If you’re serious about your writing, that’s how you have to look at it. Yes, it can be a pain, but the business side of writing is just as important–in some ways even more important–than the actual art of writing.
How much time is spent on the business side of writing?
To me, business and marketing/promotion go hand-in-hand when it comes to writing, so I’m grouping all of this together. Still, I guarantee you’re going to think I’m crazy, when I tell you that I spend over 50 percent of my “writing” time on everything but writing fiction. Some weeks it might even be 75%.
How is that even possible? We’ll let’s break down some daily tasks.
1. Submitting short stories.
This includes searching for new markets, tracking existing submissions, reading submission guidelines and sample stories, proper formatting, cover letters, contracts, correspondences, tracking royalties, and God only knows what other things I might have forgotten.
If you’re in the business of writing short stories or flash fiction, you’re biggest path to success is to have as many pending stories as possible under review. Any finished material you have sitting around that is not under review in an open market is wasted potential. Don’t fall behind on this.
2. Social media.
Man, I’d be the first to tell you that Facebook and Twitter can be a colossal waste of time. Facebook, in particular, can sometimes seem like nothing more than a place for narcissists to go and either bitch or brag. But from a marketing point of view, these services are absolutely essential. This is how you connect directly with your fans. The more people feel that they “know” you, the more likely they are to buy your books, share your writing, or go to a signing.
But it’s also more than that. Social media shouldn’t be used simply a marketing tool. Use it to interact with people. Make friends, both with other writers and with your readers. It’s awesome to get feedback from someone who likes (or even hates) something you’ve written. I recently had someone contact me over Facebook to complement a flash piece I wrote that she found on another site. That’s a really cool thing 🙂
A word of warning, though. Get personal, but not too personal. Seriously think before you post. If you tend to get too religious or political, you will turn off half of your audience. That’s fine when you’re Stephen King. It’s not fine when you’re just starting out and trying to build an audience. Obviously, if you write primarily political or religious material, then it’s okay. But otherwise, try to be careful.
While blogging is not essential for writers, and a lot of what a blog accomplishes can be done on social media, I think if done right, an author blog can be an incredible tool for building your brand.
There are a few strategies you should keep in mind when blogging.
The first is to consider your blog, for the most part, a separate project from your writing. I’ll use Write Good Books as an example here. The purpose of this blog is not to promote my own writing. I started the site with the goal of giving new and aspiring writers a place to gather information. To follow the work-in-progress (me) as I develop as writer, and to know that they are not alone in their struggles. I love sharing what I’ve learned in the last few years writing, and writing about it continues to not only help me learn, but also helps keep me motivated.
Another strategy is to blog about something totally off-topic. Pick something you’re passionate about and write about it. Branching out is awesome. You’ll build a whole new group of contacts, friends, and fans, while gaining even more experience writing. The possible topics are endless, too. If you watch a lot of movies, start a movie review site. If you’re into business or technology, start another finance or tech blog. The web may seem full, but there is always room for more.
You could also try blogging from your regular author site. This can be a good idea if you keep it on a more personal level. This is where you can share anything you want. Family updates. Publishing updates. Book or movie reviews. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to your readers. I would say, however, that if you plan a more focused blog, your author site isn’t the place for it and you should start a separate blog for that.
4. Managing your e-zine.
Okay, I know writers don’t manage a separate project dedicated to helping other writers get published. I’m cool that way 🙂 I’m the owner and editor of the online magazine Theme of Absence. This doesn’t take an enormous amount of time, but when you add up reading submissions, formatting stories and interviews, corresponding with authors, picking out art, tracking payments and advertising, the site can easily eat up a good five or six hours a week.
5. Other stuff.
There are so many other random things involved. For example, I spent over an hour yesterday reading over a publishing contract I’ve been offered.
Conventions, workshops, critique groups, and writing groups are also valuable things you should be participating in.
When you start building yourself as a writer, you can’t waste a minute, but every productive minute you spend building your writing career and brand gets you that much closer to taking your small side-business of writing and making it your full-time gig.
And that, I believe, is the goal we all share as writers.
How is your “writing business” coming along. Feel free to share!