To celebrate three years of publishing, I’ve given the black sheep of my book family a fresh coat of paint.Read More
“I can conclusively say at this point that it’s not just people who have met me or are blood related who are buying my books.” - New blog post on hitting a few key milestonesRead More
"Tell them you published it yourself and they’ll do a cocked-head puppy look coupled with an ‘awww’ sound like you’re a toddler who’s announced they can go poop on the potty."
Some thoughts on why I’m still calling myself a Punk Publisher.Read More
If you ever wondered why you can't read my books in Kindle Unlimited, here's why.Read More
When it came time to sit down and hammer out some resolutions for the New Year (or revolutions, as my daughter insists on calling them, or remevonooshuns, as my son calls them), there was one promise that I made to myself above all others: Be more productive.
I’m a terrible procrastinator. I think we all are really, endlessly finding things to do to avoid doing the thing that we should be doing, knowing full well that if the roles were reversed, and we needed to do Thing Two instead, that we’d be procrastinating by doing Thing One instead. Some peculiar trick of evolution, some fight-or-flight malfunction in our brainstems, is messing us all up, getting us to clean windows when we should be writing, or endlessly check Twitter when we have a report due by the end of the day. It’s a nonsense, really, the way our stupid squishy brains work.
This year, I decided that I would work really hard on cutting that procrastination out of my life. The reason? Well, on the one hand I work from home, have done for almost two years now. It was only meant to last a few months, but here we are. As anyone else who sits alone at a laptop all day will tell you, it’s bloody hard work staying motivated, focused, and engaged. So I need to make sure that I can keep up the same level of productivity I would in an office. Hell, there’s no reason I can’t be better than that since I don't have to actually talk to people.
The second reason is that I have another job, too. You know, the one that leads to all those books that you can buy if you follow the links at the top of the page. Being an indie publisher takes a ridiculous amount of work, admin, promotion, and other busywork, and that’s before you take into account that I need to do writing every single day. Oh, and the aforementioned kids and the rest of real life.
Hence the need for organisation. Being this busy doesn’t really work if you’re spending a quarter of your day staring into space thinking about old Babylon 5 plots, or scrolling endlessly through Twitter trying to find something to be angry about.
So, now that I’ve been on this kick for all of *checks calendar* ELEVEN DAYS, here’s my top five tools that can help you be a more productive you. And just so you know I'm on the level, none of the below is even affiliate-linked. Man, I really should have sorted some affiliate links.
- Pomadoro: I’ve been using this method of sprint working, where you use a timer to break down work into chunks separated by short breaks, on my writing for a while now. This year I’ve started applying it to my regular work, and found it’s really increased my productivity. I take one hour each day and split it into three 15 minute sprints, separated by five minute’s rest each time, and at the end of the hour I’ve usually managed to clear a huge chunk of what I need to do. Then I do another hour’s worth writing in the evening, which usually gives me around 1000 words. I use Be Focused for the Mac.
- Self-Control: Another Mac app, this blocks off your access to any website you shouldn’t be looking at while you’re working. You can add websites onto the blacklist, set the time for as long as you need, and hey presto, even if your mind wanders and that tiny deadened part of your soul reaches out for a Twitter hit, it can’t reach it. Not only that, but it’s impossible to turn it off for the duration. Sure does focus the mind.
- Todoist: There’s a hundred different to-do organisers out there, but this is my weapon of choice. You can set up different ‘project’s or subject matters (such as writing admin, work, errands, blog posts etc) and never lose track of what you’re supposed to be doing from day to day. You can assign due dates, then just track what you need to do on a day-by-day basis. I also use it to capture random thoughts or story bits that pop into my head, then assign them to a time when I’ll be at my desk so I can put them into my Scrivener file.
- Scrivener: Speaking of which… I’ve been using Scrivener for a good few years now to write in, and whenever I have to go back to Word or anything else it’s a bit like being Nic Cage in The Wicker Man remake, what with all the bees and whatnot. If you’re a writer, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a steep learning curve, but get past that and you’ll find the best damn writing software on the plant. Especially with the new update, which is glorious.
- Feedly: This is a recent one. Well, not really, I used to have a Feedly account, years ago, when RSS was what all the cool kids were doing behind the bike sheds. I gave it up once the hardcore drugs of Twitter and Facebook showed up, because who can be bothered to read actual articles anymore when everything is GIFs and 140 characters? But I’ve become increasingly aware that my addiction to social media is both unhealthy, and unproductive. At the start of the year I deleted my blue apps from my phone, but that lasted about three days, when I realised that logging on through my phone’s web browser wasn’t exactly better than what I was doing before. Truth is, there are lots of times when I will have idle time and want to look at something on my phone. The problem is that I also spend too much time doing that when I should be doing other things. So, the thought occurred to me that I just needed something better, more productive, to look at. So, I set up a new Feedly account and followed a metric crap-tonne of writing blogs, science and technology sites, other things that might spark ideas and writing ideas. So now if I have time to kill, I can still be more productive, and I don’t have to be so addicted to the all-seeing social media eye.
So, there we go. Five tips for a more productive you. And I’m definitely the person to listen to, even if this blog post was supposed to be done three days ago, but wasn’t because I haven’t been as productive as I should have been. There’s always room for improvement.
So, what tips and tools are keeping you productive in 2018?
