SPS-412: Time Management for Authors – with Mark Dawson

As self published authors we often don’t feel like there’s enough time in the day- with our many projects, or writing, and remembering to be a functioning human. Prompted by a listeners query- Mark sits down and breaks down what time management looks like for him, what helps him, and what he recommends to those struggling with balance!

Show Notes

  • All of the things we try to balance as authors.
  • Mark’s typical schedule.
  • Getting help as an author.
  • How Mark decompresses.
  • Tools and Tips to make time management easier.

Resources mentioned in this episode:


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Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

Mark Dawson: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show with me Mark Dawson. And because I'm in ful mood this week, I've given James the week off and I'll be doing a solo show today based upon some of the feedback that I had from listeners and viewers from previous solo shows when they've asked for specific kind of topics for me to cover. The one I'm going to look at today is time management for authors because I know that it is difficult, especially when there's lots to do and it seems sometimes like there's always more and more to do, and I think it is quite important to be able to look at the things that we have on our plate and try to find ways to help us to do the important things, work out which things are important, which things perhaps not quite so important and put together a strategy to help us to tackle those things.

Most importantly of all, without burning out, definitely something that is a thing in the indie space. Something that I've seen happen quite a lot. A lot of the authors who started publishing when I did aren't around anymore, and I don't mean that in any kind of mortality sense, but just in the sense that they've either moved off to do other things, they found it was too much, they burned out, and I found that too myself sometimes, occasionally you kind of look at the list of things to do and my list is right over there as I record this and it is pretty daunting. There's a lot on it and it's very easy to kind of look at something like that and just think there's no way that you're going to be able to get through it because you know that new things will be added all the time.

So there is something to be said for working out a strategy to help you deal with that kind of overwhelming sense of weight of things that need to be done. So we'll be looking at that today. I'll look at how I break my day down and I'll tell you the kinds of things that I do because it's not just writing for me. There's lots of other things including this, of course, the podcast and SPF and Hello books and Fuse and everything else that goes with that. So I'll go through those things. I'll go through what my day today has looked like, what a typical day looks like, and some of the strategies that I've developed to help me to keep on top of a fairly full inbox most of the time. But before I jump into that, a couple of bits of news just worth skimming over quickly.

And actually also before I get into that, I should say if there's anything that you would like me to talk about in these solo shows, then please do drop us a line at mark self-publishing You can also leave a comment if you're watching this on YouTube or you can drop a comment in the Facebook group as well, SPF community, and I'll probably get it at some point and then I can add it to the list of things that I might want to cover in the future. But yes, as I said some news first of all. So we are back now from Vegas, as we said, I think in the last podcast on Friday, had a really fantastic time. I kind of combined that with a trip to Cleveland and then to New York, saw some publishing friends in New York, flew back from New York. I might just add in there that I also was in the lounge in New York at JFK and I'm 99.99% sure that Peter Dinkle walked past ion from Game of Thrones.

But as we kind of get near to Christmas, of course, he's very well known for playing a very funny role in, for me, the best Christmas film Elf. And I texted my kids whilst I was sitting in the lounge having dinner as Peter walked past, and they were asking me to take a photograph and I said I couldn't do that. And then my daughter said I should go up and call him an elf. And of course, if you've seen that scene, then you'll know what happens when he's been called an elf one too many times. Anyway, I decided not to do that and got on my plane and flew home. But yeah, a bit of a diversion there, but it was quite funny. So yes, I got home then have been kind of noses to the grindstone over the course of the last week. It has been busy.

There's lots and lots of things and that of course is what I'm going to be talking about in this episode. Give you a bit of an idea of what a day looks like. But yes, 20 bucks is no more. So Craig Martel, who has skillfully captained the conference for the last 5, 6, 7 years, I'm not entirely sure how many he's done now, he has stepped down and handed over to Joe Solari, who's a friend of ours. We know Joe quite well and he has rebranded it as Author Nation. We mentioned this last time and I think it's a pretty good name and I know that if tickets aren't available already, they will be soon and pretty sure that we'll be going.

We love the conference. It's a big conference with lots and lots of authors there, lots of industry focus as well. So it's really good for just catching up with everyone, seeing what's going on with them and their companies. So I think it's a pretty solid bet that at least I'll be there next year, but probably James and me and Young Tom as well will go along and enjoy time in glorious Las Vegas. Apart from that, and on the subject of conferences, our own conference, SPS Live, the fourth time we've run this on the South Bank of the Thames in the Royal Festival Hall. Fantastic venue. I'm just getting into the programming stage for that now, and I've had quite a lot of people who would like to come and talk, so I'm starting to think about what that might look like. But tickets are available at the early Bird Price and it's 25th and 26th of June, 2024, and you can get those tickets and find out about the conference and also see a run through of what last year's was like at, I think it's live.

