What does an author actually do all day?
Okay, there's a little element of click bait in the title of this blog post but it's done for a reaason. As a hybrid author selling over 1.5 million books, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I have to do to run my business, fitting it all in between the writing and editing.
I have fifteen crime novels and five women's fictions novels written – two are on pre-order, ready to be published before the year end. I’m now working on two books for 2021.
It takes a lot of work to keep them all updated and promoted.
Some jobs are carried out each week or monthly; some are less often but here is a list of everything I do. I’ve probably missed some things off and I also outsource some of the tasks:
Let's get the boring, but essential, stuff out of the way first. I have a bookkeeper and an accountant but I have to pass the necessary documents to them once a month. It doesn’t sound like much until you think I have twenty books published, between several publishers as well as myself.
A VAT return needs to be completed every three months. Luckily my bookkeeper does this for me but I have to print out a receipt for anything I have paid VAT on, which results in me trawling through numerous emails each month to find them. It’s also a good excuse to sit down once a month and delete any emails that I no longer require too. But they are both tasks I don’t enjoy.
I pay wages and national insurance.
I raise invoices to be paid and pay any outstanding ones.
I book all my travel and accommodation, which can take a lot of time when trying to find the right routes and places to stay. If it’s somewhere I go regularly, like London Book Fair or Harrogate Crime Festival, then it’s a doddle as it’s the same as the year before.
I monitor book sales. From the spreadsheets filled in by my bookkeeper, I see which books are flagging and need reviving, and which are doing well. Both will get a boost in some way or another through running…
Promotional campaigns, usually one a month. So I will reduce a price for one book and then share this info everywhere. I will run ads – on Facebook and Amazon – which, again, need to be monitored for efficiency. I will blog strategically about the book content to draw readers to it too and chat via social media to potential readers who, for instance, might want to know the order of a particular series.
For self-publishing - I work with a team of professionals making sure everything I need to do for them is completed and with them on time. This will be a cover designer, an editor and a proof-reader.
Once the book is ready, I send it to a team of early readers. I also arrange my own blog tours, although I am outsourcing this now too.
For traditional publishing, again I work with a team of professionals making sure everything I need to do for them is with them on time. This will be more around editing and marketing.
Both involve project managing on my part - working out what has to be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, six monthly and yearly to ensure everything is completed on time and that nothing clashes.
I evaluate the business every twelve months to see what has worked and what hasn’t, what I can do more of and what I don’t want or need to do any more.
I have to stay motivated to keep at it. It’s hard at times, especially on days when I doubt myself and have to get in the right headspace to continue. It’s harder still when I get a particularly personal and nasty review. But equally, my day can be lost if I have some good news to share. Because when that happens, my social media, messages and emails can go ballistic and it’s hard to keep up.
I create most of my own graphics. Using Bookbrush and Canva, I create Facebook and Twitter headers and banners, keeping things changed and rotated, freshening looks whenever necessary.
I write articles for online local press, websites, and guest on podcasts.
My website needs to stay fresh and updated – as you know if you've been following my updates recenty, I’ve just done a major overhaul by combining three websites into one base.
I’m blogging three times a week at the moment as I have a lot of content to add. After that, I will aim for twice a week.
People say blogging is dying but I disagree for authors. It’s important to have content to share (and if you are starting out, I would recommend at least twice a week to build your audience and platform) as well as something for potential readers to peruse when they find your site.
I attend and take part in panels and conferences. These can take a day, or even two, out of my schedule if I have to prepare and travel.
I’ve limited myself to working with three charities in my hometown now as it was getting too time consuming to do more than that. I hate saying no to lots of people, but I am better at it now.
I upload all my books onto the Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Also any updates required may go across all twenty books – although I am savvier now and tend to add a link to a page on my website that can be accessed at the back of any book, rather than add news of a new book to each one.
Keywords analysis - this can be a few hours at a time over a few days and has to be done every few months as things are constantly changing. I use a program called Kindleprenuer for this.
Foreign rights tax forms, UK tax forms etc. HMRC are a complete nightmare to work with. Everything has to be done via post (although some things are changing) and sending something this way can often mean delays of months before things arrive back to me completed correctly, which can be very stressful and time consuming. As well, anything late, even if it is down to their errors, you can get penalised for.
Replying to correspondence. This is a huge time suck but I try to reply to as many readers as I can. They have taken time to contact me and I love that they’d want to do that. Writers are a different bunch. As most answers require a personal reply to that particular individual’s needs, plus they may email back a few times, I can find this takes well over an hour each time, so I don’t do this anymore. I have an email set up with a list of links for them to check out.
I send out a newsletter to my mailing list every four-six weeks. I used to send one out every three-four months. Then I started only doing it when I had a new book out or a price reduction. But it felt like it was a bit ‘all me.’ Yes, I know subscribers want to hear from me but not necessarily if all I do is sell.
So recently I’ve gone back to sending a newsletter more frequently. I’ve made it into more of a magazine - what I’ve been up to, some blog posts I’ve written, a podcast or zoom I've taken part in, and then I recommend other authors I’ve read.
There is also the building of the mailing list itself, which has taken me years…
Then there are the blog posts I read to keep up to date with the industry, and the many books I read on the subject of writing and business.
Last, but by no means, least, my husband has become my ‘wife.’ I was lucky enough to retire him several years ago, and he keeps himself busy by doing everything so I can have more time to write – he does most of the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, looking after the dog, the house, the garden, me… I honestly know I wouldn’t get so much done with out him. We’re definitely a team - and I class myself as very lucky!
He’s also a great sounding board for plots and twists. He helps keep my ideas realistic: ‘That’s a bit Die Hard 7, Mel,’ he’ll say. ‘You need to bring it back to Die Hard 4.’
Phew! If you're still with me this far, you can see when an author says they are working full-time, they really are working full-time. The writing and editing are about 20% of everything I do but without the other 80%, no one would have seen any of it so it’s a chicken and an egg situation. One can’t be done without the other.
And even if someone gets lucky and has a mega huge bestselling book right out of the gate, it can be very hard to replicate it over and over, so that's why I look after my backlist as best I can. That’s also why you hear of so many authors having big deals but then disappearing.
It is hard to keep up. It is a job, always remember that. But you also need to remember that I have been publishing books for nine years now. Before selling 1.5 million copies, due to technology not being as advanced as it is today, I was rejected by agents and publishers for 12 years.
Don't read this and think that it can't be done because you are writing your first book. This is my journey. I'm probably at chapter ten of it and you may be starting right now at your chapter one.
The main this is to start - start write now...