This week, I launched my second self-published work, The Thriving Life Planner. It was a work that I wasn’t planning on doing this year and in fact, only had it as an idea about a month ago. But then, I got a cold with a terrible cough which would keep me up at night.
In the middle of the night during November, I would write down ideas and play with timelines and outlines to keep my mind on my body’s need to cough uncontrollably. And then, one night, it came to me. It was time to create a planner that did everything I wanted it to do.
The Thriving Life Planner was born.
What I wanted in a planner was a place for my life plan, annual goals and monthly goals, annual and monthly calendars, and daily pages to help me achieve these goals. And I didn’t want to pay $50 for it every quarter like I had been doing.
That is exactly what I created. You can find it here.
How did I go from idea to proof product in 72 hours?
Before we go any further, I want you to know something. I decided that if I was going to pursue creating this as a product that I didn’t want to spend any more than a week creating it. Maybe two weeks if getting a proof back took longer.
I had it in my head that this was going to be a quick, crazy idea and I would not let it take months of wasted time if it was merely a delusion of a man who was up later in the night sick with a terrible cold.
Step One: Clarify Your Why
In between coughing fits, I thought I would start with a one-pager for myself. And it started with one sheet of printer paper. I put a header on top: The Perfect Planner. And then I asked myself the following questions:
- What do I want in a planner?
- What do I need in a planner?
- Is there anything that doesn’t need to be in a planner?
- Why have other planners not worked?
- Is this only for me, or would other people be interested in it?
I answered these five questions and decided I would at least create a rough idea design for the planner. And then I would consider doing some research or give up on the idea.
***And to be very honest with you, I decided in the middle of my designing that I was going to create this product no matter if other people wanted it or not. Why? Because, it was a product I have wanted for years, and never found anything that did exactly what I wanted.***
Step Two: Create a Draft
I created my first draft of The Thriving Life Planner in less than two hours. I pulled out the planners and journals I had used in the last four or five years (yes, I keep them) and started looking through them for the things I really liked and the things I didn’t like.
This helped me focus on my one-pager. And then, on index cards, I started drafting was the inside of the planner would look like for almost every page. After two hours, I had the basic design and information I wanted in the planner.
This initial draft helped me envision what I was looking for in the planner. And my mind was spent, my cough started to reduce, so I went to bed.
Step Three: Create a Proof Copy
The following night I was shocked awake by one of my daughters sneaking into our room and scaring the dog so he howled like crazy. This woke me up from a dead sleep and it awakened coughing fits. Once I got everyone else to bed, I was wide awake.
So, I pulled out my laptop to work on my planner.
I looked at different dimensions for my planner to be first. Once I finished this, I formatted a Pages document on my MacBook for those dimensions and set to work taking the scribes on index cards and turning them into the second draft of sorts.
It took me about an hour to do this. Since most planners are the same pages over and over again, I only had to format about 20 pages. And then copy and paste them in the appropriate locations.
With the second draft done, I realized I should take a break from this and moved onto the next step. Mostly, because I was still wide awake, but now it was due to the excitement of a project.
Step Four: Cover Design
For my first book, Productivity Success, I hired a designer to create my design. In the end, I paid $75 to have them design a cover that I had to hold their hand to get it just right (Or perhaps, they were holding my hand).
Nevertheless, I decided I was not going to pay $75 for an idea I still wasn’t sure if it mattered to a lot of other people. So, I went over to Canva and created my own cover. I entered the dimensions for the front and back covers, decided not to do any writing on the spine, and I went to work.
In less than an hour, I created the front and back cover for my planner and only paid $1 for the main graphic that was on the front cover. How did I come up with a cover design?
For the cover design, I went and Googled: Self Published Planners. And reviewed all of the covers that came up on the first page. I did the same thing on Amazon. And then I went to Barnes and Noble's website and searched planners. These 20 minutes of research gave me insights into what I was going to do on the front.
In the end, I spent an hour and a half-ish designing my cover. Then I sent it off to my brother to slap them together so I could upload it to Amazon’s KDP Direct. And then it was morning, so I started my day.
Step Five: Editing
Once I had everything together, it was time to do some serious editing. I did this on the evening of the second day of all my hard work. And was able to get a lot done from myself and with the help of two other people to make sure I had a good handle on the edits.
Again, for my first book, Productivity Success, I hired an editor. This cost me something like $250 to edit the book. Since this was not a regular book and still a far-flung idea, I decided to self-edit.
***Warning: Self-editing is a hazardous business. What I did here also involved two other people looking through the initial second draft, and then again after I got the proof back. If you are going to do this, you need to be very vigilant. And to be honest, I probably have errors I haven’t caught yet.***
First, I reviewed every written aspect and read it out loud. Then I ran every written aspect through Grammarly. Then again, I used the grammar tools within Pages. I read everything out loud one more time. And then had two friends take a look at everything.
At this point, the final draft to be sent off for the proof was done. Look back, reviewed this document six times in a self-editing process. It probably isn’t enough, but it catches almost all the major things, hopefully.
Step Six: The Proof
The next day on the way to work, I stopped at a Starbucks, uploaded my cover and ‘manuscript’ to KDP Direct. Set up the initial aspects for it and ordered a proof. I had created all of this in 72 hours. And now, all I had to do was wait to see what came back in the proof.
What came back was marvelous.
For the most part.
I did have some more editing to do. Something about seeing it in person helps bring out the issues. But the formatting looked great. The cover looked great. I was shocked at how much I could do in three days' time.
And so, I updated the things that needed to be fixed and started test driving my proof.
Published December 1, 2019
I published the planner this week and could not be happier. And I am going to be honest. If no one buys it, that is fine, because it is the planner I wanted and I paid a total of $12 to create it and get my first one. The beauty is that others have shown their interest and THEY ARE BUYING THEM!
It is a great sense of accomplishment to know I can create something and make it a reality. And I hope you might find The Thriving Life Planner to be the planner you have been looking for to achieve your dreams.
Two Things to Remember:
First, I decided that I was going to create this because I wanted it. And I didn’t care if anyone else bought it. This is a terrible idea if you are trying to actually sell a product to make money and start an online business. However, this product is for me. And I was fine with it.
Second, I share all of this so you know it is easy to self-publish something, but I don’t want you to do it carelessly. Put in the work to create something awesome. And spend time reviewing it. I spent a lot of time in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep. If you don’t have a ton of time to put into something don’t try to force it out fast.
Have you ever created something like this in a short amount of time? What was it? Share a link in the responses or share what it was and how you did it!
Jack Heimbigner is an author, creator, and coach. He lives in the country in Eastern Washington State with his wife, two daughters, and a fierce farm dog. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And don’t forget, he is a champion woodchopper and amateur beer brewer.