You may not have piles of file folders taking up space in your office any more (or, like me, you may!), but organizing your files, electronic or paper, takes just a little bit of effort that can pay off immediately.
Organizing your book files is an essential aspect of self-publishing. I don’t know about you, but I often end up with files labeled “Final Print Cover” then “FINAL Final Print Cover” and “FINAL FINAL FINAL Print Cover” and you can see what happens. But, fear not! You can become a better file namer and organizer. (Yes, I have absolute faith in you!) Here are some tips on how to organize your book files effectively:
#1. Create a dedicated folder for your book or, if you have more than one book, each book:
Create a new folder on your computer or cloud storage system that contains all the files related to your book project. This folder should include all drafts, notes, research, and reference material. I use separate folders for the drafts, research documents, the final Word documents, images and graphics used in the book, then a separate folder for the final formatted documents—those specific documents that get uploaded to publishing platforms. If I make changes to a final document, I delete what I had and replace it with the “new” final document.
#2. Use a clear file naming system:
Name your files in a consistent and clear way that reflects their content. You may want to have a file for each chapter and then a file for the compiled manuscript. Once I have a compiled manuscript, I’ll usually make a folder for all the chapter drafts. For your “final” files, you may want to put a date within the file name. It helps you figure out which is the newest version.
Why would you have more than one version of a supposedly final document? There are sometimes formatting issues with the manuscript or cover file that need to be fixed. While you may have had professional editing and proofing as well as having gone through your manuscript ONE MILLION TIMES yourself, once the book is printed you will find typos. You may choose to fix them or decide to let them go. If you decide to fix them, you now have a new final manuscript document.
#3. Create a document version control system:
Use a version control system to keep track of changes made to your manuscript. This system should allow you to easily compare different versions of your document and restore previous versions if needed. When I work with coaching or editing clients, I store their version before I do anything to it and save any of my edits in a new version that has my initials and/or a version number.
#4. Back up your files:
When I am working on something important, I am hitting the Save button like a lab rat hitting the feeding lever. Regularly back up your book files to a secure location, such as an external hard drive or cloud storage system. Some people back up files to their websites—they just don’t make them public. Or you can email it to a friend or second email address of your own. This will prevent the loss of important files due to hardware failure or other issues.
#5. Use file sharing tools for collaboration:
If you are working with a co-author or editor, use file sharing tools to collaborate on the book project. These tools allow you to share documents and work on them in real-time, ensuring that everyone is working from the same version of the manuscript. Google docs is probably the most well-known of these tools, but Microsoft Office, Apache Open Office, and Evernote are alternatives.
#6. Use a project management tool:
Use a project management tool to keep track of tasks and deadlines related to your book project. This tool can help you stay organized and focused on the tasks at hand. It can be something as simple as a checklist or spreadsheet.
Organizing your book files is essential to ensuring a successful self-publishing experience. By implementing these tips, you can save yourself a ton of time that is wasted looking for files or worse, uploading the wrong file (I’ve heard…). Having a streamlined and effective system for managing your book files increases your chances of success as a self-published author. Or at least a more sane one.