Bookplanner Manages Publishing – “The Cure For Publishing Paralysis”
If you’re a self-publishing author, hopefully you’re aware of Joel Friedlander’s work at thebookdesigner.com and his must-read mailing list. Joel recently announced a new service called Bookplanner, and he calls it “The Cure For Publishing Paralysis.”
Bookplanner is project management software made specifically for publishing books (ebooks or print or both). The software guides you through each task in the book publishing process. The tasks are divided into functional areas:
Prerequisite Tasks (Social media accounts, ISBNs and such)
Production (Print and ebooks have separate production areas. Depending on your project, you may have one or both of these.)
Bookplanner requires very little info to get started. Pregenerated templates create the task list and due dates for you.
Templates based on different project types get you started quickly by auto-generating all the tasks required, including their start and stop dates.
Because it’s super easy to create and delete book plans, bookplanner encourages you to experiment with the different templates available. Create new book projects from the templates, then explore, tinker, and compare the plans. Keep whatever works best for you, and delete the rest. You can have an unlimited number of book projects.
Once your project is in place, the master task list leads you through the steps of creating, editing, and publishing a book.
Bookplanner Master Task List
Bookplanner at the Top Level view shows all the tasks for your book project divided into functional groups.
Listmakers rejoice! The master-task view shows all tasks in order, broken down into the groups or functional areas mentioned above. The order of the tasks cannot be changed. Completed sections can be hidden, which keeps the current active group of tasks easily available. Hidden sections of the completed task groups can be unhidden with a click.
Bookplanner Task View
The task view in bookplanner provides a description of the task at hand, and a simple text field for your notes.
Selecting a task takes you to the task view, showing a pre-generated (and uneditable) description of the task, and a giant field for entering notes. The feather-pen in the upper-right can be used to edit the duration of the task. This will adjust the deadlines for all other tasks auto-magically. The duration is the only part of the task you can edit.
The notes area is EXTREMELY simple. Text and links only. No graphics, and no html. As someone who works under a wordpress menu for hours, the notes section felt limiting to me. I hope updates to the software will allow users to add external files like graphics and manuscripts. (Although one could work around this by linking to files in google drive…)
Scroll down from the notes section to find three more task-specific resources:
Expert Guidance – Provides relevant info on the task-at-hand.
Additional Resources – Link to relevant articles, primarily on Joel’s extensive website thebookdesigner.com
Referrals/Partners – Links to bookplanner partners providing task-specific services (Editors, reviewers, etc.) who can help you check that task off the list.
Bookplanner Calendar and Gantt View
Bookplanner’s Gantt Chart view provides a top-level view of your publishing plan
The Gantt view offers a top level overview of the entire publishing process, showing only the functional groups, not the individual tasks. This is the kind of 20,000 ft view that is lacking in many project management systems, and I really appreciate that bookplanner includes it.
Calendar view shows each task on the calendar as you’d expect.The calendar gives single week or month views only. Clicking any task in the calendar views takes you right to the task! Nicely done!
Calendar View in bookplanner
You can only view the calendar or Gantt chart for one book project at a time, which is probably a good thing. Even individual projects can get pretty complicated. Both the Calendar and Gantt charts open just above the master task list, so you can easily shift between views by simply scrolling down the page.
The paint isn’t even dry on bookplanner, so some minor issues are to be expected. The software will be improved as it gets used and receives feedback. The issues below are things that directly impact the functionality of the software. I’d expect them to be fixed asap:
Edit/Delete To Do Items – Any “To Do List” items you manually add to a project cannot be renamed or removed. You also can’t set the due date or duration for them, as there’s no edit/delete button!
Task Ordering with To Do Items – The available templates are nice, but they can be limiting. If they don’t include steps that you use, you can manually add them as To Do Items within the functional area, but they are segregated from the main task list. There is no way to ‘insert’ your tasks into the chain of events.
For example, if you do a third round of edit/revisions instead of two, that is not an option included in any of the templates. Adding those tasks as To Do Items won’t affect the timeline of that section. And you have no control over the time for manually added “to do” items, as I mentioned previously. There is also no way to insert your “to do” items between other tasks.
Furthermore, there is no way to arrange the order of your own To Do Items. If you want to see them in order in the project then you’ll need to enter them in REVERSE order, as each new item entered goes on top of the list.
Task Dependency Is Not Enforced – I was able to mark tasks as completed when they still had unfinished prerequisite tasks. For example, I was able to check off the “Final Interior Proofread” when none of the other interior tasks were complete. In some cases, I was able to ‘break’ the Gantt chart view by doing this.
It makes more sense to me for a warning or question to pop up, or perhaps auto-complete previous tasks in the dependency, or grey out the option to complete tasks which have unfinished prerequisites.
