This may not come across in my writings but I’m not a huge fan of being dependent on others. It makes me a little sick sometimes yet there are moments when it’s unavoidable. One of those moments just so happens to be when dealing with illustrators. Once you hand over your manuscript (and this applies to editors as well) the rest of world is no longer on your timetable, you’re on their timetable. There’s nothing wrong with this under normal circumstances, and again it’s nearly unavoidable, but every once in a while the unforeseeable rears its ugly head and you find yourself with a little more time on your hands than you anticipated.
The individuals you contract have lives and things don’t always go smoothly. Setbacks occur and, when they do, it may throw your carefully crafted plans into disarray (at least that was the case with me). Fortunately being a self-published author means you have a ridiculous number of tasks to complete before you’re officially published. Assuming you’re not an expert on anything in the literary world having some down-time can, in some cases, be a blessing in disguise. Especially if you haven’t thoroughly constructed a long term strategy for your success, aside from: Step 1. Write book, Step 2. Publish book, Step 3. Repeat.
Reading author blogs, listening to author or publishing podcasts, and even contacting said authors to sharpen your skills constitutes a great use of your free-time. You’ll also have to consider your social media presence, a personal website, email lists, future advertising, potential review sources, so on and so forth. You might also want to think about if your book will be a standalone work, a trilogy or part of a series. And you should probably make sure that you have enough decent ideas to carry your series if you go that route (a few bad reviews are to be expected but if they double with each new book in your series you may want to do a little soul searching).
In regards to my own decision I chose to write a young adult novel instead. My illustrator had a situation they needed to take care of which left me with more time than I was comfortable with, so I put it to good use. I’d already written the first drafts of my next two children’s books and wanted to ensure I had some breathing room once the ball officially began to roll. This comes from some great advice I found online, i.e. make sure you have a backlog of works ready. It might seem like a good idea to write one book at a time, publish it then repeat but time might not always be on your side. There’s a chance you won’t have to play the waiting game, or even get the chance, which means you’ll be swamped with a hundred other items on your to-do list. If you’re taking the steps to become an author (or already have) then you should be aware the clock officially starts when you publish your first book. Before that you’re just an unknown with a writing hobby.
Once you put your work out there for the rest of the world to judge then you have to decide if you’ll be turning that hobby into a career. It can be grueling and even soul crushing at times, but it can also be very liberating. With that said, it’s still a job. Writing at your leisure is something you probably don’t have the luxury of doing, unlike most heavy hitting bestsellers. It’d be like going to work when you felt like it, in which case you’d go in one day and realize you didn’t have a job. If you have extra time it should be well spent not squandered (and trust me, I’ve wasted more time than I care to admit, but I’m working on it). After you’ve made your first few millions and have your books translated into several different languages then maybe you can take a break. Until then stay focused and don’t take your foot off the gas. Later on, when your books are being sold worldwide and they’re being adapted for the big screen, you’ll thank yourself.