Friday, May 4, 2012

Staying Focused in a Fun Chatty World

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Last night I almost joined a Yahoo group called Crime Scene Writers. It was recommended by someone on another group I belong to (Dorothy L) where we discuss crime fiction. I get the discussions in digest format, and they come in batches of three or four each day. Reading through these is fun, but hugely time consuming, and I keep telling myself I need to withdraw from the group and spend my time in more productive ways

Until recently, I also belonged to 4MA (For Mystery Addicts), another crime fiction group, as well as a group called Murder Must Advertise. I left the former because they’re very strict about any kind of self-promotion (including linking to blogs), and I rarely have time to read the group books. I quit the later because many of the new members wanted to discuss the basic fundamentals of publishing and promoting, which I've known for a while. I decided my time there was not well spent.

So last night when I came a split second away from clicking the join/submit button on yet another group discussion, I suddenly pulled back. Even though I believe the group would be beneficial and fun, I’m still months behind on my production schedule for this year. Meaning, the book that was supposed to be done by now, simply is not.

Managing a publishing business with ten books is a lot of work, even without writing the next novel. And now that our household is totally dependent on my Amazon sales, keeping my books visible and selling well is my number one objective.

Back when I had one or two books, writing the next story was the best thing I could do to expand my readership and help sell the first two books. It’s just not that simple for me anymore—or for most other self-published authors with a deep catalog.

The point is: I have to be very careful about how I spend my time. I get requests every day to read/blurb someone’s book, or to participate in a Q&A, or do an interview for a book about marketing. I’ve mostly given up reading for people, but I try to do all the interview requests. And I respond to every reader who writes to me.

But the discussion groups, as fun as they are, may have to go. I should be doing more blogging and writing more articles for national news organizations. I should be reading more crime fiction just for fun. And I definitely should be writing more every day.

I’m not alone in these decisions and the guilt that often comes with them. All authors face the dilemma of trying to do everything and realizing they can’t.

Writers: What are your priorities? What have you learned to say no to? What have you had to give up?

Readers: What are the most important social avenues you like your authors to participate in? What are you willing to let go of?


  1. Some very thoughtful points, L.J. Although I'm members of those groups, I often Select All and Delete because I simply don't have the time to read all of the posts.

    This year I made the decision to not renew my membership in a writer's organization I've belonged to for years. It's no longer benefitting me and I don't feel like I'm in a place yet to have something worthwhile to give back.

    My priority right now needs to be to get my second book ready for publication. But I also need to try and figure out some ways to reach more readers for my first one.

  2. I feel the same way, LJ. If we let it, Facebook groups, Twitter, belonging to organizations and participating in their forums and reading blogs and commenting would take up 24 hours of our day! I haven't renewed my membership to several organizations because I haven't used them all year. And people keep adding me to new groups on Facebook without my permission! I hate that. Even with "unjoining" almost all of those FB groups, my email inbox is getting way too cluttered, to the point where I miss important stuff.

    I guess we all need to step back from time to time and prioritize, so our time doesn't get all sucked by these energy drainers.

  3. Oooooh, so true, L.J. I call it my relaxing time to read FB and Twitter, but it goes on and on and I am so weak.

    I've got to withdraw from LinkedIn Crime Fiction group although I enjoy it. I lecture myself all the time as I read through the banter, knowing I'm wasting time.

    And I am not young, dammit.

  4. Yes, Mar, and judging by the riveting,extremely well-written crime novel of yours that I'm editing right now, your precious time is much better spent writing! We need more of your novels!

  5. My biggest concern is that people I've networked with in these groups will think I've become a recluse (or a snob). Which I'm not. I'll still be on Facebook and Twitter and various blogs. And anyone can reach out to me at anytime.

  6. LJ, everyone knows there's only one of you -- not 3 or 4! And you have a lot of responsibilities!

  7. I'm with you, LJ. In the past year, I've pulled out of all the discussion groups to which I once belonged. I'm currently writing two books and just can't find the time to keep up, and my mailbox was overloaded with unread posts. In fact, I barely have time to keep up on my Facebook page, which still remains a priority where social networking is concerned. I feel I'm losing out in some respects and may be missing important information; that concerns me, but I'm human and can only do so much. My writing has to stay at the front of the line.

  8. For me it's a balancing act. As a new author I am still trying to develop a "fan base" and make myself known to readers. That requires networking. Unfortunately it takes away from my writing time but I see no other way. I am very selective about how I use my time and I think like LJ and Drew I try to focus more on those networking avenues that give me the most bang for my buck.

  9. It's pretty tough juggling it all. I have multiple books under three different pen names, sometimes just keeping them straight is a nightmare in the making. I write full-time so I don't have to try and handle an outside job as well. That would be crazy.

  10. I've been in the crimescenewriter group for years. Its founder, Wally Lind, is listed in the acknowledgments of almost all of my books. It's full of information, but I set all my groups to digest, and I normally scan the topics (as with all groups) to see if there's something I can use. Same with all my groups, so those don't really eat up much of my time--usually over my coffee in the morning is plenty.

    I know I've been lax about visiting my usual blogs and leaving comments ... blogs are much more likely to eat away at my time.

    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  11. Great post LJ.

    You actually introduced me to 4MA and it is a great group. But with no opportunity to promote books and without the time to join in the (great) book discussions, I find that the posts just queue up unread.

    I'm sure your readers still feel connected to you through your blogs and Facebook. If fans want to find you, they will.

  12. I, too, have had to restrict myself to only two groups, Indies Unlimited and one Linkedin discussion. I do tweet (just to pass on things that are relevant) and those automatically go to facebook. That is all I can handle. My writing has suffered because this takes so much time.


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