Working as an Indie Author is a little like attempting to switch hats during a storm with hurricane-force winds while still holding on to the other forty-eight hats in your collection.
As in a prized hat collection, each of our metaphorical ones has a place and a purpose and a reason for belonging. We may or may not be able to rid ourselves of some of these hats, but we’ll still have to juggle at least part of them. We should probably figure out a better way to do that.
Naming All the Hats
In a previous post, I shared most of my many “hats” of Indie publishing. Orna Ross—one of the inspirational Indies I’ve looked up to and learned from on my journey—has a great system, where she separates tasks under the titles “maker, manager, marketer.” Check out her Go Creative! series for more details.
Here’s how I envision my hat collection based on her model. They all fall into one of three styles—the comfy beanie (maker), the jaunty trilby (manager) and the stylish cloche hat (marketer). Within those three styles, you’ve got a plethora of colors to choose from, which then represent the various tasks under each role.
One of the most important things for Indie Authors to do is to write these out, think them through and evaluate when each one is needed. It’s especially vital to understand when you need to don a manager hat over a maker one. Each requires a unique mindset and focus.
Understanding the vast difference in approaching publication decisions, such as trim sizes and formats, between a publisher’s perspective—Which option is most fiscally responsible and likely to sell?—and an author’s—But, I want a hardcover book with my name on it, and this size feels better in my hand!—enables you to be a better entrepreneur and probably a more successful one.
Sorting and Reducing the Hats
Look through your list and cull out any that really aren’t necessary to your business at the moment or aren’t providing you a ROI worth the time or expense to produce it. Next, determine if you can outsource any still on the list.
Remember, time is money. Weigh your time versus the financial cost to outsource a task. If it takes you twelve hours to run your social media each week, but you can pay someone to do it in five hours, will that then free you up to be more productive in other areas; therefore, saving you money in the end?
Claiming Your Hats
Once you’ve carefully and thoroughly considered each of your hats, claim the ones that are left. These are your roles and responsibilities as an Indie. Embrace each one and determine how you can best juggle them.
This is where your individual needs and goals and priorities will drive your next steps. Each of us will handle this in a different way. Honestly, this is also a process that will need constant reevaluation. Your focus and needs will shift, and you must be able to move with them.
It’s much like having a young child. They function best on schedules; the only problem with that is their sleeping and eating needs change often as they grow. With those alterations in their days come schedules thrown out with the trash and frustration until a new one is established. Trust me, it’s one of the most trying parts of parenting infants and young children. Just as soon as you think you’ve got this parenting thing and you might survive after all, the schedule whizzes past you and you’re left grasping for some semblance of order to get you all back on the same page.
With my second child, at least I knew to expect the frequent schedule changes. That made adjusting so much easier because it took away the frustration of facing something unexpected. Instead of wasting what little brain power I had on bemoaning this new form of torture from the small being in my care, I went straight toward finding a new schedule that worked for him.
Consider this your warning, Indie friend. You now know the changes will come, the priorities will shift and new roles will develop. Now, instead of being sideswiped by flying schedules and roles, you can duck and come up with a new plan of action.
Will-be parents, you’re also welcome.
Ordering All the Hats
Okay, so we’ve established that some order of operations is required to juggle all these roles. But, how?
As I’ve already said, this will be unique to your situation and you will have to determine what that is. But—don’t worry, I’m not leaving you there!—I can share with you what I’m doing (or have done) and plan to do.
First, you will always wear all your hats in some regards. What I mean by that is, you cannot leave your publisher hat at home when you go on a writing retreat with friends and brainstorm a million great ideas and agree to do them ALL. Publisher you and author you will have a royal smackdown when you get home.
At the same time, you need to properly identify the primary hat needed for each task and carefully store the others away in their proper places, all while still keeping them nearby. Storage keeps them from getting swept away in the wind gusts; nearby allows you to pull them out when a sudden opportunity presents itself or an issue arises that requires a different perspective to handle.
Now, I’ve written before how I like to time block. In a perfect world, I would have a full two to four hours to devote to each task. In reality, this means that I take the thirty minutes between when I finish teaching my children and set them loose with their independent work and when they finish it—or have a royal meltdown because they can’t find the pencils and erasers and paper they drop all over our house like odd and unnecessary breadcrumbs—to type the first draft of this week’s blog post.
Sometimes I’m able to pre-schedule my blocks:
1:00 to 2:00: draft a client’s post
2:00 to 2:30: catch up on social media and check and send emails
2:30 to 3:00: write next week’s podcast shownotes and make a planning list for the nonfiction revisions
3:00 to 4:00: prepare for this week’s book signing events
4:00 to 4:30: edit two blog posts
4:30 to 5:00: update graphics, catch up on social media and emails
Other times it’s more like the previous paragraph where I have a few minutes, look at my to-do list (more on that in a moment) and choose the one that’s either highest priority or can be done in the time frame or in the place where I happen to be.
And still others, like today, I plan my blocks and school runs long. So, I take out my trusty list, re-prioritize and do the most pressing tasks first because I’ve lost 1:00 to 3:30 and I have to leave at 5:15 for a meeting.
Another trick I plan to utilize more is to focus on certain hats on certain days. If I can don my editing cap three days a week, author beanie two days and publisher’s derby two days instead of switching between all three every day, perhaps I will be a more focused worker with higher quality production.
This same concept can be shifted to be weekly or monthly or even quarterly. I have been trying to get myself on a system where I do all my blogging for the month in one week. I haven’t quite achieved that yet; however, it’s still on my radar and it’s something I think would work well for me. I have taken some small steps toward making this happen and hope to implement it for a trial run either at the end of this year or beginning of next.
My first step was streamlining and planning my blog topics. Having specific topics to write about and post each week enables me to plan ahead better. And that, in turn, should give me the ability to write them all (or most) at once.
Lists—Made and Checked
I’m not one to say “you MUST do” or “the BEST way” or “if you don’t do this, you’re CRAZY;” however, if you’re not making lists, you honestly might be doing yourself a disservice. If you don’t have some system in place to keep up with all you have to do, chances are high you will overlook something.
As I make my list, I check it twice … with my hats in mind! Just as it’s important to recognize each of the hats in our collection to begin with, we can help ourselves by identifying what task requires which style. That will aid with determining how to alternate them.
Let’s say you have two short stories and a blog post to edit and then prepare to promote. It might be easier to create all your graphics in one go and then save editing for another time block. Or, for you, it might be easier to switch back and forth—edit, then let your mind rest and create, then edit the next, then produce something creative again and so forth. Either way, you’ll save time splitting your tasks when you have your list made and ordered according to your focus for each.
Embracing All the Hats
At the end of the day, you chose to be an author. That choice—regardless of publication method—comes with far more responsibility than just writing. For that reason, you’ll need to embrace every hat in your closet and work through how you can best alternate them.