One of the things that taxes me most at the moment, as I look out at the no-doubt glittering career as an indie author ahead of me, is the marketing. I don’t think I’m alone there, since almost every message board and writing blog is about 50% people running around screaming ‘argghghggh’ and invoking the ghost of Bill Hicks to strike down whoever invented marketing, or at the very least, ship them an envelope full of glitter. As I sat down for my first marketing planning session of this year, it dawned on me that before I can do any of the nitty gritty platform building, I have a decision to make.
What the hell am I going to call myself?
Don’t get me wrong. I like my name well enough. It’s a good, functional name. I like the idea of identifying with my work, because I’m proud of it. I want the world to know it’s been done my me. Not only that, in order to launch with any semblance of success at all, I’m going to need basically everyone who knows me to buy it, which will most likely only really happen if it has my name on it.
So what the hell am I talking about? Well, I have a fear, and not the usual one about a bathtub full of spider wasps, but that ‘Paul Stephenson’ is not a great name to put on the front of a book. The two words are completely different lengths for one thing, and the surname is the longer, so if I were to double up I’d need to have the PAUL huge and the STEPHENSON in tiny writing. Just a bit weird. Of course, I hear you say, you could just do it on one line. You’d be right to point that out (if a bit of a pedant), but that means a small name, which is harder to read at speed. You need to stand out on your cover, and you’re unlikely to do that if people have to strain to see your name on the thumbnail of your book. It’s a fricking minefield, let me tell you.
So what are the options? Well I could go the initials route; PR Stephenson. But I’m not convinced on that, either. Seems a bit, I don’t know, wanky for me. I’ve toyed around with a few other options, but none of them feel entirely right. Since my good-lady-soon-to-be-wife is going to be taking my name in all probability, I quite like the idea of taking her surname in some kind of tit-for-tat name swap, but I’m not sure Paul Green is all that better than what I have already. Besides, there’s a few of them on Amazon already, which would make it a riskier proposition than my real name, which is so far unclaimed.
‘Why the hell are you worrying about this now’, you may be asking. ‘You’re not publishing for ages yet, and you haven’t even finished the first book yet. Concentrate on that.’ You may say that (although that sounds a lot harsher than I imagine my readers to be) but the truth is that I need to start doing things like building author platforms in the next few months. I need to decide on the name of my author platform, for one thing, in order to buy the domain and start building the website.
I need to get moving on the marketing now, so that there’s some vague hint of an audience out there when I launch. This is doubly important if I’m going under a nom de plume, since any vague cachet I’ve built up through the likes of this blog, DP or the Rolling Stone challenge will no longer count.
So I need a decision. I need help. I might need an exorcist. What do you, dear reader, think?
The quest for reinvention is going pretty well so far. I’m aware that posting such a statement on the 13th day of the year is asking for trouble, not because of any specific fear of a random number, but because I’m less than two weeks into a full year reboot of my entire life and 13 days is conspicuously early to be calling anything. But it’s going ok so far. On the health front, I’ve been sticking pretty well to the meagre calorie amount afforded to me by my popular brand of calorie counting mobile application, and have even managed to rouse my carcass onto a fitness machine on a couple of occasions. The net result is that I’ve lost five pounds, even though I took ‘Saturday night is treat night’ a bit too literally this week and got fish and chips before emptying the drinks cabinet. No, we don’t actually have a drinks cabinet. Not any more, anyway. I even managed to resist free cakes being waved in front of my face today.
*fans face* I’m ok.
The wedding planning is now fully underway too, with weekly planning meetings in the diary (and you must respect the diary) and all sorts of things getting achieved. We’re wedding planning machines, albeit ones who cannot yet decide on whether to have a chocolate fountain.
I’m also really happy with the way the writing sessions are going. I’ve got scheduled sessions every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for an hour each day. I’m not going to lie, some of those have been extremely hard to motivate myself for, but every time I’ve sat down and committed myself, I’ve gotten shit done. I’m focusing mainly on the third draft of Blood on the Motorway in January, and then it’ll be going out to beta readers. I’m on track at the moment, and increasingly feel like it’s not so dreadful that I’ll be embarrassing myself when I publish.
I had my first ‘non writing’ writing session last night, investigating some options for the promotional side of things. This mainly consisted of looking at the Bookbub website, picking a hosting service to set up a platform on, and biffling about on KBoards, the Kindle user message board that is chock full of indie authors giving each other advice and support. I posted a question there that’s been bugging me last night and already had over 30 responses, which is really pretty cool. I’ve not been a big forum user since the glory days of the Raw Nerve forum, bit I can see me getting pulled in by this one.
One of the big questions I need to answer, however, is what the hell to do with my blog. You may have noticed that my last post on here was a bit different to my usual waffle, in that it was probably the first blog post I’ve ever written that had an eye on trying to write copy that was ‘marketable.’ I figured it was a skill I need to pick up if I want to build an author platform that would drive potential readers to my books (when they’re out) or my mailing list (once I go ahead and set one up).
It was pretty dreadful, really. It took three times as long to write, and was noticed by precisely nobody. Not a single interaction, which is pretty poor. So rest assured I won’t be doing that again. What I will be doing is continuing to write whatever the bejeesus I want, whenever I bejeesusingly want to. I just need to try and work out how to apply that to the good advice I keep hearing about author platforms, most of which is ‘don’t write for writers.’
More on that, I’m sure, in due course.