“Can you drudge twelve hours a day, six days out of every seven?”

A question for all the publishers who want to court successful self-published authors with the lure of “not doing anything but writing”:  do you…actually think that self-employed writers spend 8-12 hours a day writing?  Or is what you’re really offering them the opportunity to work 4-6 hour days and stop working when they stop writing?

I will make the caveat that I’m not other writers.  I don’t know how they write, and I don’t know when their mental muscles begin to shake and fold with exhaustion.  So maybe there are writers out there who could and would write 12 hours a day every day, and the publishing details really are a waste of their writing time.

But for me, I can’t see where the publishing side of things eats up my WRITING time.  Other free time, yeah, but not the blocks of my time that are earmarked for writing.

Let’s try and remember our math lessons from long ago.

First, I read a statistic somewhere that people who own their own business work an average of 60 hours a week versus the 40 that those of us on a time clock work.  This holds true in my workplace experience. I work for a family-owned business, and the people with their name on the building put in longer hours than any of the rest of us—even when the rest of us are giving 50 hours a week.  So we’ll suggest a maximum of 60 hours and a minimum of 40 hours for writers who are making a living off writing and have no other job.

This means they have 8-12 hours a day, M-F, to work, or 9 hours daily M-S.

Do self-employed writers really spend that many hours every day actually writing?

I have, on most days, between four and six hours of really productive writing time in the morning and maybe a couple more brainstorming hours in the evening.  If I didn’t have a day job, if all I had to do were write and take care of the publishing side of my business, I would have every afternoon of the week for those “difficult” tasks like formatting ebooks and designing covers.  That’s 20 hours a week, assuming I go back to work at one and “clock out” at five.  If I start writing at eight a.m., I have a four-hour block until noon, six hours if I start at six.  Even at the pace of completing one book per month, I can’t see where the publishing side of the equation takes a full 80 hours, much less more, to get that one book ready to publish.  MAYBE it does if you include all revision as publishing work rather than writing work, but not more.

So let’s all just be honest about what’s being offered.  If you’re a writer who is living off your writing, what a publisher is offering you with that “let me do the rest” line is the chance to have a 24-30 hour work week. 

Maybe for some people that’s a good deal.  For me, I’d rather work the extra 20 hours and get more of the proceeds.  But that’s just me.



Filed under Publishing

3 responses to ““Can you drudge twelve hours a day, six days out of every seven?”

  1. Everything coming out of tradpub says they won’t do the marketing, or at least they expect a lot of it from you. Unpaid.

    Can you imagine filling 20 hours a week with publishing tasks? I haven’t done a paper book layout yet, but… if it takes me 2 months to write a book, that’s 80 hours to do publishing tasks. It won’t take that long.

    • Hi Jim! First, you are exactly right – from everything I can tell the “you only have to write” line is about as sincere as any sleazy pick-up line you’d hear in a singles bar.

      And to your second point – no, frankly, I can’t imagine filling 20 hours a week with publishing tasks. I have formatted print layouts. My first try, doing it in Word (versus a dedicated layout program which speeds up the process) took an entire Saturday afternoon. So did coding the ebook. So, that’s 8 hours…I think the longest time involvement would be finding the cover art. But I suspect that if I’m making enough bank off books to not have a day job, I can afford to license artwork from any number of digital artists. From that point, putting the cover together will take maybe a full afternoon of tinkering with fonts and taglines. Okay, we’re up to 12. That leaves back copy – we’ll be generous and give it a full afternoon. 16. That’s…almost one full week! I guess the other 3 weeks are for 3-martini lunches and afternoons spent “marketing myself” on Twitter or drunk-writing guest blogs? Hey, sign me up! 🙂

      • Let’s get a group together and synchronize our 3-martini-lunch weeks like real professionals do!

        You can’t do marketing in the publishing time, since tradpub authors have to do that too. We’re forced to use the spare publishing time for lunch-dinners.

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