Sunday, October 04, 2009

Promo or Procrastination?

It's Anneliese's week to post. For all you Ms. Kelly fans out there, I'm sorry to report that she won't actually be posting--I have bribed her and stolen her promo time! (The deal was that I'd take over her blogging duties while she completed a major editing request from me. Since I didn't give her nearly enough advanced notice for the editing, it seemed like the least I could do!)

This actually brings me to my topic for the day: the clashing hats we wear as writers. Lately I've been really good about wearing that promo hat. But it's been stuck on my head so long, I'm wondering if it's really about procrastination. After all, if I'm promoting myself then I'm doing legitimate "writing work"... all without actually having to write!

As she so often does, Debbie Ridpath captured this dilemma perfectly (click on the picture for a bigger view):
There have been several great articles out there about social networking for writers. I don't mean to knock any of them. And I certainly believe the excellent advice over at 1st Turning Point: in today's marketing climate, writers have to establish their identity before they're even published!

But the same people who've encouraged me to promote myself are also the same people who'd remind me that social networking is no substitute for actually writing. Nobody can buy your book if you're not writing. And nobody will buy your second book if your first book was a phone-in flop. In short, we must balance promotion with output!

I've been doing an okay job, but I feel that I could definitely improve. And so it is that, even as I take over for Anneliese this week, I'll be looking for ways to wear my writing hat more often. Here are some of the experiments I'll be trying this week:

(1) Keep off the internet during my writing time! I will set a timer. While the minutes are ticking down, I can only be working in Microsoft Word.

(2) Provide mental separation between writing and promo. I heard about this trick from a friend who worked at home! He was feeling incredibly unproductive and someone suggested to him that he get up every morning at a set time and then prepare as if he were actually going to an office (shower, pre-make lunch, pack a briefcase, etc). He'd do this, and then he'd leave the house, walk around the block, and come inside. It was no longer his home... it was, for the duration of his work day, the office. I'm going to try something similar in my attempts to draw that line between writing and promo. I'll let you know how it goes!

(3) Limit promo time. I'm going to bust out the timer again. Maybe I'll set goals for my promo (as many people do for their writing). That way, I won't be working over or under my goal... in theory, at least!

My experiment starts today. I'd love your support! Please post an encouraging word or two. Also, I'd love to hear how you manage your writing/promo time.


Vivi Andrews said...

It can be a very tricky balance. If I'm too easily distracted by promo and procrastination, I like to change my environment. I'll bring my laptop to a restaurant and have a working lunch. Or sometimes I'll go work in a library or a bookstore. It gets me focused again to get out of my usual surroundings.

Anna Richland said...

I only write, not promo, when I'm out and about. It is like a big mental wall for me - if I'm paying for a latte or a lunch or a beer, I darn well better have page count to tell my husband and the fridge chart at the end of the day. Not so motivated at home, and especially not lately when I've been editing instead of writing. I too need to get focused.

Chassily Wakefield said...

I'll be very interested in hearing how this works for you, Kate! I'm having the same problem, which seems ridiculous since I don't even have a finished book to promote. What am I promoting?? But "everyone" says even unpublished authors have to do this now, so off we go. It's at least fun, and easy, and I've met tons of great people this way! But the writing... the writing does suffer. The timer sounds like a good solution, maybe I'll test that out this week, too. With conference coming up there may not be that much time anyway... *sigh* All the best, and I'll see you soon. :)

Ciara said...

I've been guilty, especially last year, of spending all my time networking with writers online and little time actually writing. Kate Duffy said in an interview "Get off the internet and Write!" and that has stuck with me this year. Cherry Adair has also been motivating in getting my butt in gear to finish the damn book. I cancelled my twitter account and, even though I have a shiny new website, I've cut blogging to only once or twice a week. There's no point in promo if one doesn't have a squeaky clean manuscript to pitch. :P (of course, as of Thursday I have a squeaky clean manuscript to pitch. I just have to brave the rejection lions and pitch the darn thing!)

Good luck Kate!

Kate Diamond said...

Hey Ciara! Congrats on having that squeaky clean manuscript to pitch.

Anna Richland said...

So, I'm going to immediately put the lie to yesterday's comment that I only write, not promo, when I'm out and about with my laptop.

I'm sitting in a creperie (I love Ballard!) and I've finished registering two manuscripts for the Golden Heart Contest. So that's not really promo and not really writing. Now I have to polish up that second one (or at least the first 50 pages of it). And write a dreaded synopsis.

OFF the internet I must go... good luck all.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Best of luck with this! I definitely need to turn off email while I'm writing--or at least the volume on notification. That little chime always has me thinking that I'm missing something desperately important when really it could totally wait.

Michele Staci said...

Kate, good luck and I'm interested to know how all of it works out for you. Because as Chassily said in her post, I'm also an unpublished writer with really nothing to promote right now and since I'm a single parent who has to work to keep a roof over mine and my son's head, when do I find the time to write, let alone promote myself? I've been really neglectful these past few months and now I have nothing to show for the ECWC coming up next weekend. But I might try some of your techniques and see how they work for me. Thank you and good luck!

Carolyn Crane said...

Kate - I LOVE this!! You are so right on. I know the promo is important, but it's so easy to get sucked in. Especially Twitter. I find that if I do twitter before my writing time, it sort of distracts me for the whole time, like, I will know there is a party going on in the other room, even if I then hunker down to write. I have two timers on my computer and I do hour increments, and then I can take a break for 10 minutes and visit blogs or handle emails. And I turn off my email during my writing time, too. Of course that goes out the window if I have a work deadline.

I hope you give us an update in a couple weeks to let us know how you stuck to your schedule.

Anneliese Kelly said...

Kate, thanks for being productive (even with promo) when I'm failing miserably at ANY kind of writing success :)

I should get my PhD in about 4 years. That's my only excuse.

Trillion McKnight said...

Came across this site by accident and loved it. I've completed one manuscript and 3 other in process. I think I need a CP so if you ladies know anyone, that would be great. I work for a publishing company who does self-help titles but I think they might be expanding into romance soon. Anyway, if you know anyone who is interested, let me know since we all need to help each other. You can each me at

Dawhud said...

I totally have to agree on this. This is one of those things in which when you get the clout and money you can have some exec. assistant, manager or publicist deal with. But, alas we all have to wear many hats. I remember the issue I found was I would go into these times of a lot of gigs or a lot of networking, but the music was not being finished. I had to seriously lessen a lot of the promo and almost totally stop doing gigs to finish a product. I have found when in-between projects or in the editing phase/post production phase I was able to really work on a lot of promo because the BIG bulk of work was finished.

Just my 2 cents. Don't know if that says anything or not. HA

Ann Charles said...

Hey Kate,

I got up early this morning to work on my synopsis for book 2 in my series (for which my agent is tapping her foot while she waits), yet here I am on your blog. "GUILTY" is now stamped on my forehead. Some good ideas here, and some very sound advice about writing AND promoting.

It's so hard to switch hats, and as I prepare to go back to writing after half a year of wearing the promotion hat, I find I'm procrasting way more than I should be.

Thanks for the kick in the hiney!

Ann C.

Kate Diamond said...

Alyssa, I know what you mean about the chime. I turn the volume off on my laptop when I write... but then I'm tempted to keep checking my email, "just in case."

Carolyn--I made a conscious decision not to Twitter. I would love your thoughts on how you feel it helps you with promo!

Anneliese, I think getting your PhD counts as a pretty valid excuse!