Posted On February 20, 2013 by Print This Post

Oliver Rhodes: How to be a more successful author by doing less

Some days it seems like you need the powers of Wonder Woman just to get through emails. Finding the time and energy to write AND tackle social media can be overwhelming. Today Oliver Rhodes explains why it isn’t necessary to do everything. In fact, you may become more successful by doing less. Without further ado, heeeere’s Oliver!

I wonder how many of us made a stack of New Year’s resolutions that we’re now struggling to keep as we find that there just aren’t enough hours in the day?

Make that first submission? Find an agent? Self-publish your first book? Increase your twitter followers? Set up your own website?

One of my favourite quotes is from time management guru David Allen:

“You can do anything, but not everything.”

So maybe rather than ‘what are you going to do this year?’ the question should be ‘what are you not going to do this year?’ or even better ‘what is someone else going to do for you this year?’

What can you stop doing?

I truly believe that there has never been a better time to be an author than today. The barriers to both publishing and marketing your work have been broken down and there are so many more opportunities than ever before.

Of course, with great opportunity comes a challenge to stand out from the crowd – and a whole lot of work.

Not only do you need to be a skilled writer, but also a marketer, publicist, blogger and webmaster. And just as you’ve mastered one social network, along come another two…

Even for authors who are lucky enough to write full-time, this is a handful. If you add in a job and family commitments, it can be nigh on impossible.

Good strategy is as much about what you don’t do as what you do. Spreading yourself too thinly can just mean that none of your time is spent effectively.

1. Be clear about what your aims are;
2. Decide what the key actions are to achieve your aims;
3. Prioritize – devote time to your key actions, and scale back or stop whatever is secondary.

If your aim is to get an agent, then focus your time on polishing your manuscript and sending targeted submissions. Perhaps developing your friend network on Goodreads and Pinterest can take a back seat for now.

Whichever route you chose remember that, at the heart of it, an author’s time is best spent writing and revising – creating the best books that you possibly can. That’s what will get you an agent, a publisher and win you an army of loyal readers.

Writing is also the one thing that you can’t outsource. Pretty much everything else, you can.

What can someone else do for you?

If you can’t do everything yourself, but aren’t ready to scale back on your ambitions, getting professional help could be then answer.

It’s incredibly easy today to outsource anything from copywriting to web-design. Yes, it does require some investment but, if it allows you to spend your time more effectively, it could just be worth it.

Websites like elance.com and guru.com are fantastic for putting you in touch with freelance professionals. They allow you to source quotes for your job and to select your preferred supplier based on their price and previous ratings. And as suppliers are competing for your business, the price is kept low.

Editing
Getting professional feedback on your manuscript is invaluable in getting it ready for publication, but if you don’t already have a publisher, waiting for scraps of feedback from agents and publishers can be a long and frustrating process.

Why not take charge of this yourself and hire an editor? Both elance.com and guru.com offer plenty of freelance Editing professionals or, you could go with an established company like Kirkusreviews.com.

Book cover design
Unless you’re a trained designer, I’d never suggest designing your own book cover – especially as there are plenty of great designers out there at a reasonable price. Here are just a few…

Damonza.com
Bookcoversforall.com
Thebookdesigner.com

Website design
Yes, it is easier and cheaper than ever before to create your own website. In fact I’d whole-heartedly recommend it. But if the thought of having to learn about everything from web hosting to search engine optimization fills you with dread, then there are other options.

Elance and Guru.com are full of web designers or you could work with established companies like MoxieDesignStudios.com, DiscoverWriters.com or AuthorMedia.com.

They’ll help guide you through the maze of web-design, saving you the research time and frustrations of learning as you go.

Publicity
Especially if you’ve self-published your book, hiring a publicist can be a good way of saving your time as well as dramatically increasing your chances of coverage.

Look for someone with experience in your genre – they’re more likely to have contacts that can help get you that review or interview.

Publishing
Of course, it’s not always thought of as outsourcing, but effectively Publishers handle the editing, design, distribution, marketing and publicity of your work – for a share of the revenue.

If you’re looking at publishing, either traditional or digital, be clear about what the deal buys you. Yes, sometimes you give a lot away compared to self-publishing but, if a publisher adds value to your work and frees up more of your time to write, it could be well worth it.

Everything else
Perhaps an easier way is to outsource something else from your routine? Would having a cleaner free up the time you need to devote to agent submissions?

Achieving more by doing less

Whatever your aims are for this year, like New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy to see them fall by the wayside.

