Finding a Balance Between Writing and Marketing

photo by happykiddo / via Flickr

photo by happykiddo / via Flickr

Note from Jane: The following post by Joshua Graham (@J0shuaGraham) is the third in a series sponsored by Nook Press, offering tips and advice from authors on writing and publishing. Read earlier sponsored posts from Nook:

Nook Press
This post is sponsored by Nook Press.

The one thing no one ever told me before my first book got published was how much time I’d spend on non-writing related work. Even if you’re a traditionally published author, you have to engage your audience, which often means using social media.

You might be thinking, “I bet those big-name #1 New York Times bestselling authors don’t have to worry about that.”

Wrong.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take Sandra Brown (since we’re talking about New York Times #1 bestselling authors) as an example. In an interview I did with her on Thriller Radio, she spoke about how much social media work she had to do, and how it challenged her schedule. Even someone whose publisher doesn’t exactly skimp on her publicity and marketing budget can’t dedicate herself solely to the writing.

To that end, I’m relieved to find that I’m not the only author who has to balance writing, marketing, and publishing—and manage the business end of it.

But what’s the secret to that balance?

I took a cue from my wife, who is a very successful businesswoman and my top adviser. In a word, LISTS! Make to-do lists every day and put tasks in priority order. Personally, I use Microsoft Outlook and sync it with my Google calendar and account, using a tool called gSyncit. On my Android phone, I sync my tasks with an app called Google Task Organizer (GTO).

Without such tools, I would be challenged in meeting all my deadlines.

If you’re like most writers, you’ll probably notice that your to-do list is formidable and overwhelming. We’re all given the same 24 hours a day, and somehow have to find a way to manage it.  Here are a few principles I’ve found helpful:

  1. Identify your goals within a set time period: Are you aiming to complete a book in six months? Or are you trying to increase your readership and newsletter subscriber list? Whatever it is, you’ll want to list all the concrete, specific tasks related to achieving this goal for whatever period of time you’ve set.
  2. Select your top three priority tasks for each day: Of course, you may have more than three, but try to focus on the absolute top three, and at least one or two of these should probably be related to that goal from #1. Keep this as a subset of your overall to-do list, as a separate visual landmark. If you’re looking at 30 goals, you’ll probably get anxious before you even start.
  3. Allocate sufficient time to accomplish your top three tasks: There may be days where there truly is only time for one task. Be flexible, be creative. Just be realistic.
  4. Schedule time to take a break: It’s easy to forget that you need a break if you’re not a cross-country truck driver. But even desk warriors need some time to get up, stretch, and go outside for a change of scenery. Invest at least 15 minutes in the middle of your work day to do something completely different and stress free. When you return, you’re able to focus better.
  5. Have clear boundaries. While you want to ensure that you don’t have interruptions and distractions while you work, it’s also important to protect the quality of your life outside of work. So when your work is over for the day (or allocated portion of the day), leave it at the office as much as possible. Be 100% present for your family, friends, and yourself. Leave the smartphone in your pocket and resist checking your social media, sales figures, or emails when you’re not (supposed to be) working. The better the quality of life outside of work, the better condition you’ll be in for those work hours.
  6. Write out your mission statement and review it often: There will be times when you’re treading water in endless tasks. Every now and then, come up for air and look at your mission statement. Re-evaluate all your work-related tasks and activities in light of that mission. Do they pertain? How much so? Can you say no? Should you keep with it? There are times when you know you have to make cuts to your schedule. Your mission statement can be an effective tool in your decision-making process. [For a great post on setting a mission, read this advice from Dan Holloway.]

If you don’t succeed today, tomorrow’s another day. And there will always be another tomorrow, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t knock it out of the park every day. Just evaluate, relax, and try again.

Let me know in the comments: How do you organize and balance your creative and business life?

Nook Press
This post is sponsored by Nook Press.
Posted in Creativity + Inspiration.

Joshua Graham is the Amazon and Barnes & Noble #1 bestselling thriller author of Beyond Justice, Terminus, and Darkroom, the winner of the International Book Award, Forward National Literature Award, USA Book News Best Books Award, and host of Thriller Radio. CBS NEWS described Darkroom as a book with “action, political intrigue and well-rounded characters … a novel that thriller fans will devour.” Publishers Weekly described Beyond Justice as: “A riveting legal thriller … breaking new ground with a vengeance …demonically entertaining and surprisingly inspiring.” Suspense Magazine listed Beyond Justice in its Best of 2010, alongside titles by Scott Turow, Ted Dekker, Steven James, and Brad Thor.