Pretty sure that's what it is. But yeah, go and have a look. We are looking forward to that. We'll be having a party again on the Wednesday evening and just tonnes of fun things to start thinking about as we get into next year. And then just finally on ai, again, we know this is a divisive topic and I had some polite emails, but dissenting voices coming through after we mentioned it last week, chat, GPT, ignoring the fact that the company seems to be tearing itself to bits at the moment as I record this, they've added some really cool new features over the course of the last couple of weeks, kind of specific GPTs that are aimed at doing certain things, and some of them are a little bit kind of esoteric, so you can ask it to, there's one that's programmed to think about recipes and cooking and stuff.

So you can give it a list of the favourite things that you'd like to eat and perhaps the things that are in your fridge, and it will put a weekly dinner plan together for you with recipes if you want. So that's quite fun. But the one that immediately caught my eye, and I've been, I saw it yesterday and I've been buzzing ever since, really, is a model that's based on helping you understand and do statistical analysis. And one of the things I've been looking for for ages and ages and ages is a really solid readthrough calculation. So buy readthrough, if you've taken any of our courses, you'll know how important this is. If you buy book one in a series, what is the actual value of that sale? If you've got a 10 book series, it probably isn't the royalty that you got for the first book, unless of course you, unless the book is so bad that no one's going to read book two or book three, assuming that the books are good, then the most likely book that the reader of Book one will buy next is going to be book two.

So we need to work out a model that enables us to work out what the value of that first sale is, because if it's not 2 99, if it's 10 99, that makes a fundamental difference to the amount we can spend when we're advertising in order to get someone to buy that first book. So I'll do something on this separately. This is a big topic and it's super important, but I spent a bit of time with the model yesterday just kind of explaining what I wanted, giving it the sales numbers on the Milton series and asking it to calculate and also giving it the royalties that I received for each book and then asking it to calculate the read through value, the percentage of people who go from book one all the way to the end, 21, 22 books now, and what those readers are worth to me.

And if I just, I'm just going to open up that chat now on the screen to my left, and very interestingly, it told me that, and this is kind of what I expected across the 20 books that I gave it, so there's actually about 22 in the series now, but across the 20 books, starting with people who buy the Cleaner, 9.8% of people who start with Book one go on to read all 20 books, and that means that every time I sell a copy of the Cleaner, given the Read-through rate to all the subsequent books in the series and the royalties, I gave chat g PT to work out, it's told me that I can expect to earn approximately $47 in total. So it's a little higher than I had on my model, but it's probably not a million miles away and I'm going to be doing quite a bit of stress testing to see how reliable that is.

I think that's probably a little bit high, but in most of my ad models when I'm working out on the daily spreadsheet, what I'm looking, what I'm spending, what I'm making, I also project what I think I might make when readthrough is taken into account, usually calculating it on either three books additionally, five books additionally, or seven books. So I don't even go all the way to the end of the series. So actually no, I am going to change that. I actually told it the more accurate values. So Book one owns me $2 and 9 cents, books two three and 4 2 79 each, and then books five through 20 because 4 99, 3 49. So on that basis it thinks that I can expect to earn $61 every time I sell Book one. So yes, I think that is on the high side, but even if it is a quarter of that, or even if it is let's say a third of that, that's a really significant amount and it does mean that I can spend much more on buying that first book on selling that first book than my otherwise have thoughts have been the case. Yeah, I mean super interesting.

I love the fact that you can explain this in as simple as English as you can, or even if you can't explain it properly, it's pretty good at working at what you want and then it will go away and work out what that is. And if that's matching with the spreadsheet that I've been using and it's not million miles away that I've been using for the last seven or eight years, that gives me extra confidence that I'm on the right track. What is also suggested and what I should have done ages is actually survey my authors, sorry, survey my readers and find out people on my mailing list how far they go through. So I'll do that as well with the caveat that if they're on my mailing list, there's probably some bias there that they're more likely to be fans who would go on to read more than just people who read the first one but never signed up.

