Managing A Big List – 1

One of the tasks that becomes increasingly more time-consuming as an indie author publishes more books is managing his or her backlist. Today, we’ll talk about tracking the ebook files that reside at the various portals. Books might require corrections or new information – like the addition of new titles to the series – or they might have new covers or changes to the front or end matter. A newsletter link or website url might need to be changed or updated. A new version of the book might be available (like audio) and you might want the link in the ebook. All of these options require the files to be uploaded to the portals again. Some authors update their ebook files on a regular schedule. I’m not nearly that organized anymore: I tend to update all books in a series when there’s a new release in that series. I try to update the end matter in completed series every one to two years. That’s a slippery objective which doesn’t always happen.

One thing I do is track my uploads and (you guessed it) I use a spreadsheet.

No matter how you generate your ebook files, it’s good to practice version control. This means that when you update the file, it has some info in its name to identify which version of the book it is. The easiest way to do this, IMO, is to add the date to the file name. I use Vellum to generate my ebook files, and it does not show the version automatically in the name. Once the files have been generated, I change the file names like this:

Just_One_Silver_Fox_Kindle_July2021.epub

Vellum generated this file name without the date and I added the part in bold. (And yes, I create portal-specific editions with my English books, and yes, I upload an epub to Amazon. If you want to learn more about that, check out this blog post from Vellum.)

Some of the portals will preserve the file name, so that when you look at the book’s metadata on your dashboard, you can see it. Others don’t – GooglePlay, for example, always changes the file name to the ISBN, although it does list the upload date.

When you upload a new version of a book file, it will be handled differently at different portals. All portals will deliver the current book file for new purchases. Some portals will push out the updated version to existing customers or (Apple) offer them the choice of updating their version. Amazon defaults to not delivering the new version to existing customers. You can ask them to push out the new version to all customers, but they may not agree to do as much. There’s only a chance of their agreement if the new file is 10% different from the old file or more. This can be frustrating if you’re only uploading a new version because you received a quality warning from Amazon about half a dozen typos: while fixing them isn’t perceived as a major update or one worth delivering to readers, that quality flag could result in the book being removed from sale if left unaddressed. The other wrinkle is Kindle Unlimited – when a KU reader adds a book to their library, I’m not sure the version can ever be updated.

To keep track of uploads without needing to click into the metadata for each book on each dashboard, I have a spreadsheet. To create a similar one, create a new workbook. You can call it Uploads or EbookVersions or something that makes sense to you. Add the year to the file name.

Call Column A “Title”. Make that column as wide as necessary to display your titles completely. Then, across the top and starting with Column B, name the columns with all the portals you use. I put the ebook portals first, then the aggregators. I have a column for BookFunnel, so I know the date of the version loaded there. It’s often an ARC, so having the date here is a good reminder to update it whenever I’m going to sell directly or give a book away in a BF promo. Last, but not least, I list the portals that serialize fiction, mostly because these are newer to me. List the portals in an order that makes sense to you.

I have a vertical line before the POD portals. In that section, I track the covers separately from the book interiors, so each format at each portal has two columns. I list all the various format options there, too, since many of my books are available in multiple print formats.

After another vertical line, I list the audio editions of the books. ACX is first, then Findaway Voices, then KOBO and BookFunnel – because I upload my non-exclusive audio at those portals.

There may be other outlets that make sense for you to add. If you have a Patreon and provide content there, for example, it might make sense to list it there.

Then, fill Column A with the titles of your books. I list them by author brand (which is sub-genre) and by series. Add horizontal dividing lines where it makes sense to you. I have them between author brands, then to delineate translations – which are listed by language.

Once you have all the books and portals listed, you can start to fill the form.

Here’s a peek at the top of mine:

Deborah Cooke's spreadsheet for tracking ebook version uploads

Just looking at these dates makes me want to update all of those files! (Although actually, this is the 2020 spreadsheet and most of these files have been updated this year.)

Whenever I know that a specific version needs to be updated, I use the highlight option and make that cell highlighter yellow. That way, I won’t forget to go back and update it. This can happen if I’m uploading a new version and one of the portals is having server issues. (That happens more often than might be ideal.) The yellow cell reminds me that I haven’t done that bit yet. You can add extra fields or columns for things that you tend to forget. I have a price column, for example, because I sometimes change prices at the end of the year, up or down, and this column reminds me to do every book at every portal.

