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215 Things An Author Must Do

Last week I had two comments that prompted this weeks post. The first one was from George Angus who made the observation “I think that folks may not realise all of the things to take into consideration when they sit at the computer to write”. Hmm, I think he may be correct.

The second one came from Les, a member of my local writing group, when I bemoaned about a lack of time. He asked innocently what was I doing that took up all my time.

So for all to see here is my to do list, comprising of some of the things an author must do when trying to get a book out there.

And before you say it, Yes, I am sure your list is longer.

Note: Any item starting with “+” has its own, expanded, list further down.

09-10-09a liza31337, Studying the puzzle Writing

Writing plan (timetable)
Reading list; craft
Story summary
Basic plot
Purpose of each chapter
Purpose of significant scenes
Chapter hooks
Time lines
Character names
Character profiles
Back story
Character’s back stories
Research of places, events, people, items
First line
First Paragraph
First half page
First chapter
Find Critique group
1st draft
1st edit
2nd edit
Note down any not included short stories for use in promotion


Identify prime agent/publisher group (following steps)
Identify which published novels are similar
Identify which publisher(s) printed these book(s)
Identify which editor(s) handled the account(s)
Identify which agency(ies) represented the author(s)
Identify which agent(s) worked with the author(s)
Identify potential agent group
Shortlist all other agencies working in genre
Order these by success (Number of books, sales figures…)
Identify agent handling your genre in each of these
Reading list; Books about the query and submission process
Form core of the query letter
Have query letter critiqued (professional or amateur group)
Customise query letter per agent and submit
Form diary of submissions, date submitted, responses.
Reading list; about self-publishing
Investigate self publishing options
Identify vendors for selected options
Investigate development editors
Employ selected development editor
Re-edit as advised
Investigate copy editor
Employ selected copy editor
Re-edit as advised
Investigate distributors, list in order of quantity of books handled
Contact distributors

09-10-09a liza31337, Puzzle pieces Marketing

Plan of Marketing time line
+Blog Tour
+Book Tour
Book review; list of places
Write publicity package (see blog tour)
Write elevator pitch (60 second pitch)
Write three minute pitch
Advanced copy; distribution list
Ask other authors, in same genre, for a review of your book
Ask other authors about bookmark, business card and poster quantities.
Business card; design
Business card; costing/purchase
Book mark design
Book mark; costing/purchase
Poster; design
Poster; costing/purchase
Promotion locations, listed by media
Local radio shows, listed by location
Local papers, periodicals, groups listed by location
Short story sites
Article sites
Contact above for guidelines
Geographical map marked vs. promotion dates
Promo short stories from prior events
Promo short stories from omitted events
Articles from facets of writing the book
Podcast; serialisation of the book
Podcast; List of sites
Ranking of sites prior to contact
Ranking of participating sites
Promo material, cups, photos, artwork…
Book website
Facebook fan page
Myspace Page
Hub page
Squido page
Twitter accounts for main Character
Names of professional marketer/publicist
Quotes from marketer/publicists
Marketing reading list
Marketing training availability/costs
Publication sites; list of sites
Promo/Buzz sites; list of sites
Speaking; find/join speaking group for instruction
Define excerpt from book to be used at reading events

Blog Tour

Define tour dates
Make/buy diary for tour, -3/+2 months
Find book review site in genre
Find fan blog sites in genre
Find writing blog site in genre
Find site associated with themes in book
Write elevator pitch
Write short review
Write long review
Author’s short bio
Author’s long bio
Picture of author (one if branding, more if open)
Jpg. of front cover
Jpg. of rear cover
Banner art/picture 1
Banner art/picture 2
Make sample from first chapter, include author bio and links to site/buy/podcasts
HTML code for first chapter text sample embedding in host site
Make teaser trailer (60 sec)
HTML code for teaser trailer embedding in host website
Tour teaser text 1
Tour teaser text 2
Tour Podcast; design icon, intro and ending words
Tour Podcast; find background music
Tour Podcast; find voice actors or do it yourself
Tour Podcast; record intro, chapter one and finish.
Tour Podcast; HTML code for embedding in host website
Promo video; watch other promo’s and make notes
Promo video; design
Promo video; shoot
Promo video; HTML code for embedding in host website
Check other tours and compile list of questions from interviews
Interview Q&A set 1; about the book
Interview Q&A set 2; about what started the idea
Interview Q&A set 3; about publishing path
Interview Q&A set 4; about characters & development
Interview Q&A set 5; by protagonist
Interview Q&A set 6; by interesting main character
Interview Q&A set 7; by antagonist
Guest post; about research for the book
Guest post; about backstory (teaser)
Guest post; about content not included in book
Guest post; about character development
Guest post; about lessons learned
Guest post(s); about content i.e. weapons, locations (for theme associated sites)
Prize draw; define method and delivery options
Prize draw; prizes
Promotion of blog tour; Twitter, Facebook, – - -
Find forums in genre
Join forums
Define forum dates for tour
Write sales pitch/letter to send to possible tour participants outlining all methods of participation (or ask for preference)
Contact all possible venues and gain promise
Add to diary, confirmed dates and dates to remind hosts
Set up “Tour” page on blog with schedule
Set up “Participants” page on blog (password protected) , (add download links to all blog content, bio’s reviews, etc.)
Interview; Answer host’s e-mailed questions prior to tour start
Chase participants close to time (-1 week) and return interview Q&A’s
Follow tour plan, respond to comments, adjust as problems occur
After tour; send out prizes
After tour; Write guest posts about tour and lessons learned.
After tour; send guest posts tour hosts

