Today I’m talking about a common question I get asked all the time: how much time do you spend writing and how much time on marketing?
You can watch the video below or here on YouTube, or read the transcript below.
In the video, I cover:
- The (incorrect) assumption that the job of a writer is just writing, but it has always included marketing.
- Marketing generally IS writing, whether you're blogging, prepping for a video or a podcast, or writing social media, writing text is the cornerstone of marketing.
- The question implies that only the ‘writing' side is valid, whereas marketing can also achieve some of the goals of writing e.g. many people who have found my videos and audio podcast useful have not read my books, but I have still been useful on their author journey.
- Organizing your time is about splitting it into creative blocks and marketing blocks, so you can effectively find time for both.
For more marketing tips, check out How to Market a Book, available in ebook, print, and audiobook formats.
Full transcription of the video
Hello, creatives. I'm Joanna Penn, from TheCreativePenn.com. And today I'm answering a common question that a lot of people ask me, which is how much time do you spend writing and how much time do you spend marketing?
This comes up an awful lot, so I thought I'd tackle it. And first of all, it implies that a writer's job is just writing, whereas actually, it's always included marketing.
In the olden days, pre-internet, writers would get fan mail in the post, actual physical letters, some still do, and they would answer those letters. There are some great pictures of Hemingway standing up at his typewriter answering his letters every afternoon.
People would always do interviews, they would go on physical tours, to bookstores, or to fairs or different things. Charles Dickens used to go around speaking.
Marketing is part of an author's life, however, you want to think about it.
The other thing is that marketing is mostly writing when you're a writer. For example, I prepared this video by writing. I wrote out a script, which I've got here with me.
When I blog and when writers blog to support their books, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, they are writing and that writing is marketing. Some of those blog posts might turn into a book.
For example, for me, The Successful Author Mindset started out as a blog post on my website, The Creative Penn. And then I expanded that into a book.
For many people, writing is marketing.
Also, the question implies that writing is the really good bit and marketing is the bad bit, that's what the question sounds like to me.
Whereas marketing itself can be useful and help people and entertain people and inspire people.
What is book marketing? Let's take this video and blog post for example. This is marketing, surprisingly. I am talking about my books, being here with you, it's my personal brand, hopefully helping you as well.
And that's really the point, is that with my YouTube channel, with my blog, with my podcast, these are technically marketing activities. But they also inspire, educate, and sometimes entertain. So marketing can actually have an impact in the same way that our writing can.
For example, I've met a lot of people who listen to my audio podcast, who've said that through the podcast, they've learned things that have really helped their author career even though they've never bought one of my books. And this is what's so fascinating to me.
Marketing itself can achieve the goal of what we want writing to do.
When I write non-fiction, I want to help other writers with what I've learned, but I can also help other writers with what I've learned by doing videos or doing audios or blogging.
So when you think about the balance between writing and marketing, don't think of them as entirely separate.
Try and think of how you can integrate marketing in a sustainable way for you that's creative and also meets the goals of what you want for your writing, which generally will involve entertaining people, inspiring people, helping people, and educating people.
But to circle back to the original question, how much time do I spend writing and marketing? Well, it's going to depend on where you are.
Splitting your time
I'm a morning person. So I do my creative work in the mornings. Before I was a full-time writer, back when I had a ‘proper' day job, I would get up at 5:00 a.m. and I would do my creative work. I'd probably do an hour to an hour and a half before I then got ready for work.
I would do that in the mornings and then in the evenings when I got home, when I was completely brain dead, I would do marketing.
When I started my podcast, I was working full-time. When I when I started my blog, I was also working full-time. I wrote my first five books while working full-time.
During that period, I would do the creative work when my brain was fresh, then I'd go to work and do work day and then I come home and I do some marketing stuff.
When I learned about things, I also did that at the weekends. So I still split my time in a similar way, but now I would say that it's more into thirds because I do my first third of the day, I'm doing creative work.
And for me, writing also includes the process of research, it also includes editing, it also includes anything that will put something new into the world that I'm creating. And I mean books or courses, that type of thing. Intellectual property.
Let's say that my first third is creating intellectual property assets, of which writing books is one part. And then, another third of my day will be things like marketing, so stuff like this. And podcasting, I will do in another third.
And then a third will be running my business. I'm a full-time creative entrepreneur. So running the business, things like answering email takes a surprising amount of time. That could also be called marketing.
But in terms of my time split I make sure that a certain period of every day is dedicated to creating new things in the world. And in fact, I have lots of different things on my wall. But one of the things on my wall says, “Have you made art today?” And that to me is still the most important thing.
All the marketing in the world doesn't matter if you don't have things out there that represent you and your thoughts and your ideas and your stories.
I also would say that you can separate this into different periods of your life. Say for example, if you're still working on your first book, then getting that first draft done is the most important thing.
Don't get distracted by marketing activities if you haven't finished even a first draft.
So much time can be lost if you get sidetracked into these things before you have a book. So don't worry, there will be time to do everything.
Remember to separate your time and protect your creative time.
I hope that answers the question around how much time that you will spend writing and marketing.
And if you want to know any more about marketing, then check out my book, How to Market a Book which has lots of information about marketing.
You can also subscribe to the YouTube channel if you'd like more videos.
Barry McDonald says
Great post with a lot great advice. The point about doing writing first in the morning and marketing later on , is one I’d agree with.
I learned that from Ben Settle. He said that even when he had a job the first hour of the day was his and his business. Everything else took second place. Which meant his best effort was going into his business.
As for marketing, I’ve recently got into Russell Brunson and his podcast. For someone, who says himself, sells software, his podcast and marketing does build a brand that few can copy or would think of doing.
It’s easy to hide behind a keyboard. And for many authors it’s too much hassle to do marketing. But for me, good marketing is letting readers into your life and letting them look behind the curtain. That’s what separates you from just being another face in the crowd.
S. J. Pajonas says
My only “marketing” now is my blog, which I spend a good 80% of my marketing energy on, and my Facebook Page. I’ve almost completely stopped running ads. Facebook ads are too expensive and complicated for sales, and I don’t want to use them to build a mailing list (been there, done that, waste of money). Amazon ads have become the “red ocean” full of sharks and bloody chum, just like KU. Bids are skyrocketing, and Amazon just keeps adding more ads to the product pages, making them less effective. Soon the whole damned page will be ads! I’m going to stick to content marketing (my blog) and just writing, and save my money for covers, editing, and yarn for knitting. 🙂
Hannah Ross says
Thank you for posting this. At first I had a preschooler-like response to marketing, complete with stomping my foot and “don’t wanna!” , then I realized no one can take responsibility for it but me. I’m still figuring things out, but at least now I’m more in touch with reality. I want to reach people. I want to connect with people. But I do have to be careful not to let blogging and social media cannibalize my time.
Joanna Penn says
It’s great to recognize that inner toddler response! I know how that feels 🙂
Valerie Lull says
I find that the best time for writing is in the morning. I get up before the others in the house and work on my books and blog. The quiet is good for the creative juices and I can concentrate better. The marketing I do later in the day.
Elizabeth Monnet says
This posting is very helpful because it points out that the barrier between ‘writing’, which we all love, and ‘marketing’ which we all love to hate is blurred. This article inspired me to buy your book “How to Market a Book.”
Joanna Penn says
Glad it helped, Elizabeth – and if you think about marketing as creative, it definitely helps 🙂