When I first started indie publishing, I just threw stories up on the publishing sites and didn’t think twice about the future. Now that I’ve been doing cover and interior refreshes, I wished I’d left better information for Future Self.
A list of my story inventory has become essential. Not only for figuring out what still needs to be refreshed, but also what else I can publish. It even affects the order I put everything up on the website.
But the reason I haven’t done it before was simply that I didn’t sit down and think about what I needed. I have several unfinished attempts at the inventory, but I just put down what I thought I needed. They were often more complicated then I needed.
Just like with tracking short stories, it’s important to focus on only what’s needed.
WHAT INFORMATION IS NEEDED?
So it’s a step back to the basic question. What do I need?
- Story Title
- Type of short story (i.e., novel, short story)
- Genre (i.e., fantasy, science fiction)
- Published. This is the original published year. That’s useful for future refreshes.
- Refreshed. So I know if it’s been refreshed and when I did it last. I hope Future Self is happy, since there will be even more books by then!
- Aggregator. Important for the refreshes, since some books went out via Smashwords and others on Draft to Digital. That way, Future Self doesn’t have to think too hard.
- Price. This was a late addition. Some of my early stories were published on Smashwords and had to be added later to Draft to Digital. So I had to hunt down the price, which was a nuisance.
- Notes. Something always needs notes!
WHAT TOOL TO USE?
An Excel spreadsheet works pretty well for this, especially if you use drop-down lists for repeating information. Given my ability to make typos, a drop-down makes this task a lot easier.
NERD ALERT: If you manually enter a field like the genre, you might end up with science fiction, sf, and sci-fi all in the same row. Future Self is terrible at remembering that you were supposed to type in science fiction. Or, if it was me, I might type “science ficiton.” A pre-loaded drop-down list makes all your information consistent.
How to create a drop-down list
This is what the drop-down information looks like:
HOW TO UPDATE THE SPREADSHEET
Adding 75 items to this list promised to be very tedious. Writing Nerd can feel her eyes glaze over. Tedious means it won’t get done again.
So I started with opening the folder in File Explorer and typing just the titles on the spreadsheet.
The next step was off to Amazon because of how the stories are displayed. I ran through their list and added the publication dates. From there, I could use filters to display only a specific year and complete the rest of the information in smaller bites.
How to create a filter in Excel
This is what I came up with:
I used Cell Styles (on the Home tab) to highlight the rows that I need to do refreshes for. I suppose I could filter it down to the blanks on the Refresh column, but I also like seeing what I’ve completed.
One of the best things about an inventory list like this is that you have a list of all your stories right at your fingertips.
What a helpful idea!
I just have one question – looking at your second screenshot, it looks like you have a drop-down list in Column A, the title column. Is that correct? If so, what do you use it for? The only thing I can think of is a series title (i.e., Series, Book …), but I expect you’ve got a better use for it than I’ve thought of.
Actually, that’s a filter. It’s on the row at the top so I can sort it by genre, type of writing, or year. Not much use on the title column, but Excel sets up the filters on all the columns.
Gotta love it when Excel helps you out…
Thanks for clarifying!
Hey, you may want to check out the free program Symphytum for this task. I use it for tracking what I’ve written–it’s like every book has a “dossier”, it helps me keep all my info in the same place and is (for me) easier to read than a spreadsheet. I use it to keep track of ISBNs, ASINs, ALT text for covers, the URLs it’s been submitted to, typefaces I used on the covers…All kinds of info and you get to lay everything out in a way that makes sense to you. I’d be happy to send a screenshot of one of my entries, if you’d like (even if it’s just for curiosity’s sake. 🙂
Thanks for the info. I’ve been taking a very minimalist approach to everything (largely because I’m a knowledge worker in my day job and that’s very nutty). I’m trying to keep away from most tools because a lot of them add more work and not always as much value.
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