By Gila Green
We hear it all the time, “How can I possibly market my existing book while writing my next book?” or “I don’t like marketing. I just want to write.” But the reality is that to be successful as an author, most of us need to continually do both–marketing AND writing new books. The good news is that it is possible to do both. In today’s guest post, Gila Green offers suggestions for how to manage our time, develop a strategy and succeed—on both fronts! I think you will find what she has to say helpful.
Time is like the sweet table at a bar mitzvah; depending on your gender, age, and weight, there’s either way too much of it or never enough of it. The kids can’t believe how quickly it has been devoured and at least half the adults can’t figure out why the chocolatey temptations haven’t disappear already.
Books are Written Between the Margins
If you’re an average writer you have a day job and writing is your second job. (I’m not even going to get into family responsibilities, that’s another post.) Balancing your time while you try to succeed in two jobs is hard enough, but what happens when your second job splits in two?
For writers who have published a novel and have to deal with the momentous task of marketing it coupled with producing a second novel, time management becomes an enormous challenge.
It doesn’t matter if you’re setting up a Facebook account, diving into chapter two, or pitching to reviewers, part of your brain screams: you should be working on something else!
It seems equally critical to market your novel, especially in its first twelve months of release as it is to write a new one (because everyone knows the best way to market your novel is to produce another one—more on that below–and some writers may have signed on to write a sequel or a series.)
For writers suffering from marketing-writer split, you either have three jobs or two second jobs. Either way you slice it, it’s tough to chew on without breaking your teeth or worse, losing your mind.
The situation can seem even tougher if the novel you have just released is in a different genre and/or aimed at a different age category from the novel you’re writing or vice versa. I know plenty of authors with young or middle grade books out who working away at an adult novel. The worry over wearing two hats just turns up the heat on the writing-marketing split.
So what’s a writer to do?
Here are four ways you can succeed
Admit it. Admitting the problem is the first step to solving it. Or something like that. The point is, it’s not easy to balance all of this. Pretending you can scribble something brilliant down on your coffee break or toss out an Instagram photo once a month and hit the best seller lists won’t help. You actually can’t switch brilliant writing on and off in quarter hour intervals and the same goes with marketing. You need an actual plan that you can stick with. I suggest a one-year plan as in one year from the release of your novel.
Phase One (three – four months)
Don’t Market and Write. I have an excellent pediatrician. He used to tell me that I can be a great mother to my new baby and have a successful career, just not at the same time. Mothers need to be with their new babies and writers need to be with their new books. Dedicate yourself to marketing only for a good three or four months. Let’s call this Phase One.
Phase Two (three months)
Once this period is over, Phase Two begins. Return to writing. Writers write. They are not marketers no matter what all of the agents, publishers, and editors say. They can be marketers temporarily, but getting out of touch with your writing for too long and becoming too obsessed with marketing can burn you out and risking your health is never worth it. Besides, the happy news is writing a new book IS your best marketing strategy. So, this is a win-win approach.
Pick a number
Now that you’re in Phase Two, pick a number that works for your lifestyle and stick to it. My number is one. I highly recommend this number for you. This means I do one thing every single day that helps me market my current novel. It doesn’t matter if it’s:
- posting one Instagram photo
- or querying about one guest blog idea
- or pitching to one book reviewer
They are all equivalent. Do the math. One every day is about thirty every month. You do this for three months and that’s ninety active things you’ve done to promote your book after your dedicated marketing time.
Don’t abandon writing. Once you do your one activity you’re done! No cheating. Return to writing. After this period is over, you’re in Phase Three.
Phase Three (continues until the end of your first year period)
Re-evaluate which marketing strategies are working, which are not and only choose Phase Three marketing activities after you’ve drawn your conclusions. My general recommendation is to choose the two or three strategies that are most effective from Phase Two and only do those in Phase Three.
For example, if you decide you’re most effective marketing strategies are Facebook and Goodreads, you now do one activity related to those two strategies every day. If you’ve had the most success at speaking engagements you work towards setting up another engagement by querying book clubs, schools, and libraries—one a day.
Your number is still one, you’re just alternating between only your most successful strategies now. Continue Phase Three until your first twelve months from the release of your novel have passed.
Phase Four: End of the year and time to submit your second novel
Once your year is up, hopefully you’ve finished the first draft of your new novel and you can now turn your attention away from marketing entirely until your new novel is ready for submission.
Just do it. This last section is for writers who are publishing in one genre and writing in another or vice versa. If you Google this, you’ll find the same response everywhere—don’t do it—or at least, I’ve never read a different response.
This is total nonsense. You should write what you’re most passionate about. If it’s a young adult novel after you’ve just put out a literary story collection, go for it. The cream rises to the top and whatever your passionate about is definitely the cream.
Trying a new age category or genre is an excellent idea. Anyone who doesn’t believe you should look up:
- Emma Donoghue (young adult, historical adult)
- Margaret Atwood (literary, dystopian, children, historical)
- Joyce Carol Oates (literary, historical, memoir, mystery, children, there really isn’t a genre she hasn’t excelled in)
- or a dozen other best-selling authors
You will find these authors all write successfully (yes, commercially successfully) in various genres.
The balance advice remains the same. Write in different genres or age categories, but not at the same time. For most writers that won’t produce their best results. What will produce the best results is when you’re entirely focused on a manuscript you feel strongly about, something you can’t not write. If it’s in an entirely new genre or age category, don’t worry, you’re in award-winning company—the best.
Canadian Gila Green is an Israel-based author, editor, and EFL teacher. Passport Control and King of the Class are among her published novels. Gila’s White Zion collection will be available in April 2019. She is also currently working on a young adult eco-fiction series with the first novel in this series, No Entry, coming out in September 2019. She has been teaching flash fiction online since 2009 at WOW-womenonwriting. Visit Gila: www.gilagreenwrites.com