance how much money I've made this year, or how many books I've sold of any particular book. My tracking is pretty basic, however, as I've been learning that some authors track their sales in much more detail (especially self-published books). I also developed an Excel spreadsheet that I now use to help with planning my books (I'm not really a plotter, but it helps my pacing and keeps me on track to hit the major turning points at the right time).

I'm not the best at organizing my business expenses and receipts. I tend to dump those into an "in" tray and collect them all year. It would be smart to have a spreadsheet for those too, adding them up so I can see where I am and whether I need to increase my advertising or cut back on spending, but this is one area I'm working on improving! On the other hand, in terms of prioritization, I don't see that as my biggest priority.

Client Service - my day job is in a service business where all we provide is a service. It is our most important competency. And although writing might not seem like a service business, I do see the people I work with as my "customers". This includes my publishers, as I am building relationships with them and meeting their needs; it also includes readers. I enjoy building relationships with readers through my books and through communication with them, and I know that not satisfying them will lose me customers/readers/money. That means putting out the best book I possibly can. It also means responding to inquiries quickly and politely. I reply to every email I receive from a reader, whether it is just an email that says "I love your book!" or an inquiry about when the next book in the series will be out. Not responding appropriately (or at all) to that inquiry could very possibly lose me a sale of that next book. I am able to see the bigger picture of the publishing business, identifying barriers to client service and what could be done to overcome those barriers (which I have sometimes suggested to my publishers ― for example, pricing of e-books, books being available for pre-sale, etc. ― in a hopefully professional manner!).

There are other competencies that have been valuable to me as well, such as managing conflict (I have a Certificate in Conflict Resolution), which goes along with the teamwork (there is always conflict when you're working with other people, and yes that includes the publishing/editing team), analysis (for example, analyzing that sales spreadsheet to look for trends) and decision making.

I treat my writing career as a business, and even though I'd love to quit my "day job", I appreciate all the things I’ve learned from working in the business world so I can apply them to my writing.


PG Forte said...

these posts are so fabulous, but if you're not organized, then I really don't know what to call myself, because right now my head's spinning after reading all this! lol I'm in awe.

Right now I keep ALL my notes on my computer. I do have notebooks that I carry with me to jot down notes and ideas and scenes while I'm away from home, but I usually transcribe them into the computer as soon as I'm home.

Of course, I also keep the redundant notebooks as well. It's interesting, but only to me, to be able to look back and remember where I was when I wrote those notes, what I was doing, what else I was working on, etc. But, really, their only REAL purpose is to someday provide my children with a sense of satisfaction when they can finally toss the damn things out. lol

Sydney Somers said...

I've started migrating more and more of my plotting and notes to the pc instead of my traditional notebooks. I've dabbled with One Note a little but adore the ease of organizing with Scrivener. Now if only that program would write my books too... :)

Kelly Jamieson said...

I'm going to try One Note --some time!

Kate Davies said...

I love OneNote - for me, the convenience of instant updates that I can access from any device makes it a winner. I can start on my computer, fix a section on my iPad, and check a detail on my phone later. I'm actually teaching a class on using it later this month!