Managing Your Time to Promote by Jan Christensen

Jan-in-Beach-Hat-800-pix-300x159I’ve been struggling with promotion for a couple of years now. I want to do it all. But I really don’t like doing it all. I enjoy Facebook. I like writing blog posts, and I don’t mind signings and personal appearances. I also like Pinterest, but frankly, I don’t see how it can be made to sell very many books and be worth the time invested.

 

So, that leaves a lot of things I don’t particularly enjoy doing. They’re like housework for me. Necessary, but I’d rather do something else. These include:

 

  • Tweet two or three times a day.
  • Ask for reviews.
  • Ask for guest blogging gigs. (I like writing the posts—I just don’t particularly like asking to do them.)
  • Ask libraries to stock my books.
  • Run a contest, then distribute the books to the winner(s).
  • Run a free offer.
  • Run a countdown.
  • Produce my newsletter.
  • Make changes to my website.
  • Keep track of everything on spreadsheets.

 

The only way I’ve found to handle all this is to set aside a specific amount of time every day and use it to do what’s most important at that time. And schedule the things I’ll do every week. Those things are write and edit blog posts (Tuesdays) for myself and for others. Wednesday, I request a review and contact a library. I take Thursdays off and work on Saturday instead. So, Friday I update the spreadsheets, and make any changes needed to my website. Saturday I finish anything from the other days left hanging, and pick something else to do to fill up the time. You’re wondering what I do on Mondays? I work on short stories. First thing I do is send one out. If I have time left over or they’re all out (never happens), I work on another one. I hope getting short stories published increases my platform as a writer.

 

You’ll notice, too, that Facebook and Twitter are not included in the specific time I’ve set aside for other marketing. I work them in during the day. I try to Tweet something every morning, again around four, and sometimes in the evening. I try to look at Facebook late afternoon, but often don’t get to it.

 

I’ve been using the schedule for a while now, and I allot one hour, five days a week. This is all just marketing—not getting the book ready with cover, editing and so on. The things I really, really dislike doing, often, I admit, do not get done. But I haven’t given up. I keep at it, I keep trying.

 

Here is what I’d accomplish in one year by sticking to this schedule religiously:

 

  • 780 tweets (52 weeks times 5 days a week, times 3 times a day)
  • 52 short stories submitted
  • 52 requests for reviews
  • 52 library requests
  • 12 or more guest blog post requests (I aim for one post a month)
  • 12 promotions (countdown, free offer, contest in conjunction with a guest post)
  • 4 newsletters sent out
  • Website always up-to-date
  • Spreadsheets always up-to-date

 

I believe that writing this down, seeing it in black and white, can help us better realize how doing something five times a week or even once a month can help us achieve our goals. Try this yourself and see how it goes.

 

But I do the most important thing almost every week for six days (yes I do this on Thursday, too). I write for about an hour, or until I have one thousand new words written. I also usually get in another hour five evenings a week editing another project. Now, if I could just get on with this marketing plan every single day, I might be doing better with sales. Which is why I still keep trying. Anyone have any shortcuts to all of this? I’d love to hear them!

 

Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey. She bounced around the world as an Army wife, and in Texas when her husband retired. After traveling for ABrokenLife_200x300eleven years in a motorhome, she settled down in the Texas Coastal Bend.

Published novels are: Sara’s Search, Revelations, Organized to Death, Perfect Victim, Blackout, and most recently, A Broken Life. She’s had over sixty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years. She also writes a series of short stories about Artie, a NY burglar who gets into some very strange situations while on the job. Learn more at her website: www.janchristensen.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jan.christensen.9275?fref=ts

Twitter @JanSChristensen

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Business or busyness by PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

Over the course of my life (and no, I’m really not that old), I’ve been a property manager of 3 apartment complexes and a variety of rental houses; I’ve given birth to and raised 5 children and an assortment of strays; I’ve taught JR and SR high school, then turned into the principal. If that wasn’t enough, I graduated to teaching college while finishing a graduate degree in psychology and criminology. Somehow after all that, I wound up corralling the PR for more authors than I can count. I’ve invested in time management books and Daytimer systems. None can tell me how to squeeze a few more minutes out of every hour. And we don’t even want to talk about multi-tasking really, do we?

Once upon a time, when my life was somewhat slower, I wrote a book, then another, and then a few more. Since Angel Killer just came out this week, someone asked me when did I ever find the time? I said “fifteen years ago”! Talk about delayed gratification.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I remember, vaguely, reading a book many years ago entitled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. I knew at the time that while I didn’t understand everything he set forth there, I was reading something that would make a difference in my life if I’d pay attention. I’m one of those people that things come fairly easy to (pardon my lack of grammar). I was smart enough in school that I could coast through most classes without a lot of effort, and could usually accomplish quite a bit more than some.

It wasn’t until many years later when I found myself having to examine the use of my time. When I first started trying to exercise better habits, it was easy. Turn off the TV.7 Habits Don’t go shopping. I could usually find random blocks of time that could be better spent. But once I’d done that, it became more difficult to plan when I needed more time. There wasn’t as much excess that could easily be trimmed away. Now I’d reached the place where the Covey book began to matter more. Being able to determine the difference between the “urgent but not important” and the “important but not urgent”. I had fallen prey like so many others in our fast paced society to letting the “urgent” dictate my time investment.

