Being a self-published author is my full-time job. That means that when I’m not away from home, (like now!) I spend at least eight hours a day on the tasks I’ve discovered are necessary to make a go of this pursuit. This might change over time but in the early years of getting myself noticed as an author, this is what seems to work.
I can break these tasks down into three major categories – writing, preparing manuscripts for publication and self-promoting.
Writing is not like any other type of job I’ve ever had. I’ve had passion for my work in the past and put in long hours, but writing is a different ball game. At times it is all-consuming – I eat, sleep and breathe the story. This ebbs and flows – thank goodness! Who knows how relationships and cleaning would happen otherwise.
A self-published author has to produce a number of books in the first few years if he or she hopes to garner a following. I have put out two novels and a book of short stories in the last two and a half years and am busy on two simultaneous book projects at the moment.
Preparation for Publication
This is a time-consuming part of the job. I write in Word producing many drafts of my work using 12 point, Times New Roman, double spaced copy. That’s what works for my beta reader/editor and me. Once final edits have been completed, these documents have to be formatted for print and e-book editions. Book covers have to be produced. Files have to be loaded up to CreateSpace (for print) and Amazon (for e-books). At every stage of preparation to publish, constant editing and checking goes on.
Being a self-published author means I’m it – there’s no magical promotion team just waiting in the wings to take over and make sure readers find my book. My husband and I tag-team the promotion efforts. He is far better at in-person promotion than I am. He makes contact with stores to see if they will carry the softcover edition of my books, he does the set-up leg work for personal appearances. He always has books and promotional material handy and does a great job at getting my books out there.
I take care of all aspects of creating and maintaining a social media network – my blog, Facebook author page, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Google+, and on-line promotional groups. This part of the job is the one that is difficult to keep to a manageable number of hours and it is the aspect of the work that suffers the worst neglect when I take time off – like now!
All I want to do is write. The other parts of the job are important, I don’t deny that. But still . . . I got into writing because I love to write. Blogging is great because it involves writing and meeting others who care about putting words to thought and experience. I get a good dose of chuckles out of Facebook and Twitter – but perhaps not enough to justify the time spent. I love promoting other authors but the downside of that is placing another drain on precious time. Since we are dealing with hard truths – there isn’t always an equal payoff. That’s not to say I always look to get when I give, but the reality of the world is that there are takers and givers and often things don’t come out even in the end.
So, here I sit making my breakfast out of the remains that the granddaughters left on the table as they scrambled off to school and preschool (perhaps this is why I always get a cold when I’m here – you think?) My mind is totally stuffed with writing ideas and what I might accomplish in the next three hours before Brit comes home.
I don’t regret the self-published author career choice – not ever. The hours are long but when I get to just sit and write – the pleasure is huge.
Hi Francis! I completely agree with you. All I want to do is write, too! Unfortunately, there are all these other things we have to do in order to be successful. The important thing is not to allow the other things get in the way of our writing.
That is the rub as Shakespeare would say – how those other things just eat up the time. I keep plugging away at that issue and just feel grateful I’ve had enough time to create and maintain a social media network at all. If I also worked at another job like so many people do, I wouldn’t be able to manage. Not enough hours in a day.
I agree with Vashti’s comment Francis. I’m rubbish at the marketing stuff but hope to improve as I go along. It’s difficult when I either want to write or if I am on social networks, to interact with friends. More self-discipline required I think.
The theme of self-discipline has come up again and again in comment streams whenever I write about the time involved to do social media and I think it keeps coming up because it is so key to time management. All we can do is keep trying – right?
Hi Frances. It sounds as though you have a good system going. You listed seven different parts of your social media network. Which ones do you find are the most important?
For me, my blog is the most important social media option because it allows me to really show readers (and anyone who tunes in) who I am as a writer and a person. I think next down the list would be Facebook – simply because it’s such a popular social media site. It took awhile, but I’m in a couple of Facebook groups I really like – either for the support or the quality of the information generated when people put forward a topic or ask a question. I’m still working on how to make Twitter effective for me. Right now it is mostly me promoting other people and me checking news headlines. The other platforms (pinterest, linkedin, google+, oh, I also do Tumblr) automatically receive my blog posts and that’s about it. Who could be active on all these places? Not me, for sure. Thanks for asking such a great question.
An interesting look at your writing life Fran. I’m not sure that I could live and breath it to that extent and I think it would get tedious and a chore – for me anyway. You’re right I think in that you need to keep producing new work periodically or else you’ll slip away and become yesterday’s news. With a good new offering people may go and look at your back numbers.
What great autumn colours, and echoed by the stamps on the envelopes too.
Definitely have to keep the work coming. I saw quite a bump in sales on Disappearing in Plain Sight when the sequel, The Light Never Lies, came out. I expect that will be the case with subsequent books in the series. All about building that fan base. I do hear what you’re saying about things becoming a chore if they are so all encompassing. It is something to be aware of. All those stamps came on a letter Bruce sent me while I am away with grandkids – we always have stamps that are out of date due to the constant upping of the cost of stamps by Canada Post. Makes for a colourful splash on envelopes as we dig around trying to make it to the latest price point.
My life is very similar, even though I have not been self published for that long. I have learned so much from writers such as yourself, the most important thing being ‘how to fit it all in’ and be a better juggler!
The one thing that is sadly lacking, is a beta reader. How do you find one, when none of your off-line friends don’t read much?
Finding a good beta-reader is a huge challenge. With my first book I put it out to anyone who showed even the slightest interest and that was a mistake. Most people will not read a lengthy Word document on a computer screen and paying to print out a 350 to 400 pages is really expensive and again, most people aren’t willing to wade through a book like that. Out of maybe eight people, two actually gave feedback. With my second book, I tried the two people who had given feedback on the first but neither of them could get to actually reading, though they did express enthusiasm and said they wanted to.
I have a special and unique relationship with my editor as we have been close friends for many years. When I embarked on the third book in the Crater Lake series, I asked her if she would be willing to come aboard earlier than with the other two books. She is now reading sections of the first draft even and that is so helpful to me. She has become a developmental editor – giving me vital feedback as I go.
The people who will know how to do the job of being a beta reader well are those who are almost as invested in your success as you are. In Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he talks about how, for him, it has always been his wife. I’m more and more convinced it has to be someone very close – especially if they are reading when you are in the early stages of writing and everything is so raw.
Not sure that is any help – except to second what you say – a huge challenge.
You’ve got it exactly right, Francis. I admire your commitment to continuing your writing. keep up the great work
Thanks, Ron – for the kudos and for stopping by to read and comment. I have to stick with it now – I’ve been bitten by the writing bug and it doesn’t want to let go.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Somehow reassuring to know we all face the same struggles. I find it very hard to fit everything in , especially time to do all the social media. I’d rather be creating books, too.