How much time should I spend writing vs. marketing my book?

I was recently asked this question in my Facebook group, Candid Conversations on Everything Books. For many authors, writing a series of books is an excellent way to build brand recognition and expertise in various niche markets. However, if you’re thinking of creating a brand like my “21 Ways” book series that lends itself to hundreds of potential titles, you might find yourself spending more of your time writing and less selling, and you may get discouraged at the lack of sales.

When I started writing my “21 Ways” series of books, I spent about an hour outlining topics. In that hour I outlined 18 complete titles for the series, which is a lot! I quickly wrote the first in the series, 21 Ways to Write & Publish Your Non-Fiction Book, since it was to become my big “business card” and be used for expertise in my industry. Then I wrote the second in the series, 21 Ways to Powerfully Network Your Business and quickly realized that in order to complete all 18 books I’d outlined in the series (not to mention the more ideas popping into my head every day), I’d have to spend about 75% of my time writing, which left 25% of my time to manage our clients and market my business and books. I took stock of the time I’d invested in marketing my business over the previous month and realized I needed to flip those percentages, but I really didn’t want to. What to do?

Solution #1: Spend the time

The first solution is to spend the time you want to write your books. This means you’ll need to outsource almost all the marketing, and if you run a business you’ll need to outsource more of those responsibilities as well. If you have a solid residual income, this solution can be a perfect one for you and you can spend your time doing what you love—writing. However, if you still need to work to put food on the table, this isn’t a good option.

Solution #2: Outsource some writing

Since I wanted the “21 Ways” books to be published in a timely manner, I decided to bring in more authors to write other books in the series. By outsourcing the writing, I now have the ability to focus my energy on growing my overall business and we are still able to publish a lot more books than I could have written by myself in a year. This also brings increased brand awareness, as readers who hear about the series from one of our authors usually purchase other books in the series as well. Less work for me, more book sales for my series, and more time I can devote to growing my business.

One thing to note with this solution: It will require that you start your own publishing company. After all, you’ll want to keep control of how your book series appears in the marketplace, and the only way to do that is to run all the production through your own team. It also means you’ll need to track royalties as you get paid for book sales and pay your authors each quarter. Book sales are reported by distributors every quarter, so you may need to hire a trained VA or learn to do this task yourself. It can add a few hours’ worth of work to your load each quarter, but having many other authors selling your series of books for you is a nice payoff.

Writing vs. Marketing

This is every author’s biggest conundrum. How much time should you spend marketing your books? And how much time should you spend writing more? Each book you write adds credibility to your name, and if you tie the books into a series it builds a reputation for that series, which in turn creates more sales. However, if you spend all your time marketing you’ll have no time left for writing and reaching new audiences. And if your passion is writing and you hate marketing, you’ll tend to shy away from spending time doing the grunt work.

The bottom line is this: If you don’t spend time marketing your books, don’t complain about your lack of sales. It’s hard for people to buy something when they don’t know it exists! Even if you only spend ten minutes a day marketing your book, which is only 1% of the average person’s waking hours, your sales will increase over time. However, most people spend more than ten minutes just on social media, and there are thousands of other ways to market your books. If you set a goal for ten minutes a day, you’ll naturally find yourself going past that limit.

Now, 1% isn’t much time, unless you have a full-time 40-hour-a-week job, a full-time business that demands most of your own waking hours, children, and you still need to find time to cook dinner. You’re probably already overwhelmed with daily tasks just to live “life,” so don’t overwhelm yourself further with writing and marketing your books. If you can only do 10 minutes a day, then do that. And if you can do more, you’ll see greater results.

I personally recommend you split your time 50/50: 50% of your scheduled “book” time to be spent writing, 50% spent on marketing your existing (or soon-to-be-released) books. Take your weekly calendar and block out some “book” time for yourself. Then divide this time in half between writing and marketing. Your writer side will feel fulfilled because you’re still allowing yourself to create and your confidence will grow as you see tangible results when book sales flow in.

I’ve heard this statement spoken by every published author I meet, “I thought writing the book was the hard part, until I started researching publishing. Now that it’s published I realize marketing is the hardest part.” Marketing doesn’t usually come naturally to writers. Unless you’re independently wealthy and can spend all your time in a closet writing the day away (ie: unless you’re Stephen King), you’ll need to schedule some butt-in-chair marketing time to let the masses know about your book.

Photo courtesy Shutterstock, Sfio Cracho

Leave a Comment

  • Theresa
    April 3, 2014

    It is easy to find people to write (badly) but finding someone to market your book is hard. They know so much more about marketing than I do I am not sure what to tell them to do…and what I should pay for what part of the marketing. I would love to see an article on outsourcing the marketing.

  • Tienny
    April 3, 2014

    Yes, marketing is the most headache thing 🙁