So there needs to be a little bit working into that. I suspect the read through for my mail list is much higher than it would be for someone who didn't join my mail list. But again, it's another data point and I could feed it into chat EBT and it will work out for me what it thinks is a reasonable amount. Again, a kind of health warning there. Don't base all of your spending on that kind of calculation. You need to keep benchmarks. You need to make sure that what you're expecting to happen is actually happening in real life in terms of the money that's going into your bank account and the money that's going out to Facebook or Amazon for the ads. But interesting stuff and really, really important.

So I am going to get into the main gist of this episode now and talk about time management for authors, and it is an important thing. It is important to have a strategy for dealing with something, and especially when it kind of feels sometimes there is more and more being given to us to do so. If you followed everything that we teach in the Ads for authors course, for example, then you need to be looking at Amazon ads, Facebook ads, ads, TikTok, maybe you want to do Pinterest, a YouTube channel. If you start thinking about it like that, there's so much, it's just not possible. Of course, you're going to be writing as well, so it can feel daunting. Now, the main thing I would say about that is that you can't do everything. It's just impossible. I don't really spend that much time, I don't spend any time on YouTube apart from SPF, but we have someone who does that for us.

I don't spend any time on TikTok. I kind of looked at it, it's just not my thing. I think I would struggle to produce the videos. I'm quite happy being in front of a camera, but I think actually producing interesting videos that would be successful for my readers who might not be on TikTok, maybe it just felt to me one more thing that I can't really do, so I don't do that. Yes, there's fomo. Do I think I could be missing out by not being on TikTok? Yeah, definitely. I think there is that, but I think you just have to kind of bear that in mind and just think that there's a limit. You can't do everything and there is a risk that maybe I'm missing out, but that's fair enough. I've got to pick the things that I think are best suited for me and my books and concentrate on those.

There just isn't time for me to do everything, especially when I've got two kids, I've got a dog to walk. All of these kinds of things to, you have to kind of say at some point, I can't do that and not do it anyway. So for the business that we have, let's just give you a rough idea of what I have on my plate and the help that I have to do that because some of these things I couldn't do without help. So starting with books, the thing that if you put a gun to my head and said, you can only do one thing going forwards, what would it be? It would be my writing because it's the thing I enjoy the most, and it's also fortunately, the thing that makes me the most money. So obviously my interest and my time is going to be directed to that.

If that was all I could do before the books, there really is just me. There isn't anyone else in the business. I do all my ads myself, I have translators. Actually my brother kind of runs that side of things. So he does the liaison with the translators and that's very helpful. He's good at that. I don't need to chase the translators. He knows where we are in terms of the team and what books they're writing, have they been paid, all of that. That's very helpful together off My Plate. And now that we've got I think four translators in Germany to in France and looking to scale up the French side of things, that has been invaluable for me. So Craig helps me with that and that's great. I do have a Pa Mads who helps me with bits and bobs, but even though I've tried to give her stuff, it's not that she can't do it, it's just I am quite reluctant to hand off stuff that's the quirk of my character.

I think I find it quite difficult to hand off things to other people, not just her, but to anyone at all really. Ads are particularly difficult. I think I'm pretty good at doing the ads. I know my books better than anybody else. There is a big learning curve when it comes to running ads, ads successfully, and even though I've tried to find people to kind of hand off Amazon or Facebook ads, I've never had anybody that I feel I would be comfortable in recommending. The only exception to that would be Books Flyer Sarah and Ricardo from Reedsy. That's a pretty good little tool that I think has a lot of potential, a lot of promise. But beyond that, actually running the ads, no, it's something that I think I have to do myself. And I mean weirdly, I quite enjoy it, which kind of says something about my character I think as well, but it is just me really on that side of things.

So when you look at my books business and even formatting, I do that myself with Veem. There isn't and Stu does my covers, but because I couldn't possibly do that. But apart from that, there isn't really anybody else in that business. Moving on to Hello Books. So our books production, sorry, our books promotion, hello books. We've handed that over now after building it for 18 months, we've handed over the backend work to the excellent team at written Word Media. So Ferrell and Ricky run that for us now, and we are in charge of advertising. We build the author list, we build the reader list, but they actually do the processing, the customer service, sending the emails. All of that is done by them, which has been a real bonus. There was a team of about five of us on that, and James and I were quite happy to hand that over and just keep the small bits that we can continue to do without too much bother Fuse.

So our publisher, our little boutique publisher, that's just James and me really at the moment with a couple of freelancers who help us. Tina is one who helped us with contact with authors and taking care of payments and all of that kind of stuff. But things are brewing with Fuse now. You'll know what that is. If you were at 20 books, I'll have much, much more to say about that soon. But suffice it to say that it is super, super busy at the moment and all of the weight is on my shoulders. Some legal stuff, not bad legal stuff, good legal stuff. That is just because I am, unfortunately I was a lawyer, it made sense for me to handle that rather than James. So there is an awful lot of law for me to wade through, and it's been that way for about seven or eight weeks and it's a grind.

