Time – Where Should Authors Spend It? #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

It’s time for my June contribution to the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of authors post their thoughts on subjects of writing.  Check out the insightful posts of other writers by clicking on the toolbox icon at the bottom.  This month I discuss where I and other authors should spend their precious time.

A Self-Published Author's Time

When I was young, time stretched before me like a red carpet extending into the horizon.  I had time to plan, to experiment, to make mistakes, and there was always tomorrow.

Many decades later, the red carpet appears much shorter.  While I still anticipate tomorrow, it can never be taken for granted.   Oddly, after years of working and saving for the future, I’ve found the one thing I value most can’t be bought—time.

Knowing this, I continue to spend many hours each day, and often at night and early morning, writing novels and short stories where the odds of success are small.  Writers measure success in their own way, but most would agree book sales are a good metric. On average, self-published authors can expect to sell fewer than 250 copies of their first book.   An estimated 750,000 titles are published each year in the U.S., with a small percentage of these books reaching bestseller status.

Given my decision to continue down this narrow path of success, I often wonder where I should focus my time if my goals are to produce well-written books, maximize my sales, and still have sufficient time to enjoy my family and friends.

If I define author time as the accumulation of time required to write and sell books in a given year, I’ve found that I spend it in five main areas: writing, editing, marketing, education, and blogging.  Each of these activities can consume more time than I have to give.  So, what is the correct amount to spend in each area?

I believe an author’s focus should be on writing, and by that, I mean writing novels and short stories.  My writing time varies, but when I’m in the middle of a novel, I will write 4-6 hours a day, or 30-40 hours a week.  This gives me plenty of time to experience life and still maintain focus and continuity on my work in progress.  Writing is about 40% of my author time.

I am fortunate to be married to an experienced editor, and I outsource most of this critical activity to Claudia.  Still, I’ll take at least two passes at my manuscripts before turning them over to her, and then I’ll incorporate her corrections and modifications.  Editing manuscripts represents about 20% of my author time.  As you would expect, more than half of my time is spent writing and editing my books.

Marketing is an area where I don’t spend enough time (or money).  I engage in the following marketing activities: press releases, book signings, Facebook and Twitter ads, offering a few giveaways, advertising on my website, posting to other blogs and websites, and sending query letters.  Without an agent or publisher, all these activities fall upon me.  Marketing occupies 15% of my author time, and I plan to increase this focus with the release of my next novel, At the River’s Edge.

Under education, I include seminars, webinars, writing groups, and learning from other writers via face-to-face and online communications.  I would estimate I spend 10% of my author time in this area.  It’s an investment critical to improving my writing skills, and one I will continue to make.

This brings me to blogging. I struggle with amount of time I should spend in this area.  It can become all-consuming, taking as much time as writing novels.  I belong to two author blog hops, each requiring one post per month. I also guest post to other author blogs.

The reasons in support of blogging are: it’s a form of marketing, provides valuable interaction with other authors, and sharpens writing skills.  The main arguments against blogging are it takes time away from writing, and if done poorly or inconsistently, it distracts readers from the author’s brand.

New, aspiring writers need visibility, and a blog provides that opportunity.  It’s likely that J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, and Stephen King spend little time blogging. Whereas, I spend 15% of my author time posting to my blog.  As long as I stay true to my suspense-filled novels and don’t wander too far off course with my posts, I will continue to invest time blogging.

I’m not sure the above ratios of time are ideal for all writers, but for now, I will stay this course.   Let me know what you think.


To enjoy other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click HERE.  Happy blogging!Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2


You can check out excerpts from my work in progress, AT THE RIVER’S EDGE, by going HERE:

Headsone in Creepy Cemetery with Bridge in background

29 thoughts on “Time – Where Should Authors Spend It? #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

  1. Interesting analysis. I love the pie chart! There are lots of authors out there who forgo the blog in favor of a static website for the reason you gave. Running a successful blog is a huge time suck and spending time writing articles no one reads accomplished nothing. It really is a difficult balance

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! It is a challenge to decide how to spend one’s time most efficiently. Most certainly the majority of one’s time should be spent writing and editing. And then I think each writer has to determine what other activities are most beneficial to them. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never broken down my non-writing activities into anything other than marketing. I’m sure it’s close to your figures. By my estimation (totally unscientific), writing is 60% of my time, marketing is 40%. Somewhere hidden in the non-writing time is blogging 3 x a week if I’m lucky, listening to at least one podcast a month on the craft, and the rest is social media. When planning my day, I split the time into half-hour or hour chunks.I should write my time down, but I don’t need an excuse to follow more rabbit holes than I do.