Book Tour09-10-09a Mujitra, Jigsaw puzzle

Define tour dates
Make/buy diary for tour, -3/+2 months
Talk to other authors to judge material purchase quantities
Business card, costing/purchase
Book mark, costing/purchase
Poster, costing/purchase
Author photos
Books, additional stock
Bookshops; listed by area
Define tour dates and venues
Geographical map; mark by dates & locations
Write sales pitch/letter to send to possible tour venues
Contact all possible venues and gain promise
Add to diary, confirmed dates and dates to remind hosts
Ask for overnight stays during book tour via fan base & author friends
Set up “Tour” page on blog with schedule
Set up “Participants” page on blog (password protected) , (add download links to all blog content, bio’s reviews, etc.)
Promotion of blog tour; Twitter, Facebook, – - -
Chase participants close to time (-1 week) and
Follow tour plan, adjust as problems occur
After tour; send out any requested photos, info, books
After tour; Write guest posts about tour and lessons learned.
After tour; send guest posts to blog tour hosts


Find reading groups in genre (book clubs)
Find writing groups in genre
Find forums in genre
Find blogs associated to book content (guns, location etc)
Prioritise above, allocate time depending on readership
Comment on above blogs and forums
Post on social networking sites
Form a schedule for all social networking (and stick to it)
Write Guest posts for blogs
Ask bloggers for guest posts around your subject
Write short stories themed with your book
Find short story hosting sites
Post shorts on sites
Reading list; about podcasting
Find podcasting websites for audio books
Serialised Podcast; design icon, intro and ending words
Serialised Podcast; find background music
Serialised Podcast; find voice actors or do it yourself
Serialised Podcast; record intro, chapter and finish. For each chapter
Serialised Podcast; submit to Podcasting websites
Shorts Podcast; Record shorts as podcasts, individual or as collections
Promote posts to book marking sites
Develop product; viral give-a-way, eBook, shorts collection, art…
Promote product on blog, ask readers to share
Promote product to learn promotion ropes
Develop perfect “About page”
Add contact form to blog
Write media copy long
Write media copy short
Add media page to blog
New blog about the book
Book blog; freebies: art work, shorts, e-book(s)
Find book review sites, Amazon, Bookworm, etc
Review other books in same genre on these sites


Well there is my list, apologies’ for it not being complete. I will keep updating it as I learn more, so if anyone can see any omissions, let me know in the comments and I will add them to the list.

To download a RTF file of the above list click here


Photo; Studying the puzzle, cc liza31337
Photo; Puzzle pieces, cc liza31337
Photo; Jigsaw puzzle, cc Mujitra

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14 comments to 215 Things An Author Must Do

  • Wow. Now that’s a list!

  • Thank God there’s only 2 edits involved.

    • Hi Iapetus999, Yes, you are right. It could have been “225 Things…”
      I also didn’t include “Procrastinate; fiddle with paperclips.”

  • I’m not sure I want to play anymore!

    … yes, I do. I’m nuts. We all are.

    Take care & a lie down,
    Jessica Rosen

  • My goodness. Such a comprehensive list, Mr. Shack. It is print-worthy and could also function as an outline for teaching a course on writing.

    Nice, I’m retweeting this beauty.


  • wow I was going to make avacado, date, chocolate (RAW eating) pudding this morning…instead I copied off your list and put it on my bulletin board….I just made up my mind to work on writing a book to make some money…uhmmmm now I need a topic and to decide whether fiction or not….uhmmm heard Nancy Pearl (author of Book Lust and radio book reviewer) say that Memoirs all have a part of fiction in them and fiction all have a part of memoir in them….that has kept me thinking for about 10 hours now….

    I also have 200 pages to go on Diana Gabaldon’s 6th fictional family history saga….I think I will make the pudding and then stare at your list….oh and I have to go to the post office and get money refunded back on the chair they can not deliver?….those are all +s you did not add to list.

    Thank you

    • Patricia, oops! sorry about that, careless of me. Ho-hum, at least I never claim to be perfect.
      And I also seemed to have overlooked “+Life;…”

  • That is a great list, especially for those of us who don’t so much need a “how-to” as we do a kick in the pants!

    • Jill, I had a kick in the “pants” recently, which was why I had started to compile my to-do list. Glad I have done the list, since it has forced me to rationalise where I spend my time.

  • Handy reference. Make a nice e book maybe…

    • I think it could be converted into an e-book, after it has been worked on more, ordered into a rational plan and listed on a time line.
      Probably could do each section as a chapter and add resource links, for example to audacity in the pod-casting section.

      Thanks for the thought, but…

      I think I am a tad overcommitted already. (GRIN)

  • This list is excellent! I am going to place a link to this post on the listserv for my writer’s group. There are still so many people out there who don’t realize the work involved for an author to get a book represented, published, and marketed! No doubt compiling this list helped with your organization and prioritization.

    I appreciate your time and effort in creating this list. It is very helpful for me!

  • Irene, The list came out of a need to gain an overview of the process and also to maximise my use of time that recently became severely restricted.

    In the odd ten minutes of morning and afternoon breaks at work, I jotted down tasks and then broke them down further until they became individual tasks that I could plan towards.

    The biggest advantage of this list is the ability to “see” concurrent tasks, i.e. I am collecting addresses of blog sites, book review sites and genre authors as I surf, instead of waiting until planning a tour and then going out to search for them.

    In line with this concurrent thinking it has also allowed me to realise that some of the content/backstory/research in the novel, which would normally be cast aside. Now has value as promotional posts and shorts. One character in the book, who previously had a walk on part, has now fleshed out into an old curmudgeon, he has a prime role not in the book but in a promotional short story that introduces the world and the main characters.

    At the end of the post I said that the list is incomplete. This is a ghastly truth, almost daily some more notes join the jumble in my journal. One day they will be organised and lifted to the list.

  • [...] Andy Shackcloth answers that burning question of what writers do with their time with his article 215 Things An Author Must Do. [...]