The easiest part of creating the Health and Happiness Cookbook was pulling together a team. I already had my people in place! The wildcard ended up being the how it happened and how we communicated. Because my team is the very patient and amazing, everything went beautifully.
These are a few of my observations on the process and how we, as indies, can simplify our collaborative projects.
Have a Fluid Deadline.
The Cookbook was a new project for me. I wanted it for several reasons: to draw in a new audience. Create a new funnel. Get delicious goodies in my belly. Expand my brand.
But these were new waters.
Having no deadline for finishing the cookbook notched down my stress. A lot. Every project conjures up new challenges. I’d never worked with another creator on a book, nor one requiring such in-depth graphic design. Kimberley and I signed a contract in September, and I started letting my team know about it around then. Giving them a heads up and allowing for flexibility also let things bend.
In the end, we decided to let the cookbook process dictate the schedule. As soon as I had a paperback proof, we initiated our social media marketing plan, announced the project, and set a date two weeks away.
Keep Communication Simple.
There are great apps like Asana that allow for quick project management with many people. (I’ve used Asana before and it’s great!)
But I didn’t want to take the time to learn a new dashboard on an intricate level and ask my team to do the same. So instead I kept it simple with group emails and Skype calls. This made me the middle man for most of it, but more on that later.
For this project, it worked. If I were to add any more people/elements, I’d probably do Asana.
Because the Health and Happiness Cookbook is published under my imprint THHS Publishing and incorporates/originates from my Chick Lit series, I was the Decision Maker. The Answerer of All Questions. The One Who Kept Things Going.
I already had the needed contacts and skills in place to pull this together, and I underestimated my ability to do it. While Kim created delicious recipes, I coordinated book sizes, typesetting format, ISBN allocation, and social media marketing plans. Having everything go through one person (me) meant the margin for error or missed things came out surprisingly low.
(Don’t worry. I totally messed up the plenty of things!)
Sometimes there was just too much discussion to merit an email, so I’d dedicate one day/afternoon/nap time to the cookbook and I make Skype calls to everyone. My graphic designer Jenny, my typesetter Chris Bell, my ebook formatter Kella Campbell, Kimberley herself, etc. Having only the cookbook on my mind in that time frame helped a lot too.
Being able to speak about the project and my plans for it face-to-face really simplified and streamlined it for me. Then, when we sent emails, it was quick reference stuff that was easily dealt with.
My team is my team because they’re experts at what they do, so I gave them free reign to control their niche. I’d tell them the end game and let them get there with feedback and collaboration.
It worked beautifully.
Be Open to Feedback.
It’s not always easy to hear that I can’t do everything and do it well, but it’s the reigning truth. Kimberley knows the baking/cooking/food blogging/recipe world far better than I do, so getting her input on layouts, final pictures, recipes, presentation, etc. was crucial to creating a cookbook that fit my niche, her niche, and would sell on its own. Jenny had professional ideas for the photos that ended up making a better cookbook, and Chris knew the best structure and font layout for the interior paperback.
Which meant I listened, questioned, and ultimately, agreed. Although tempting, as an entrepreneur, to be the all for my business, setting aside my pride and listening to my team helped everything come together.
Have a Contract.
Not only to protect yourself, but everyone else.
Kimberley and I worked out the details of us collaborating on this project before we ever stepped into it (although she was super excited and started brainstorming recipes ASAP!) There’s a lot to keep track of during a project like this, so having everything like royalties, timing, deadlines, and the end state established beforehand gives you a mutually-agreed upon place to retreat back and see what was decided.
Mutual Meeting Place for Documents
For this, I used Google Drive.
I did a separate shared folder for just the cookbook and invited all concerned into it. I organized it by recipe, photos, promotion, and more. We used a spreadsheet to coordinate to do lists so everyone could see the process. (Kim included! This was a whole new world for her.)
It was nice to have a place to put #allthethings. Then when anyone had a question, they could refer there first, and if still not answered, shoot me an email.
It’s hard to quantify everything that goes into something this big, but I think working with people you trust, ensuring solid expectations and communications from the beginning, and being flexible to life (I don’t need to tell you about that!) helps all of this go so smoothly.
Do you have any tips for managing a collaborative project?
Leave them in the comments! I can’t wait to hear from you. Don’t forget to grab your copy of the Health and Happiness Cookbook on May 1st!