Instant Gratification

A long time ago, I read a quote that said something to the effect that Polaroid pictures were going to be the undoing of our society. It took me a while to understand that. I mean, how does a photograph that develops in an instant hurt anything? Who didn’t love the excitement of taking the blank picture as it zipped out of the camera, keeping the front of the picture dark (although you knew you were going to turn it over to take a peek), and then shaking the picture or blowing on it to make sure it was dry. Boom. Instant gratification.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

Maybe it’s my age or maybe it’s simply the era in which we live, but I finally get it. I love technology and that I can make just about everything I want when I want it on my computer. I like that I can get pretty much anything I ever imagined delivered to my house the next day. I adore that I can stay connected and pretty much hear from anyone at any moment of the day.

It is awesome, really. But it leaves me breathless.

When I started the press, it didn’t take me long to figure out that there were choices to be made. There was only one person—me—to start, and I had to figure out how I wanted to budget my time. Did I want the instant gratification of whipping out one book after another, or did I want to slow down and do things the way I thought they should be done? I choose the later and found that it, too, had its pitfalls. It meant making the decision between turning out a high volume of ok books or spending time picking out just the right font for the cover of a book I loved. It meant sometimes trading prompt email responses for spending time on the phone with an author who is stressed about edits and needs to talk them through.

There are still lots of places in my life and in this business that need to be Polaroid. It’s just that sometimes, we all need to breathe.

Is Your Heart in it for the Long Haul?

There you are…smack dab in the middle of a long project. The electric that was in the air during the thrilling newness of it has the spark of, well, a sock with static cling attached to a pant leg. And the finish line seems a million miles (or weeks, or words) away. Here is where you have a choice to make: do I have the heart to stick this out for the long haul, or do I move on?

This feeling is normal in many jobs but especially so in our field. Whether you are a writer, an editor, or a publisher, you are constantly challenged to stay motivated. Many of our projects take months, often up to a year or more, to complete. Couple that with the fact most of us do this work as a second job or a hobby and it can be hard to not only find time but also stay interested and motivated.

If you decide to stick with the project, here are a few things you can do to keep going.

  • Set smaller goals to meet on the way to project completion. Write them down with a firm deadline date. Then, once you’ve reached the goal, do something to celebrate.
  • Get other people involved. This field tends to get a bit solitary. Get interaction (and accountability!) through writing groups or other types of peer review.
  • Take a break. If you need to step away from a project, take some time to research, do some planning, or begin your marketing. That way, you’re still moving forward.

What other methods do you use to keep motivated over the long haul? Leave a comment!

How Much Time Should You Spend Marketing Your Book?

You write. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?  As an author, the rules used to be very clear:  you dream it, you write it, you publish it.  And because it’s so good, word of your accomplishment spreads, and soon, people are excited for your next release.  And this is all still true enough.

But these days, the market is saturated with great books, both in traditional print and in ebook format, and it’s harder to rise out of the stacks and be heard.  So the solution for savvy writers is to market their work. 

I recently spoke with an author who made a full-time commitment to writing and promoting her work.  It’s hard to remember that this is a job, just like any other, and it takes a lot of time and dedication to be successful.  How long would any of us be employed if we showed up to a traditional 9-to-5 job only when we were motivated or in the mood?  I’m guessing not too long. So instead of waiting for her muse’s divine inspiration, she makes a choice to spend time most days doing some writing.  And equally important, she spends time every day marketing herself and her work.  She balances it with the rest of her busy life.

During the course of this conversation, we were discussing how much time it takes to do all this leg work.  At best, it can take a long time doing the things you’re “supposed” to do.  And at worst, you can get sucked into social networking vortex, where you find yourself browsing more for fun than making the networking a useful endeavor.

After this conversation, I went online to see how regular writers do this—the ones without multi-million-dollar publishing companies footing their publicity bill—and to search for a standard time amount that people spend marketing.  After only viewing a few pages, I found numbers ranging between 40 hours a week and 85% of your available writing time.  Other sites state to spend only as much time as you can, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your writing.  But that doesn’t seem like much of a commitment.

Somewhere between 40 hours per week and no time at all, I know there is a middle ground.  If writing is going to be your job—your business—you need to devote some time daily to marketing or hire someone to market for you.  When you market, you’ll sell more books, gain more recognition, and likely, you’ll make yourself more marketable for future publications. How much time do you spend now? And what is the “right” amount? Leave a comment!