Writers in the Storm

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January 25, 2023

5 Tips for Managing your Author Business During Crises

by Maria Connor of My Author Concierge

stressed woman has many questions

Over the past three years, I’ve observed more and more people — friends, family, clients, and industry peers — experience significant changes in their personal and professional lives. Since much of my job as an author assistant and project manager is organizing and handling “operations” for my authors, I’ve been in the trenches dealing with logistics.

We’ve had to pivot, adapt, innovate, re-prioritize, and shift focus. We’ve had to restructure workflow and revise procedures. We’ve brought on new team members, adjusted duties, and in some cases, downsized in order to keep their businesses manageable.

As a small business owner, you need to be aware of how crisis and upheaval can impact operations—what does it mean for you, your readers, your business partners, your suppliers? How will it impact sales, production, distribution, and promotion?

I’d like to offer five strategies for managing your author business during times of disruption and uncertainty.

1. Put your oxygen mask on first.

You hear this advice from flight attendants before every flight, and with good reason. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. When confronted with any crisis (big or small, global or personal), take time to assess what you need—practical, emotional, and physical. Activate your support system or deal with preparations, and then get back to business. Keep in mind this isn’t necessarily a linear process. As the situation changes, you may need to step away from work from time to time.

This strategy includes ongoing self-care. Manage stress through meditation, exercise, getting enough sleep, confiding in trusted friends, stepping away from the news and media, eating nutritious food, listening to music. It’s easy to wallow in panic and fear—taking control where you can is empowering and eases that sense of overwhelm.

2. Know your priorities.

When confronting a crisis, you may find your resources (physical, mental, time, money, energy, attention, creativity) are limited. Are you now taking care of children because schools are closed? Are you too distracted by worries and concerns to focus on writing? Have travel restrictions stranded you in a foreign country? Take time out to prioritize work tasks. What is most important and cannot be deferred? What is next is terms of value vs. effort? Can you save something for later? Knowing what needs to be done and when is helpful in managing stress and sharpening focus.

3. Adjust expectations.

When faced with a multitude of distractions, productivity is the first casualty. Your word count may be down, or you may have to step back from commitments. Engagement with readers may decrease or take on a different tone. Service providers may require an extension or more flexibility than usual. Sales might drop. A disruption in service/operations may cause problems. Most importantly, maintain your professionalism. Poor attitudes do little to improve any situation. Look for creative solutions to problems and be flexible.

4. Look for opportunities.

Crises and times of uncertainty bring both risk and opportunity. Share resources, acknowledge the struggle, lend a sympathetic ear. All of this can lead to a stronger, more authentic connection with people. Can’t focus on your current WIP? Try writing something else and sharing it with readers as a free read in your newsletter or on your blog. Temporarily discount your books so people can escape from reality without worrying about the cost. Cross-promote to share the work and the benefit.

5. Be honest and transparent.

These are challenging times for all of us, and that includes small business owners. Continue to communicate with your customers (readers, author peers, editor, agent, cover designer, publicist, etc.) and be upfront if the crisis interferes in operations. Let your readers know if a release date needs to be pushed back. If you won’t be able to meet a deadline, work with your editor to reschedule. Let service providers know as soon as possible if you need to downsize operations.

There is no playbook on how to handle our publishing business during a pandemic, war, health emergency, or other crisis, but the best time to think about these things is when we’re NOT in crisis because in order to—

  • safeguard our author business
  • avoid losing readers and income
  • better manage stress in a chaotic situation
  • preserve our credibility and maintain partnerships
  • and avoid having to rebuild our platform

—identifying potential liabilities and planning ahead is the key to continue writing and publishing in times of crisis and uncertainty.

What would you add to the list? Have any of these steps been challenging for you these last several years? Are there any that particularly resonated with you?

* * * * * *

About Maria

Maria Connor

Maria Connor is the founder and owner of My Author Concierge, which provides high-level project management support services to self-published authors. She is the author of The Self-Publishing Checklist Series, a USA Today bestselling contemporary romance author, and an international speaker on writing, editing, marketing, and publishing topics. For more than a decade, she has worked with hundreds of authors across all genres, published more than 35 titles herself, and presented more than 30 workshops regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Top image purchased from Depositphotos.

10 comments on “5 Tips for Managing your Author Business During Crises”

  1. Hi Maria,
    This is definitely an important topic. I've wrestled with it.

    You can't help anyone if you are floundering, so I totally understand the putting on the oxygen mask first.

    I had to take a long look at what I had in mind for the business and how that fit into our family situation. No easy decisions.

    1. Sandy - I'm glad this information was helpful. Being a parent or caregiver, any role with important responsibilities, can make it difficult to prioritize everything that must get done. Checking in on where WE are at and making sure we get sufficient rest, nutrition, stress management, exercise, sleep, and support can feel like yet another task but in the long run, it fuels us to keep going. Good luck to you.

  2. Great article. Too often we get bogged down in the struggles of life and forget to assess situations and readjust what we're doing. To be kind to ourselves and prioritise self-care.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  3. I am fighting breast cancer right now so I am definitely in one of those crisis periods. This is super sage advice. Thanks so much for sharing it!

    1. Jenny - Sending positive energy as you face this health challenge. Situations like this are complex because you may be unable to work and you need to decide what boundaries you're comfortable with as far as sharing private details. I wish you well.

  4. Thank you for this great advice, Maria! I think the self care aspect is the most important for me to remember. I was a caregiver for my mother for many years, and that drained my creativity during that time. I *wish* I'd known then how to protect my creativity. It was something that I did eventually learn, but I spent about 15 years absolutely unable to write. I don't regret the time spent, but I do regret not writing during those years!

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