Overdrive has a column because I used to upload directly to that portal. Now I use Draft2Digital to deliver to them, which is why it says “via D2D” in that column. I could remove it completely now, but it lingered while I made sure I changed the distribution on every single book. If you could see way over to the right, I have a similar column for NookPress POD’s – I had uploaded a few there, but now the bulk of those files get to B&N from Ingrams. The POD’s are available for sale at B&N but they go “via Ingrams”. This year, I decided to use D2D for distribution of all my translations (part of my ongoing quest to simplify) so there are a lot of “via D2D” entries further down the spreadsheet.

Since you’re going to fill dates into the spreadsheet, this can also be a good way to track exclusivity. I tend to take my audiobooks out of exclusivity after a year at ACX. This way, I can see the publication dates on them at a glance. Similarly, I have a column for KU in my Amazon section where I can list the date a book will finish its current term in KU. You see there’s a column for removing the books from wide distribution, too, as that can take some time before the KU enrollment. My translations that are published through Babelcube are licensed there for five years. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to know the date a book was uploaded.

Although this is a perpetual spreadsheet, I do create a duplicate each January and rename it with the current year. That way, I have an archival version in my files. That can be helpful for looking at the timing of previous enrollments in Kindle Unlimited or past pricing strategies.

Next time, we’ll talk about another handy spreadsheet to keep updated on your desktop. Happy publishing!

Building a World Guide

This past week, I’ve been talking in my reader group on Facebook about keeping track of fictional worlds. Since compiling the world guide for Dragonfire – which was a seemingly endless job – I knew I needed a better system. I’ve been using a new tool this past year, mostly for DragonFate, and am pleased with it. Since people were interested, I thought I’d share that here, as well.

I’ve tried a lot of methods for keeping track of my worldbuilding and character lists. The tried and true is a stack of index cards. Each character gets a card with his or her pertinent details. Locations that recur get a card, again with any mentioned details. I still use index cards for Flatiron Five Fitness and Flatiron Five Tattoo. I use a highlighter to mark the side of each card with that character or place’s first appearance in the series. (The index cards are lined. On the right edge, I colour between the first and second line for anything in book one. Between the second and third line means that element or character is introduced in book two, etc.) This means I can easily grab all pertinent cards, and also helps me find the first written description of any given element in the book manuscript.

This works well for contemporary romances but I find that paranormal romances have too many elements. This index card system gets overwhelmed quickly and doesn’t offer me enough ways to search for details.

I’ve tried other systems like Scrivener but have settled on this one, called Plottr, for the moment. I don’t want to create in the software, as I’m perfectly happy to use Word for that — actually, I’d be happy with a typewriter or writing longhand. I prefer as little interference from tech as possible when I’m writing.

Plottr is intended for plotting a new work, but I don’t plot in such detail in advance. I use it as a worldguide. I compile the timeline for each book after it’s written. This is kind of backwards, but it works for me. Let’s have a look.

Here’s the series page from Plottr for DragonFate. I need to update the covers since the second two now have gold type instead of grey, but here you can see the series at a glance. Each book has its own detail page but I like being able to see the series. (And yes, there are more books below this, but you can’t see them yet!)

The DragonFate Novels tracked in Plottr by Deborah Cooke

Here’s the plotting page for Dragon’s Mate.

Dragon's Mate by Deborah Cooke, timeline in Plottr compiled by Deborah Cooke

The timeline is a grid, almost like a spreadsheet. You can add as many columns to the right as you want and as many rows at the bottom as you like. The default is for each column to be a chapter, and the scenes to cascade below that, presumably in order. I have more than one plotline in the series, and want to track them in order of events. I also don’t plot by chapter. There are a number of templates included in the software for plotting, but for me this is more about tracking the series once each book is written than plotting in advance.