Writers all know the meaning of the word “deadline.” I spent a few years as a freelance journalist before I moved into book promotion. That word could provoke nightmares, assuming I was able to fall asleep. Since I still had toddlers in the house at that time, my best writing usually happened at night. Novelists have their own deadlines. Writing, editing, proofing. Some are dictated by agents and publishers, others are self-propelled.

Often I’m hired by authors who are reasonably new in the field, although they tend to stay with me even after they’re not so new, for which I’m grateful. I think it’s because there are so many details to building a career as an author that time management is critical. If an author is active online, he or she could easily become frightened by all the tips, suggestions, rules etc. You’ve got to admit, it’s quite a smorgasbord. But just like I tell my clients, there’s no “one size fits all” promotional campaign that will work the same for everyone.

When I take on a new client, the first thing I examine is their internet presence. I look. I Google their name. I check out their website, FB page, Twitter, Goodreads, Google +, blog, whatever I can find. Honestly, I usually find enough in those areas to keep them busy making changes for a few weeks. But wait – that’s not URGENT! Sales are URGENT! Press releases are URGENT.

But what I have in mind is the different comments I’ve gotten from journalists, both print and broadcast, who got promo from me and immediately went to see what else they could find about that author. Unfortunately sometimes it’s discouraging. Usually because the author thought they were good enough and wanted to move on to more urgent matters.

What do I call URGENT?

Getting a good photo. Seriously.

Making sure you have all the right elements on your website and that you put something fresh on your home page AT LEAST once a month. No kidding.

Get active in some form of social media, but take the time to learn to do it right. Click on anyone’s Facebook page or Twitter page and see the last 5 – 10 comments they made. You should be able to tell right away if they’re always talking about their books or if they actually engage with others. Guess which one you want to do?

BTP logoPrepare a 12-month marketing plan. Don’t just write that as a header on a blank page, actually plan your marketing efforts for the next 12 months. You want to be busy? Don’t read submission guidelines – just send books. You want to do business? Do your research. Find out which reviewers review books like yours and what their submission guidelines are. Set up book signings if you’re inclined to do so. You can scramble and see what store will have you at the last possible moment (urgent) OR you can plan ahead and start making those contacts about 16 weeks ahead (important but not urgent). Starting to catch on?

Honestly, it’s not rocket science. And I know you can’t believe everything you read out there. So if you have a question ask. If you don’t know who to ask, ask me. You don’t have to hire me to ask me a question.

Oops. Time’s up. Let’s do business instead of being too busy.

Hot August Nights

Here we are in August already. Amazing. Seems like it was just January a minute ago and now we’re nearing the end of the year and the onset of 2013. Or is this a comedy of errors? Wasn’t it just a year or two ago we were all worried about Y2K? On the one hand, days are long and hot and there seems no end in sight. On the other hand, school starts in a few weeks (didn’t the school year just end a week or so ago?) and if we blink a time or two it’ll be Thanksgiving. What?

Proof that everything is influenced by personal perception and that opinions can rise and fall with the outdoor thermometer. It’s best not to be moved by them. However, every writer’s life is a roller coaster of sorts and this time of year in particular, it can be a really bumpy ride. Our New Year’s resolutions have lost their shine and many have been abandoned altogether, leaving behind that hopeless feeling of yet another failure. The list of things we’d planned to have accomplished by this time has grown enough that we’re no longer comfortable looking at it so we spend more time on Facebook where we can Like and be Liked. The decision is no longer how do we catch up, but what do we do now since there’s no way we can do it all by the end of the year.

In the background of my mind I hear Rob Thomas and  Carlos Santana serenading me with that deceptively titled old favorite, Smooth.

Or maybe it’s Neil Diamond singing about hot August nights:

I wonder if it’s time to tilt the office chair back and close my eyes for a quick accidental nap or if this day deserves the get-up, march-to-the-couch-and-lie-down on purpose variety. The point? We all have these days, and frankly, just pretending that we don’t doesn’t change a thing. What to do?

Like so many self-employed people (including moi) writers tend to be “on duty” 24/7 with little relief. Continuing that way with no end in sight will lead down the road to total burnout. The cure? Or more accurately, the Prevention? Scheduling. Oxymoronic? Not really. Not if it’s done right.

Just like it’s important to schedule regular writing time, and if you’re excelling in time management, a set-aside time for promoting your work, you need to pencil in some regularly scheduled YOU time. Call it R & R. Maybe that stands for Rest and Relaxation, or for Research and Rejuvenation. Maybe it’s a day on the couch reading a book you don’t have to read, or taking your grandkids to the zoo. Oh wait, I forgot it’s August. Maybe it’s an appointment at a spa nearby, or a trip to the nearest Natatorium. Museums and libraries are usually cool (temperature wise) this time of year. Movie theaters aren’t as appealing today, but they will be again. I like to go to the lake. Even when it’s burning hot outside, it somehow seems cooler there.

Whatever you do, make sure it feeds your soul. After all, what kind of writer will you be if you have no soul? As much as the project manager in me believes in planning and scheduling and essentially making every day count, life is too short to always be working and feeling like it’s never enough. So especially in August, pause. Take a day a month, or a day a week (gasp!) and just live. Do something that matters to you even if nobody will ever read it. Enjoy. I promise, the lists will still be there when you get back.

PJ