The Game of Prerequisites

This month we’re playing what I call ‘The Game of Prerequisites’ and it’s just as fun as it sounds.

Launching a new book means either a soft / casual launch or a hard/ organized one.

The former is easy: Take the manuscript, convert it into an eBook and upload it. It’s simple, it’s low key, and it’s low pressure. It’s also slow(er).

An organized launch on the other hand means picking a date, setting up your advertising around it, and then working backwards to schedule everything.

The game goes something like this:

  • To get the paperback released, I have to approve the proof paperback.
  • To get the proof I have to order it (from the USA to the UK – which can be painfully slow).
  • To get the proof I need the final files – 1 x typeset PDF interior, and 1 x PDF exterior artwork
  • To get the exterior artwork right, I need to know the spine width so the artwork doesn’t slip and end up with some of the back cover or the front cover sliding onto the spine (or vice versa).
  • To get the spine width I need the page count. Each page is 0.0025” inches worth of cream paper so it’s page count x 0.0025” to get the necessary spine width. Once I know the page count I send it to my artist, and she does the necessary adjustment to make it all work.
  • To get the page count I need a print-ready fully-typeset interior.
  • To get the interior PDF I need to send the final manuscript to my typesetter, and then give her time to work her magic.
  • To send my typesetter the file I need the ‘Ready to Typeset’ Manuscript file (henceforth RtT MS for brevity).
  • To get the RtT MS, I need to make the final adjustments recommended by my proof-reader.
  • To get the proofreading adjustments, I need to send my copyedited manuscript to my proof-reader, and then wait for her to read through it (multiple times).
  • To get a copyedit manuscript I need to send my developmentally-finished manuscript to my copyeditor and then wait.
  • To get my developmentally-finished manuscript (i.e. the story is done, but there might be typos / grammatical errors) I need to write the story, get feedback from a dev editors/ alpha reader/ beta readers and then incorporate that feedback… after all the planning, the outlining, not to mention actually writing a complete draft and doing our usual self-edits.

I’ve cut that last stage, which is about 10 months of work, down to a paragraph because that’s where I got to earlier this month in The Game of Prerequisites.

This is actually the simplified version. In the Pro Edition of The Game of Prerequisites (where we aim not only to release a book, but to try and get it to sell too) we add a few more rules:

  • To sell the book, people need to know it exists
  • To tell people the book exists, the author needs to book advertising
  • To book advertising you need the link to the pages where the book is being sold
  • To get the links to the store pages, they need to exist
  • To get the store page before launch, you need a preorder
  • To get a preorder you need to upload a finished eBook 10 days in advance (or a placeholder document before that) i.e. if you release on the 20th of the month, Amazon want the customer-ready eBook files on the 9th.
  • To get the finished eBook you need the RtT MS so you can convert it into an eBook (which is easy to do for simple text-only fiction, but if you like pretty graphics and other extras then add another stage here called Send RtT MS to Formatter).

All of this needs other people. When I say ‘indie author’ I don’t mean ‘DIY all of it’. If you can do everything in the above list to a professional standard then more power to you, but I can’t.

Our team includes:

  • Author critique partners to look at the rough stuff
  • Alpha readers to look at the 1st ‘OK’ ms
  • Beta readers to look at the ‘This isn’t terrible, actually!’ ms
  • Copyeditors to tidy up my awful chickenscratch grammar
  • Proof-readers to check no new errors have been introduced while acting on editorial feedback
  • A typesetter to make my print book look pretty (this is relatively new for us – and we will be going back to DoD/ CS for new print editions as time, money and cashflow allow).
  • Legal / Libel reading – to check for capitalisation of trademarks, that there aren’t any people sharing my fictional names in the real-world counterparts etc

Every single stage of this process takes time. The best people get booked months in advance, so everything has to be carefully scheduled. The slightest slippage can have a knock-on throughout the process, and that can mean delays.

Delays can kill a hard/ organized launch. Advertisers get booked up early just as freelancers do, and a hard launch can quickly become a dead launch if you don’t have everything together on time.

This all costs money too. Books are not massively profitable for most authors. We get by, but by no means make a fortune. The big money is for the 1% of the 1%. Below that superstar level we have to pay our people, comply with the law in multiple jurisdictions, pay tax (including 20% VAT on eBooks here in the UK) and somehow manage to do so without ending up in a cashflow crisis. Our revenue tends to spike and fall with releases, but our costs are much more spread out.

Even our prerequisites have prerequisites. Before this we needed the idea, the experts to make the story work, the timeline, the characters, etc. We needed to procure the artwork. We’ve got ARC copies going out (there’s still time to sign up – click the big banner on the homepage at to claim your free review copy). Then there’s the marketing materials – the banners, the swag, the social media stuff, the blog posts (which I have to admit I am not good at doing regularly).

Putting a book online easy. Laying the groundwork for a successful book is not.

On May 4th The Patient Killer will go live at an early bird price of 99p/ 99c. After that it’s in your hands.

Comments (2)

  1. Cinta Garcia de la Rosa April 15, 2016 at 10:20 am

    I cannot wait to read my copy of your next book!

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