I don't enjoy it. I'm okay at it. I think I'm not brilliant, but I'm good enough to be able to be the point man between the lawyers and the company. So that is busy and in that business is really pretty much is James and me, mostly James in terms of running the day-to-day of that. But at the moment, probably I, I'm slightly ahead of James in terms of how much time is required. Then there's SPF, so there's a team of four of us, core SPF staff, me, James, Tom, and Catherine. We have other people who help with bits and pieces. So putting the podcast together, doing our social media, running the conference. There are people we bring in on a contractor basis as we need them, and they're all amazing and we are all incredibly grateful that they're able to help us. Otherwise it would be tough.

SPF is a pretty big operation now, and even just doing this podcast every week is a bit of a time suck. So I've had to carve out an hour today to do this solo episode. So it is a lot to do. I don't mind doing it at all. It's one of the things I really enjoy is being able to talk to authors and share experience and news and views on things. But yeah, it is a lot of work and that's why we have a decent team to help with that. So those are the four main businesses. There's always bits and bobs, other things that come up. Of course, there's daily life. So I have two small kids. I've got a 12 year old and a nine year old. I've got a dog who's just sitting down there who needs plenty of exercise. He's quite energetic, so I do that.

There's a house to run, so we have a bit of help for that, which is really fantastic, but there's always things to do. Today I had builders around because we've got a leak under the kitchen floor, which means that we're going to have to have the floor up so we can find the leak, fix the leak, put the floor down again, it's just, it's daily life and it's nothing special in that it's annoying, but these things come up and they have to be dealt with. So that kind of gets added in as well. But if I tell you about my own schedule, just what happened today and what generally happens, I usually have, the pattern is usually similar to This's. Been a little bit different today just because I had some tasks that were more important than would otherwise be the case. But I usually get up about 6, 6 15 usually, and the first hour and a half is kind of getting the house awake and on its feet and started.

So kind of getting the kids their breakfast, making coffee for me and Lucy, and then making sure the kids get to school. So I usually take the kids to school. It's a quick drive to the schools are near each other, so I drop the kids off. I drive back. I get home usually about half past eight, and then I'll walk Scout for usually an hour. I think today was about 75 minutes. I'll usually do four or five kilometres with him, which is good for me. In terms of mental health, it's good for me in terms of setting out the day and the week and also for getting ideas for writing. It's one of the best. Walking has been for ages. One of the best methods I've found to think about plot, think about titles, how to get Milton or Atticus or Beatrice or Isabella from point A to point B in a way that's interesting for readers, all of that kind of stuff.

I usually solve most of my problems when I'm out walking. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I listen to podcasts. Other times like today, I don't listen to anything at all. Just enjoy being out and about in nature and just letting thoughts percolate so I can get to my desk knowing what the plan looks like for the rest of the day. And I usually get to my desk probably about nine 30. And what I normally do, I'll tell you what I normally do and then tell you what I did today. I mean, normally I will write in the morning, so I usually aim to do 2000 words a day in terms of that's what I would like my output to be. I can normally hit that sometimes if I'm in at the start of a book or just in the start of the process of writing the book, I can perhaps get 3003 and a half thousand words my best ever day.

I don't really know how I manage this. I've never got close again. I did 12 and a half thousand words one day, which is crazy now looking back on it. And I know there's no sense in me chasing that. It was just one of those weird conjunctions of excitement about the book I was writing and just being completely in the flow. But yeah, normally say two and a half thousand would be a day I'd be happy with. And I can usually do that by roundabout lunchtime. So I'll usually have lunch maybe 12 or 1230 and I'll probably not, I won't work over lunch. I'll take half an hour, maybe eat with Lucy or I'll go, I'll watch some YouTube videos or I might, if the NFL is on, I might watch a game from the previous evening or some of a game, just do something completely different just to reset the clock so that I can get back to my desk in the afternoon and attack what needs the rest of the stuff that needs to be done.