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Ernie Zelinski

I hardly use any of your strategy. In fact, I am quite erratic when it comes to the marketing of my books. I no longer use to-do lists and spend a lot of time on things I should not spend my time on. I know the value of working smart instead of hard, however. And I do know the value of marketing. My motto is: Content Is King But Promotion Is the Supreme Ruler.” This bit of advice has served me well over the years: “It’s better to do a sub-par job on the right project than an excellent job… Read more »

joshuagraham
joshuagraham

That’s cool. Whatever works for you to produce the desired results is the right strategy.

Lexa Cain

As much as I want to succeed, I don’t think I can turn every moment of the day into prioritized to-do lists. And none of my marketing has helped anyway. It’s too much time and very little gain, so I only do stuff that appeals to me now. I may not be successful, but I’m pretty happy. 🙂

joshuagraham
joshuagraham

Good heavens, I couldn’t turn every moment into a to-do list either! That would drive me (more) insane. As I mentioned in another comment/reply, these tips help as a tool for me when I need to re-focus–something that happens easily when swarmed with more tasks than there are hours in a week.

If you’re happy, you’ve already succeeded.

Amy Reade
Amy Reade

I don’t have a mission statement written out, but I do have one in my head. It changes from time to time. I think one of the most important lessons to learn is how to say no. As a woman and a parent, it’s very tempting to want to say yes to every request, but all those requests add up to a lot of time. I like your ideas, but I think of them as goals rather than musts. I also think that as important as it is to turn off the phone when you’re done working, it’s also important… Read more »

joshuagraham
joshuagraham

Glad you found something helpful. This post was just a launching point for further introspection. Your mileage may vary, but as the saying goes:

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

Michael Kelberer
Michael Kelberer

A little disappointed in this post – more of generic time management/priority setting discussion than one focused on marketing for authors. Authors struggle to balance writing time with marketing time (which they see as “not-writing” time). Having a mission statement can help – for example an author should determine how important book revenue is to their authorial mission. How important is a wide readership (not necessarily the same thing)? I think it also matters what stage in their career they are: early on, probably more important to write and publish the next book(s) than to spend much time marketing the… Read more »

Lynne Spreen

How appropriate that this should appear on Valentine’s Day, the day we workaholics look to our long-suffering better half and feel guilty for not being more balanced! BTW, love esp. #1 and 2. This has served me well over time.

joshuagraham
joshuagraham

And I’m glad I got to write this post before Valentine’s Day, so I could spend more time with my wife. Do I follow these guidelines all the time? No, but sometimes when I find myself adrift in a sea of tasks, this helps a lot.

Karen A. Chase

Your idea to plan is very important, but so are breaks. And far more than one 15 minute break. Recent productivity studies show that we are better if we work in 90-minute stretches, with short breaks in between. I did this consistently on my latest book, and instead of producing 1500-3000 words a week, I produced 2500 words a day. All with less stress, and no guilt from neglecting chores or exercising. (Folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, or just gong for a walk constituted by breaks). Here’s an online 90-minute timer I use: http://www.google.com/#q=90+minute+timer. It’s remarkable how I reach the… Read more »

Jason Matthews

I’m with you on this one–love lists. Each month I make one on a new page from a notebook and cross off items when they get done, which feels rewarding. Items that don’t get done either get moved to the next month or reevaluated if they should even be on the list. It keeps me on track.

joshuagraham
joshuagraham

Glad this works for you. It’s helped me, but there are always different ways to achieve any particular goal. These are tools, not laws written in stone, so to speak. 🙂

joshuagraham
joshuagraham

As always, one size does not fit all. And I would love to hear other suggestions because I’m always learning and trying to find ways to improve. What works for you best? Tell me some of your tips so I can add them to my repertoire, if they work for me.

Karen
Karen

Outstanding post! Discipline is key…not that you have to be chained to the desk or a slave to your work…that produces lousy writing (been there). Balance, Discipline, Passion (why are you doing this anyway?) Priorities, and Keeping It Real (Perspective) might just take you and your writing as far as you wish to go….

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[…] 2. Finding a Balance Between Writing and Marketing […]

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[…] Read Joshua’s post at JaneFriedman.com. […]

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Michael M Dickson

Mission statement, eh. Never worked for me and I consider myself to be very organized. In fact, commenting on Jane’s blog is a scheduled task for me 🙂

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[…] crap… Joshua Graham has a guest post at Jane Friedman’s blog on “Finding a Balance Between Writing and Marketing” and has an interjection from an interview with Sandra Brown — you know, bestselling author […]

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[…] crap… Joshua Graham has a guest post at Jane Friedman’s blog on “Finding a Balance Between Writing and Marketing” and has an interjection from an interview with Sandra Brown — you know, bestselling […]

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