Achievements To Unlock
Here are some areas where bookplanner could improve their already awesome product.
Google Drive Integration and/or File Storage – Currently bookplanner does not have any kind of file storage. You can’t add any kind of files to the project. You can’t even graphics to the notes section. This is almost a deal-breaker for me. I want a system which manages the entire book project in one place, ideally storing all the project files, including every revision, every word doc, every version of the cover art, every updated version of the epub. Worst case, bookplanner could connect to Google Drive’s API, and save links to the files stored on google drive.
Cost Tracking – There are no tools I know of that will let you do publishing project management AND allow you to track expenses. The first person to make that tool for book publishing is going to hit gold. These are the questions it should answer: How much will this book cost me to publish? Where did I spend all that money? Where can I find areas to reduce cost on future publications?
Google Calendar Integration – Would be nice to have book project calendars sync to google calendar so I could see where I’m at in the projects without logging into bookplanner.
Personal Service Provider Database – The Partner Referrals section is nice, but not editable. I work with my own group of editors, reviewers, two different crit teams, street team, etc, and it would be ideal to be able to store these contacts within bookplanner and select them for the relevant tasks for easy access.
Edit/Crit/Reviewer Integration – Sending manuscripts out for crit, then collecting the crit, then revising the manuscript is a pain. Same with editors/artists and their revision files. Same with ARCs and beta readers. Same with reviews and bloggers. Much of that pain could be remedied by a system which allows external collaborators to upload their critiques/artwork/reviews/etc., right into the book project.
Distributor Integration – Dreaming here, but once the file integration is in place, it’s a button-press away from uploading the finished files to createspace, ingram spark, lightning source, smashwords, etc.
Community Forums – The task-specific ,expert guidance and related info sections are nice, but they won’t answer all questions. There is definitely some value in having a community resource to fall back on.
Service Provider Ratings and Reviews – There are many service providers out there. So many, that I’d like to see reviews on them, preferably by people who have used their services. The ability to add service providers manually and rate their services within Bookplanner would be very helpful.
Analytics and Reports – I’d like to see how my finished projects stack up against other metrics. Which section of the publishing process took me the longest? How fast did I publish this book compared to my previous books? Compared to other bookplanner users? Compared to the industry average? This data would become more useful/meaningful as I completed more and more projects to get more accurate baselines. With that kind of reporting, I could work on tightening my process, and make my publishing business more efficient.
Overall Review of Bookplanner
The software just went live on Monday, but I can already tell that Bookplanner will be an absolute dream for self-publishers. Bookplanner is like hiring a project manager’s assistant for your book publishing project.
Bookplanner makes creating a book publishing plan impossibly easy. Tell it what kind of project you’re working on, and when you want to start. Give it a name and push a button. Bookplanner creates a task list, expert guidance, links to related articles, links to service providers, and puts all the tasks on the calendar with due dates. You won’t find a VA to do that for you at $5.99 a month. I used to do this all myself with free project management software, but bookplanner will save me a ton of time, which makes it well worth the price to me. (Especially since I’m tracking seven book projects at once!)
Hats off to the web designers. Bookplanner works great with touchscreen or a mouse, on tablet or smarphone. The interface is clean, responsive and intuitive. Everything is just a click or a scroll away, from big picture Gantt chart to the task details. The software is available as a web-based service only. There is no app or standalone software.
Bookplanner may not be for everyone. It will not store files of any kind, and it does not provide reporting. Some of the value of Bookplanner is in the advice and resources. If you already have a working publishing plan and don’t need advice/resources, then you’d only be using Bookplanner as a task list/calendar/gantt chart and it may not have as much value for you.
Those who want to do things differently may be frustrated by the templates (which must be used, and cannot be adjusted, with the exception of task durations) You can add your own ‘to do’ items, but you cannot make your own custom plan by choosing tasks à la carte. But, with over 35 years of publishing experience and over a thousand articles on the subject, the team behind Bookplanner know what it takes to put a book together. I personally like the fact that someone who knows the path to book publishing has provided a well-tested plan for getting there.
Bookplanner is just starting out, and I know that it will grow and improve as more author/publishers use the tool and provide feedback.
Bookplanner Charter Member Pricing Ends Dec 14th
Bookplanner was just released on Dec 7th, and they are offering charter memberships at the guaranteed lowest price of $5,99 per month until Dec 14th. (Less than that, if you pay yearly.) These reduced rates are guaranteed for life to charter members, regardless of future price increases.
For just a few bucks a month, I’d say if you plan on taking a book from the rough draft stage to published stage, bookplanner is well worth the price.