Today marks my one-year anniversary as a debut novelist. I’ve survived gut-wrenching ups and downs while gleaning invaluable lessons. Entering the waters as a debut novelist is a lot like being told to sink or swim. Some writers sink, some tread water, some make a showing, and others take to the water like seals.
Not all of the factors that go into making it in the literary world are controllable, but some are. Quality is certainly a factor, but other considerations weigh in as well. Writers taken on by bigger publishing houses and those who self-publish gain marketing advantages over those published by smaller presses. That’s a generalization, and I’m sure exceptions exist.
Larger houses have access to readers through their email lists, through bookstores, and with a well-honed understanding of how best to reach their audience. Yes, these publishers are cutting back on marketing funds, but at least for the present the scales tip in their favor.
Self-published authors have full control of price points, distribution channels, marketing plans and sales stats. That can be good or bad, depending upon the author, but does give indie authors a head start with regard to marketing.
A writer published by a smaller press has few if any of these advantages. With new releases flooding distribution channels, it’s harder than ever for a debut novelist to navigate the turbulent publishing waters. An outstanding platform can provide a rock to stand on that lets a writer rise above the crowd and be seen. If you’ve ever attended a writers’ conference, you’ll have noticed presenters reciting as a mantra the need for a platform. Ignore this advice at your peril.
As a debut novelist, I square off against these problems and am slowly overcoming them. That means long hours at my desk spent on tasks other than writing but also includes even more hours engaged in writing the next book. There’s no getting around the workload.
I consider the need for increased self-discipline an added benefit rather than a downside of the writing life. Marshaling my time has driven me to evaluate everything I do and to seek ways I can maximize the strategies and systems by which I manage not just my writing career but also the other parts of life. Chaos can bleed from one area of life into the others. Doing my best to live with passion, write well, and remember to breathe (my credo and site tagline at Live Write Breathe) helps me maintain the balance I need for sanity. That and having deep friendships with other writers.
Mine is not the epic journey to best-selling success that a friend of mine experienced, nor is it the quick sprint of another friend. Sometimes I have to remind myself that those are their journeys, and that my slow climb is still progress. My self-confidence can sag along with book sales, but I’m getting better at separating the two. Fortunately, DawnSinger has had mostly positive reviews (yes, I read them), or I’m sure I’d have suffered more.
I learned a lot while launching DawnSinger, my debut and the first novel in the Tales of Faeraven epic fantasy trilogy. With WayFarer, the second novel in the series releasing this year, I’ll focus more on gaining a return for my marketing efforts and less on getting my book “out there.” I’m still adapting to the time demands of being a published novelist, but effective time management strategies should help. I’ll be researching that in more detail and will share my findings and the systems I develop with you. I hope to help you meet your own time challenges. Toward that end, I’d love to know:
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to time management?