The end to end process of self-publishing a book is a great deal of work to take on, even for the most seasoned of authors. Throughout our experience working with new or recurring clients, we’ve witnessed firsthand just how overwhelming it can be, with many asking the same question: where do I start?!

The easiest way to tackle the pile of to-do tasks ahead of you is to come at it slowly. Break everything down into steps, and don’t let the big picture suffocate you! It’s easy for a mole hill to quickly become a mountain in the eyes of somebody who’s feeling anxious about it all, but we’re here to help you avoid getting to that stage.

We frequently turn to the leading experts in their fields when hunting for productivity and time management resources to share with our audience. Chris Ducker, an influencer in the sphere of virtual work, recently shared a spreadsheet that he uses to get the ball rolling on his projects (see: 3 Lists to Freedom) and we couldn’t help but notice how valuable it would be to the multitude of new authors we work with. We’ve adapted Chris’ spreadsheet and have aptly named it The 3 List System to Boost Author Productivity in a bid to help writers break their self-publishing process into achievable steps.

The list of tasks that authors have to execute along the process of self-publishing their books can be easily broken down into three distinct categories.

What authors shouldn’t do

What authors can do (but don’t have to)

What authors must do

Using these three categories, we created the 3 Lists to Author Productivity – designed to help authors gain a bird’s eye view of their book project and quickly see what they must outsource, what they can outsource (but don’t have to) and what they absolutely must do on their own. Granted, some authors will have considerably larger budgets than others. Everybody is different! Some clients we have worked with preferred to pour their funds into their book covers, formatting and landing page design, while others with limited funds tried to do everything themselves.

We’ve watched as authors from a range of financial backgrounds have gone through the self-publishing process from start to finish. No matter how much or how little money they funneled into their projects, several key common factors stood out to us – which we’ve combined into a single spreadsheet to help those embarking on future book publishing journeys.

So, without further ado – here’s what to outsource, what to do yourself and what you could attempt to tackle if you’re limited on funds! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the easiest way to tackle the creation of your book is to break everything down into these three lists.

The 3 List System To Boost Author Productivity

List 1: What Authors Shouldn’t Do

Cover design –Unless you’re a professional graphic designer, chances are you’ll have a great deal of difficulty creating a book cover on your own that looks polished and professional. Trust us – we’ve seen more than a few Photoshop and Canva attempts and they almost never do the book justice. Investing in working with a creative designer for your cover is one of the most important decisions you’ll make.

Editing/Proofreading – You might be an impeccable writer or even an editor by trade, but it always (and we really mean always) pays off to hire a professional editor to overlook your work. While your spelling and grammar will likely be perfect, he or she will find a way for your ideas to be conveyed in a more concise manner or presented in a different light. Besides, writers spend so much time looking at their own manuscripts that an extra set of eyes is often the exact final push that their book needs.

Formatting – Much like cover design, this is simply one aspect of publishing a book that an author shouldn’t do on their own. Formatting is a complex, tricky ballgame that requires an expert’s experience and eye for detail. If your book’s formatting is off, your audience’s entire reading experience will be affected. Make sure you get it right!

Website/landing page design – Your author website and book landing page are essential components of your marketing process. When people hear about you or your book, the first thing they’ll do if they’re interested is head to your website. As such, it’s important that it fully conveys your message and is well-designed to convey your authority and professionalism. You might know the basics of WordPress, but creating a website from start to finish is no easy feat. It’s best to leave your site’s design to the pros.

Book trailer – What better way to promote your book than with a video trailer?! Much like how trailers are released on Youtube for Hollywood movies, you can do the same for your book to generate buzz. Content could include a synopsis of the book’s contents, an author interview and interesting facts. Once again, creating your trailer will be difficult unless you’re a professional videographer. This task is better left outsourced to the experts.

Social media creatives – It’s second nature for authors to come up with witty and engaging written content for their social feeds, but these updates often need to be accompanied by attractive graphics that require some skill to create. Posts featuring photos or video perform much better than those without, so consider hiring a freelance graphic designer to help you beautify your content.

