Friday, January 25, 2013

Author or Marketing Director?



Isn’t it true as soon as that first book goes out, as authors we’re immersed in a new world? Not only are we excited that our work is out there for people to read, but we quickly realize it takes time and effort for it to be noticed. I know when I first published I had no idea what was entailed.

All those hours I used to spend writing and plotting had been encroached upon by other necessities. After all, I didn’t spend all the years polishing my manuscript not to have people read it. Yes, I had an idea of what I was getting into, and it had actually factored into my choosing the self-published route.

I realize it’s harder for first time authors to get the large publishing contracts, and there is very little, if any, money spent on their promotion. In my eyes, and from my research, it seemed I would be left to do all the promotional labor on the side anyhow. So I reasoned, why I would give them a cut of my earnings? I mean if I was doing all the work, I should reap all the rewards.

I set out thinking it wouldn’t be that large of a task. I was wrong.

Please don’t take that to mean I regret, in any way, my decision to self-publish, but I wish someone had been there to say, “Carolyn, do you realize all that’s involved?” And I know I’m not the only one feeling this crunch. It’s something I hear from many of my author friends: how do I balance writing with promotion?

Really, the indie and self-published author is placed in the position of two key personnel—author and marketing director. Stripped separate, both would make a decent living, but somehow when they’re merged together, something has to give. Sadly, for many authors, it’s the writing.

After all, there are only so many hours in the day, and most of us have day jobs (myself included). You reason that you wrote in the first place so people can read your work. Now it’s out there, well, you have to promote it. Maybe you’re thinking of the other variable: readers will expect more books from you.

No pressure, right? I mean you have it under control—the writing, the editing (even if you send it to a professional (and you should) you have to make the rounds first), the marketing and don’t forget the social networking. Let’s face it, we can’t take that out of the “healthy mental diet” for an author either. It’s through these connections we support others and in turn are strengthened.

So how do we do it? How do we balance everything?

Foremost, ask yourself: Why did you become a writer in the first place? If your answer is to get rich, I’m laughing at you. Not because I don’t think you can do it—in fact I wish you much success—but money isn’t going to keep you going forward with your writing career. Primarily you have to love writing! If you do, you’re all set. We just have to remind ourselves of this sometimes, because like this post has made clear, time restrictions and other responsibilities can crowd in on this precious time allotment.

So here are a few suggestions to put things into perspective:

1) Turn off the Internet. Yes, I know you need it for research, but when you log on is that what you’re doing? I can tell you there are times I’ve gone on to check something, and logged off to go back to my WIP only to notice I didn’t look up what I went on the Internet for in the first place.

- Make a list of things you need to research and do so after your writing/editing time

2) Set aside time for everything—writing, editing, marketing, social networking, and let’s not forget reading. This can be a schedule you adhere to on a daily or weekly basis.

3) Establish priorities. I’ve read a few places that many authors do this to keep their responsibilities balanced. They make a list every day (or for the week) assigning tasks to either the “must accomplish”, the “would be nice to accomplish”, and the “it’s okay if it doesn’t happen right away”.

4) Set goals. By setting attainable goals, such as word counts or editing targets, to work toward it can help align focus. After all, a marathon runner will never finish the race if they don’t put aside time to train beforehand. They’d show up for the event and be lucky to make it a quarter mile. With a writer, each word counts and the same with edits. They are not going to do themselves.

5) Be realistic. I’ve used this piece of advice to apply to a lot of things from sales expectations to goal setting. When it comes to time allotment, it is no different. Deceiving ourselves into thinking an hour job is only fifteen minutes is only going to increase our pressure when we don’t meet that schedule.

Anyway, these are a few things that I can think of to help balance our time. In the end, we can pull it off, authors and friends—and in fact, we will if we love writing. Until the next time, happy writing everyone and much success to all of you!



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This post was originally written and shared on May 12, 2012 on Kirkus MacGowan's blog here.