A writer wrote to me and asked, "Is it really that difficult to be a published author? Do you have to pay for printing and such? What does being a published author entail exactly, and what sort of stuff do you have to do besides write what your agent wants or whatever?"
There are some definite perks to being a published author - like being a published author. I still get such a kick out of telling people that I'm a "Novelist," when they ask me what I do for a living.
If it were up to me, my entire job would be writing novels, reading, moderating Go Teen Writers, and replying to loads and loads of fan mail.
Here's a list of non-writing stuff that takes up my time:
Blogging - I blog 2 days a week here, 3 days a week on my author blog, and then I contribute to a third blog. There are days where I write three to four blog posts. Makes me cranky.
Social Networking - Yes, I'm serious. Facebook and Twitter are part of my job. I enjoy them (well, FB anyway. I still don't feel like I "get" Twitter) but they take up time.
Tax stuff - Being a novelist = owning my own business. Whether I like it or not.
Keeping up to date with the market - Which I do by visiting several industry blogs and monitoring new releases.
Critiquing for writer friends - (No laughing, Roseanna!) I'm a horrendous critique partner these days, but there are seasons where this takes up a significant chunk of time. Totally worth it though when you work with the right people.
Interviews/Guest Blogs/Articles - This is exactly what it sounds like. Especially when I've arranged a blog tour or when a book of mine is getting ready to release or has just released (which has been the case for about 18 months now), I'm constantly giving interviews, writing guest blogs, and writing articles.
School visits/Teaching - Which I enjoy, but it can really freak me out. I'm not a fan of being the center of attention.
Email - I respond to everybody who e-mails me. Totally worth it, but time consuming. (If you've e-mailed me and I haven't responded, it's because I didn't get it, or because your e-mail address was invalid or your server rejected me.)
Managing my web site
Visiting area bookstores
And then there are two big things I have to do, that all novelists have to do, that I would ax from my job description in a heartbeat:
My own marketing
All publishing houses are different, of course, but it's pretty well understood that you are in charge of your own marketing. Yes, there's a marketing department. For debut authors, they have a small budget and pretty standard ideas. I don't mean that as criticism, it's just the way things are. My publishing house ran ads in a couple magazines, sent out books to bloggers, and mailed me bookmarks and postcards for me to pass out at school visits/book signings.
And even when the marketing department has something special they want to do to promote your book, there's usually a role for you to play as well. (Advertising a contest, compiling a list of names, answering interview questions for a website, and so forth.) And I'm learning that you should always follow up on what they say they'll do to keep from falling through the cracks. I've really tried to be easy to work with, and while I still feel that's a good attitude, there's a time and place for being a squeaky wheel.
Bottom line - If your sales suck, the execs in the house aren't looking at the marketing department saying, "What happened, guys?" Instead, they cut the author loose.
My own publicity
Marketing is stuff you pay for (bookmarks, ads, etc.) Publicity is free stuff. Like when you're on TV or in the newspaper. I've done both, plus given a couple radio interviews. These weren't the result of my publishing house setting them up, they were the result of my publicist's work. My publicist who gets paid by me.
So while my publishing house pays for printing and distribution and all that jazz, basically everything else falls to me. Since becoming a novelist, I've fallen in love with writing even more. I think it's because absence makes the heart grow fonder, and writing is often absent from my regular routine.
Like any job, there are things I don't like and never will. Would I trade my job? No. Would I unload some unpleasantries if I could? Totally.