So into the afternoon, that is my kind of switch point. So I go from being Mark the writer in the morning to being Mark the business owner, marketer, advertiser. I run the business, I do the business tasks in the afternoon, and usually it could be emails for example or anything at all, but isn't involving new words. And I'll probably do that until late afternoon. I might do a little bit more writing. If I have time, I will then usually, well for every day I'll get some exercise in. So I've got two pallets on machines in the gym beneath where I'm recording this. And I'll probably do between half an hour and an hour of cardio. And again, that's been quite important for just giving me some mental time away from work. It's quite meditative if you get into the flow of it. Maybe I might watch a bit of TV whilst I'm doing it.

I might listen to music and just get my head down and get my pulse up for maybe I say half an hour, 45 minutes. And I think that that has been something that I've found really valuable. I've been doing that now for a good year and every day I'll try and do at least half an hour of exercise. And that has been important. I'll usually finish at around between six 15 and six 30, and that will almost always be it. I don't work in the evenings and I don't work seriously in the weekend. I might come and do ad checks for an hour and a half, maybe Saturday or a Sunday. You need to be able to keep on top of that, and I find that's a good time to do it rather than doing it every day, which is what I used to do maybe once a week or twice a week is enough now just to make sure that everything is behaving as I want it to.

So today though, it didn't quite look like that. I needed to prioritise some things that I had to do today that were more important than the writing. So I had a legal email to deal with on Fuse, which required me to attack that when I had a lot of energy, kind of fresh thinking. So I did that, first of all, responded to that email, read some 50 or 60 page documents that were very boring but important, sent that to the lawyer and I've got another call with her in about 45 minutes as I record this to talk about that I needed to do this podcast. So I waited until the afternoon to record this, but it had to be done today, so I needed to get that on the list. I had a lot of emails to respond to. I got reader emails over the weekend after I sent an email to my list on Saturday.

So I probably had 20 or 30 emails just to respond to. And again, I can't write reams in response, but I'd still like to at least reply and acknowledge the fact that someone had taken the time to write to me, which I think is easy to miss that. But it's really important and I think it's one of those things that's quite difficult to quantify. But if a reader wrote to me, let's think of it as the other way around. If I wrote to Brace Nellis when I was, well, I'm still a big fan of Brace Nellis, but if I had written to him when I was a 21 year old at college and he'd written back, I'm pretty sure I would've told all of my friends that had happened and how amazing it was. And I think I probably would've sold a couple of books to those friends who might not otherwise have thought about buying one of his books.

And I'm sure that happens just generally with being grateful and polite when dealing with readers. I think that goes an awfully long way, and I still think it's worthwhile. It doesn't scale. I can't hand that off. It would feel wrong to me if I gave that to Mads to respond because they didn't write to her, they wrote to me, and I think it would be wrong if she responded or she tried to be me when she was responding. That would feel terribly dishonest. So I can't do that. I have to do that myself. So needs to get that off my desk. I don't like my inbox to be full. I don't mean ideally the utopian vision, which I occasionally hit is inbox zero doesn't happen as much as I'd like, but if I can do that, then you should take a screenshot and post it.

Cool. So I had to do that. I was so enthused by what I said about chat GPT and read through that. I wanted to do a survey for my readers, which I spent maybe half an hour on SurveyMonkey just putting that survey together. After that, I mean, I have got to writing and I did a little bit of writing at the weekend, which is a bit weird. So I've kind of done, at least I've added to my manuscript today, 2,800 words, probably wrote six or 700 today, 1800 or so over the weekend, and added that to the Scrivener file this morning. And looking at that makes me feel good as I hit 71,000 words of the new Milton book, which I'm anxious to get it finished, but I'm kind of savvy enough now to know that it's done. When it's done. There's no deadline. I had love to get out before Christmas, I won't, and that's fine.

Book's ready when it's ready. So I'll get back to that after I've spoken to the lawyer at four o'clock. Anyway, so that's the ads that I need. I kind of need to check the ads, but I did that on Saturday. It can probably wait, if I'm being honest with myself. I don't think anything is going to be lost if I don't do that until next Saturday, but I'll probably have a look at that Wednesday or Thursday just to see that things are where they are. So that's kind of what the day looks like. Generally. In the evening, I cook again, that's another I find that relaxing. I'll put some music on. I'll cook, I will eat with Lucy, we'll watch a bit of shit tv, put the kids to bed, maybe watch a bit more shit tv. And then I'm usually in bed for 10 30, lights out at 1130.

So I probably get about six and a half hours sleep a night, which is probably not quite enough, but it feels like it's enough for me. And basically that's what it looks like. Usually I generally speaking, creative work in the morning, kind of non-creative business work in the afternoon with a pivot lunchtime. Sometimes exercise is the pivot, but that's when I kind of change modes from being creative to business owner. But anyway, so let's just think of some general tips in terms of strategizing and how we can help to balance all of this. I think it is important that we prioritise. You can look at all the things we have to do and it can seem daunting. I know this from experience. You can look at a to-do list and think that's a really big to-do list, and that can feel like it's weighing down on you sometimes.

