People keep asking me, how do I stay focused and productive every day? Well, each day I begin with a “To Do” list of things I’d like to accomplish. It helps me sort out what I need to do and (hopefully) not get so easily sidetracked. When you work from home in relative silence, getting sidetracked is easily done. There’s always something you could/should be doing around the house, or the weather’s so nice you’d rather be outside doing just about anything, or someone calls and you’d rather chat, and then there’s the reading. It’s no surprise that writers are also avid readers, so the temptation to just curl up and indulge can be huge.
But I have to work, so after writing out my list, I tackle each task one at a time and check it off my list. It could be as simple as “check and respond to emails”, or “WIP”, which means I need to actually WRITE something on my current book. As things crop up, or I remember them, I add them to the list. What I don’t complete one day, I move over onto the next day’s list. This keeps me semi organized. At least that’s the plan. Usually it works.
A large part of my day lately has had to involve marketing and promotion of my new release. Now, I’d rather just sit and write, or do any of the other thousand things I’d like to do, but if I want to make a career out of this writing gig, and I do, then I need to take it seriously. If I want my book to sell, and if I want to grow my readership, then I have to work at it. I knew going into this writing thing that it would be a lot of work, and I wasn’t disappointed. Good thing I like challenges and don’t mind the hard work. What I don’t like is feeling like I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, what might work, what doesn’t work for me, where to go for resources, who/what/when to connect.
Social media has taken over a large chunk of on-line marketing and promotion, so being relatively active on FaceBook, Goodreads, Twitter is a must, as is having a regular (key is regular) blog and staying top of mind with those who follow you. Your readers and followers might also help spread the word about your work, so an updated, hopefully interesting website with current content is important. That’s it. Simple. Yep, simple, but time-consuming and necessary. If you don’t want to promote your work and are just writing for the sake of writing, then you don’t have to do any of these things, but as in life, if you want to succeed, you have to be willing to put your back into it.
Research is also a large component to promotion and marketing for a new author. After all, you have to know where to go, what the options are, what to do, etc. Thank goodness the internet is a treasure trove of valuable information and websites to learn just about anything and everything you ever needed to know about writing, publishing, networking, promoting and marketing your work (which is separtate from researching things for the story you’re writing). Sites such as The Savvy Book Marketer and Shelley Lieber’s Wordy Woman are terrific resources, as are other authors. Start following authors you admire and reading what they have to say, but don’t be afraid to branch out to new, unknown authors you’ve discovered and following their blogs. Some of the best ideas and suggestions, as well as support, has come from these amazing resources. They’re free, interactive, and allow each writer to explore what works and what doesn’t, while also giving hands-on information on how to’s and links to other sites of interest.
Publications like Writer Gazette, Publisher’s Lunch, and Writer’s Digest are invaluable in their content for writers of any genre. Use any and all information until you find what works for you, and don’t be afraid to put your own spin on things. After all, you are the master at the helm of your own ship. Steer it where you like, because the beauty is that nothing you do is wrong, it’s all just a learning journey. Rather than be uptight and worry about whether what I’m doing is the right thing, I just try to have fun with it and do the absolute best I can. If I need to fix something later I can, and if something works particularly well, I’ll use it as much as I feel I need to.
In the midst of all this social networking and on-line research, don’t forget your own backyard though. Explore avenues like local newspapers, for example. I was nervous about contacting my local libraries to see if they’d be interested in my work. I mean, these are libraries for heaven’s sake, and I’m an unknown nobody! I’m not really an agressive sales person, never wanted to be, so this felt like pushing myself on people who may or may not be interested. But I’d committed to doing everthing I could, and that meant putting myself out there, front and centre. I’m fully aware (thanks to my years in real estate, mortgage sales and more recently, incentive marketing, that what I’m really selling out there is me. My books will or won’t stand on their own merit, but I also have to be comfortable and confident enough in myself to stick out my hand and introduce myself. This actually doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m fortunate to have watched my mother and younger sisters do this with great aplomb and success in their own businesses. I just straighten my shoulders and tell myself, ‘If they can do it, I can do it’. And I can.
You see, I’d sent out a “press release” introduction to several local newspapers over a month ago, but none had responded. The success with the local libraries gave me the courage to follow up with two of our larger local newspapers, The Exeter Times Advance, and the Forest Standard/Parkhill Gazette and ask (bold, I know) if they’d be interested in doing an interview with me as a local author. When they each said yes, I was ecstatic! What I’m learning from all this is, first and foremost, I can do this, and second, people just might be more open and receptive than I’d originally thought.
I keep saying this writing thing is teaching me about life; the parallels are always there. It’s also helping me to grow and expand my knowledge on so many fronts, I sometimes have trouble shutting my mind off at night (you know what that’s like). What I know for sure is that I have so much more to learn, and love the experiences, connections and opportunities that keep coming my way. Will it all be sunshine and roses, not likely, but hopefully I will learn something from those too, even if it’s only not to repeat the mistakes. Oh, and I’m also aware of how important it is to just shut it all off and spend time doing the things in my life that are important besides writing and promotion. Things like family, getting outside, taking breaks and sometimes yes, just goofing off for the day and enjoying the moments of sheer freedom. I’m not saying I have it all figured out, but I know balance has to be in play, or I’ll burn out. Today’s a working day, but tomorrow…?