Schedules: Not Just for the Anal Retentive

I’m a touch anal retentive. I like rules. In fact, it’s how I make my living. I like knowing what’s going to happen so I plan things out, even for contingencies that won’t likely happen. I’m very well prepared for the zombie apocalypse, btw. But by planning, I take away some of the fear and uncertainty that surrounds a new adventure and I’m able to focus on what’s important. Whether that new adventure is moving to Korea (which I did in June 2015) or publishing my first book (also June 2015), you can bet there’s a schedule and a list of things to do.

As my first book’s publication loomed on the horizon, what’s important became promotion. Publishers these days do very little for new authors, so it’s up to us to get our name out there, build a brand, get readers to first notice us in a sea of new names and new books, then to get them to click on the buy links. It doesn’t do me any good to publish a book if no one is buying it. I quickly learned that if writing is a full time job, promotion is another full time job.

Part of the danger with surfing the web for reviewers or playing on Twitter to generate interest is getting off track. We all know that the internet is a pit of quick sand of time. And that can eat into the precious hours we have to write. I still work full-time, so my writing time is doubly precious. So time is a major component in determining your schedule. Determine how much you have – whether by the day or by the week. The next thing you have to do is set your goal or goals and the time frame for them. I had two goals with my schedule. One, maximize my daily writing time. Second, promote.

The first goal is pretty self-explanatory. With my second goal, I had two sub-goals. I wanted people to buy my book, obviously, but I also wanted to generate a following. That not only could lead to sales, but it would make my blog a destination for writers. I write under multiple names so getting people to the website was a way to make the most of every promotion opportunity. Once I could show a steady stream of visitors, I could connect to more and bigger authors for spotlight interviews, thus connecting with a broader audience. I was trying to snowball everything because again, time was not plentiful.

Now you build your schedule with these goals in mind. I knew social media was the way to go but there’s so much out there. I started spending 3-4 hours a night just trying to keep up with email, Twitter, the blog, Goodreads, Facebook, review requests, yahoo groups…it became endless. Plus I wasn’t writing as much as I wanted, if at all. I picked three areas of focus: contact (email), promotion (Facebook, Twitter and my web blog) and writing. It was all I could handle. In June, my second month on my schedule, my website data tells me I had 2500 visitors. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it feels good to see that number get bigger each month. I’ve also done a Twitter campaign and a Facebook push through a social media company.

Once you’ve established your time parameter and set your goal, the rest is just fill in the blanks. Building the schedule involves picking a tool – a spreadsheet or a calendar – to help you manage your time and your plan. You can see mine on my website at http://www.awritershouse.com/craft.html. I picked a calendar template from Excel. It’s easy to update. I can make notes on it to keep me on track or when things change. I even schedule nights off from the whole job of writing. I printed six months’ worth and keep it by my computer.

Voila. You have a schedule. Making the schedule, however, is the easy part. Sticking to it is another matter. Like with any big challenges – exercise, diet, changing the course of history – start small and slow.

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