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Reducing Stress as a Writer

5 January 2016

From author Elizabeth Spann Craig:

Whether it’s the need to write quickly or the sometimes overwhelming job of keeping our books and ourselves visible, writers are facing a lot of stress these days.

I’ve felt it too. I’m much less stressed out about the writing than I am about the “everything else.”  I was reflecting on the past year with a friend and I admitted that a lot of my problem is that I can do (nearly) everything myself.  I can do rudimentary (not cover) design. I can format books. I can update my website. I can create newsletters and schedule updates on social media. I know how to upload to retail platforms, share my calendar, create a slideshow for a lecture.

And, because I know how to do it, because I have the skills, and I’ve a tendency toward frugality, I do it all myself.

. . . .

I’ve mentioned in other posts that I’m something of a control freak. I don’t think I wasalways this way, but over the past 5-10 years, it’s definitely become more obvious.  I like things done a particular way. To ensure it’s done this way, I do it myself.

I’m frequently advised by both writer friends and non-writer friends to outsource some of what I do.  I have been very hesitant to do this.

But, in 2016, I’m going to give it a go.

I made a list of as many different things that I could think of that I do on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly, annually).  I kept saying I felt overwhelmed, but I also couldn’t completely account for my time or what I was spending it on. Some of the tasks on my list I almost enjoy. Some I dread doing—and the dread frequently isn’t equivalent to the size of the task….I dread updating Facebook, for instance. Where are my readers? They’re on Facebook.

Some of these tasks overlap. Some take only a minute or two (after I remember to do them). Some can take many hours to complete.  See if this list sounds familiar to you.

Update Amazon Author Central (US and worldwide)
Update my website with new books, new copy, new author photos, new bios.
Update Goodreads books and author info.
Run Goodreads giveaways
Update Facebook
Update Google Plus
Curate and schedule content for Twitter. Collect it and share on the blog.
Blog (3x weekly). Respond to comments. Visit other blogs
Promote my author newsletter
Send newsletters out to readers
Advertise on Facebook.
Respond to reader emails
Create author notes for Amazon and for the backs of my books
Update end matter in my digital books. Keep a copy
Mentor
Respond to guest post requests
Learn new software
Watch webinars for business-related information (promo, learning software like Scrivener, etc.)
Respond to emailed requests for me to beta test software
Connect with and coordinate with editors, formatters, cover designers
Track sales and run promotions
Distribute new books to each platform: ACX, Amazon, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, IngramSpark, CreateSpace, etc.
Update stories weekly on Wattpad
Secure narrator for audiobooks. Listen to finished audiobook for errors. Upload to ACX.
Send promo copies and signed copies to readers.
Participate in Skype/podcast/written interviews. YouTube interviews
Update social media banners
Coordinate speaking engagements
Write guest posts and respond to comments when the post runs
Set up annual headshot and update social media with the new picture
Create PowerPoints for speaking engagements
Count 4 and 5 star reviews on both active series to use in the Editorial Reviews section of my book pages
Write blurbs for other authors
Write cover copy and ad copy
Update series bibles with each book
Pull tax-related items together. Pull year-end things together for accountant.
Organize items on the computer:  Covers in one folder.  Manuscripts in format-specific folders.
Back up. Back up my backups.
Maintain and use Amazon Affiliate links for all my books
Research for books and for promo

Glancing over the list, I realized there are some tasks I would be happy to relinquish doing.  And there are some things that I wouldn’t always want to relinquish, but I might if I were overwhelmed with work.

Link to the rest at Elizabeth Spann Craig and thanks to Deb for the tip.

Here’s a link to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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25 Comments to “Reducing Stress as a Writer”

  1. I, as a new author with one book out, have almost the same list of tasks – and NO energy.

    So most of these simply won’t get done, or will get done excruciatingly slowly (such as finding out what the heck got into what was supposed to be the books’ prime website).

    The solution suggested – get someone to help – costs a LOT of money and isn’t perfect; if and when the books are producing well, it makes sense to invest some of that income back in the tiny publishing company I am – but not until then.

    So, shrug.

    But I have met and corresponded with the nicest bunch of people – and I treasure that. I make a point of keeping up those contacts – and responding to new fans – FIRST. Because people – sometimes readers – are the most important part of the list.

    I know there’s a point when ‘fans’ become mostly anonymous from volume (‘twould be nice, sort of), but I will miss the other. And keep up as much of it as I can. And not on Twitter.

  2. This post reminded me to change the copyright on my website from 2015 to 2016, so I’m thankful for that.

    Perhaps I’m not the only one who forgot to do this (not sure it matters anyway).

    The nice thing about the list is that many things just have to be done once a year. I have to update my back-matter as well soon, and I’m not looking forward to it. Sometimes breaking up the tasks into smaller groups (maybe 5 books at a time) helps.

  3. I’m on my third book out, and still mostly following Alicia’s approach, although I will confess, somewhat sheepishly, to getting better at Twitter. For me, the day job interferes. Also, I tell myself that when I have One More Book Out (and that’s a constantly changing number) then spending money on ads and time on creating a website will be worth it.

    • Okay, now I’m curious…you said Alicia’s approach; I’m always willing to look at new methods to get the word out on a new book. Do you have a website for Alicia?

      • Oh, sorry about that. I was just referring to Alicia’s comment at the top of the thread about not doing too much marketing and focusing on the writing. I keep applying the WIBBOW, and coming up with writing as the answer. Publishing something new is how you get sales.

        I am curious about the 80/20 approach.

