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Even writing mentors have their own mentor and I saw mine on the weekend.  She cares about me and she also completely understands the fact that marketing books has changed enormously in the fifteen years I’ve been published, but the one piece of advice she gave me was the same thing she’s been saying to me for twenty years, “Louise, protect the work.”

What she means by this is do the book first, then everything else second.  I’m an intelligent woman so you’d think I’d be able to do that.  I’ve run my own business and also run businesses for other people.  I’ve had a variety of jobs before I came to writing and time management has been easy.  So I’m not sure whether it’s procrastination that sees me Tweeting when I could be writing, or simply the fact that there are some days when I can’t stick to my “No Internet until 2pm” rule because I’m expecting an email from someone.  So at 7am I’m on the Internet downloading emails and invariably one will link to a website and before I know it I’m tweeting or blogging or linking to other people’s blogs or Retweeting.  An hour or two can pass before I realise what’s happening.  An hour or two when I could have been writing or editing.  My friend Lisa at Twine Marketing has told me I need a timer beside my computer, set to 20 minutes.  I think she’s right.

At the Romance Writers of Australia conference in August there were a variety of panels and workshops on how to promote your writing, and some authors said the only way they could be productive was to severely limit their Internet time.  I remember US paranormal author Kelley Armstrong saying she didn’t blog.  It was 600 words she could use in a story.  She Tweeted instead and had Forums on her website where her readers could interact.

Successful authors need to find a way to “protect the work” by prioritising it.  Because if there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s that the best form of promotion is to write a good book.  And the next best form of promotion is to write another good book.  Everyone from agents to publishers to publicists will tell us that the work itself has to be what sells us, and that all the bells and whistles in the world won’t help you have a long and successful career if you can’t write well.  So I know the book is paramount, but I also know that I can’t hide in a cave.  So it’s easy to get distracted by people’s recommendations to Hootsuite or Tweetdeck or Paper.it because these things might eventually lessen the amount of time needed to manage social networking.  But the trouble is that it takes time to check them out, time to set them up, and time to manage them.  Then before you know it, something even better comes along (as well as more social networking media) and you’re off and running again.

It feels like that.  Running.  As if you have to catch something.  When what I’d really prefer is to write an awesome book and have it act like a magnet, drawing people to me.  So this is an ongoing dilemma for me.  Not something I can readily solve.  But I hear my mentor, and I try.  Would love to hear other writers comments on how they work, what they do and what they don’t do to protect their work.  I know I’m not alone.