How to Strike a Good Work-Life Balance While Trying to Get Published
Updated: Dec 1, 2019
I’ve had a few requests from folks asking about how I balance my writing with building my author platform. Now, every author’s journey is different, so don’t despair if what works for me doesn’t work for you. But perhaps you might pick up a trick or two that’ll help you on your own journey. The key is finding a good balance between professional and personal fulfilment.
If something isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to change it.
Division of Time—Getting Your Priorities Right
Like many authors, I have a family. I'm a single mother of four teenage boys (someone send chocolate—stat!) I have worked from home for many years now, first as a freelance corporate editor, and now as a full-time writer. As any parent of teens with extra-curricular activities, hectic social lives, and part-time jobs knows you can run rings around any Uber driver from the mileage you rack up! So, this means I have between 8 am and 3:30 pm to get solid blocks of writing done while my offspring are all at school. Any work I manage outside these hours is done in bits and pieces on the fly.
Beginning in 2016, I spent three years writing the four books of my historical fiction series around my day job as a corporate editor. My amazing beta readers helped me improve my first drafts before I began to look seriously at publishing my manuscripts (and realising I needed an author platform). Writing at the moment is more re-writing, revising and self-editing my material, which I do during school hours.
I don’t focus solely on my fiction writing either because I also have a blog. I split my time evenly between the two. To vary my blogging routine, I also interview folks in the publishing industry or agree to being interviewed myself. I also guest blog for other websites.
Since I’m in Australia and my time zone is usually wildly out of sync with the rest of the world, I rely heavily on email communication because emails can be answered at any time of the night or day.
I know many authors use several social media platforms, but at this stage, I’m happy enough managing Twitter, Facebook, and my author website with its blog and newsletter. Obviously, the more author platforms you add to your plate, the more time you will need to invest in them. My theory is to manage a few platforms well rather than have too many and spread myself too thin.
Twitter – peak Twitter times in my time zone are 5 am to 8 am, and 5 pm to 9 pm. I don’t know about you but I can barely open both eyes at 5 am, let alone write witty or intelligent posts on Twitter. So, I schedule my 5 am tweets using Tweetdeck. That way, I can wake up properly and be sipping on coffee when I respond to the overnight flurry that happens online while I’m asleep.
Having independent teenagers makes this possible because I don’t have to help dress or feed anyone anymore, and they get themselves to school. I deferred my authoring career for many years while my children were little because I simply did not have enough time or energy to devote to building a writing career as a single parent—it was a sacrifice I happily made.
My night time posts and engagement on Twitter are usually done in the car while waiting for my teens’ work-shifts to end. With everything online these days, using my parked car as my office is possible! The advantage of being off kilter with the Twitterverse is that there’s very little activity online during my workday, which is great for not being (too) distracted by it. Twitter on the weekends is pretty dead, which allows me to then plan and schedule the following week’s posts.
Facebook — like with Twitter, I schedule my posts in advance using Facebook’s scheduling function. That way, if I end up in a homework emergency or running around looking for a striped top-hat for tomorrow’s book week parade, I don’t have to worry that I’ve missed my window of opportunity to post. I’m not a big watcher of TV during the week, so this frees up my time to engage on Facebook in the evenings.
Author Website — weekends are my marketing days when I update my website, write my author newsletter, create images and artwork on Canva to include in my upcoming social media posts, and schedule my Twitter and Facebook posts. I do this in fits and spurts in between running my kids to their jobs or social engagements. These marketing tasks don’t need a solid block of focussed time like writing and editing my manuscript or blog does.
I update my marketing material most weekends but if I’ve had a crazy week, I’ll happily take the weekend off to binge Netflix, catch up with my own friends or completely switch my brain off by indulging in my secret pleasure—Candy Crush.
In the middle of all this platform building, I’ve also begun querying agents with my first book. Usually the first task I do of a morning (after my stint on Twitter) is update my query spreadsheet with queries sent, rejections received, or manuscript requests. This gets querying off my mind for the day so that I can focus on my writing.
This is a supremely important aspect that most authors overlook. Don't forget to take care of your physical and mental health. The writer's life can be quite isolating so remember to keep reaching out to friends and family (either in real life or online) for that personal connection.
If it all gets a bit too much, give yourself permission to have a break from your writing and/or social media.
Without you, your book will never be written—so take care of its author!
How to Avoid Becoming Overwhelmed
To avoid becoming overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice out there about what new authors should and shouldn’t do, I decided to pick one expert’s advice to follow. I came across this fantastic blog by Jane Friedman: Unpublished Writers and Websites: Should You Have One and What Should It Say? This set me on the path to begin my author website and blogging journey before becoming published.
I started building an author platform slowly and grew it over the course of a whole year. Naturally, I’m hoping this will grow again in the next twelve months but I will still be taking the slow approach that I did in my first year.
I also only use the social media platforms I’m comfortable with (Twitter and Facebook).
I’ll be the first to admit that having a website and blogging was as scary as all get out in the beginning, but I slowly learned to love both platforms as my confidence grew!
Is Building a Business as an Unpublished Author Worth the Time and Effort?
Here are some real-life examples of why I believe it’s worth it:
I took a punt and pitched a guest blog to my publishing guru mentor, Jane Friedman. Gulp! She like my article and published it on her blog: How and Why to Build a Twitter Following While Unpublished.
I was then contacted by a medium-sized publisher, who had read my guest blog. They requested my full manuscript for review. When I politely advised that I would prefer to secure an agent first, the publisher immediately introduced me to an agent at a large New York literary agency. Alas, that agent is currently closed to queries but I have queried another agent there. Of course, an introduction like this does not guarantee representation but it’s a phenomenal opportunity as an unknown and unpublished author to have doors opened like this.
My historical fiction author Twitter profile caught the attention of Mary Anne Yarde, owner of the historical fiction/romance UK-based blog, The Coffee Pot Book Club. She invited me to be interviewed. Mary Anne introduced me to her other guest bloggers, including Australian best-selling historical romance author, Anna Campbell. When I discovered that Anna was speaking on a panel in my hometown, I mentioned on Twitter that I was looking forward to meeting her. She then invited me to lunch with her and the other panellists. What an honour! I made new and personal connections with half a dozen other authors in my genre.
Being visible and reachable through your author platform is the easiest way to network.
But It’s So Awkward Trying to Brand Myself as an Author Without a Book!
I get it—I really do! I have no published book to my name (yet); however, I do have my author name available to brand and market—and so do you!
Instead of me prattling on about how to brand yourself as an author, I refer you to author-centric book marketer, Shayla Raquel. She has a great blog packed with practical advice like: Book Marketing for Introverts.
Don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter and get a FREE and brilliant Pre-Publishing Checklist!
Also, check out Shayla’s new book: The 10 Commandments of Author Branding: Embrace Authenticity, Gain Book Ambassadors, and Create Your Tribe. It’s written in such a friendly, humorous and approachable tone that it takes a lot of the scariness out of marketing yourself.
Have faith in yourself. Be brave! And follow the advice of your favourite experts.