Yes, Writing is a Real Job

“You’re a writer? When are you going to get a real job?” 

Far too many writers have heard these scathing questions. Sometimes you can laugh it off and go back to working on your novel or script. Sometimes it comes during a moment of hardship when debt is surmounting, and you’re wondering to yourself if you can actually pull off publishing another book. And while, yes, for some folks writing is a hobby that they do in their free time for fun, it’s also a job for all those other people trying to get paid for their craft. 

“You’re a writer? When are you going to get a real job?”

Far too many writers have heard these scathing questions. Sometimes you can laugh it off and go back to working on your novel or script. Sometimes it comes during a moment of hardship when debt is surmounting, and you’re wondering to yourself if you can actually pull off publishing another book. And while, yes, for some folks writing is a hobby that they do in their free time for fun, it’s also a job for all those other people trying to get paid for their craft.

I don’t think most people understand the amount of work that goes into creating a book and marketing it to the public, but we’ll talk about that in a little bit. First, I’d like to bring up an article on Writer’s Digest called Is It a Hobby or a Job? by author Brian Klems. In it he discusses how writing is definitely work, but it’s not classified as a job until you make money off of it. He also goes on to say that the amount of work that goes into it writing can’t just be classified as a hobby either. I’m sure a lot of you are nodding about the latter point.

In this day and age, it’s hard to make a living as a writer because of the low pay, but that doesn’t make it any less of a job. It just means I have to work that much harder to keep my literary career alive, oh, and also work the other 40-hour job I do during the week at the same time to cover the rest of the cost. Most writers have to still work a 40-hour job, or part time, to make ends meet. Some take the plunge and quit their daytime work to write full time, and I applaud them for taking the initiative.

Unfortunately, that usually elicits the image of someone writing for a couple hours, binge watching Netflix the rest of the day, then complaining they have no money.

Let me kind of give you a view of what it’s like to live as a published indie author, and then tell me if you think that writing is still just a hobby. Keep in mind, I’ve only been doing this for a year, so imagine what an author juggling several books goes through everyday.

  • I work from 8:30-5pm Monday-Friday (and some weekends for overtime).
  • I volunteer in the evening for literary organizations.
  • Starting around 8 or 9 pm until I go to bed, on weekends, or on my “day off,” I do at least one of these things:
    • Research information for my book.
    • World build or develop elements for my book
    • Write or edit my novel.
    • Discuss with my editors and proofreaders what needs to be changed and apply those edits.
    • Talk with my sensitivity readers about changes that need to be made.
    • Keep a presence on Amazon , Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, Wattpad, Goodreads, Bookbub, Allauthor for marketing reasons.
    • Design banners, contests, graphics to post in all these locations about my book.
    • Reach out to bloggers to review my book or do a blog train.
    • Update my website with new author information and author interviews.
    • Build connections with fellow writers, editors, marketers, etc.
    • Set up signing events.
    • Attend signing events in different cities and states.
    • Post chapters on Patreon to help pay for my website.
    • Commission art of characters for stickers/swag.
    • Commission cover art.
    • Create other swag (bookmarks, necklaces, etc)
    • Run an Indiegogo campaign to help cover costs.
    • Participate in online “takeover” events.
    • Query my books.
    • Participate in online book contests to either 1. get an award for my book. 2. find an agent/publisher for my other books.
    • Format my book through Scrivener and Adobe Acrobat.
    • Set up and publish my book through Ingramspark then order copies.
    • Contact libraries and bookstores to carry my book.
    • Set up ISBNs, sales tax permit, BIN.
    • Check inventory and order more supplies on books and all marketing materials.
    • Review finances.
    • Prepare a book launch with local venues.
    • Attend writing conventions to make connections and learn the latest marketing techniques.
    • Participate in author summits both as a listener as an author.

…and the list goes on.

Being an author is a multi-faceted job, and most of the time you have to do everything yourself. Even if you’re a traditionally published author, publishing houses are doing less to market the book and encouraging authors to do more of the work. Many of my author friends spend days at conventions and marketing to sell their books and pay for the table, gas, hotel, meals, and other bills.

But you may ask, “Erin, you charge $15 for your paper book. How do you not make money off of it?”

Because by the time you factor in the editing, proofreading, printing, marketing, and sales tax permit, I don’t see much profit. Every dollar helps and puts me closer to making a better income off of writing. But I have to market to make that happen. I’ve heard it takes until book 2 or 3 to actually see a return in money, which is why initially it may look like authors are so broke, even if they receive advances from publishing companies.

That doesn’t mean writing isn’t a job.

