How Much Time Do You Spend on Promotion?

Have you ever looked carefully at the time you spend promoting your work? I'd always thought I had a good feel for this but recently I had a surprise.

On a one week break recently in a remote place (The English Lake District), I had to make some special arrangements to provide internet access so that I could continue promoting my thriller 'Take No More'. So, I bought and installed a 3G dongle, you know, one of those gizmos that slips into the USB slot on your laptop. It worked fine and I was able to carry on promoting while on holiday.

On holiday? Why not just take a complete break and let the promotion work go. It would only be for one week. Well, no, I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to lose momentum. So, I set out to limit the promtion work to the absolute minimum, to just what was needed to tick over and keep that pecious momentum going. And for the remainder of the time, to have a relaxing and interesting break.

What's the significance of the dongle? Well, it has a feature that tots up your total MB usage (since this is how you pay for using it) and, more significantly, the time you spend using it. What I saw shocked me. During my 7 days away, I'd spent just about the whole of one of those days traveling to and back from the destination. That left six days. And, so the dongle software told me, in those six days I'd spent 24hrs, 13 minutes and 28 seconds online promoting. That's just over 4 hours each day! And that was what I'd taken to be the minimum that was required!

The data provided by the dongle brought into sharp focus the time, as an indie writer, required for a minimum level of promotion. Four hours per day. That's half a working day in any conventional job.

What was I doing? Nothing but the usual stuff. Networking via Facebook, Twittter and G+. Posting and dialoguing in the amazon discussion forums. A small amount of time on Goodreads and Kindle Users Forum. And that's it.

Why was I doing this? Well, it started logically enough with the hard truth that if you write a book no-one is going to read it unless they know about it. So, contacting readers and interesting them in the book is key. And that has to take a degree of priority. You have the next book to write. You have the rest of your life (family, friends, the day job) to cope with but you have to carve out some time for this. And it's not always a chore. You make great friends, you have some laffs and, in a way that I don't fully understand, it's strangley compulsive. But time is what you have to devote to this most important of aspect of the indie writer's life. And, of course, unlike in mainstream publishing where there is a budget for promotion, you have no budget and you know that if anyone is going to get this done, it's got to be you.

How successful was this? Well, in those seven days, 35 copies of 'Take No More' were downloaded. Not so bad, since August is a quiet month. 24 hours of promo. 35 books sold. That's 40 minutes of promotion work per book sold. The revenue generated from the sale of those books is about $50. That's a rate of pay of less that $2 per hour, well below minimum wage. Indie writers are certainly not in it for the money! Or, at least, this indie writer has to be in this for more than just the money!

And how much writing could have been done in that 24 hours of promotion time? Three days at eight hours per day. On three good days like that, 5,000 words per day, that would be about a good chunk of the normal length of a thriller.

The conclusion of the analysis brought on by having that data provided by the dongle software - There has to be a better way!

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Linda Acaster said...

Good grief. But it doesn't surprise me. I do about the same amount though not as targeted and my sales aren't as high, despite the multi 5* reviews. Is that the reason, or are the genres the reason? Who knows. Probably a bit of both.

I, too, am going on holiay soon, 18 days away, and although I'll be picking up emails it isn't the sort of holiday where I'm static enough to put in anything like the normal amount of computer time. So I've been wondering whether to just ditch it altogether, to see what happens. Your post has added more fuel to the fire.

Stuart Aken said...

Great piece of informative writing, Seb. I suspect I'm guilty of the same sort of 'waste' of my valuable time. It's a hard issue, but one which we need to handle sensibly if we're to get the writing done. Thanks for this.

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