Friday, 11 March 2016

One year indie-versary: how to balance writing and publishing!

It's exactly a year since I first published Adamant, and I can't believe time's flown by so fast!

I've already shared a fair few posts on my indie publishing experience:

Marketing: What I've learned.
Thoughts from six months of self-publishing.
Indie publishing: What I did wrong, what I did right, and future plans.

Today, I'm blogging about how I balance writing with the million and one other things that need doing. Planning, writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, writing blurbs, uploading and updating files, pre-orders, series planning, scheduling, websites, blogging, social media accounts, advertising, newsletters, other platforms... and juggling multiple books at once. At any given time, I'm working on a draft, have at least two projects in edits, and others to proofread, format and publish. Plus marketing my backlist and evaluating promotional techniques, while researching and planning future series. It's the best job I've had, but it isn't easy, and has challenged me in ways I never anticipated.

So,  how do I do it all without going insane?
  • Plan ahead. In self-publishing, this doesn't just mean outlining -- it means writing my whole publishing plan months in advance. I do keep things flexible, firstly due to the fickle nature of story ideas, and secondly, I need room to re-evaluate if something doesn't work. (And I'm definitely no stranger to that!)
  • Have a minimum daily word count goal. I work freelance, but I had the same goals when I worked in an office. 2000 words per day is my bare minimum. It's easy to get distracted by the other parts of being an author, but if I'm not writing a new book, I won't have anything new to publish or promote.
  • Related: schedule activities to reduce stress. Most of my stress comes from my inbox, so I only check it at intervals a few times a day. That way, I can spend the rest of the time focusing on working, be it writing or freelancing. I'm gradually moving social media to certain times as well.
  • Cut back on non-essential tasks. This means I've had to be ruthless over the past year as my workload climbed. If I feel like something isn't providing returns, I cut it down. (For instance, blogging -- I enjoy it, but it's something I do for free that doesn't sell books.)
  • Be careful who you work with, and make sure other people's schedules don't compromise your own. I'd always advise authors to work with cover artists and editors, but make sure you aren't constantly rearranging your schedule and adapting based on other people's deadlines rather than your own. (This is one reason I prefer publishing independently to working with a publisher -- no matter their intentions, you are never going to come first. It's just the way it is.) Your work is important, and so are your deadlines. If you find yourself constantly having to chase up and send emails to make sure the work gets done as it should, it might be time to find someone else to work with.
  • Watch out about letting marketing and promotion take over. It can be a time-suck, and in my experience, it relies on trial and error. I've designated one day a week to marketing tasks such as social media scheduling, blogging, advertising, newsletters, research, admin-related tasks and other miscellaneous things that eat up more time than I expect. (Ever tried updating the covers on four books on all retailers? Yeah...)
  • Be strategic. I worked twice as hard in December and January so I could take most of February off to go travelling and not end up behind. I'm still trying to find balance, but I'm a lot less stressed when I can incorporate breaks into my day.
  • Work out how much you can realistically do, and don't be afraid to say no. This is tricky. I still struggle, because I want to do all the things. In reality, though, I have less time after each book release, not more. I'm happy to cross-promote and help out my fellow authors, but there are some things I used to do -- like book reviews and Facebook events -- that I rarely have time for any more. I'm never going to be the organiser of a huge multi-author book event, because I just can't foresee being able to work it into my schedule.
I usually try to write first thing in the morning, then devote the rest of the work day to client work. I check emails at intervals, and in the evening, I deal with admin tasks and ongoing marketing (if I have a book release, for instance). Then I can go back to writing (either my draft, or planning future books, or working on a fun side project). I also read for at least an hour a day. I take weekends off freelance work (after last year, I know it wears me out to work two jobs seven days a week). Saturdays are writing sprint days, and Sundays are devoted to marketing and admin.

How do I manage this? Well, I rarely watch TV, and I'm trying to cut down on the number of hours I waste on the internet. During busy times, I cut everything out except my 2000-word-a-day minimum and a certain amount of freelance work (this varies depending on the project). Obviously, I don't have a husband or kids, so I'm able to put work before everything else. Having said that, I also set boundaries. When you work freelance, you'll always run into people who expect you to be online to answer questions 24/7, and if you say "yes" to everything, at some point, you'll burn out. By "boundaries", I mean I won't answer emails after a certain time of day. Because of time zone differences, that means catching up to night emails/messages in the morning. Alas, most of us aren't superhuman enough to stay coherent on social media at all hours of the night...

Everyone finds different ways to motivate themselves. I'm probably not a healthy example, because I find fear pretty motivating. I tend to work under the assumption that if I don't get the work done now, it'll come back to haunt me later. On the plus side, I do give myself leeway if I fall behind, and so far, I've managed to stick to all my deadlines. Speaking of which, I have to write 100K in a month, so I'd better run back into the cave...


  1. Great post, Emma - thank you so much for sharing :). Seeing how motivated you are and how you manage to fit everything in has inspired me to work harder on my own self-publishing career/schedule - I'm going to make one this weekend! Have a lovely weekend :)

    1. Thanks for reading! :) I'm glad you found it helpful!

  2. Great advice, balance is the key, but sometimes things get away from. Just keep on keeping on!
    Happy Anniversary!

  3. You're doing amazing. I love how you're able to produce as much as you do and still enjoy life with your vacations. That's pretty darn cool.

  4. You're so incredibly busy, it's very impressive and inspiring!