Honestly, for me, it would be my dream job to write full time and survive off of my books. While that might be a long time in coming, I’ll do what I can to keep working towards it. In the meantime, I hope this gives people a better understanding of how much work goes into being an author and that it’s more of a job than most realize.

Marketing Tip: Street Team

This week’s marketing topic was inspired by Byrd Nash’s instagram post about street teams. Be sure to check out her many writing tips, as well as her new book:

Wicked Wolves
Find it on Amazon.

To start off, what is a Street Team? This is essentially a group of people who are your go-to folks for marketing your book. They’re the ones who share your posts on social media, leave book reviews, provide writing feedback, etc. They’re the backbone of your whole marketing plan who can help get the word out about your novel. I’ll go more in-depth in a moment, but one thing to keep in mind is that these people are usually volunteers who take time out of their day to help you promote. Treat them with kindness and respect and understand that sometimes they can’t always be “on” to help you. Some of my street team folks, like Brian K Morris, are there to provide me with moral support when I feel kicked down, and I can’t appreciate it enough. So be kind.

Why Have a Street Team? 

Whether you’re trade or indie, you’re going to have to do some marketing for your book. As an indie author, I wear the hats of the writer, editor, proofreader, designer, marketer, website creator, book signing scheduler, etc. It’s a lot of work. But, as I’ve expressed in many blogs, you don’t have to go it alone. The street team helps take some of the burden off of your shoulders. When you need to reach a wider audience, they’re there to spread the word. You can’t beat having a lovely group of people to help you.

Who Are They? / Where Can You Find Them? 

Honestly, your street team can be anyone. Family. Friends. Editors. Fans. They should be people you trust who have shown interest in your book and your journey.  They may even be fellow writers that you’ve met on twitter or instagram, or during writing conventions. Be sure to ask them before you add them to your street team, though. People don’t like being bombarded with information that they never asked to receive. One way you can keep track of who’s on your team is by creating a facebook group specifically for them. I have a group called The Purple Door District: Street Team! where I share my information. Generally, my street team is the first to see new content before it goes out to the rest of the public. Interested in becoming part of my street team? Let me know!

Arc/Beta Readers

One way the street team can help is by volunteering to either become a beta reader or an arc (advanced reader copy) reader. They’ll read your book and provide feedback about possible things you need to change to help make your story stronger. Specifically ask them to review topics/plots/characters you’re most concerned about because your beta/arc readers will be your last line of defense before you go public.

Reviews

Having people willing to leave reviews is so important for an author. Like it or not, the algorithms on Amazon will determine how your book gets promoted. The more reviews you have, the more likely Amazon will be to share it around. I believe the key number is 50 reviews, but frankly, any amount helps. Reviews don’t have to be complex, either. Your street team can leave a rating and something as simple as a one word review. Granted, getting a full review is wonderful, and I wouldn’t snuff that if they’re willing to do it. I’ve had some excellent reviews from Ellen Rozek, Byrd Nash, and Shakyra Dunn for example. The best ones are when the readers are willing to provide constructive feedback along with their kind words.

Social Media Sharing

Another way your street team can help you is by sharing important news about your book across their social media platforms. The more people you reach, the better chance you have of selling your book, or acquiring followers. They can share things like cover releases, book releases, giveaways, or, hey, even your quest for a reader’s choice award. Be sure to give them ample notice and all the information that they need to share your news around. While you may have some of the same friends, chances are all of your street team members will have an audience that you don’t know. The more platforms you can get across, (twitter, facebook, instagram, goodreads, allauthor, bookbub, etc) the better.

Book Buyers

Now, let me be clear, just because someone is on your street team, that doesn’t mean they’re obligated to buy your book. But, it is a nice perk if it happens. Likely your street team members are readers themselves and are interested in your book or want to go the extra mile and support you by buying your novel. Can’t say no to that, right? Be sure to interact with them and the rest of your book-buying audience. Let them know how much you appreciate them for helping you.

These are just a few ways that a street team can help you, especially near a book launch or book release day. Do you have a street team? How have they helped you? Feel free to share your story below!

On another note, I really am working to get nominated for the Epic Fantasy Fanatics Reader’s Choice Award. If you have a second, please consider voting for The Purple Door District. Thank you so much!

 

Marketing Vs Writing Time

I think the favorite motto of a writer is, “I hate marketing my book.” Most times when I ask someone about their marketing techniques, they talk about how much they despise it and would rather have someone else do it. Unfortunately, whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, you will have to do a fair bit of marketing if you want your book to succeed. The question is, how much time do you put into marketing vs your writing? Obviously you won’t have anything to market if you don’t write!

