B is for Balance

by Morgan St. James

Writing and promotion ~ Both are time consuming-but necessary

Balance is something most writers struggle with. Whether it’s in print, electronic or

both, you finally have a book. Don’t think that’s all there is to it, because the work and

balancing act begin now.

If you’re self-published, perhaps only friends and family know about your book. Unless

you’re ordering small quantities produced with print on demand or POD technology, you

probably have a garage full of copies. If you’re published by a royalty-paying publisher,

but there is no promotion on your part, sales could be flat or non-existent. That doesn’t

make for a happy publisher. People simply don’t buy something they don’t know exists.

In this day and age, there are many ways to promote yourself and your book, ranging

from becoming an internet guru to doing personal appearances and joining groups like

Coffee House Tours. These avenues of promotion all have one thing in common they’re

time vampires. How often have you sat at the computer and although it seems like no

time has passed, you swear the clock must be wrong. How can it be that three or four

hours have passed?

Local appearances involve preparation and driving time.

There is no “free lunch” here. If the venue is out of town, add transportation, hotel costs

and other factors. What’s the thing that’s been left out? Time to write the next book.

Picture a circus performer up on a tightrope. He has to balance, because if he doesn’t, he

will fall into the net below. Then add another important factor because authors have

more choices than the fellow slowly making his way across the wire. Progress doesn’t

have to be a linear forward or backward effort. However, it still boils down to one thing:

you have to promote the current book but can’t ignore writing the next one.

Writing is a business

Learn to treat your writing with the same discipline you would a job. For many, it helps to

set up an appointment calendar. I personally create a “punch list” of things I want to

accomplish every day, then tick them off as they are done. If I don’t finish something, I

move it to the next day. Block in the time to do internet promotion, live promotion, the

time to write, the time for fun and recreation. All work and no play makes Jack a dull

boy—remember that one? Add time to interact with your family, etc. At first it might

seem very rigid, but we learn through repetition and eventually it becomes habit. The

advantage is that unless you are on deadline, all you have to do is make adjustments

when life gets in the way of doing things the way you planned them. And, be careful about

getting hijacked by social media. It eats up hours faster than a glutton eating dinner.

Discover a method to stay on track

If that seems too inflexible, develop a method that works for you. A very wise man I

worked for many years ago told me something I’ve never forgotten: “Any system is a

system as long as it works for you.” Thank you, Richard Zentner! I’ve lived by those


One of the worst temptations is to segue into checking internet sites and other activities

that have nothing to do with your promotion time, and I’m certainly no exception. Picture

a vampire sucking the life blood from you. When temptation strikes, hold your ground.

That’s the only way you’ll stay on track. We don’t want a book entitled, Vampire Internet

Turns Author into Zombie.

Try tacking sticky notes by your computer to remind you of things you MUST do. Use a

few different colors to indicate urgent, gotta do soon and can stay on back burner. That

way the urgent ones will jump out at you and when the deed is done, throw that note

away. Unless you need it for reference, don’t amass clutter by keeping notes that are of no

further use to you. Almost every writer I know has enough legitimate clutter to fill several

boxes. It is so sweet to finish something you set out to do!

Keep a follow-up file so you don’t forget to keep the ball rolling on certain things like


Outlook, Google or other calendars with reminders work well for that. All of

a sudden the notes pop up or the buzzer rings, snapping you back into action mode. If you

worry about computer crashes or keeping an electronic calendar doesn’t appeal to you,

an old-fashioned card file sitting on your desk is a good idea. Long-ago, back in the days

when I was a marketing representative, everyone in sales and marketing had one of those

boxes. They were called tickler files, and the index cards were filed by date. Sound like a

possible idea for you? Remember, if another follow-up is called for, just move the card to

the next date, but first make a note on it to remind yourself about the next step. Also

make notes to yourself about things like Martin had a bad cold. It will prompt you to ask

Martin how he feels the next time you speak to him, which makes him feel important

because you remembered. Use cards of different colors to indicate priority or make those

color-coded entries on your digital calendar.

Don’t take on more than you can handle.

“No” is only a two-letter word, but sometimes it’s the hardest one to say. When you stagger under the load of things you’ve committed to, something has to suffer. If it’s the quality of your writing, the entire purpose has been defeated. Whatever you do or commit to, strive for excellence. Don’t accept anything from yourself that doesn’t meet your highest standards.

Remember . . . quality should always win out over quantity.

*Morgan St. James is a multi-genre author with 18 titles and over 600 published articles under her belt. She lives in Las Vegas and is on the board for Writers of Southern Nevada. For more information about Morgan, follow the links below:

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