And I've definitely felt that before. And the risk of that is that you just kind of go, you feel it's too much. And either the work that you do isn't to your normal standard or you just don't do the work at all. You just throw your hands up and time out for the rest of the day and you go and do something else, which of course is fine. But better to manage that so that you can do the things that are important, not worry so much about the things that you don't have to do today. You can do that tomorrow or you can do it next week, or you can in some cases do it six months in the future or even not at all. So think about what are the things that are high impact for us as writers? Well, the most important thing is writing.

So my advice to myself is always to at least get some words in. And if I've done that, if I've hit, say I do a thousand words, I'm probably going to feel okay about that. If I've done 2000 words and hit my target, I'm definitely going to be okay. But I do want to get some words. And even on the really busy days like today, I want to make sure that I have hit some words. So that will be quite on my list of priorities. I will probably, most days, that will be the first thing that I do. Open Scrivener, write some words and then think about the tasks that you don't need to do yourself. They're important, but you can hand off. So you could look at outsourcing things like formatting if you want to. There are ways that you can do that. But again, it's a fairly formatting, it's a fairly infrequent and yet important task, and I have a lot of time for doing that myself.

So I don't hand that off. I will use Vellum to do that. Other tools are available, some excellent tools now that weren't available 10 years ago when I had to send my file to Australia, actually to a guy in Australia who did my formatting for me, which was great. I didn't have to do it, but then if I wanted to amend it, it was difficult and took time. Something like veem makes it really, really simple. So yeah, just think about what are the important things. If you're spending a lot of money on ads and money is something that you need to be concerned and cautious about, then that might well be quite high up your list monitoring ads to make sure that Facebook doesn't run away with your budget or that your Amazon CPC is within bounds that you think are acceptable. That might well be very, very important, in which case you need to make sure that that's something that has your attention.

But look at your list and maybe grade them from one to five. Five being this is important for my career as a writer to one, this is a shiny bell or whistle perhaps not as important as other things and can be put off. So that's number one. Number two, I would say actually number one, a good thing to avoid, just go back to that before I get to number two is avoid time sucks. And the internet and social media is definitely a big one. So I am guilty of this. I've still not really figured this out. If I'm writing and I research something, so at the moment I'm looking to my right here and the book open is talking about Milton. He travelled to open square brackets. So it's a place in Ukraine and I can't remember what it was, and I've left it there to kind of research it.

And that will mean going over to the internet, opening up Google and then looking. Now the problem with me, I know exactly why. I'm like, I will go somewhere else. So I'll probably go to the B bbc, I might start Googling researching, which I love doing. And then before you know it, 20 minutes has gone. I haven't written any words in that square bracket that prompted me to go over to Google is still a square bracket. I haven't found out what I wanted. So it is difficult to do that, to avoid that. Any kind of suggestions on that? I am all ears. Social media is a big one, so I usually put my phone over on the desk behind me, so I have to actually, it's not sitting there and tempting me with opening it. And I don't normally do Facebook on my Mac, so that's helpful.

But yes, I'm still a work in progress on getting into that. And I know there's software available that will close the internet at certain times, but I'm not sure that would work for me. I'd probably just open it again and get back into it. So yeah, I'm certainly open to suggestions on how I can avoid going down the internet rabbit hole anyway. Number two, set realistic goals and deadlines. So I think it's just be realistic. Pick goals that are achievable. Break down the writing process into manageable chunks. Same goes with the publishing process and don't feel that there's a big deadline. And also don't compare yourself to anybody else. Don't compare yourself to me in the same way that I don't compare myself to Amanda Lee, who I know writes 12,000 words a day. I can't do that. Amanda is an absolute machine. I cannot do it.

I would love to do it, but it's just not me. So there's no point looking at her and other people who are as prolific as that putting out a book a month, I can't do that. It's just not possible. So once you accept that, then hopefully that's not something that's going to put additional pressure on you because the way the path to madness lies that way. So you start looking at other people and driving yourself to do something that you're not able to do because you're just not able to. You're too busy, they're different. Whatever you need to get out of that mindset where you're looking at them and thinking that you want to do what they do. You don't know what their circumstances are. They're very different from yours potentially. So get away from that and just look at it being set. Achievable goals.

