Dividing Your Time

A long time ago, in a writing and publishing galaxy far, far away, authors could write all the time and the publisher would do all the marketing. Not any more. These days, authors must do their own marketing.

But who has time for that?

Dividing timeWell, you’d better make time for it. Somehow. Sure, you want to spend your precious time writing and you don’t like marketing. That’s why you became a writer. Still, it turns out that your preferences don’t really enter into this—you must do most of your own marketing (or pay someone to do it for you).

Let’s assume you’re done grumbling about that fact and have reached acceptance. You know you must spend some time marketing, and now it’s just a question of how much.

After all, marketing does consume time. Book marketing activities include blogging, blog tours, author interviews, arranging for reviews, book signings, podcasts, social media, and making promotional videos.

How are you going to balance all that with your writing? Let’s take two extreme examples, those of authors Ty Prighter and Mark Etter.

  • Ty Prighter wrote all the time. He disdained marketing and refused to devote any time to it. After all, he said, that’s the publisher’s business. Ty believed the more he wrote the better author he’d become; if he became skilled enough, readers would find his books and want more. His books would market themselves.
  • Mark Etter wrote one book. He got so busy marketing it, he had no time to write another. He enjoyed the social interaction of marketing. Mark discovered which marketing methods worked best for him, and ceased the ineffective ones and focused on those that increased sales.

Which of these authors was more successful? Actually, neither writer practiced a good time management strategy.

It was a long time before readers noticed Ty’s books. He did improve his writing, thanks to the time he spent doing it, but improvement was slow due to the lack of reader feedback. He missed out on a lot of sales he could have had if he’d reached out to readers early.

As for Mark, his book did sell, but some of his readers wanted more. He had no more. Popularity of his one book didn’t rise as high as it might have, had there been a sequel, or at least other books written by that author.

Ty and Mark are fictitious examples, of course. For you, in the real world, it’s going to take a balance. More than that, you’ll have to experiment to find the optimal split of time for you between writing and marketing. You may have to force yourself to do the marketing activities, or you may learn to enjoy them.

I wish I could offer you a numerical percentage of time that has worked for me. However, I’m much closer to the Ty Prighter end of the scale. I don’t spend much time marketing, other than blogging. I do enjoy that, but the effect of blogging on sales of my books has been lackluster. I’m working toward a better balance of marketing and writing time, but it’s difficult.

May the force be with you as you figure out your proper time balance. Once you do, consider sharing your wisdom, and leave a comment for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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December 27, 2015Permalink

Ordering a (Writer’s) Retreat

Planning a writer’s retreat, are you?  Already looking forward to that free weekend, or even a full week, away from the stress of work, away from the chores of home?  A few days away from everything, with time to devote purely to writing.

writing retreatSo much time!  Why, you’ll be able to finish up that novel.  You might even knock off a short story or three.  Do some new characters sketches for the novel’s sequel, and lay out the plot line.  Polish up some query letters.

By now you’ve spotted the signs of a ‘lower your expectations’ lecture.  But it’s easy, when you only have spare minutes or a rare uninterrupted hour during your normal life, to imagine how much more you could get done with a whole day or more at your disposal.

Did you ever stop and think that those odd spare minutes are the right amount of writing time for you?  Is it possible that more time would not result in more writing?  Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time allotted to it.”  One corollary of that law is, “The amount of time available to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.”  Or, as a coworker of mine phrases it, “If you put off a task until the last minute, it will only take a minute.”

In theory, it’s true that you should get more writing done if you have more time, such as during your upcoming retreat.  Understand, I’m not opposed to writer’s retreats, just unrealistic expectations for them.  Definitely go on the retreat.  Before you do, compile a list of things to get done, a long list.  Go ahead and make big plans, set stretch goals.  But don’t kick yourself too hard if you fall short.

After all, you’ve trained yourself (in effect) to write in short bursts, and you’ve acclimated to that mode now.  During your retreat, you may find yourself needing a break after just an hour of writing.  Your mind will wander.   You’ll find excuses to do other things.  That is the pattern you’ve set, the habit you’ve made.

I suggest you make use of that habit.  Here’s a way to use it to your advantage during your retreat.  Consider making a list of many different writing tasks you want to do.  The more different from each other, the better.  Then, while you’re at your retreat site, spend a half hour on the first task.  Bring a timer or alarm to inform you when the time’s up.  After that half hour, take a five minute break, during which you stand up, walk around, stretch, etc.  Then tackle the second task on your list for a half hour and so on.

Since you’ve accustomed yourself to working in short bursts, make the retreat a long, repeating series of short bursts.  You may find that method works for you.

One more thing about retreats.  In the weeks leading up to the planned date of the retreat, I urge you not to put off things.  Don’t say, “I’ll do that writing task during my retreat.”  If you find yourself doing that, you might follow it up by asking why you’re putting off the task.  Why not do it now?

In fact, what’s so special about a retreat anyway?  Why not consider every minute spent writing as a sort of mini-retreat right in your own home?

You might feel differently about writer’s retreats.  If so, please leave a comment and let me have it, metaphorically.  In the meantime, off to a mini-retreat in his own home goes—

                                                       Poseidon’s Scribe

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