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.
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.