Being a self-published author is a lot of work as you write, publish, and market your books. You can’t accomplish everything you dream of doing, but with learning how to schedule your time and remembering to take time for yourself, you can make significant strides toward your goal.
Self-publishing is not easy. Let’s get the myth out of the way right now. Just because you wrote a book, Oprah will not call, you aren’t going to see many big royalty checks in the mail, and you won’t be living some F. Scott Fitzgerald Great Gatsby party lifestyle where everyone hails you as a genius.
Being both publisher and author simultaneously is not the easy life. It’s a whole new level of work you’ve taken on. Not one job but many jobs.
Most authors never achieve success precisely because they are authors and can’t envision or motivate themselves into being more than just authors. Once the first book is published, an author just doesn’t turn to writing the second book. The self-published author needs to be a writer, but he or she is also a publisher, a marketer, a book delivery person, a salesperson, and usually the janitor too.
Having a day job and trying to promote your book at the same time is not easy, much less writing the next book. Self-publishing is time-consuming and wearing all those hats can leave you running ragged trying to keep track of everything.
The best advice I can offer is to make a list of your priorities and create a schedule for your various activities—those both necessary and enjoyable. And don’t overlook that you started doing all this because you love to write—if writing is what feeds your soul, schedule it in with your book promotion time.
Let’s say you are a married woman with a full-time job and two teenage children. You work 9-5 each day so you can’t block out that time. You’ve heard about authors who get up at 4:00am to write their books but you’re realistic and don’t want to mess with your sleep. Once you come home from work, you make dinner (your husband does the dishes), and some evenings you have family events. The important thing is to make a schedule and stick to it. Life will intervene; there will be school plays on Monday night when you usually write or your daughter’s soccer game irregularly scheduled on Thursday rather than Wednesday, but you can work around them.
Remember that Rome was not built in a day, and neither was your first book written that quickly. At the same time, you don’t need full days to work. You don’t even need full hours. You can be productive and still have a family life, time for yourself, and time to write. Bottom line, maybe you can only carve out two hours a night from 7-9, and not even every night. If that’s the best you can do, that’s great. Just make sure you do it. Even if it’s half an hour, it’s better than nothing. If you find marketing less fun than writing, reward yourself by doing the marketing first.
Here’s a sample schedule you might want to carve out:
7:00pm – send out mailings to libraries, bookstores, interested organizations.
8:00pm – work on next book.
7:00pm – promote book online at social networking sites. Post blog.
8:00pm – reply to emails (includes replying to customer orders, making contacts, participating in writing and publishing groups online).
Your daughter has soccer this night so you don’t get home until almost 8:00pm and work an hour later to catch up.
8:00pm – prepare to mail out book orders.
9:00pm – work on making media contacts, sending out press releases etc.
7:00pm – post blog, reply to emails.
8:00pm – work on scheduling or preparing for upcoming book signings and speaking engagements.
7:00pm – prepare to mail out book orders.
8:00pm – use time to catch-up, or as free time to choose whatever you want to work on.
12:00pm-4:00pm – work on next book.
4:00pm-5:00pm – post blog, reply to emails.
12:00pm-2:00pm – write weekly blog entries, promote book at social networking sites.
2:00pm-4:00pm – work on next book.
This is just a sample schedule. Some of these activities may take more or less time than you initially plan. You may find yourself one evening spending two hours mailing out books you sold which cuts into your writing time, but the next week, you may only need thirty minutes to mail books and can regain the time. The important thing is to figure out what are the most important tasks to do and make sure they get done. Do not let your email, or other requests take you off course from your goals. Whatever your goal is for the day, do it first and then deal with whatever comes up or new ideas you have. At the same time, don’t let a goal such as mailing out press releases override spending that time being interviewed by the local newspaper. Be sure you understand the value of some interruptions. At the same time, if you find certain activities are not showing positive results, stop or lessen the degree you do them and turn to something that works for you.
Consider updating your schedule monthly or quarterly or even weekly, and also consider that you will have busy and slow times. In November and December, you may want to set aside writing your next book as you focus on promoting your book at Christmas time. Then in January and February, when book sales are slow, you can make up for time lost on writing your book. As time goes by, you’ll better understand the rhythm and the requirements of publishing and marketing and be better able to plan ahead.
You have a lot to do when you’re an author and publisher. You can’t do everything you want—no one can—so make sure you use your time and money wisely. If you’re good at doing graphic art and you enjoy designing your own business cards, that task may be worth your time. If fighting with your color printer is something you don’t enjoy, outsource your business cards to a printer company—it probably will be cheaper and less time-consuming for you. Perhaps maintaining your website takes you longer than it would a good web master so consider outsourcing that. Look at what you can afford to outsource, but also consider the value of your time. Time is money. How can you use your time to the best extent possible, both to save/earn you money and also so you do not end up feeling burnt out.
Don’t forget to give yourself a break now and then. If you’re tired and the best you can do is write on your laptop in your recliner in front of the TV and you only write 100 words that night, it’s better than nothing. If you have a lot to do, but your husband wants to take you out to dinner, don’t be afraid to say, “Yes” if you need a break for the evening, or if you won’t get home until 8. You can always work 8-10 instead, or maybe a good meal and some relaxation will make 8-9 more productive than 7-9 would have been otherwise. If your friend asks you out to the movie, I give you permission to go. I give you permission to have a life.
You’re an author and a publisher, but you’re also human. You’re in this business because you love writing books. Don’t forget that. Don’t make what should be fun into a chore. Do what you can today, but remember also, there’s always tomorrow.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.