So I mean, I'm going to get my calculator out here because let's say you only have time for 500 words a day. That's fine. If you do 500 words a day and you do it every day for a year, that's 182,000 words, which is either three short novels or two decent sized ones. So if you think about it that way, 500 words is not that much. You can probably do that in an hour. I mean, I can probably do that in about 25 minutes if I'm really getting down to it. So break it down into chunks. There's that phrase, isn't there that How do you eat a whale? Well, you do it one bite at a time. So kind of break it down. 90,000 words novel when you start with a blank piece of paper or blank screen, that feels daunting. But if you break it down that way, do a spreadsheet work out.

You want to do it in 60 days, how many words do you need to do and then work on that schedule. It doesn't matter if you go short one day because you'll balance it by going long another day. I find that helps. I've got kind of spreadsheets going when I'm actually writing where I'll put my word count in and I can see how far along the path I am. I find that is quite helpful. And when it comes to writing, if you're full-time in a job at the moment, and I was at the BBFC for ages when I started writing, find somewhere in that day where you can write. So for me it was commuting. The time on the train was absolutely invaluable. And in 2014, as I was starting to really get into it into things and they started to work for me, I wrote four books on the train. I think that year you can find the time.

I know it's not always possible, I'm just speaking generally, but I think usually you can find five minutes a day and that's fine, or 10 minutes a day or half an hour a day. Whatever you can find you can squeeze out, that is going to be enough. And then you are flexible, you increase it. If you have more time, maybe you have to decrease for a bit because you're too busy, whatever. Just find a bit of time and do a little bit of writing. That's going to be important. And don't compare yourself to other people. Three, balance the writing with marketing and promotion. So this is important. I don't think you can do one without the other. Now. You can't just be a writer. Could you ever just be a writer? Probably not really, but you could be 95% writer, 5% marketer back in the day, you can't anymore.

The writing is still the most important thing. You can't sell a blank piece of paper, but when you have a book, you are going to need to learn how to market it. You're going to need to learn how to advertise, find readers, deal with those readers, build your mail list. All of that stuff is crucially important. You are going to need to do everything, but just think about balancing those tasks with the time you have available. Maybe if you are full-time, there's not going to be that much time to look at that, but I would suggest get the writing in, prioritise that. But then think about looking at the tasks that you've got and do them one at a time. So if you want build your mailing list, maybe spend a week putting that together. Look at a course like launchpad. Work out how we recommend setting up the mailing list and then just hit that task, tick it off.

Then move on to social media, building those platforms. Do that ticket off. Look at learning how to upload to Apple. Do that, tick it off. Same goes for Google, et cetera, et cetera. Do them sequentially, one at a time. Always do the writing, but then think about those tasks and attack them in the order that you need them. Don't do everything at once. It can feel like you're drowning if you do that. So look at something, a specific task that you know you're going to need. Learn it, do it. Automate it if you can. Most of these things can be automated. Never do it again unless you want to modify it. Move on to the next thing. Number four, leverage tools and technology. So I mean, this is something that is just kind of going exponentially fast. It feels like at the moment as AI develops, more and more tools are now suitable for ai. So things like over the weekend, I asked chat GPT to work out the hundred bestselling German thrill authors over the last five years. And it did a pretty good job with that because now it can search the internet when it is working on your queries. So that was useful.

It won't be long. I suspect before we have fully AI integrated platforms and enable us to track sales, work out our ad spend, our return on investment, our read through all of that. It's all coming. We are not there yet, but the tools that we have today are light years ahead of what we had 10 years ago when I started. I don't have to have a spreadsheet that I monitor and modify every night to show sales across all the platforms. I used to spend half an hour a day doing that, and it was fun because I could see the gestation and then the birth and accelerated growth of my business. You don't need to do that so much easier because even simple things like the KDB dashboard is so much better than it was back in the day. And I think these things are going to get better.

So other tools that you can use. When I use Trello for managing my tasks, I also use a simple piece of paper, but Trello is pretty good on my phone. I can note things down whilst I'm Walking Scout that I think I need to do, and then I can tick 'em off as I've done them or reorder them depending on what's most important. And I think it's free. There's a free version of Trello, lots of other task management software that you might prefer, but that one works quite well for me. So maybe find something that enables you just to keep a global view on the things that you need to do so that you can look at them clearly and formulate a plan that enables you to tick them off in the order that you need to do them. And then just finally, managing burnout and maintaining creativity.

