Writing vs. Marketing – How Much Time to Spend on Each?

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I want to write a lot—and I mean a lot—of books. How much time should I spend writing vs. marketing?

I was recently asked this question in my private Facebook group.

For many authors, writing a series of books is an excellent way to build brand recognition and expertise in various niche markets.

However, if you’re thinking of creating a brand like my “21 Ways” book series that lends itself to hundreds of potential titles, you might find yourself spending more of your time writing and less selling, and you may get discouraged at the lack of sales.

When I started writing my “21 Ways” series of books, I spent about an hour outlining topics. In that hour I outlined 18 complete titles for the series, which is a lot! I quickly wrote the first in the series, 21 Ways to Write & Publish Your Non-Fiction Book, since it was to become my big “business card” and be used for expertise in my industry.

Then I wrote the second in the series, 21 Ways to Powerfully Network Your Business and quickly realized that in order to complete all 18 books I’d outlined in the series (not to mention the more ideas popping into my head every day), I’d have to spend about 75% of my time writing, which left 25% of my time to manage our clients and market my business and books.

I took stock of the time I’d invested in marketing my business over the previous month and realized I needed to flip those percentages. What to do?

Solution #1: Spend the time

The first solution is to spend the time you want to write your books. This means you will need to outsource almost all the marketing, and if you run a business you’ll need to outsource more of those responsibilities as well.

If you have a solid residual income, this solution can be a perfect one for you and you can spend your time doing what you love—writing. However, if you still need to work to put food on the table, this isn’t a good option.

Solution #2: Outsource some writing

Since I wanted the “21 Ways” books to be published in a timely manner, I decided to bring in more authors to write other books in the series. By outsourcing the writing, I now have the ability to focus my energy on growing my overall business and we are still able to publish a lot more books than I can write in a year.

This also brings increased brand awareness as people who hear about the series from one of our authors usually purchase other books in the series as well. Less work for me, more organic book sales for my series, and more time I can devote to growing my business.

One thing to note with this solution: It will require that you start your own publishing company. After all, you will want to keep control of how your books appear in the marketplace, and the only way to do that is to run all the production through your own team. It also means you’ll need to track royalties as you get paid for book sales and pay your authors each quarter.

Book sales are reported by distributors every quarter, so you may need to hire a trained VA or learn to do this task yourself. It can add a few hours’ worth of work to your load each quarter, but having many other authors selling your series of books for you is a nice payoff.

Writing vs. Marketing

This is every author’s biggest conundrum. How much time should you spend marketing your books? And how much time should you spend writing more? Each book you write adds credibility to your name, and if you tie the books into a series it builds a reputation for that series, which in turn brings more sales.

However, if you spend all your time marketing you’ll have no time left for writing and reaching new audiences. And if your passion is writing and you hate marketing, you’ll tend to shy away from spending time doing the grunt work.

The bottom line is this: If you don’t spend time marketing your books, don’t complain about your lack of sales. It’s hard for people to buy something when they don’t know it exists! Even if you only spend ten minutes a day, which is only 1% of the average person’s waking hours, you’d be building brand awareness and your book sales will increase over time.

However, most people spend more than ten minutes just on social media, and there are thousands of other ways to market your books. If you set a goal for ten minutes a day, you’ll naturally find yourself going past that limit.

Now, one percent is not much time, unless you have a full-time 40-hour-a-week job, a full-time business that demands most of your own waking hours, children, and you still need to find time to cook dinner.

You’re probably already overwhelmed with daily tasks just to live “life,” so don’t overwhelm yourself further with writing and marketing your books. If you can only do 10 minutes a day, then do that. But if you can do more, you’ll see greater results.

I personally recommend you split your time 50/50: 50% of your scheduled “book” time to be spent writing, 50% spent on marketing your existing (or soon-to-be-released) books. Take your weekly calendar and block out some “book” time for yourself. Then divide this time in half between writing and marketing.

Your writer side will feel fulfilled because you’re still allowing yourself to create and your confidence will grow as you see tangible results when book sales flow in.

