Time is our most precious commodity, but we spend too much effort and thought–too much time–on stuff that actually holds us back. We also avoid a couple of things that make all the difference. Let’s look at five things authors should quit doing.
Time, Our Most Precious Commodity
Y’all, time is our most precious commodity. You can’t slow it down or get it back. The only thing you can do is me mindful of how you use it. Do I mean you need to be busy and working and hustling 24/7/365? Not at all. Rest and rejuvenation are essential ways to use time.
However, there are ways authors can safeguard writing time and make the most of it. Some of these might surprise you.
I am especially concerned for new authors because I have personally made every one of these mistakes, much to my regret. Here are five things authors should quit doing.
Number One – Quit Comparing Yourself to Experienced, Bestselling Authors
I mean it. Stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle or ending. Does that make sense?
Experienced, bestselling authors have been at this business for awhile. Their sales tactics and writing strategies won’t necessarily work for newer authors. An author with a backlist of 7-10 books is going to have a different, more refined set of skills than an author with 0, 2, or even 4 books.
New writers need to be focused on spending the hours and writing the words to achieve mastery of your artform. On getting to the end. On seeking critique. On revising their work. And on publishing. Rinse and repeat.
Also, tactics change over time, and the things your idols did when they were getting started don’t necessarily work anymore.
For example, I talked about whether or not authors should spend time blogging in Episode 33; the answer isn’t black and white, of course, but don’t blindly follow in someone’s footsteps, trying to imitate everything they did back then, including blogging.
We all start at page zero. We all begin with no published work. Learn from more experienced authors—sure—but stop comparing your results to theirs and blindly copying what they do; that’s a terrible waste of time.
Number Two – Quit Abandoning Projects
Oh, yeah. This one kinda bites. If we each had $100 dollars for every project we abandoned after the first five chapters, we could go on a nice vacation, right?
This is your coach speaking. It’s okay to stop writing a project you just can’t figure out.
I know, it seemed so promising. You loved the main character. The world building was thrilling. But, something just wasn’t right. You lost confidence in the idea, and you decided to put it away.
Here’s the problem: you need to practice finishing manuscripts, so I am going to give you a strategy to use from now on. You’re going to say I’m crazy, but hear me out. This will make the time you “wasted” on a project count for something.
Skip the middle and write an ending.
Maybe it won’t be THE ending. Maybe it won’t be a great ending. Just brainstorm a conclusion to the story based on what you have written so far.
Write a pie-in-the-sky, happily-ever-after ending. Or destroy the universe. Write an ending to the story as you know it. The content of the ending doesn’t matter as much as getting to The End. And who says you can’t write two or more endings?
Now, put the project aside if you want. Carefully store your abandoned manuscript in an archive of potential ideas. You never know when something will click about an old story idea.
Getting to The End, be it ever so frustrating, is a valuable use of time. It is a valuable experience. Stop abandoning projects and tossing them in File Thirteen; practice getting to The End.
Number Three – Quit Creating Your Own Covers
If you are a trained designer, then knock yourself out. Obviously, this tip doesn’t apply to you.
Yes, I have created a book cover on my own, and it even turned out okay. BUT, I spent days learning Photoshop to turn out an okay cover when I should have hired a cover designer to create a fantastic cover. Do I remember what I learned in Photoshop? Not one bit.
I can hear you saying, “Canva is easier.” But Canva is not Illustrator or Photoshop. Stop it. Just stop.
Your book cover is the first thing a buyer sees, and its importance cannot be exaggerated. Readers see hundreds of covers in a single buying session, and you don’t want your cover to stand out for the wrong reasons.
Your cover has a fraction of a second on Amazon or on a bookshelf to be evaluated.
Hoard your nickels, dimes, and dollars. Stop going to Starbucks. Do whatever you have to do to hire a good cover designer and save your time for writing the next book.
If you simply do not have the money to hire a designer, then purchase a pre-made cover; more than likely, it will be better than you can design yourself, and it will save you load of time.
Number Four – Quit Avoiding Critique
Oops, there’s another one that applies to me. But every time—Every time!—I took the time to seek critique, my work improved by miles and swiftly too.
Wait. How is this going to save me time? It takes time to garner critiques. Often you need to take the time to critique someone else’s work while you wait for them to critique yours. How does that save time?
Two ways. You learn from someone else’s mistakes, and you get help spotting your weaknesses. So you become a better writer sooner.
The trick is to be choosy about your critique partners, to find that person you can trust to tell you the truth in a way you can respect.
A good critique partner will save you time, buckets of time, in the long run. Your writing can improve much sooner if you seek out critique.
Your work will be ready for prime time much sooner if you stop avoiding thoughtful criticism.
Get out there and beat the bushes to find a partner or a small group of authors willing to swap critiques. Grow a thick skin and bite the bullet. This is a good way to use your time to save time in the end.
Number Five – Quit Waiting to Create an Email List
You knew I was going to say that. I’ve been telling my authors to create an email list since long before Writing Pursuits started. Neglecting to build an email list is the biggest mistake I made as a new author, and it continues to be something I regret. Make building a list a priority.
- Write a short story and format it on Draft2Digital.
- Put it up on BookFunnel and create a landing page.
- Share your landing page link and continue to share it.
- When you have one subscriber, start sending out a newsletter every month.
- If you don’t know how to communicate with your subscribers or even if you believe you do, read Tammi Labrecque’s Newsletter Ninja book. Building a reader community is supposed to be fun.
Do not overcomplicate having an email list. Sign up for a free Mailerlite or ConvertKit account and get started building your list.
Spending time on your list is never time wasted, and when your book launches, at least someone who has downloaded your short story and stayed on your email list will know who you are and buy your book.
Every mailing list starts at zero. You must earn your readers. That’s the truth. So stop waiting to create your mailing list.
Avoid My Mistakes
As I said before, I have made all of these mistakes. All of them. And I want to help you avoid making the same mistakes.
What are some things you need to quit doing to succeed as an author? Leave your comments below.