By Andrew E. Kaufman
How Much Time Should I Give Other Authors?
It’s a question I often ask. The truth is, I’d help everyone if I could, because I know how overwhelming being (or becoming) an author can be. I also know how frustrating it is to feel excited about my work, and then struggle to get others to feel the same enthusiasm. By nature, I like to give just as much as receive and find equal joy in both. Besides, I truly love meeting other writers. We are a community, and I enjoy being a part of it.
But with that comes another set of issues: part of it is time; the other is that these days, it feels like there are almost as many people writing books as reading them.
And it seems the busier I get with my career, the less time I have, with even less of it to enjoy activities in my personal life. Since I signed with a publisher, I’m no longer my own boss. Now there are deadlines set by others that I’m obligated to meet. There are conference calls with my editor, with promotions people, and with my agent. My time doesn’t seem to belong to me as much as it once did.
Despite this, I still want to offer other authors help when they ask for it. I’ve just learned to recognize my limitations. Since my writing and my readers have to come first, I can’t provide everyone with everything they need. I can only do my best, but I have to accept that my best will not always be what I’d like.
So in setting these priorities, I’ve made some decisions, devising a Personal Author’s Bill of Rights. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Amendment 1: Reading Requests/Endorsements/Beta Reads
I have the right to refuse reading or endorsing another author's book when asked.
This was the toughest one for me. I feel bad saying no. It’s not that I don’t want to read another author’s book—it’s that next to writing a novel, reading one is a huge time investment. I usually read at bedtime, but sometimes that only lasts a few minutes before I pass out.
I will occasionally break this rule if I know an author well enough (and their work), and even then, it depends on whether my schedule will permit. But I’ve run into trouble there as well. I’ve made promises, only to find I’m not able to follow through when my workload becomes too overwhelming. So, as much as I hate to say no to a friend (and suffer the ill effects of that decision) I’ve decided it’s far worse to say yes, and then not be able to deliver. The guilt is colossal.
Amendment 2: Offering Advice.
I will always answer emails from authors who ask for advice and try my best to do so in a timely manner.
With limits, that is. If I feel I can answer a question, I will—unfortunately, how much information I’m able to provide depends on the question, and anything requiring an in-depth outline or pages of explanation simply isn’t manageable. But I do try to do my best and be as helpful as possible, and I also apologize when I can’t. I don’t always have to give advice, but I do feel an obligation to be kind to everyone.
Amendment 3: Promoting Other Authors’ Books on Social Media and Beyond.
I will gladly promote other authors’ books that:
1) I know and trust deliver quality content
2) I know (period).
But even with that, I’ve started to feel I need to clearly state when I haven't read a book I’m promoting, because it feels unfair to readers otherwise. Then the question arises: how do I enthusiastically recommend a book I’ve never read? Haven’t figured that one out yet.
Amendment 4: Appearing as a Guest on Blogs/ Doing Interviews
I will always make time to be a guest on blogs (time permitting) and will gladly do interviews.
This applies to all of them, no matter how big or small, because I’m honored to be asked, and because they’re doing me a favor by showing interest (Not the other way around).
Amendment 5: Appearing at Writers' Gatherings
I will always say yes (Time and geography permitting) in order to encourage other authors.
See above—same reason, and because when I first started out, I never had the benefit of getting advice from experienced authors, and I know what a big difference it would have made if I did. Besides, as I've mentioned, I love meeting other writers, and I benefit from that just as much as they might.
Have I left anything out? And what about you? Both writers and readers: how do you manage time constraints when the requirements of everyday life seem to get in the way?