The timeline is more important to me, so I put it in the top line. The chapter line is a reference to the book manuscript, in case I want to double check any detail. The green line is the main plot: in this case, Hadrian and Rania’s firestorm and romance. There are two longer slow-burn story arcs in this series, and they’re tracked below: Sebastian and Sylvia, then Theo and Mel. There are a lot of magickal elements and items in this series and I track them on the next line. Finally, I track mentions of the rest of the Pyr. (Ignore that box with the dotted outline on the last line: it thought I wanted to add an item when I was taking the screen shot.)

Each box is a scene, and I list them in order from left to right. I end up with 70 columns or so for each book, but I can find anything later and quickly.

If I click on one of those scenes, like the very first Fae Attack, that opens a detail card:

Opening scene of Dragon's Mate by Deborah Cooke in Plottr

Here I can add a more detailed description of events, plus I can choose the characters in the scene from my character list, and choose the location from my list of places. This means that later, I can filter the timeline by character or location. This is hugely useful when cross-checking what secondary characters have witnessed or heard. (I don’t use the tags as yet.)

Of course, I can look at characters or places and get a similar card for details. Here’s the card for Arach.

Arach Knights, one of the Pyr in DragonFate by Deborah Cooke, tracked in Plottr

The character list is sorted into groups – this is the list of main characters, but there are secondary and other characters. I’ve added a field for “kind” so I can keep track of my shifters. On the Character page, I can filter by kind or by specific words, which helps me track (for example) the selkies that I’ve specifically named already in the series. I put unnamed characters here as well – “Nameless Wolf Shifter” – and they often get names later.

I like the sort and filter functions. If I forget the names of Rania’s twelve brothers, for example, I can just sort by name and scroll down to “Rania’s brother”.

Rania's brothers in Dragon's Mate by Deborah Cooke, documented in Plottr

There are other options to display your plot as well. I use the timeline, but here’s the outline that can be compiled from the timeline.

Dragon's Mate by Deborah Cooke outlined in Plottr.

The colored boxes indicate which storyline the scene is from.

You can see on the menu bar that there’s a display for Places, which is similar to the one for Characters that I showed you above with Arach’s listing.

Bones from the DragonFate novels by Deborah Cooke, documented in the places list in Plottr

In my version of the software (which is older) the book list isn’t automatically populated for each location. It seems this feature could be easily added and it may have been since I updated my version.

When I set up a new book in Plottr, the next one in the series, I copy the plotlines – they’re the same for each book. In the first column, I list the outstanding items or status of each and also the goal for that line in the next book. So for the next book on the Magick line, I’ve noted that the gem of the hoard is destroyed and that Maeve is a lizard, Fae is no longer a separate realm, the Fae weapons that slice between realms are destroyed, and the Regalian magick is gone. One question is how earth magick has reasserted itself. Another is what happened to Bryant. A third is what happened to the earth magick charms mentioned in Dragon’s Heart that were given to species of Others. And on and on. This will be modified when the book is done and I create the final timeline for it, but gives me a snapshot of what I need to address (or can consider) in the next book.

One of the great things is that as I move deeper into the series I can easily locate all previous mentions of the two longer arc stories. I’m compiling a timeline for Sylvia and Sebastian, for example, which includes all mentions of their interactions so far – and the gaps – with dates and locations. That will make it easier for me to see where I can fill gaps and list questions that are outstanding. I’ll do the same for Mel and Theo, as well.

Plottr also has an export function to Word which I haven’t tried yet. That would make it simpler to compile an actual world guide when that time comes.

I’m sure that I’m only using a small percentage of this software’s capabilities, but it’s working well for me. I find that many applications are almost overwhelming and tend to focus on what I need to get done instead of exploring all the options. Because it is essentially a spreadsheet, this one makes the most sense to me. (I always want to lose myself in the story, not in the tool.)

There’s a peek behind the scenes for this week! I hope you found it interesting, or, if you’re a writer yourself, that it gave you food for thought.

An Upside Down Month

Things have been a little quiet around here lately, so this morning, I thought I’d explain why.

Four weeks ago, my laptop booted up, then the screen went black. That woke me up faster than a strong cup of coffee! I had everything backed up (twice) and I did manage to coax it back to life intermittently, but its untimely demise forced some changes on my daily routine.

Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with my last laptop that a battery recharge wouldn’t fix – I’d upgraded because I wanted a lighter laptop for traveling. So, I loaded the old one up with the files for everything that’s happened in the past seven years. Its modem was never configured, because that used to be my trick to staying offline and getting more writing done. Now, it would need a lot of software updates to go online, and I’m not sure its OS would support them all. I really don’t have time to sort it out. Instead, it’s acting like a glorified typewriter, and I’m using Mr. Math’s computer when I need to go online.

Just One Silver Fox, book six in the Flatiron Five Fitness series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke

We’ve both discovered that I go online a lot more than suspected!

As a result, I’m behind on social media stuff, and have been quiet. I do my publishing and research work in those moments online when I get the chance. The upside is that I’ve been writing a lot, which is a good thing – and I’m loving Jacquie and Pierce’s book. Sonia has a cameo in Just One Silver Fox that has convinced me that her book will be next. (More about that in March.)

I’ve also published some new translations this month—The Crusader’s Bride was published in Spanish at the end of December, then The Crusader’s Heart followed in January. The Rose Red Bride was published in German in January and my first contemporary romance translation, Just One Snowbound Night, was also published in Spanish in January. Some of the books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Just One Snowbound Night, book one of the Flatiron Five Tattoo series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke, Spanish edition

I have two Spanish translations—one Delacroix and one Cooke—and a German one for Delacroix due in February, plus am waiting on two Portuguese translations of Delacroix books. Publishing these editions means getting the cover translated by the designer, formatting the interior, then publishing the book and putting up pre-orders when possible. I’ve also set up new website pages and newsletters for each language, with the help of the respective translators, so I send a newsletter when there’s a new release. And I’ve contracted with some new translation teams for more foreign editions. Phew! It’s a lot of work but exciting too—Mr. Math thinks it’s cool to look at the locations of the various members of my team.

You can see the current translations (and some of the upcoming ones) on each of my websites:


Translations of my contemporary romances

Translations of my paranormal romances

Translations of my historical romances

Stolen Brides, a digital boxed set featuring four full-length medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

Claire has a new boxed set coming out this week, a themed bundle of Beauty-and-the-Beast medieval romances called Stolen Brides. It’ll be 99-cents through February 15 and includes four full-length novels.

I published some of my books on Radish this month, and need to upload more content there.

And I’m participating in three BookFunnel promotions this month, too – these are the ones where readers sign up for an author’s mailing list in exchange for downloading a free book. Here’s one for contemporary romances – there will be a second one in the middle of the month. Here’s a paranormal romance one.

I’m running behind on creating memes and blog posts and getting newsletters prepped, and I haven’t created my monthly features on this blog or the Delacroix blog for trope of the month. At this point, I’ll wait until March to feature another one. I plan to be back on track by the end of the month, after Jacquie and Pierce’s book is all set up for publication in digital and print. Then it’ll be on to Max and Alys, then Sonia and….(?)

I hope your January was a little less challenging than mine!

New Pub Date for Dragon’s Mate

Dragon's Mate, book 4 of the DragonFate series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke

I’ve moved the publication date for Hadrian and Rania’s story to November 24. Dragon’s Mate has been challenging to write—these two characters have run off with the story multiple times and made it into their own. I love when this happens because it creates a better book, but I also want to ensure that the book is published as it should be. This extra month will give me time to think about the story and ensure all the ends are tucked into place. I’ll be able to get the print edition published in advance of the ebook, and will be able to give my ARC reviews more than a heartbeat to read the book.

How this will shake down for you varies by portal. Apple and Kobo allow me to change the publication date and I’ve done that already. Nook had some issues this month, but I’ve managed to update the publication date there, as well. There isn’t a pre-order at GooglePlay, so there’s nothing to change or update there. I asked Amazon if they’ll move my pre-order by a month and they agreed so pre-orders there will remain in place.

If you follow me on Amazon, you will likely get a release announcement for Dragon’s Mate next Tuesday, even though the book won’t be published. It appears that the dates on those announcements can’t be changed or updated.

I appreciate your understanding and support on this. 2020 has been quite a year so far and not an easy one for creative endeavors. I hope things settle down soon. In the meantime, I’m thinking about changing my processes for the future. More about that in another blog post, coming soon.