It all started with a question and it ended up with a complete evaluation of my writing and publishing life.
One of my longtime book club friends--we're going on our twelfth year together--has a side business and it is not going as well as he envisioned. He explained why and then turned his attention to me. "How's the publishing game? It's been a few years now, are you encouraged by how it's proceeding?"
What began as a reply to his email turned into a 3,300-word (and counting) evaluation of my writing life, my publishing life, where I am now, and where I want to go. With the day job and the family stuff, I don't have a ton of free time on my hands so the exercise stretched out the entire week. Not coincidentally, 1 May is my Writer's New Year's Day, a commemoration of my decision back on 1 May 2013 to start writing with purpose.
What followed was a technique I've used for years: a written dialogue. This is one where I ask questions of myself and then I answer them. And, since I'm literally talking with myself, I get to be brutally honest. Who else is gonna read this, right?
Am I encouraged? That is an interesting way to ask how it's going. I've been pondering it for a few days and I have a two-part response: No, not really, but, at the same time, I have not been giving it the attention it deserves if I want to see results.
The Analysis Begins
Thus, by answering with a qualified 'no,' I started analyzing the parts of the business I can control. It goes back to one of my favorite phrases about publishing: Control the Controllables. I can control my writing, how much time I devote to it, and what I write. This is absent all talk of sales. I truly cannot control that. Neither can you. No one can. But we can control what we write. For me, it boiled down to time and speed. I can write fast and I can start a writing session on-the-run (so I don't have to build up speed) so the words the flow out usually are not a problem.
Time proved the key factor. Despite me working from home, I realized I began 'sleeping in' on weekdays. When I had a commute, I used to wake at 5am. I kept that routine at the start of the working-from-home phase, but over the past year, my wakeup time slid later and later. Throw in the morning Bible reading and the amount of time I have to write in the pre-day-job quiet of the house ended up being 30-45 minutes. Sure, those minutes and words add up, but they are not truly as productive as I used to be.
Thus, to rectify my writing time, to control the controllables, I started waking earlier. Consequently, I also went to bed earlier. Give and take, right? I’ll be continuing that next week and the week after.
What is the Roadmap?
That’s the simple part. The larger thing is publishing schedule. I examined my available manuscripts. Including my current WIP, I have a dozen books either completely finished or close enough for a thorough edit. Why are these books not already in the pipeline? To that question, I had no answer. Laziness? Chalk it up to ‘not enough time in the week’? Hogwash. If I’m an indie author, then I make the time to publish what I write. I haven’t been. But I will be.
Thus, I made a publishing schedule for the next 2.5 years. I’m still fine tuning it and allowing for me to slip in newly written manuscripts—I’m pretty jazzed on the current WIP and its sequels—but I have a roadmap. It’s what traditional publishers do, right? Same should be for me. And you, if you’re an indie. The next book I’ll publish is my Harry Truman book this summer.
Fixing the Online Stuff
Armed with a new publishing schedule, I examined my online life, specifically the websites. I have my blogspot blog which dates back over fourteen years and I don’t want to ditch it. I have my author website that needs a refresh. And I have my new project that’ll I’ll tease here for a summer launch, probably around the time of the Truman book’s publication. I’ve already stopped updating one website and will disband it this month. No need mentioning it here. It’s for the dustbin.
Another aspect of online life is engagement. While I’m decent at it, I’m not as engaged as I want to be. Expect to see a little bit more of myself online on Twitter and Facebook.
The biggest online challenge is to create an online store. It’’ll be a way to sell direct to readers that’ll be as seamless as other online stores, enable me to increase my outreach, and pocket a little extra cash. The tools for this are present, I just need to implement them.
So, after a week’s worth of reassessment and the creation of a new roadmap, I have a better handle on my writing and the business of writing. What began as an email response with a somewhat dour answer has turned into a happy exercise and a renewed sense of purpose. I’m now ready to reply to my friend, but I won’t be copying the entire 3,300-word piece. I’ll just tell him to read this post.
Do you have any of these State of the Business type things in your writing business?