Having clear aims is a great first step. Being ruthless about using your time effectively and outsourcing where you can are two key tactics of improving your chances of achieving those aims.

Remember: You can do anything, but not everything.

***

Have you ever outsourced anything related to your writing? Do you have any recommendations? Let us know via the comments section.

Friday’s originally scheduled post by Adam Firestone has been rescheduled to next Thursday, February 28.

***

Bio:
Oliver Rhodes is the Founder of Bookouture – a digital publisher of romance and women’s fiction. Recently picked by The Bookseller as one of their ‘Rising Stars’ of 2012, he’s passionate about building global author brands.

Formerly Marketing Controller at Harlequin UK, Oliver has worked in publishing for over 12 years. Some of his highlights from his time at Harlequin include launching Mills & Boon’s New Voices online writing competition and rapidly growing it’s MIRA imprint – establishing authors such Debbie Macomber, Diane Chamberlain, Susan Wiggs and Alex Kava in the UK market.

www.twitter.com/ollyrhodes

www.twitter.com/bookouture

www.bookouture.com

www.oliver-rhodes.com

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22 Responses to “Oliver Rhodes: How to be a more successful author by doing less”

  1. Interesting post. I agree that you have to prioritize to achieve a worthwhile result. Whilst social networking is key to a book’s success. You have to write something worth marketing and publicizing first. So I am concentrating on the writing and revising. When my submissions are successful I will spend more time on the marketing. After all writing is what I enjoy and what I want to succeed at.

    Posted by Jane Hunt | February 20, 2013, 5:30 am
    • Thanks for the comment Jane. I agree writing certainly has to come first. It’s never too soon to start forging social media connections, but your time does need to be focused.
      Good luck with finding the right balance for you!

      Posted by Oliver Rhodes | February 20, 2013, 6:15 am
  2. Great post! A professional website is a must for an author, but it’s a Catch 22. Before you’re published you don’t really need one. And after you make your first sale things get so crazy it’s impossible (at least it was for me) to take on the task of creating one on your own. The money I laid out to have a professional design my website was well spent in my opinion. I pay a small monthly fee for hosting which entitles me to 15 minutes of updating each month for major changes. But most updates I can go in and do myself.

    I also hire a virtual assistant for two months whenever I have a book coming out. She helps me to update my new book covers and blurbs on websites. She helps get my books out to reviewers and helps with any promo blog visits I have scheduled. She’ll also set up a blog tour if I need it. And she helps spread the word about my release. Again, money well spent, in my opinion.

    I enjoy social media (maybe a little too much), and would never think of hiring someone to do that for me, even though it can be a HUGE time suck. After two years as a published author and six books, I’m still working on effective time management!

    Posted by Wendy S. Marcus | February 20, 2013, 8:09 am
  3. Hi Oliver,

    Never lose sight of writing a good book is key advice. Even if you’re published, this should always come first.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | February 20, 2013, 8:11 am
  4. Morning Oliver!

    Great post! I think I’ve done it all in the reverse order – made my website and blog, facebook and twitter accounts and got those moving and shaking and THEN discovered I didn’t have time to actually write the book! One morning I was taking photos for my blog and kept thinking why am I doing this? I need to finish the book before anyone really CARES!

    So I stepped back and am now going the “sane” route. Mostly….=) Book first, then promo. At least everything is set up for if (when) I do get the call – but good grief Carrie – finish the book first!

    Thanks for a great post!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 20, 2013, 8:32 am
  5. A good article and a very true one. As writers we often forget writing (article, novel, novella, etc.)is the number one thing we need to do promote ourselves. It’s just not the easiest-which is why sometimes I spend an hour on Twitter (promoting myself of course).
    I did outsource editing for my first novel and it was invaluable (and saved me a lot of time).
    Your article just reminded me what is important.

    Thanks :)

    Posted by Juliette Springs | February 20, 2013, 8:50 am
  6. Oliver –

    I always enjoy your columns, and they seem to come at the right time for me :-). Even with some outsourcing, it can seem overwhelming when you have your first book coming out. Any recommendations for a debut author to get her arms around the most critical priorities?

    If it were just as simple as “you need a website first” for me, that might be easier, but I’d already built my site and presence. Now, I feel like I need to take the next step. I have lists and lists – LOL.

    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 20, 2013, 10:16 am
    • Hey Kelsey,
      Glad they’re helpful – and very exciting about your first release!
      For me, an author’s long-term success is all about readers (which is why devoting time to writing is so important). Your release is a great opportunity to connect with readers and bloggers as I’m sure Carina will line up some great publicity.
      So my advice would be to set a short term goal around publication of connecting with those people via social media. I’m a big fan of Goodreads in particular – there’s a post over on my blog.
      Once the burst of attention around publication has subsided, then the focus can be back to writing!

