I recently read a magazine article that said people who are successful in various fields spend no more than 4-5 hours a day doing their work.* The idea is not how much you work, but how focused you are when you work. This got me thinking about what we do as writers. The most important thing we can do is write. Without a book, we won’t have a product.
While I think social networking is good for building up a platform, establishing a brand, and making connections, I don’t think it’s the way you will sell the most books. For more on why I believe this, read Kristen Lamb’s blog post “Social Media, Book Signings & Why Neither Directly Impact Overall Sales”. I see no reason to restate her main points. Social networking in all its forms is about connecting with people. I do think it’s important, but writing is way more important. If all you’re doing is social networking, you’re missing out on the most crucial component of making money: your next book. I see a lot of authors who write a book and all they do is promote that book. They spend very little time writing their next one. That is a huge mistake.
So in wondering, “How can we work more efficiently (instead of more) to get more books out there?” This is what I came up with after doing some research over the past couple months:
1. Make a list of your priorities.
The things that are most important need to be first on the list. I suggest making the daily list short. That way, it’s not overwhelming.
You can make a list of things you want to do for the month and break that down across the days in the month. For example, let’s say I want to edit my book. I know some people are able to do this in 1-2 days. I can only do 2 chapters a day. So one of my monthly projects would be “edit Book X”. Book X is 20 chapters. What I’ll do is break down this task by marking down 2 chapters each day that I’ll edit. (By the way, I do have other people edit my book, too. To do it only by myself would drive me insane.)
A s a writer, the most important thing on your list should be writing one of your current projects. Whatever the word count is, try to get something written that day. Some people write on specific days. Like, “I’ll write for 2 hours on Wednesday and Saturday”. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just make sure that is the priority for those days so it gets done before the other stuff.
I don’t write every single day. I find if I push myself too hard, I end up shutting down, so I let myself take a break. But I usually write six days a week. If there’s a writer’s conference or family vacation, I obviously don’t write for longer spurts of time. You need to find the best fit for you. The key is to be consistent. Train your mind to get into the writing zone at certain times.
I find it’s best to write first then do other things on my list (write a blog post, edit, answer emails, etc) come after I’m done writing. Why? Because writing is the most important thing I’m doing. :D
2. Learn to say no.
We can’t be everywhere and do everything. This includes social networking. We have to pick the most important things that will get us toward our goals. I’m assuming people reading this post have writing as one of their prime goals. So you need to say yes to writing your stories. Things you might have to say no to could be stuff like making your house spic and span clean 24-7, watching TV, critiquing another person’s book, spending time on a forum, or playing a game. This is where the list of priorities come in handy. Anything that isn’t on that priority list are things you could say no to.
Regarding critiques, I have gotten emails requesting critiques. The best way to handle this is by telling the person wanting a critique that there are local writing groups, online writing groups, and editors who do this for a living. It’s in a writer’s best interest to find people who are qualified to do critiques. Contacting a stranger is not in their best interest. The best thing is to develop relationships with other writers so they can form groups and/or get referrals to quality editors. Now, I have done edits for people I’m super-duper close to (that’s a very small list), and they have returned the favor. This is a cooperative arrangement, not one where I do all the work all the time. Sharing is wonderful. But share with people you trust to give you honest input, and give them honest input in return. Be nice but share your honest opinion. Both is possible.
Another big area is strangers requesting reviews. This is a no-win situation. First, you’d have to give up time writing (making money) in order to read someone else’s book (one you might not even like). I’m fine with reviewing books you want to review. I still review books. But there’s no reason to review books you don’t want to review. This is a time suck.
Yes, it’s not a fun feeling saying no when someone wants us to do something, but it’s absolutely necessary at times. And yes, there will be people who will be mad at us for not doing what they want. But hey, you can’t please everyone all the time. You have a right and a responsibility to do write your books.
I was going to write more, but I’m almost at 1,000 words so I’ll end this post here. :D
*Article: “Do More, Faster!” from SUCCESS magazine, April 2014.