I’ve heard this statement spoken by every published author I meet, “I thought writing the book was the hard part, until I started researching publishing. Now that it’s published I realize marketing is the hardest part.” Marketing doesn’t usually come naturally to writers.

Unless you’re independently wealthy and can spend all your time in a closet writing the day away (ie: unless you’re Stephen King), you’ll need to schedule some butt-in-chair marketing time to let the masses know about your book. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below…

Kristen Eckstein
Kristen Eckstein is a highly sought-after publishing authority, multi best-selling author and award winning international speaker who has started over 50 publishing companies and published over 170 books and e-books. In Fall 2013 she challenged herself to write and published a new Kindle book every week for 18 weeks straight.
Kristen Eckstein
Kristen Eckstein
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  1. Kristen,

    I spend a ton of time marketing, but it isn’t always directly “about” my book. There’s all the platform building done with blogs and social networks that comes first and continues after the book is written. There is speaking, media gigs, etc. There is a ton to do all the time!

    And then upon release of the book there are blog tours or virtual book tours. And I spend more time trying to land media gigs, write articles, etc. For at least 6 months I’m busy promoting the book itself in a variety of ways that also include social networking and blogging.

    I’d say I spend 25-50 percent of my time on promotion all year long, but it becomes 50-70 percent of my time when my book is released.

    Now…when I need to write, marketing drops significantly for a short period of time as I’m actually writing. But you’d be surprised how your blog readership and Twitter following, for example, will continue to grow anyway–because of the work you’ve done before.

    Great article…as usual.

    • Thanks Nina! Yes, a new book does warrant a little more time to devote to marketing when it’s released. This article is more about how much time in general should be spent on each while working on the next book. I always let a book breathe for a few months while marketing it before jumping into writing the next book. But when I’m writing a book, I still market the previous books. And the momentum built over time is awesome. :)

  2. Great post. My debut novel just came out on January 3rd and I’m one of those people you just described – full-time job, kids at home, writer, self-publisher. I’m glad to get insight on how best to divide my available hours. Thanks!

  3. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of extras that shape around the content itself. Last time I checked, it was still king. Good post Kristen thanks for sharing.

  4. As the author of several eBooks, I so agree. The writing of the ebook is only about 1/3 of the job. I am now looking for a good VA (had one but she just did not work out) to promote our books and the next one in the works.
    Listened to an interview the other day with Jack Canfield the other day who said that you need to start promoting your book long before you finish more than the draft. I’m trying it with my next ebook, Stop the Success Thieves.
    Thanks for sharing Kristen

    • Thanks for your comment Roberta! Jack is right. Traditional publishers start marketing a new title up to a year in advance of its release, with heavy marketing beginning six months before its release. Most authors don’t bother to market until the book is released, then wonder why they’re not getting much traction.

  5. Excellent Kristen! Very well thought out and written. You’ve expressed well the dilemma writers feel about writing versus marketing. You provide some good food for thought in terms of how to balance these two necessities to success and survival. Your creative self has to expressed and your bills have to be paid.
    Great insight. Thanks for writing this and sharing your wisdom with us.

  6. I probably do about the 50/50 split, but a lot of my “marketing” includes blogging and article marketing, which is writing, too. Still, I would love to be able to spend only ten minutes a day marketing.

    I am going to do my first print ad in a mag. to sell my garden-related book. If it works, this will be the answer to my marketing conundrum!

    • Hi Emily,

      Spending time marketing can be time consuming, especially social media! You can also outsource some of the marketing if it gets to be too much. A good author VA is worth their weight in gold!

    • I hope the ad is productive for you, but putting all your eggs in one marketing basket isn’t usually the best idea. What works in marketing changes quickly depending on the medium so what works today, may not work in a few months because it gets over used. Doing multiple things is safer and better for long term. As Kristin said, if you need help to keep things going, nothing wrong with that.

  7. Brilliant, thank you! I had been feeling guilty for spending time marketing when I ‘should’ be writing. I need to stop ‘shoulding’ on myself!