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Tortoise Method Timeline for Publishing

The best publishing timeline for consistency, excellence, and avoiding burnout!

As indie authors, it can be really easy to want to publish as many books as possible in a short amount of time.

After all, there are A TON of indie authors out there who are widely successful from publishing upwards of 5 books a year.

Now, I’m not knocking those authors. If that works for them, wonderful! But for those of us who feel overwhelmed by the prospect of writing and publishing that many books a year, I’m here to tell you that there is another way.

I recently listened to a podcast by Novel Marketing (if you haven’t checked them out, you totally should!) about the Tortoise Method of publishing. I don’t want to be dramatic or anything, but when I heard the Tortoise Method, I nearly jumped for joy! It sounded perfect for me. Shortly after the podcasts, I learned that this is something a lot of writers and publishers know about.

So, I will explain it to you! In the comments, let me know if it sounds good to you too.

What is the Tortoise Method?

The tortoise method gets its name from the famous fable about the race between the tortoise and the hare. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but the gist is that the tortoise wins and the moral of the story is, “slow and steady wins the race.”

That perfectly sums up the Tortoise Method! Slow and Steady. In this method of publishing, you set aside a full year to get your book out into the world.

The month by month breakdown

This is a general breakdown of what a year of the Tortoise Method looks like. Some people may want to follow this exact, others may want to shift things around. It doesn’t matter if you follow it exactly or not, what matters is that you take your time creating a quality piece of work and don’t burn yourself out.

Month 1 - Research

> this is where you take a look at how your last book did, try to see what readers are saying. If they give some solid critiques about description or dialogue, then you know you need to work on that for the next round. You can also do research for your upcoming WIP. If it is a historical fiction, this is where you would research the specific time period, etc.

Month 2 - Outlining OR zero draft (for my fellow discovery writers)

> This is the time you start outlining your story. Whether you follow the 3-Act story structure, Heroes Journey, Save the Cat, Snowflake method, whatever outlining work best for you, that is what you do in this month. OR, if you’re like me and you are a discovery writer (or pantser as some say) then this is the month you write that very very messy first draft, the zero draft some call it.

Month 3 - For outliners, write the first draft. For discovery writers, write the first good draft

> Put pen to paper and write, write, write!

Month 4 - Self-edits

> No beta readers or professional editors yet. Take time with your completed draft on your own. Reread it, make notes, and clean up those plot holes.

Month 5 - Beta Readers

> Now you can send your self-edited, revised draft to beta readers! Get their feedback. Keep in mind, beta readers are great at telling you what’s broken but not always great at telling you how to fix it. That’s what a developmental editor is for.

Month 6 - Developmental edits

> Remember how I said beta readers aren’t great at fixing what’s broken? Well, as mentioned before, Developmental editors are! This month, take your draft and beta reader comments to a developmental editor and work with them to make your story that much more polished.

**If you can’t afford a developmental editor, that’s totally fine! You can make those edits yourself.

Month 7 - Line edits

> Look at your book on a sentence by sentence level and make changes for clarity and flow.

Month 8 - Design, typesetting, and finally proofreading

> Busy month! This month, get that cover design finished, typeset the book, and once that is all done, proofread for any pesky mistakes that made it through your previous edit rounds!

Let’s pause here because WOW! After 8 months, you have a fully completed and ready to go book! It is ALL DONE! Isn’t that amazing? The next few months will focus on marketing and gearing up for release.

Month 9 - Create a launch plan and get a launch team together

> Decide what you want to do for your launch, send out ARC copies, and line up some endorsements.

Month 10 - Platform refresh

> Make sure your website is up to date, get some new headshots, spruce up your social media pages. All that fun clean up stuff! ANNNND open preorders!

Month 11 - Launch month!

> Release your book baby into the world!

Month 12 - REST

> This month, don’t do any writing. Instead, do something that fills your creative well. Spend time with family, read some good books, go on a walk. Relax!

There you have it! That is the month to month breakdown of the Tortoise Method. Again, not everyone follows this method to a T and that’s alright! This is just meant to give you an idea of what can be done when and how. Some people like to edit as they write, or spend more time researching and less time writing. That is okay! One of my favorite writing Youtubers likes to say, “Your mileage may vary.” (Lynn. D. Jung)

Why the Tortoise Method?

This method is really important for a few reasons. Number one, it helps lessen burnout. Burnout is that big scary monster all authors fear when writing to publish. We can take on too many things at once, getting overwhelmed very quickly. Burnout usually steals our joy of writing and zaps our creative energy.

Worst of all, burnout can make you abandon a project you were once passionate about and lead to you pushing (or canceling altogether) a publishing date! The tortoise method spreads everything out so that you are able to take your time with each step of the process. It creates space for rest in between so that burnout is likely to stay away.

The other reason this method is important is because it helps keep you consistent. We want our readers to trust us. When we have a consistent publishing schedule, that trust is built. They can expect a book from you on a specific day, and they know you won’t fail them.

A few other perks to this method are: each book gets the launch it deserves. When you follow this method, you are able to focus 100% on one book at a time, guaranteeing a solid launch. This method also builds persistence in you as an author. You are able to learn how to push forward and keep moving. It’s like training for a marathon rather than a hundred yard dash. That endurance and persistence is key to having a successful career.


If you’re looking for someone who will walk with you through the slow and steady process of writing, editing, and publishing your book, Meraki is here to support and champion you every step of the way. We believe in the value of quality over quantity and that’s why all of our book contracts are 1 year long. We know it takes time to create something you can be proud of.

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