  4. I got exhausted reading all you do. Nap time.

    • No kidding. If I ever actually publish one of my books, I think there will be a lot of things I’ll be leaving off my list. Facebook and Twitter, #s 1 and 2.

  5. She left one thing off her list: Take OCD meds with breakfast.

  6. Been there, done most of it. Lost much of 2014 going up that learning curve. This year I’m going to be concentrating on WRITING. If I had to describe the one thing that’s getting back-burnered, it would be marketing (all flavors except posting blog items and newsletters for new releases).

    The more books I can get up, the sooner, then the more my marketing will matter. Book 5 will be out this month. I’d rather have 10 books to seriously promote, than to promote the hell out of 3, as long as I’m widely distributed and my Author/Publisher websites communicate clearly.

    Ditto on blurbs and backmatter. I’ve invested in a certain level of competency in covers, blurbs, backmatter, and formatting that I think is “not bad” and will keep doing that. No doubt it can all be improved, but I’ll do that in a concentrated batch for all the books when I have more books up.

    Books, first. The WIBBOW test applies. (Would I Be Better Off Writing). If I can’t keep producing reasonable material, the rest won’t matter.

  7. Lol–that list!!! No wonder I’m exhausted and must nap daily—it’s my list, too. Had to see someone else’s name on it to realize I’m going back to JUST writing and napping!!!

  8. Just reading her list daunts and depresses me. 2016 for me will be a year to get back into writing what I love, and setting them free. If I sell, fine. If not, fine. I don’t like marketing and doing all these nicky-picky things that gulp up time and mental energy. I just wanna write…

    Since first small-press publishing in 2002, I’ve been asking people what marketing techniques work and which ones don’t. I’ve never gotten a coherent answer. Strategy A might work like whoa for one writer and fall flat on its face for another. There is no predictability in any of this marketing wisdom, because nobody can say what will work for any given project. I don’t want guarantees, I just want not to waste my time on tactics that don’t pay back at all. I’d rather let the books market each other, than spend yet another year trying to “figure it all out.” Been there, done that, and the tee shirt no longer fits.

    • You’re so right. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. What I found works for me is what I put effort into. Maybe that’s the secret. I love Goodreads and have a good amount of interest in my books there, friends that keep me finding great books, and a nice handful of fans. Facebook, on the other hand, is dead. Because I’m not a fan of Facebook, I don’t go there often, don’t interact much, and so nothing ever comes of it. Maybe I’m missing out on a goldmine there. But I’d just rather spend my time on Goodreads. Facebook is such a timesuck with little reward. I’d rather spend that time writing.

  9. Focus on what actually sells books, dump everything else. The 80/20 rule is a great rule of thumb.

    • I really agree with this! After floundering around for several exhausting months, I focused my marketing energies strictly on (a) Facebook including some engagement but mostly for advertising, and (b) my “Readers Group” aka newsletter. Apart from that, I write. No doubt I’m missing some great opportunities but my productivity is up right along with my sales so I’m happy.

  10. I was reading the list and nodding my head sagely – yep, yep, yep – and then I saw:

    Update Google Plus

    Oh, no! I haven’t even looked at Google Plus for weeks. Aaaagh!

    Then again, I’m not convinced it matters. For me. I’m becoming more and more certain that it’s not possible to speed up the rate at which my future readers find my books. Except by writing the next book.

    Certainly my prospective readers are not finding me on Google Plus! 😉

    They are finding my books, but where they are doing so remains largely a mystery to me. I’m reminded of Kris Rusch’s recommendstion in her book Discoverability to “trust your readers.”

    Like those of you commenting upthread… WIBBOW definitely applies.

    ETA: My sympathy and best wishes to Elizabeth in her quest to delegate. I share her liking to DIY.

  11. One more thing to add to that list: Do a Google search for pirated copies and send DMCA takedown notices.

  12. You know, it would be a good thing if someone knowledgeable — like an IP lawyer (PG?) — were to compile a list of things to check off in publishing contracts sent to authors for their signatures.

    This list could include omissions as well as egregious clauses and terms.

    Anybody willing to steip up to the plate?

  13. Like many here, I’ve decided to focus on the writing. I use the WIBBOW test, and also another: WMMMM (What Makes Me More Money?). Right now, it’s writing and releasing, so that’s what I’m doing.

    Later in the year, I plan to do some promotions, some outside marketing, but I’m not going to go wild with it. I don’t care to mess with social media, so it’s going to be torture to try to get into it (so I probably won’t). I need to keep up the website, have that functioning better — and buy a domain for it.

    Other than a few things, it’s just getting the words out. More books better. Urg.

  14. i have a system of sorts. That list makes me want go for a walk and not come back. lol. Because have had/ have lists like that. Only longer. They make me feel kinda ill. So I developed this system

    SOMEONE WILL DIE IF NOT DONE ASAP
    YOU WILL DIE IF NOT DONE ASAP

    those would be essentials under those cats.

    Then I have ‘nice but not necessary.’ which almost NEVER gets done.

    THen I have, MUST DO IN BATCHES

    I find that working in batches truly helps to get things done. Group like-kind/similar and gather whatever tools/links/phone #s/whatever and slam em all home.

    I also have a cat for WHO THINKS THIS S UP?

    Er the answer usually is, yers truly.

  15. Yeah. Having to learn the business side of writing, and the creative side of writing beyond tapping the keyboard, is stressful. No question. Learning is always stressful until the knowledge is mastered and applied.

    But it’s not nearly as stressful as getting screwed by a publisher and starving while waiting for a check to finally arrive… or not! 🙁

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