Indie Authors, Let Me Save You Some Time and Grief

This blog post is all about saving you time and grief, using a "cloud" service that is pretty much perfect for indie authors. In keeping with that theme, I'll save you the time (but hopefully not grief!) of reading this post if you've already discovered that service and know how to use it. So, if you're already using Dropbox and feel comfortable that you're getting the maximum value from it, you can skip the rest of this post. That was easy, wasn't it?

However, if you've never heard of it, or you signed up for it but never got around to figuring out how it all works, read on!

In a nutshell, Dropbox is an online service that stores your files. It can be free if you don't want much space, or you can pay to upgrade and get more space. Now, that doesn't sound too exciting by itself, so let's dig a little deeper into the potential benefits for indie authors. If you have (or go create) a Dropbox account, you can...

Protect Your Manuscript

Assuming that your manuscript is being written on the computer (or that you scan your hand-written manuscript on a regular basis into computer image files), using your Dropbox account to store your manuscript files gives you constant backup protection so that your files won't be lost if your hard drive crashes, or a file becomes corrupted, or some worse event (fire, flood, earthquake, etc.) destroys your whole computer. Your files will still be sitting safely in your Dropbox account and you'll be able to access them through a Web browser (e.g., at a friend's house). You're also protected from your own mistakes. Deleted a file by accident? Reformatted a hard drive by accident? Your files are safe.

If you install the Dropbox client on your computer using the default settings, you'll want to create a folder in your Dropbox folder to use as your working area for your manuscript(s). You can also customize your settings to continue using your existing folder(s) and still have your files managed by Dropbox.

Go Back In Time

Let's say that you're working on your book and you have a sudden inspiration about where your story should go. You follow along that new idea, and go back and make a bunch of changes earlier in the manuscript to match. And then, after a week or two of working in that new direction, you realize it's completely unworkable (or you just hate how it's turning out). How do you go back and get rid of all those changes you made? If your manuscript files were in your Dropbox account, you can go back to an earlier version. By default, all versions for the past 30 days are still available, so you can just restore an older copy and go back to work on your manuscript without the changes for the doomed plot changes. You can have more than 30 days of changes stored if you upgrade your account and enable the "Pack-Rat" add-on.

Collaborate On Manuscripts, Covers, and More

You might be a "do it all yourself" author, but most authors find that the quality of their work improves significantly by working with other people. Those "other people" can include editors, proofreaders, cover designers, map artists, and more. While it's possible to email files back and forth, the added steps of attaching files, extracting files, adding a note to go with the file, and so forth just eat up time that could be saved by sharing a folder through Dropbox. For example, perhaps your cover artist has a Dropbox account too, so you set up a shared folder with her. You sketch out a cover concept and scan it, saving the file to that shared folder. She then is notified by Dropbox that she has a new file, so she opens it to see what you have in mind. She then drafts a more polished version and saves that to that shared folder. Upon seeing the notification of a new file, you open her draft and then call or email her with changes. After making changes, she can either overwrite the same file (and you'll still be notified by Dropbox, and you can go back to an older version as mentioned above), or she could change the filename to reflect a version number. Those details are up to you, but Dropbox eliminates the hassles of email attachments.

Is There More?

I probably have more to learn about maximizing the value of Dropbox, but from what I have experienced so far I have no qualms recommending it. It's free to get started, it protects your work, it allows going back to an older version of a manuscript, and it streamlines collaboration. Give it a try!

About the Author
Stuart J. Whitmore is an author of fiction and nonfiction, as well as a photographer, technology developer, and more. If you enjoy reading his blog posts, you might also enjoy reading his books. Take a look at the books by Stuart J. Whitmore today, and download your copy of one that looks interesting to you!