What is a typical day like for a full-time self-published author? I can’t speak for others, but I can certainly share my own experience.
Not everyone is afforded the luxury of being able to write full-time. In fact, the vast majority of self-published authors have full-time jobs and write only in their spare time. I did this myself for many years. The part-time approach significantly limits what you can accomplish on any given day, but it also inspires you to be more productive with the writing time that you do have available.
Writing full-time is an entirely different experience. Actually, full-time isn’t even the right word to use; over-time would be more telling. When we think of a full-time job, 40 hours a week comes to mind. I spend closer to 80 hours a week plucking away at my keyboard. Even when I am not actively writing, the job is always on my mind.
That is precisely how we should think about our craft – as a job, not as a hobby.
Although we authors love what we do, we still need to consider it as a profession. As your own boss, it takes discipline to keep yourself motivated and on task. Whenever I am thinking of taking a break or postponing a task, I ask myself how an employer would respond to the request in a traditional office setting. More often than not, I have my answer and get back to work.
My Typical Day
An early riser, I am usually up by 6:00 a.m. Within the hour, I will be sitting in a comfortable chair on the rooftop of my home in Vietnam working on my laptop. Currently, the rooftop is my favorite place to write. As the only one who comes up here this early, I am afforded the solitude to focus on my work. At the same time, I am comforted by the white noise of the city – motorbikes passing by, birds singing on their perches, horns beeping in the distance. The view is nice, as well.
Normally, I start off my day by drafting a blog or two while I take in the fresh air and wind myself up for a long day of writing. Being a recent effort, I am finding blogging very rewarding in connecting with readers and fellow authors on a variety of topics. Before posting my own articles, I usually check out recent posts by bloggers that I follow.
After posting my own articles, I review the statistics of my website and look for things that I can improve – new campaigns, formatting, structure, etc. Being fairly new to the process, I might even watch an instructional video or two on how to create or manage a blog. At this point, I am already a good two hours into my day and I still haven’t touched one of my manuscripts.
Due to the time difference between Vietnam and America, I spend the next hour or so going through my social media as this is when my friends are most active. I read through their posts and add a few of my own before getting back to the business of writing.
Not a big fan of breakfast and accustomed to late lunches, I will spend the next few hours on my books. Normally, I will start by working on my latest project. Two or three new chapters is my goal but, when the words are flowing, I might write eight or ten before stopping.
I wouldn’t say that I write fast. When it comes to my prose, I am very meticulous. When a word isn’t quite right for the message I am trying to convey, I Google alternatives. When I describe a setting, I research the city if it actually exists. When describing a character’s profession, I research the industry. Throughout the process, I reread each sentence for self-editing before moving on to the next. It is both a painstaking and enjoyable effort, but there is nothing quick or easy about it.
After lunch, which in my case is normally delivery, I work in my home to get out of the heat of the day. With my blog posts updated and new content added to my current project, I transition to editing.
At any given time, I have at least one manuscript written and one in progress. This is the time of day when I work on my completed manuscripts going back through them line by line for corrections and revisions. If one of my editors has submitted suggested changes, I will address those first. Otherwise, it is my time for self-editing.
On most days, I will spend at least two or three hours on the task. When I have had enough of editing, I will turn to promotions.
If I already have active promotional campaigns running, I will check their progress and log the details for future reference (how many people did I reach, was it worth the cost, should I run the same campaign in the future). If no campaigns are active or the active ones are about to end, I will consider starting some new ones.
Primarily, I run my promotional campaigns through one of three platforms: Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook. Once in a blue moon, I might run a campaign through Twitter or YouTube. The process isn’t cheap and the results vary, so it is important that I scrutinize each one. My two favorite go-to promotions are free giveaways on Amazon or Goodreads. Both are effective at drumming up new readers and often lead to reviews.
Facebook is hit or miss. On that platform, I have run promotions that reached more than 1,000 members without receiving a single click, let alone a purchase. On the other end of the spectrum, I have run Facebook campaigns that generated a high conversion rate.
Typically, I will spend about an hour going through promotions.
Dinner is the same as lunch – delivery. With new strains of the Coronavirus cropping up, I don’t go out much. Even if I did, most of the places I loved to dine at have closed as a result of the pandemic. Eating at home gives me more time to spend with my family.
My evenings begin with focusing on others and end with me time.
When I say “focusing on others,” I am still focusing on the value it adds to my own work. For example, I might read a book that a fellow author has provided for my review. While I may not be a fast writer, I am a fast reader. In writing the review, I am providing a service to the author. At the same time, I get the benefits of reading a good book and posting the review to my blog.
Another example of my time spent focusing on others is communicating with my editors through video chats or emails. I guess you could say that I am still really focusing on myself in that example, but I am not directly engaged in writing prose.
I might use this time to visit self-publishing groups and answer a few questions or offer some advice to aspiring authors. Also, I might use it to reach out to my affiliates or to establish new affiliations.
In total, I usually spend an hour or two on the task of “focusing on others.”
My nights end with me time which is my favorite time of day.
Before her bedtime, I will dance and sing with my daughter to her favorite music videos. I can’t even begin to tell you how sick I am of Baby Shark! Still, I wouldn’t trade those moments for the world. Once Brianna is down for the night, I spend the rest of my evening doing one of three things: watching a movie, reading a book, or playing video games.
Watching a good movie with my wife is something I really enjoy. Unfortunately, there is a language barrier and neither of us is a fan of subtitles. As a result, we don’t watch movies together as often as I would like.
Reading a good book is a great way to spend the late evening. While providing escape and enjoyment, it also gives me insights on how best to develop my characters and lay out my plots. A huge fan of thrillers, I usually read books from the likes of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, Robin Cook, and other pop-fiction authors. On occasion, I will mix in some classic literature here and there.
With video games, I try to play in moderation. In my youth, I got addicted to World of Warcraft. It is a fantastic social game within a vast world, but it makes it far too easy to waste an entire day on gaming. My game of choice now is Hearthstone, also by Blizzard. It is a fairly simple card game that allows you to easily come and go without drawing you into hours of play. If I’m in the mood, I will play for an hour or two before retiring for the night.
So, there you have it – a day in the life of David Maxwell. It is far from glamorous, but it works for me. When the day is done, I wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
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