I’m not a “famous” author, but I make a living. Some people might consider that I’m doing decently well, even if I’m not a household name. If you are one of those people, and would like to know what my secret is, keep reading, because I’m going to share my magic formula for success. Are you ready? Here it is …
1) Write well. That means using books like The Elements of Style, The Chicago Manuel of Style, and a good thesaurus. It means writing every day and learning as much as you can about the technical aspects of writing. It also means thoroughly revising your work and working with an editor.
2) Write efficiently, and as quickly as you can, while still writing well. Develop a robust back-list.
3) Even if you are writing something geared toward commercial sales, BE ORIGINAL. Don’t do what another author has done already. It’s better to have someone respect your originality, and continue to invest in your work, than to just buy this book of yours because it reminds them of someone else’s that they enjoyed.
4.) Learn real marketing and PR skills. How? Read books that you find in the business and marketing sections of the local bookstore, not books with titles like “How I sold Ten Billion Books on Amazon in 3 hours.” Take online courses about marketing and PR strategies from reputable instructors. Plenty of great universities offer courses online for free as long as you are not seeking credit. Talk to authors who really understand the business end of publishing.
5.) Don’t rely on gimmicks to promote your books, and don’t do promotional things just because everyone else does. Develop a mailing list of the people who genuinely like your writing. Once per month, put out an interesting and entertaining newsletter and never SPAM the subscribers. Do some market research and develop carefully placed advertising. Collaborate with other authors. Readers like authors who engage with them more than authors who just promote things to them.
6.) Don’t mistake popularity for success.
7.) Don’t waste your time on petty drama. Never publicly criticize another author’s work. Always take the high road.
8.) Be patient and understand that becoming a good writer is a process. Writing is a skill. If you want to do it well, you need to practice, learn, and pay your dues. Can you become a big hit with your first book? Yes, this is the age of the internet, and if you’re incredibly lucky, and in the right place at the right time, maybe your book will go viral. Maybe you’ll even be able to sustain it. But that’s not becoming a good writer; that’s becoming a famous author. Becoming a good writer is a better goal in the long-run. Focus on that even if it takes some time.
So there it is, the secret is … that there’s no secret to success as an author, at least as long as you define “success” as making a living doing something you love and enjoy.