Burnout is a thing, there's no question about that. And there have been times over the last couple of months where I have felt probably more so than I've ever felt this year has been hard for lots of different reasons. There's been quite a lot of stuff that I would rather not have had to have done, but because of my background and history, it made more sense for me to do them than James, for example. And it has been challenging. There have been times where I have felt quite stressed and normally I don't really get stressed. It was particularly acute over the last couple months where I know these are first world problems, but I travelled a lot over the last couple months, went to America twice, went to Paris, was in ary for lovely holiday, but no work done in any of those weeks, which or not much.

Just doing the minimum writing and just making sure the business stuff was done with a lot of additional things, legal stuff that I had to wrap my head around. And there's a reason I'm not a lawyer anymore. It's not just because I'm not a very good lawyer. It's because I also didn't really enjoy it. And having to do that again was not something I really signed. Well, I did sign up for it, but it's not something I would've chosen to have done. And there's a reason I'm doing. And I think as we announce that the changes that you're going to be seeing from us in the next, maybe even the next month or so, I think the payoff in terms of an exciting new opportunity will be worth the aggravation and the grind that I've had to put in to get there. But it has been hard and there have been moments where I've gone, I wish I hadn't done that.

I don't want to do it. I just want to write. And that's fine. I think usually that for me feels worse. Usually later night when I'm tired, a good night's sleep, a bit of exercise, I usually address those things the next day with fresh eyes. And they don't seem quite as bad as they did or as weighty or momentous as they did the night before. But it is a thing. I do get that. And I know writers looking to hit a aggressive relief strategy that is stressful. There's no way around it. It is a very stressful thing to feel that you have to keep up with someone who's writing a book every month. As I said, I can't do that. There's no point in me beating myself up about that, even if I had nothing else. I don't think I have the temperament to write the amount of words every day without the joy being sucked out of writing, which if that happens, what's the point?

I might as well go back to work for somebody else and not have to think about this anymore. So there's a balance there. Just if you start to feel that you're taking on too much, there's nothing wrong with just going, you know what? I'm going to stop working today. I'm not going to do anything. I'm going to go do something completely different. And that might be going out for a bicycle ride or you could walk the dog, you could go shopping, you could do whatever it is that you like to do to give you a bit of r and r. That might be what you need to do because let's be honest, if you burn yourself out, you kill the love of writing. And if you still, I've done this before, I've made myself write something when I didn't enjoy the process and it was the worst thing I've ever written.

And readers know if you are writing and it's an effort and it's a slog, they will know because there'll be no joy in your words and they won't buy anything from you again. They won't enjoy the book. So it is a complete fool's errand to drive yourself to the point where it feels like a sausage factory. There's no point in doing that. You have your pace and you should stick to it. And if you need to take a day off because it feels like the pace is a bit too much, take a day off. Think about it, maybe slow down a bit. It doesn't matter. Readers aren't going away. We are not in competition with each other. If you take two months to write a book rather than a month, if you take six months to write a book rather than a month, that's fine.

You're not going to lose your opportunity that more and more readers are finding digital reading all the time. So don't feel pressured that you need to hit targets that are perhaps unrealistic for you. There is no point in doing that because you won't serve yourself. You'll end up giving yourself a headache if you're lucky, a nervous breakdown if you're not lucky, and there'll be no joy in what you do. And I don't really see the point in that if I didn't enjoy this, I wouldn't do it. Luckily enough. I love what we do. I love writing. I love everything else, but the privilege of getting up in the morning, coming to my desk here and just telling stories is something I occasionally have to pinch myself to remember. And I would absolutely hate to lose the magic in the amazing opportunity that we have now as creatives in the 21st century to write directly for our readers.

Anyway, that is enough for me. I've gone on a bit today, but I hope that was helpful and gives you an idea of what I do, what my process looks like, how I juggle a fairly full slate and manage family life as well. It's good. It's hard. There are days when it's harder than other days, but at the end of everything, I go to bed at night and as I said, I have to remind myself actually, I don't normally have to remind myself. I know how lucky I am to be able to do this as a full-time job. I tell you, it beats everything else I've ever done before and I can't imagine doing anything that I would enjoy as much. Anyway, I will leave it there for now. We'll be back again next Friday. Me and James will be back and James will have an interview. We'll do some banter. I know everyone loves that. And in the meantime, I hope you have a really great weekend, and I hope you have a fantastic week writing and selling and just enjoying this amazing career that is possible for us now as independent writers. Fantastic. Anyway, I will shout up now. Have a great weekend, and I'll be back next time. Bye-Bye.

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