A self-published writer’s worst nightmare: Losing all her work due to a technology glitch or computer theft. A self-published writer’s second-worst nightmare: Losing all her latest work because she can’t remember which version is current. American indie author Betsy Talbot shares her top tips for keeping drafts of self-published manuscripts organised and secure.
Writing is a creative art, but without logical storage you spend valuable time focused on finding yesterday’s work instead of doing today’s. And since there is no writer I know who says, “I have too much time to write,” getting your versions under control and in a safe space is key to making your writing more productive. I think of it like an old-fashioned filing cabinet.
Create the Project
When beginning a new project, whether you write in Scrivener or Word, create a drawer in your virtual filing cabinet. Mine is always labeled BookTitle_Project to show it encompasses all of the work on the book.
I have this same drawer in three filing cabinets: Google Drive, Dropbox, and my laptop. Every day when I finish writing, I “save as” in all three places. This gives me two cloud storage spaces and local copy. They are always the same because I always save all three at once, without fail.
Add Files and Folders as Needed
I add folders for beta reader copies, editing/proofreading back and forth, and any other decision or action I need to take on a non-final copy as is progresses toward completion. None of these copies lives on in this project once the book is done. They are all temporary, of no use to anyone after the book is finalized.
Again, they are all stored in three drawers: Google Drive, Dropbox, and my laptop.
No saving files willy-nilly, no emailing files to myself, no drawer full of thumbdrives.
When the Book is Finished
When the book is formatted and ready to upload the various sites, I create a folder within the BookTitle_Project called BookTitle_FINAL and add in the .mobi, print, .epub, PDF, and audiobook versions. Again, this goes in all three places: Google Drive, Dropbox, and my laptop. You won’t have to save these repeatedly because they are final files, so once it is set up, you can forget about it unless you make a change.
Then I create another folder titled BookTitle_Marketing. In it are author headshots in a variety of sizes, bios (short, medium, and long), book descriptions (short, medium, and long), talking points for interviews, book cover art, and any book ads or banners. This makes it easy for me to act on promotional opportunities and use consistent material.
This folder also houses the spreadsheet I use to track deadlines and activities for the book.
Last, I move everything that is not a final version into an archive file so I won’t accidentally use it. The format is WorkArchive_BookTitle. Notice I flip the format of the title in this one so I don’t accidentally pull it up by title when looking for final files. I always want to know that it is an archive of the work to get to the final, not the final.
A final warning: Make sure your backups to Google Drive and Dropbox are working! A writer friend recently changed computers and realized too late that she had not been syncing to Dropbox for the last year.
Cloud storage only works if you sync.
This method may seem like overkill to you. It would have to me just a few years ago. But I’ve lost work before—once to a power surge at a rental in Mexico and once to a laptop theft on a train in Hungary. These lessons came from experience.
You don’t have to leave home to have a technology glitch or theft, so let my experience be your warning. I’m proof that you can survive those incidents, but I wouldn’t recommend the experience!
OVER TO YOU
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