The 80/20 Rule and Marketing Time vs Creative Time

I recently read a comment in a writing forum that caught my attention. The person who left the comment cited a quote they’d heard about marketing in which the speaker said the percentage of marketing time versus writing time is roughly 80 to 20. 80% marketing, 20% writing.

The commenter was not happy with that quote and viewed the marketing side of writing as a distraction from the real work–writing.

80/20 and The Real World

Unfortunately, the 80/20 rule applies to a lot of things. I’m sure you’re as familiar with some of those applications as I am.

80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people in most organizations.

80 percent of your productivity is accomplished by 20 percent of the things you do. (The same applies to time, by the way.)

I’ve been marketing art a lot longer than I’ve been marketing writing and I can tell you the 80/20 rule is true. Though we creatives don’t like to admit it, it really does take a lot more time to market than to create. That’s just the way things are.

That’s why a lot of artists delegate galleries to market their work and writers delegate marketing books to publishing houses (although this dynamic is changing rapidly). They’ve found a way to exchange some of their income for more creative time.

Not Always a Clearly Defined Line

There is no well-defined marketing line in the sand.

There is no well-defined marketing line in the sand. Most of the time, there’s no line at all.

Living with the 80/20 rule of marketing and creativity would be easier to live with if there was a clearly defined line. One side is marketing and one side is creative.

Unfortunately, there is no such line. When it comes to most creative industries, creating and marketing are sometimes the same thing.

The best portrait marketing I’ve ever done has often been the next portrait.

The same holds true for writers. The most effective way to market your writing is to write the next book.

So looking at a time split (time spent marketing versus time spent creating) can be a quagmire–not to mention wasted effort. Why?

Because the time you spend writing can also be applied to marketing. In some ways, writing is  marketing.

What’s a Writer to Do?

The easy answer is to write. You are a writer; therefore, writing should be your priority.

But unless you don’t care if you sell books or not, then you need to dedicate some time to marketing in more traditional ways, too. Here are a few tips.

Look for ways to market that you can do in a few minutes each day. This can be as easy as answering reader questions on GoodReads or talking about your work-in-progress on your blog or favorite social media outlet. Just remember to keep it real and build relationships. A few minutes spent on the social media outlet of your choice is effective marketing if done properly.

Don’t think you have to do everything. There are tons of ways to market. They won’t all work for you. Try one or two things at a time. Keep those that work. Toss those that don’t.

Set aside time for marketing activities. Especially after you launch a new book, you will have to spend time marketing. Whether you do book launch parties, blog tours, or something else, you will probably have to spend most of your writing time marketing for at least the first couple of weeks. But here’s the good news. The most viable window of marketing opportunity for most books is 30 days. Push your book like crazy for 30 days, then you can get back to writing the next one!

Stuck for tips? Check out the Novel Marketing podcasts. There’s a wealth of information to be found there.


Even when you are focused on marketing, that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little writing. If you can do a few minutes of marketing while you’re focused on writing, then you can also do a few minutes of writing while you’re focused on marketing.

And don’t let that 80/20 thing get the better of you. If it helps, think of all writing as marketing and all marketing as writing.

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