As I wrote about last Sunday in Part 1 of this post, the best laid plans for the launch of the fourth and final book in my supernatural thriller series were thrown off a bit (okay a lot) when other responsibilities arose and threatened to take over my To Do list. To finish every item on the list, I could have done what I used to do when I was full-time lawyer, which was cancel anything non-work related, cut back on sleep, and work every waking moment.
This time, I did things differently, and it’s because I asked myself why. Why had my goal for so long been to become a full-time writer?
The obvious part of the answer is that I’m happier when I spend most of my time writing. But that’s not all of it, and that’s not what helped me decide how to handle my lengthy To Do list.
It’s that I’m happier when I work hard and also have time to relax, to see my friends and family, read, play games, or visit the park on a sunny day. Will there always be weeks when there's less time for all of that than others?
Yes, of course.
But if I automatically chuck everything but work out the window when confronted with a long To Do list, my happiness at writing full time will dim. In fact, my guess is I’ll become as burnt out writing as I eventually did practicing law.
So as my May 15 release date approached, I did something I was never very good at in the past. For each task on the list, I asked myself (1) whether I truly needed to do it at all; (2) if so, by when it absolutely needed to be done; (3) when the best time to do it might be; and (4) how to do it most efficiently.
I'm sharing the results and hoping it will help you when you're faced with more tasks than time.
What I Did
- Changing the May 15 release date for The Illumination would both disappoint readers waiting for the book and cause me problems with the e-book platforms where people had pre-ordered. So this one was a no-brainer. I took the time I needed to double check that all the ebook files were in shape and uploaded properly. That checked off one task on the list.
- My answer brief to the Illinois Supreme Court was one I knew I’d enjoy writing, and it had a set due date. I could have asked the Court for more time, but that would require writing an extra motion, which would be more work in the long run. Also, the points I wanted to argue were fresh in my mind. Putting off writing the brief would likely make it take longer to write. I decided it was worth spending much of the week leading up to the book launch getting the brief done so that, overall, I'd spend less time on it.
- My assignments for my U of C class had set due dates as well. I checked, however, and learned that because I had attended the first month of class, I could withdraw without losing my health insurance coverage. Or I could attend class but delay or skip turning in the assignments, accepting an incomplete grade.
I decided, though, that since I’d spent a significant amount for tuition and like the class, I wanted the full experience. That meant I worked all day on a beautiful Saturday when it was finally nearly 80° out and sunny. Because I'd thought it through and made a conscious choice, I felt OK about that. A little tired, but OK.
- I sent a new release email to my email list on May 15. The list is made up of readers interested enough to join in the first place, and some had written me to ask when The Illumination would be out. So those are the people I felt it was most important to share with.
- I scheduled ads for The Awakening, the first book in my series, to run the week of the book launch. That could have waited, but I felt it was worth it to bring more readers into the series now. Also, some of the enewsletters where I advertise will rerun a book after 60 days, so advertising now means I can advertise again there in 60 days.
- For similar reasons, I scheduled the free days for the Kindle editions of two of my other books for the release week. I also got my files uploaded for the paperback editions of both books (When Darkness Falls and Super Simple Story Structure). Unfortunately, I didn’t get them uploaded in time for the paperback editions to appear on the same Amazon page as the Kindle editions during the free days. It’s one of the things that fell through the cracks. But at least now it's done.
- I purchased a slot at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest for Saturday, June 10, so I ordered the books I’d need for that. That too was a no-brainer. I love the fest, and it’s always fun to meet the other authors and readers, and it only comes around once a year. (I’ll be there 10-12:30 under the Chicago Writer’s Association tent if you’d like to say hello.)
What I Didn’t Do
- Now we’re getting into what I didn’t do. While I’d wanted to post about The Illumination on my author blog, that post could be equally helpful later down the road. In the past, when only print books were released, if a book didn’t sell enough in the first few weeks, it disappeared from the shelves. Now, an ebook can live forever, and my aim is a steady stream of sales. Because there’s no time limit, a blog post can be just as helpful later down the road.
Also, people unfamiliar with a book, even if its cover or summary appeal to them, generally need to see or hear of it 3-7 times before buying. A later blog post could be one of the ways new readers see the book a second or fourth or sixth time. So I put off writing that post, and it remains on my To Do list. I will likely get to it next week, after my U of C class is over.
- The same thing applied to posting on Facebook and Twitter, scheduling a Goodreads giveaway of the paperback, and updating covers on the slides on my author website. I did get a little social media exposure, though, because MailChimp automatically posted my New Release email to Facebook and Twitter.
- Much as I wanted to write a specific Mother’s Day post on Sunday May 14 on my author blog, it wasn’t the only way to honor my mom. In a previous post on one of her birthdays, I’d said much of what I wanted to write about her. I tweeted that post. I also posted a photo of her on this blog and talked about her creativity and her music. This website which reaches a different audience than my author blog, so I was able to share with more people though I spent less time.
- I’d promised that people on my email list would get bonus materials for The Illumination but hadn't promised to send them any particular day. From a marketing standpoint, I realized it would be better to send a few emails, spaced out. So several days after the release I sent a bonus—a PDF of handwritten notes on the plot when I was working on my last revisions. I plan to write a second bonus, an Author’s Note reflecting on the series as a whole. That will be a good way to remind readers about the series a couple weeks down the road, so it actually worked out better than if I'd sent both bonuses on release day.
- I also put off setting up an in-person book release party. I would have liked to do that, but that requires finding a place, making sure I have the right number of books on hand, and letting people know well in advance, and that type of party doesn't usually increase ebooks sales, which is how most of my sales are made. How much fun it will be and how many people will come also will not likely be any different if I host it now or in two months. And I’ll have the advantage of getting ideas from two book release parties I’m going to in the next month hosted by other authors.
So that's how my task list broke out. I feel good about how much I got done and when. The tasks that were most important got finished before the book launch, a few I did soon after, and a few are left on the list, but they are ones that will be just as effective, if not more so, done later.
Equally important, I didn’t cancel any of my dinner plans with my friends, and we had a great time. I also binge-watched Agents of Shield the Sunday night before the launch to wind down rather than using those few hours to check off more things on the list.
I did miss getting outside on a lovely Spring day (one of the few in Chicago this season), but if I wanted a 9-5 job that was always predictable, I’d go look for one. I don’t.
This experience has made me more sure that I’ll be able to build my career in a happy, healthy way while enjoying my life as a whole. So now I’ll close and watch that next Agents of Shield episode.
Until Friday, wishing you a productive, not-too-stressful week—