The section of this blog is called The Learning Curve for the simple reason that I want to share with other writers what I’m learning as I continue my journey to become a successful indie publisher. Today I want to explore what I’m learning about the balancing act of being an indie publisher.
First and foremost, I am no longer just a writer or author. As one of my online mentors, Dean Wesley Smith, points out in his blog section I’m learning to “Think Like a Publisher” as well as to continue to think and act as a writer. So, there’s a balancing aspect between these two important part of turning out new books and stories through my publishing company – Porpoise Publishing. So, let’s look at the various components that make up both these roles.
Being a Writer
Here are some of the key components that I feel I need to keep an eye on as writer who wants to be not only a good writer, but a prolific one:
Idea Generation: Ideas are the elemental material for all writers. If you don’t believe it, just run out of ideas to write about and see how you do. I think some new writers take this vital part of writing for granted. That’s a mistake. While I always have my idea generator turned on, I also set aside specific times to brainstorm. One of my favorite ways to generate new ideas is to take myself on an Artist Date. That might be as simple as scheduling a couple hours to walk around down town, or in some new place where I’ve never been. Other time, I might take myself to a favorite coffee shop and spend an hour or two brainstorming new ideas. In short, I don’t leave this important aspect of writing to chance.
Writing New Material: Another foundational part of being a prolific writer is to be writing new material on a regular basis. For me, that means daily…seven days a week, at least when I’m in the midst of one of my Write Every Day Games. As of this writing on Feb. 22, I’ve written over 65,000 words of new material since starting my Write Every Day Games. That’s a full length novel in about two months. If I were to stay on that pace, I’d have the equivalent of six new novels in this next year. Of course, that’s my schedule. The point isn’t to match my schedule but for you to determine what’s going to work best for you, and then stick to it.
Rewriting & Polishing: While I feel I write pretty clean copy on the first draft, I still recognize that it will flow much better and make better sense when I put it aside for a little while then come back to polish it up. So, this is another activity that needs attention.
Editing & Proofreadering: This is not exactly the same as the polishing process above, though there is often some crossover between the two. I prefer not editing or proofreading my polished manuscripts. I simply miss too many little errors. So, I either have Ann to it or I farm it out to someone else. Still, it’s important for me to remember this step.
These are what I consider the key steps of being a writer, but then there’s also the activities of being a publisher.
Being a Publisher
As one of the two people who currently work at Porpoise Publishing, one of my jobs is to oversee all the various components of the publishing process. Here are the ones I consider most important (and this may not be a comprehensive list so feel free to add others to your own list): Once a book or story is completed, I take off my writer hat and put on my publishing cap to be sure the following are completed:
Cover Design: Every book needs a cover and it needs to be as good a cover as you can design or have designed. At the same time, as I’ve stated before, I don’t believe this step should stop any writer from publishing his or her material. See my other blog post on this step here.
Promotional Copy Written: This is the copywriting that will help sell the book. Some of it will be found on the back of the physical book as well as on the sales pages of the various online distribution points. Again, it needs to be as well written as possible and without any typos or grammatical errors.
Manuscript Formatting and Compiling: I know this is a major area that can slow down or stop many new aspiring writers. I’m a big fan of Scrivener software in part because it makes turning the finished manuscript into PDFs, .mobi files (for Kindle), and ePub files (for Nook, etc.) so much easier.
Distribution Setup: Once all the above is completed, it’s time to get your book out into the world so your readers can begin to find you. There are a number of ways to do this, including going to each distribution point yourself and uploading your formatted files. I often go this route because right now my main focus is to get my material (including years of backlogged writing) out to Kindle and CreateSpace. My strategy is that getting my work out to these two distribution points will reach the most people for the time invested. Other options include Smashwords.com and Bookbaby.com.
And there’s one more area that I feel I need to include so readers of this blog don’t jump down my throat. It’s called promotion and marketing. Right now, my take on this comes once more from Dean Wesley Smith. to paraphrase him, “the best marketing a writer can do is to write some more.” And that’s my primary marketing strategy right now. Of course, there’s more that I do that can fall under the heading of marketing. This blog is one of them, though again, notice it’s me writing more. I also maintain a small but growing followers on Facebook, and my Facebook posts are automatically added to Twitter. Still, by far and away my major marketing effort is to get more and more of my work out into the world, to expand the size of my virtual book shelf.
How to Balance it All
That really is the question, isn’t it? It’s a lot to balance, particularly if you have a full time job, or are raising a family or doing both. Right now, my writing and publishing make up about 50-60% of my work time with the remaining being the other aspects of running Life On Purpose Institute and working with my individual coaching clients.
So, I’m still learning about how to balance it all. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far:
Segment the writing from the publishing: My best writing time is in the morning when my mind is freshest and I’m most alert, so that’s when I write. It’s now 11:05 am as I write this. I generally work on new material from around 10 am to 12 noon, though the start and ending time will vary somewhat. I will also spend time before that while I’m on my morning walk brainstorming new ideas as well as determining what of my various writing projects are calling for my attention on that day.
I then take a break for lunch. Upon my return, I’ll focus on either rewriting/polishing or some aspect of the publishing. Segmenting my days out in this fashion works well for me. It might not for you.