      Posted by Oliver Rhodes | February 20, 2013, 10:43 am
  7. Oliver – I know a lot of authors will be bookmarking this post!

    Prioritizing is all well and good, but there are only so many hours in the day. These are all great suggestions!

    You don’t mention book trailers, book banners, etc. What is your opinion of those – is it worth the money to have someone do them professionally?

    I’ve occasionally bought a book because I liked the trailer and I find them entertaining, but a lot of authors seem to be skipping them. What do you think about extras like these?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | February 20, 2013, 10:37 am
    • Hi Becke, great question!

      With book trailers, I think it depends entirely on your audience. If you’re writing anything with a YA or paranormal slant, then a book trailer can be really effective, because readers of these genres are very active on YouTube.

      At Bookouture we recently created a trailer for Lindsay J. Pryor’s paranormal romance debut Blood Shadows and we’ve had over 600 views in 3 months, which is a reasonably good result.

      Of course how effective your trailer is also depends on the quality… I’ve seen a lot of very bad book trailers.

      In terms of a return on your investment, I wouldn’t expect a trailer to pay back straight away… but the great thing about online video is that it could still be attracting readers (and paying you back) in 5 years time.

      Thinking about it, this could maybe be a post in itself…

      Posted by Oliver Rhodes | February 20, 2013, 10:55 am
  8. I agree about the quality making a big difference. I’ve seen some very good trailers for contemporary romances and a few for paranormals. I haven’t seen a lot of trailers for historicals. When it comes to book trailers, I have similar thoughts about book covers. If they are going to show a character from the book, I want the description in the book to match the image, at least to some degree!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | February 20, 2013, 11:48 am
  9. Great info. Yes, it can all be very overwhelming especially if you’re like me and think you’re a Jackie of all trades (big mistake.) Thanks for the info, particularly about the book cover designers. Have you personally used any of the cover designers you recommended?

    Your bio website hyperlink links directly to email. Not sure if that’s how you set it up. I usually email men after I’ve visited their websites – even if they are British. But I think I’m about to make an exception :-)

    Posted by Grace | February 20, 2013, 12:29 pm
    • Hi Grace, I haven’t used any of these designers myself, but I wanted to reference designers who are open to working with self-published authors too. The cover designers that I work with only work directly with publishers – we keep them busy enough already! Having said that, the ones that I’ve picked out are people that I’ve been aware of for several years (I’m a bit of a book cover geek) and have very solid portfolio.
      And sorry about the e-mail link – is that on the RU site or mine? Look forward to hearing from you ;)

      Posted by Oliver Rhodes | February 20, 2013, 3:06 pm
  10. Hi Oliver,

    Writing is a lonely business. Social media sites like FB and Twitter allow writers needed interaction. While I want to support my writer friends by retweeting and responding to their comments and blog posts, I know I should be writing.

    Social media gurus tell us that building a platform is key to selling books, but if I don’t have a horse in the race, it’s a moot point!

    Thank you for another fabulous post!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | February 20, 2013, 2:24 pm
  11. Dear Oliver,

    Finally—a voice of sanity amid
    a sea raging in cross-currents!

    I look forward to submitting
    to such a forward-thinking publisher!

    Posted by Síle Post | February 20, 2013, 8:18 pm
  12. Sometimes it helps to think of a time/money conversion. For example, I found an inexpensive source for e-book conversion (Liberwriter), so it’s not worth my time to do that part, even if I got better and could do a quality conversion in a couple of hours. I have my website through the Authors Guild, which isn’t free, but it’s reasonably priced and I can quickly and easily build and update it myself – that makes more sense the hiring someone and not only paying their fees, but getting delayed by their schedule, and it makes more sense than having a time-consuming, less attractive free website.

    I’m lucky in that I have a lot of professional colleagues with whom I can do trades for cover design, editing, etc. Even then, it’s worth paying attention to the hours I put in, and how much I could make if I were spending that time on an article or work for hire book.

    Figure out the value of your time – especially if you could spend that time doing something that makes money. Estimate how long it would take you to do whatever task. Find out how much it would cost to hire somebody else to do it. If your time is worth $25 an hour, and it would take you four hours to do something, but you could hire someone else to do it for $50, you are better off hiring someone (assuming they would do it at least as well as you would).

    Posted by Kris Bock | February 21, 2013, 9:58 am

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