An Author’s Life
Chances are, since you’ve come to this site, you already know that I’m an author. But what, exactly, does an author do? Besides writing, of course. My own personal non-author friends are confounded by that question. You may be, as well.
To begin with, an author’s life is not one long, glorious retreat in a cabin nestled in the mountains, or lounging in a cottage along the Oceanside, as Hollywood portrayals might have you believe. No. The author’s life is something else altogether.
I thought it might be worthwhile to write down my personal job description to give you the real skinny on an author’s life — this author, at least! Interested? Read on.
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I work six days a week, every week that I am in town, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter. I used to work seven days a week until God impressed upon me the sacredness — not to mention the sanity — of the Sabbath.
It’s not unusual for authors to work these kinds of hours. Which is why she has no “free” time, per se. Is her time flexible? Yes. And no. She is free to schedule things at her own discretion, but once an event is scheduled, there is no flexibility. Something else is generally scheduled prior to, and following, said event. Not much wiggle room to speak of.
Hello, out there!
- I communicate with my agent 2 to 3 times a week.
- I correspond with editors 2 to 3 times a week.
- I answer fan mail daily.
- I organize and submit manuscript materials and editorial letters to the Kerlan Collection of the University of Minnesota, a repository and reference facility for children’s literature.
- I process Deed of Gift forms for the above, one form per manuscript.
- I respond to regular requests for previously unpublished poems to be printed in anthologies.
- I respond to regular requests for book donations, selecting and shipping said books.
Get you new book right here!
- I order and review the creation of teaching guides for my books.
- I ship galleys of each new book to key librarians around the country to help promote my books.
- I design, print, and ship postcards to promote my books.I create and mail promotional kits to those who request them.
- I do radio, magazine, newspaper, and internet interviews.
- I maintain and update my website 1 to 2 times each month.
- I create various pieces of original writing for libraries, schools, and charities who are arranging special exhibits and displays.
A picture is worth …
- I search for illustrators.
- I review and comment on illustrations for my books.
- I proofread printed galleys of my books 2 to 3 times during production.
Aw, man, do I have to?
- I conduct interviews as research for my books.
- I do library and internet research for my books.
- I shop for research materials and office supplies.
- I file, and file, and file some more (manuscripts, book reviews, correspondence, fan mail, etc.)
As I was saying … speaking engagements
This is a category in, and of, itself.
Travel: I book my own flights.
Materials: I print, prepare, and ship bookmarks, postcards, posters, and brochures to each event in advance.
Schools: I autograph bookmarks for each child I meet with. In some cases, that number exceeds 1,000 for a single school, alone. I frequently visit several schools in a row.
Administration: I’m in constant contact with event sponsors to hammer out flight and hotel arrangements, book order specifics, daily itinerary, program parameters, contracts, work or purchase order forms, tax forms, etc. If sponsors wish to videotape my presentations, release forms have to be processed. Generally, I’m involved with arranging as many as four different events at any one time.
Follow-Up: After an event, I draft and mail expense reports for out-of-pocket costs.
I send thank you cards to each sponsor.
I file all paperwork connected with the completed event.
blah, blah, blah …
- I mentor several writers.
- I serve as judge for literary award competitions. (For one such competition, I read 105 books.)
- I read manuscripts by other authors and occasionally write blurbs at their publisher’s request.
- I’m on the board of a writing magazine for which I read and comment on six issues at a time.
You’ll notice, I haven’t mentioned writing yet …
And you thought all authors do is write all day.
In addition to my personal writing projects:
- I write biographical material, per request.
- I write poems for anthologies, following a suggested theme or format.
- I write speeches and workshop material for the keynote presentations and school visits I conduct.
Get a life.
Besides all of the above, I work hard to maintain my home, my garden, my relationships, and to serve my church — not necessarily in that order.
As I said at the beginning, I have no “free” time. All of my time is expensive. Consequently, I spend it with a great deal of forethought.
The truth is, everybody’s time is expensive, yours included. Make sure you treat it that way.