This post first appeared on RT Book Reviews. If you missed it there, today's your lucky day!
Workflow. It’s a common business term that describes how a project moves from inception to completion. It is a simple, powerful way to get things done. For writers, the concept of workflow is intrinsic—we start a novel, we finish a novel. We start a short story, blog post, interview, we finish and submit. But if you think in broader terms, workflows can be applied to all aspects of your writing business.
Business. That pesky word again. Writing is a business. Those who treat it as such reap the rewards and build their readership. We can’t escape it—marketing and PR falls partially (sometimes fully) on the authors now. If you find ways to automate the most mundane tasks, you free up time to write.
This is probably old news to established writers, but for the ones who are getting their start, establishing this kind of organizational structure to your writing business now will save you so many headaches down the line.
Though we act in the art of creation, there are still hundreds of moving parts that can be wrestled into some semblance of order to make your life run easier and smoother.
Do you blog? Find a service that will deliver your blog directly to your social media accounts so you don’t need to post directly. Dlvr.it is superb for this. Want to post to Twitter at regular times, but don’t want to log in four times a day? (because hello, time suck!) My team uses Buffer, which allows us to automate and schedule well in advance. Even Facebook now has scheduling in advance, so you can sit down once a week and populate your feed with great content. Set it and forget it, which allows you to spend the time doing what social media is supposed to do for you—engage. When you’re done writing for the day, talk to your readers. Chat with them. Get to know them. Build a community. Your content is only as good as your relationships with the people in your networks.
But workflow can be much more robust than simply automating your posting to social media. Let’s take a book, for example. For every book you write, you already know the actions that have to take place. Develop your idea, create a synopsis, outline the book (or pants it, like me, based on the general idea of what’s happening) finish the book, edit the book, edit it again, deliver to beta readers, edit again, deliver to agent/editor, line edit, copy edit, last pass pages. Meanwhile, the business side kicks in—cover art is developed, sales get underway, marketing plans are written, PR begins, then you have release day, promotional tours, etc.
For those of you who are indie, the process is similar, but you’re the one doing the work, hiring the art and editing, establishing the marketing, setting up the PR, deciding on sale price and release time. Plus doing all of the backlist promotion you do, scheduling discount sales, etc.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking through our process.
When I hired my author assistant in 2015, one of the things we worked on first was automation and workflow. We try not to reinvent the wheel every time a new book comes out. Add in we’re self-publishing through our own press and juggling multiple houses on the traditional side, and believe me, the established workflows have saved our bacon more than once.
Here’s a typical workflow we use when we’re looking at scheduling a book launch. It’s very top-line, because each project is slightly different, but you’ll get the gist.
As you can see, the step-by-step process makes it easy on us both. We know once the book is listed on Amazon, we put the cover up on the website. We know when to change our Facebook, Twitter and website banners to announce on-sale dates. We plan what information goes into which newsletter. We break everything down across the board as such:
Project → Tasks → Subtasks.
Once you build the workflow, it’s there, and you don’t need to think about anything but content creation.
We have to be flexible, of course, because every project is its own beast. New opportunities arise. A blog that normally features us goes defunct. Contacts move on. But in general, this flow takes us through, making it easier on both of us. We apply this basic structure to every project, putting in place a general workflow the moment a deal is done.
Now to the other side of the coin. I believe very deeply in this concept: your art is your business. At the same time, you have to create your art in order to have a business. That means finding pockets of deep work time which allow you to focus on nothing but writing.
For some of you, the business side comes naturally. For others, it doesn’t. And that’s perfectly okay. There’s an easy solution for both writing brains: help. There are amazing author assistants out there who are trained to help you manage the business side of things. I think it’s very important to find people to work with who are fun, flexible, and dedicated to helping you be your best.
For those who think the cost of hiring help is insurmountable, let me say this: words equal money. The more time you spend writing and creating, the faster your business will grow. An author assistant can help you automate, create workflows, and in general free up your precious time so you can write. They can do as much or as little as you need. Even in only an hour a week, they can draft a monthly newsletter and program your social media for the week, and you can spend that time writing. It adds up. Say you can write 1,000 words in an uninterrupted hour. That hour a week you offload some business on an author assistant can add up to 52,000 words in a year. I think that’s worth $25 a week, don’t you?
Even if you don’t have the extra money to spend, you can get help. Contact your local college English department. They are always looking to place interns. These incredible young adults are tech savvy, social media aware, and bring so much to the table. They get first-hand experience in writing and publishing, and you get that extra hour a week for your deep work.
We all want to be more productive. Proactive planning, comprehensive workflows, and finding deep work time will get you there.
Here are some tools to get you started:
Freedom – the gold standard for tuning out distractions by shutting down your internet
Dlvr.it – automating social media feed systems from your blog
Author Rx – Mel Jolly has a ton of resources on finding author assistants
Buffer – The best service for scheduling and sending links out to the world