Here are a few tips and ideas I’ve learned about when to market vs when to write and how to divide your time.

  • Feeling inspired? Put the marketing aside and get those words down on paper. Don’t squander time if you’re feeling creative.
  • No Inclination to Write? Then focus on marketing. Sometimes putting together graphics or sending out tweets/building your reading and writing community can help you break out of that creative fog.
  • Deadlines for Books: If you have short stories due for contests, or a book due for printing, put the marketing aside and focus on getting that done. You want to make sure you meet those deadlines so you can market it later.
  • Deadlines for Interviews/Guest Spots: If a site or station is waiting on your interview or a guest blog, for example, then make that your priority. You might have to put your writing aside just to make sure you get that deadline done. Remember, this will give you traction and bring more people to your website.
  • Long Break: Do you have a few hours during the day where you can sit and focus on your book? You might consider writing. While marketing can take hours to do, it’s easier to get that done in shorter spurts of time than working on your novel.
  • Short Break: Are you waiting at a doctor’s appointment? Do you only have a few minutes to relax before a meeting? Spend that time marketing. Post a tweet. Share information about your book. Check your e-mail. It’s easier to do that than to get writing done.
  • Split time: Maybe you want to market and write in the same day. Create meetings for yourself. From 6-8, you’ll work on writing. From 8-9, you’ll work on marketing. Treat those like meetings that you can’t miss. That means you can get both done!
  • Author Events: When you have an author event coming up such as readings, signings, tours, you want to spend most of your time marketing. Share your event to the community you’ve built up. Focus your tweets and Instagram posts around what you’ll be doing. At the same time, post pictures while you’re at the events! Not only will you be preserving memories, you’ll also be sharing your experiences with your readers. This is a time to focus on the marketing and getting to know the crowd, not the writing.
  • Burnout: At some point you’re going to burn out from writing or marketing. When one fails, turn to the other. Usually if I’m too tired to write, I can still market my stuff. I might engage in a twitter thread or post a couple of pictures on Facebook and Instagram because it doesn’t take a lot of energy. Sometimes, trying to share yourself with the social world can be draining. When you feel worn out, settle in, turn off social media, and just focus on your book. And, if you hit a point that you can’t do either, take a break. Allow yourself to breathe and come back to it another day. If you keep pushing yourself, you won’t do well with either your marketing or writing.
  • Scheduling: Each week, create a schedule for yourself. Decide what’s most important (writing or marketing), and jot down the days you want to do one or the other, or both. Having this routine set up can make the whole process a lot easier and more friendly for yourself. Scheduling marketing posts is helpful too. You can take a day to schedule posts/blogs/interviews, and then while those launch, you can work on your writing.
  • Check in with yourself: Check in frequently to see how you’re feeling. If you’re starting to feel too overwhelmed with writing or marketing, it may be time to switch up your schedule. You are in control. You have the power to do as much or as little as you want. Make sure you’re being kind to yourself and taking it all one step at a time.
  • Create Shortcuts: Find ways to get multiple kinds of marketing done at the same time so you have more time to write. For example, use hoot suite or another platform that allows you to schedule and set up multiple posts at once. The site posts for you while you write. Or, schedule a blog post on a Tuesday and have that be your “marketing piece” that you share that day. By 9am, you may be done with your marketing. While views are rolling in on your blog, you can go back to writing.

A lot of this really depends on where you are mentally and what needs to get done. If you’re itching to write, then write. If you’re craving social media, focus on that. And if you find that you’re struggling in one of those areas, then make sure you set up time that you can sit down and focus on publicizing or writing your work.

It’s likely authors hate marketing because either 1. they aren’t sure how to do it productively, 2. they don’t like stealing away from their writing time, 3. they don’t like talking about themselves, 4. it’s just not their forte. If any of this is true for you, you may want to look into finding someone who can market your work for you. That way you can spend more time writing.

I hope this helps!

If you have any topics you’d like me to cover, please post them down below!

Writing Thoughts from the Flock!

I’m starting a new little series called Writing Thoughts from the Flock (W.T.F.) which I will primarily host on Instagram. The idea behind it is, I’m a writer, a bird mom, and I like to offer writing advice, so in a 60-second clip, I’ll talk about a writing topic and have one of my birds join me. I posted my first video on Instagram. Click on the picture below, and it’ll take you to the actual video.

Writer's Block Advertisement Picture

Let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to cover, or if there’s a particular bird you’d like me to feature next. Orion is going to get a lot of love in the beginning simply because he’s one of the calmest, but Aladdin and Nova will definitely make an appearance.

Happy writing!