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    1. I get your point. There is a risk of over-analysis. My pie chart isn’t precise, but the five areas are accurate in relation to each other. Writing represents the highest percentage of time and education is the least. Marketing needs more focus and blogging is the area where I could steal some time. I just restated my post in less than 50 works. 🙂

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  4. Seems like a reasonable breakdown. I agree that writing stories should be the largest slice, and overall I think you have a good distribution. I tend to put a little more into learning, and a bit less into marketing, but I feel I also have a fair bit to learn, as I have yet to write a single story that “breaks through”.
    But yeah, I think it’s good to take a look at the big picture and consider how “writing time” breaks down. It’s easy in the moment to focus on one aspect, try to really make some headway and “finish it”, but I’m always leery of spending too much time away from one of the sub-skills, and find that when I do return I have to spend a lot of time “getting back into the flow of things”.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Learning is an ongoing requirement, and it plays out in many ways. It’s hard to measure exactly how much time is spent in this area. As an example, writing groups are really a combination of activities–education,writing, and even some marketing. Obviously, my pie chart is more relative that precise.

      Thanks for your comments and for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How do I get me a Claudia?! How lucky are you? Wow, you do way more blogging than me, but you’re right, it’s important. I may do more at some point, but I have a hard enough time coming up with material for 2 blog hops a month, yikes! 🙂 I think overall, I spend a little less time on blogging then you, and I also encompass reading in learning, so my learning segment of the pie is a fair size larger. I get the feeling you also do a lot of reading, but that you just haven’t included it in your calculation for this purpose, which makes sense as well. 🙂 Great post!

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    1. Yes, I am lucky… in many ways. You are correct about reading, It should be included under learning. I don’t read as much as I’d like, but I manage to consume one or two books a month. Many of them are by aspiring authors, but I also keep track of my favorite writers like John Hart and Michael Connelly.

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  6. I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately. I spend far too much time blogging (my 2 posts a week take up over 50% of my time) and not enough time writing. I need to figure out how to balance my time better if I’m ever going to finish a draft!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting thoughts. After my books were published, I was surprised at how much time I spent not writing but on the other activities you mentioned above. I’m published by two publishers and still spend a lot of time marketing, learning, blogging. Even my friends published by bigger publishers do this. I think it’s all part of the writing industry today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I know published authors who spend significant time with marketing (maybe more than self-published writers). I should have said the visibility/support provided by an agent and publisher are benefits self-published authors seek and are faced with providing on their own.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I really like your time analysis and the visual for what we should be doing now. I hope to someday get there. It for now I can only do what my wee ones allow me to do. Blogging is a definite must chore. I gain more support from blogging then any other marketing platform and I wish I could focus and promote it more. Happy Hop Day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I definitely agree with that graph, which is why I have been limiting my blogging time this year. I’ve been struggling with writing time due to new release and marketing, but I do agree that marketing should be after writing. Writing should always be our number one priority.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post (and well written!)

    I’ve also wondered about how to spend my limited time and I think your ratios are pretty accurate (at least, that’s how I spend my time) I used to be inconsistent with my blogging, even going a few months without a post. But last October, I started writing one blog per week. Every Wednesday. I feel like it gives me a presence and reminds people I haven’t faded into the distance. I really need to get my marketing number up, but I’m not sure what I want to sacrifice for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think many of us struggle with how much time to dedicate to blogging. Consistency is a key element, and it seems you’ve made the decision to improve in that area. As to marketing my books, I’d like to think there was a lever that worked, and all you had to do was pull it and sales would ring up. Unfortunately, I haven’t found one. I think marketing is a dozen things that need to be done well and often.

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  11. Emaginette makes a great point: writing is marketing (creating product). So is blogging (building platform). A lot of people say “marketing” but mean promotion or advertising, when it’s actually much wider than that:

    Product (writing, editing, cover design, formatting)
    Place (where are we going to sell, and in what formats)
    Price (how much do we charge)
    Promotion (telling other people about our work with the hope they’ll buy. This can be active promotion e.g. advertising, or passive promotion e.g. blog posts)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Emaginette always makes good points. Clearly, I could have been more granular in my analysis. I spent 32 years in sales and product marketing. Seeing the four Ps gave me a headache. 🙂

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  12. Victoria Marie Lees

    DR, this is wonderful. I think you are right on for your percentages. Lucky you to be married to a professional editor. No such luck at my house.
    My favorite quotes from your post are:
    “…after years of working and saving for the future, I’ve found the one thing I value most can’t be bought—time.”
    and
    “… I continue to spend many hours each day, and often at night and early morning, writing novels and short stories where the odds of success are small.”
    Gosh sir, your odds are doing way better than mine. More power to you! I truly need to be more focused on not allowing my family to interrupt my writing time.
    Thanks for sharing this with your followers.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a great idea. I’m more of a grab-time-whene-I-can-and-tackle-whatever-comes-next-that-I-feel-like-doing type of person, but this has made me really think about actually budgeting my writing time. The pie chart was especially helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

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