Posted by L.J. Sellers, author of the Detective Jackson mysteries
When I heard about Amazon’s new feature—@author—I got excited and posted a comment on Amazon’s blog, hoping to be included when they expanded out of beta testing. Essentially, the feature allows readers to post questions to authors as they read their books on Kindle. It seems like a really great author-reader connection. Then I started thinking about it. I love answering readers’ questions about my novels, but being a relatively unknown author, I only get a few a day, and it’s still time consuming. What if I suddenly got dozens a day? How much time would it take?
Then I realized my reaction to the news was a classic symptom of what I call Do Everything Syndrome. As a struggling indie author with no marketing support and no distribution network, I’ve had to do everything humanly possible to reach as many readers as possible. I’ve been in that mode for four years. Every time I saw a new website that reviewed indie authors, I made note of it or put it on my to-do list. Every new marketing idea I saw other writers implement went on my list. Every well-trafficked blog got added to my list of places to guest blog. And so on. It was overwhelming.
For a while, I even thought I had to join every new social networking site at least to have a presence. Then I finally realized I can’t actively work them all, and just having a page up with no activity doesn’t really benefit me. In fact, I’ve only recently come to accept that I not only can’t do it all, but that some of it, even if I had more time, would not be cost-effective. I’ve started checking in with authors and asking: Did that iPad giveaway work for you? Did that exclusive reader book club get good participation? Often, the answer is: not really.
Don't get me wrong. I think this idea from Amazon is intriguing and if they ask me to participate, I probably will. But all those activities take time away from writing. And I hear from readers all the time who simply have one question: When is your next book coming out? I’ve come to realize that most of my current readers have only that one expectation—that I write new books as fast as I can. Also, in the last month, I’ve read several blog posts indicating that full-time authors should be producing three or four books a year. In my case, that means writing and also publishing, but it’s still doable.
So I’ve shifted my priorities. I’m learning to ignore things that look like great ideas but probably aren’t. I’ve reconfigured my browser so all those reader forums don’t open automatically. I’m keeping my to-do list at a minimum and my writing time at a maximum. It’s not an easy adjustment. My natural mental state is to think I can and should do it all, and most authors I know share that overachiever, driven mentality.
Of course, I want to keep reaching new readers. But my new mantra is: Just write another great story and they will come. I think I’m going to be a lot happier…and so will my loyal readers.