All of that being said – the cost of outsourcing these tasks can be daunting. However, with the rise of freelance platforms such as Upwork.com and Freelancer.com, it doesn’t have to be! You can find qualified talent on these sites who will eagerly work on your projects and produce exceptional final products for a fair rate. Alternatively, you can turn to full service self-publishing companies (such as Happy Self Publishing!) who will provide these tasks in package bundles at a reasonable price. Browse our list of services and rates here.

List 2: What Authors Can Do (But Don’t Have To)

Writing (Yup – you don’t have to if you don’t want to! More on that below)

Audiobook Narration

Listing on Amazon

Submitting to promo sites/Facebook groups

Category/keyword research

Running Facebook ads

Posting on social media

The tasks in this section fall into a sort of grey zone, in which it’s often recommended to outsource to the pros but where those who are looking to cut costs can make do on their own. Probably the most important point on this list is that authors don’t, in fact, have to write on their own. Whether you’re not a natural writer or are short on time, there are services such as angel writing available to those who prefer to outsource their book’s content. In a nut shell, this service allows authors to share their original ideas and knowledge by being interviewed at great length, before the content is transcribed and polished by an angel writer. The author has full control over the intellectual property in the book and doesn’t have to borrow ideas from anybody – unlike traditional ghost writing. Click here to learn more about angel writing and how it differs from ghost writing.

From social posting to running Facebook ads and conducting keyword research, the items on this list don’t require extensive professional experience to be done successfully on your own – yet can also easily be outsourced. For instance, if you are short on funds and prefer to narrate your audiobook on your own – go ahead! Just make sure you have the proper equipment and access to a soundproof room to do so.

Given that the self publishing process can be an overwhelming one from start to finish, we recommend outsourcing the tasks on the What Authors Can Do list if possible. An author’s primary focus should be on channeling their time and energy into the tasks they must do in order to maximize their potential – which we’ll get to next.

List 3: What Authors Must Do

The items under this list must be taken on by you, and only you! They involve maintaining personal relationships, interacting with your audience and building your business’ brand. No matter how much you pay a freelancer, they wouldn’t be able to execute them as well as you (if at all).

Strategy for growth – How will you scale your business? Which steps will you take on in order to do so? How will you continue to engage your audience and market your work? This is something only you can figure out.

Build author platform – Come up with an idea for your website, content topics for a blog, subject matter for a podcast and a long term vision for your business. While you can outsource the smaller tasks of these projects, the vision and direction must come from you.

Relationship with followers – Interact with your followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn! Learn about what they respond to and what fails to interest them. Meet your fans at book signings or host discussion groups. The more you get to know your audience and show that you appreciate them, the better equipped you are to grow your business.

Relationship with other authors & influencers – You know what they say: there’s no advertising like word of mouth advertising. Maintaining relationships with other authors and influencers helps you swap knowledge and tips, partner with each other to spread your reach and uncover hidden business opportunities.

Give podcast interviews – Podcasts are a fantastic medium to use to spread your message within a niche. Many of the most popular podcast hosts have built up targeted audiences that have demonstrated vested interests in your field and would be the perfect people to market yourself (and your business) to.

Speak at events, summits, webinars – The more you get the word out about who you are and what you do, the better! You can’t exactly outsource public appearances and presentations to a freelancer, right?

Publish more books – If your first book did well about investing in the stock market, chances are you’re on the right path and could successfully publish a second one. Only you are able to foresee which type of content will drive audience engagement and sell books.

Develop new products – So you don’t feel like writing another book (yet), but how about producing an online course? Or hosting a workshop? The opportunities are endless, and you have the business savvy to execute the development of new products effectively.

Channel your energy into the tasks that authors must do in order to maximize your productivity and work as efficiently as possible. Leave the tricky projects to the pros, and outsource what you can in order to save your time and energy. After all – you wouldn’t have gotten to where you are now had you not channeled your creative output into an incredible product!

If you have yet to write a book and are struggling to find the inspiration or motivation, consider joining our 7 Day Book Kickstart Challenge.

Questions or feedback? We’d love to hear it! Drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter to discuss this article further. Additionally, feel free to browse the services we offer here.

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