Ask An Author (episode 2)

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We’re back with another question for my author panel. This one comes directly from a Twitter user, and it’s one of the top five questions I get from new authors:

How do you find a balance between writing and marketing/platform building?

I always answer this with another question: are you absolutely sure you need to be spending time on marketing and platform building? If you’re an unpublished author, ninety percent of your time (at least) should be spent on writing. Until you have a product for sale, whether self-published or traditionally published, there is nothing to market.  It’s wise to build your social media following and blog (if you’re so inclined), but again… if you never finish the book, you have no need for a platform, so don’t let Facebook and Twitter derail your writing time in the  name of marketing. Besides, if you’re a fiction writer, the lack of a strong platform is not likely to make or break your chances of a traditional publishing contract. If you’re a nonfiction writer or planning to self-publish, however, build away… that platform is crucial to your success.

Here’s some awesome insight from my fabulous author friends:

Although I spent the first 3 years of my writing career marketing heavily (I’m an indie author, so that’s my job!), now that I have several books out, my focus has narrowed to interacting with my loyal readers and to using the simplest, but most effective marketing strategies for the books I have out (such as making one book permafree, taking out Bookbub ads, etc.). Streamlining my marketing efforts leaves me more time to write. Newsletters are also an effective way to reach readers who already enjoy my books/genre and share about upcoming deals without eating into my writing time too much.  (Heather Day Gilbert, author of Guilt by Association)

It’s all about planning intentionally. Better than [a]… haphazard approach of, gosh I should do some marketing; make a meme; Christmas sale? Does that last pic I posted on my author page reflect my brand? Oh my gosh, it’s time for a newsletter but I need to pump out 2,000 words today. (Davalynn Spencer, author of The Cañon City Chronicles)

Once I realized and accepted that research, marketing, social media, and all the other non-writing parts of being a working novelist took up at least half of my work hours, it got a little easier to balance my time between the two. My rules: 1. The actual writing comes first. The other stuff is important, especially to my publisher, but if I don’t finish the book well and on time, all the marketing in the world won’t matter. 2. I choose two or three social media platforms that I enjoy and I pour all my energy into those. For me, it’s Facebook, Instagram, and my e-newsletter. I do use Twitter, but it’s not my favorite, so I don’t sweat that I’m not on there daily. I like Pinterest and use it, but to a lesser degree. 3. Find a way to make social media fun for YOU. Let your readers get a peek into your life, even if it’s not writing related. I probably get as many comments (if not more) when I post the “treasures” I’ve found at garage sales and estate sales as I do when I post more “advertise-y” blurbs about my books. 4. Write it down. Keeping a scheduled time for actually writing and for the other aspects of being a working writer helps me stay on task. (Deborah Raney, author of Circle of Blessings)

For you authors out there, what tips do you have for balancing writing with promotion? Let us know in the comments below, or leave a question you’d like answered by our author experts! I may pick your question for next month’s blog post!

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