Five Keys to Becoming a Successful Author in 2016

how nonfiction authors succeedEvery year we say the same thing: This is the best year ever to be a writer and author. Indeed, there are more ways to publish than ever, and you don’t have to choose one publishing path over another. However, no matter how or what you publish, you need to  mastered a variety of tools, strategies, and habits—not all of which have much to do with writing. Doing so provides the key to becoming a successful author in 2016.

To succeed as an author this year and in the future, you need the following five keys.

Key #1. An Author Website or Blog

For many years, the term “author platform” has been the thorn in every nonfiction (and fiction) writer’s side. You can’t just write; you must build a base of potential readers in your target market—a platform—before you even have a book to sell to them.

While you can utilize any number of platform elements, such as speaking and social networking, one platform remains the most reliable: your author website or blog. It will continue to provide the sturdiest foundation for your platform in the future.

Social networks come and go—and change. You have no control over them, but you do control your blog and make the rules for your website. You can brand the site, promote what you like on it and in any way you like, and use it to become an expert or to share your expertise.

Additionally, you own and control the list of subscribers you obtain via your website. Plus, you can grow your list with a website and blog.

You can’t control the site nor can you build or manage subscribers on social networks.

An author website allows you to readers, publishers, and the media to find you. And every blog post you publish helps your site—which means you and your books—become more discoverable to your ideal readers and customers. It’s your information hub and the place where you carry out a content marketing strategy to help you succeed.

Key #2. Success Characteristics

To succeed as a writer or author, you need the same six characteristics or skills possessed by high performers in every industry around the world. They include:


Without clarity, you don’t know why you want to write your book or become an author. You don’t know who you are writing for or the benefit your provide to those readers. You move through your days and your projects with a fuzzy sense of where you are going. You may not even have a clear picture of your destination.

That makes it difficult to stay motivated or to know how to do to achieve your goals.

With clarity comes the ability to know how to succeed and an emotional connection to the end result. Get clear first. Then take action toward becoming a successful author.


Without a strong mind and body, you can’t fulfill your purpose or create a successful career as an author. You’ll lack stamina, clarity, and focus.

Do you wake up tired, get sleepy every afternoon, or feel lethargic and have a difficult time concentrating? Then you need to increase your energy. Commit to heightened and sustained energy levels this year, and you’ll find it easier to take significant strides toward success this year.


Fear serves as your jailer. If you want to break out and move toward your goals, you have to realize you create fear with your thoughts. More often than not, you make yourself afraid. But you have the choice to think daring thoughts and to take courageous action.

Don’t let fears stop you from succeeding. Instead, develop the courage to move forward.


We are a distracted society. It’s as if we have a collective case of ADHD. If you want to produce more work, you must learn to focus.

To become more productive, you don’t need to manage your time; you need to manage your attention.

When you help yourself focus on the task at hand, you’ll find yourself more productive than you thought possible. The sheer volume of work you turn out will help you succeed.


An author platform help you become influential in a target market. When you have influence, people listen to you and do what you ask, such as “Buy my books.” That’s why publishers want authors with a platform.

However, to create personal and professional success, you also need influence with yourself. Only then can you make the necessary, but sometimes difficult, changes that help you succeed.

Whether you work on building platform or self-discipline, the efforts you make in the area of influence will pay off in ways you can’t yet imagine.


The best way to achieve your goals is to tie them to a strong sense of purpose. However, for you to do that, you must know why you do what you do. If your “why” or reason isn’t strong enough, if it doesn’t resonate with you emotionally, you won’t accomplish your goal of becoming a successful author.

When you know your passion and purpose, you can write a mission statement. Then align all your projects and tasks with this purpose to keep you taking inspired action toward your goals and ensure your success.

Key #3. A Varied Publishing Path

A varied publishing path gives you flexibility and control. No one “right” path has ever existed for authors, but now you can combine traditional and self-publishing and have a career as a hybrid author. When you opt for the middle publishing road, you get:

  • The best of both worlds
  • Control
  • Freedom
  • The chance to earn more from book sales
  • The ability to promote your traditional books with indie books (and vice versa)
  • The opportunity to sell more copies of both types of books

The more books you write, the more books you sell. Not every book is right for traditional publishing, but some books deserve that type of treatment, exposure, and distribution.

Learn everything you can about all the different ways to publish (and write) books. Then utilize your knowledge to become a hybrid author. You won’t rely on one publishing path, and you’ll take advantage of what both have to offer to help you succeed.

Key #4. Business Savvy

Publishing is a business, and if you want to become an author who succeeds, approach your writing projects from a business perspective. No matter how you publish, you need to have business savvy.

Know how to create a marketable book idea and how to sell the idea and, later, the book. To do so, learn to produce a business plan for your book and evaluate if you book idea has a chance of selling. Also create a promotion plan.

If you self-publish, just like a traditional publisher, you produce, distribute and sell books. As the publisher, you manage a team, and you decide in which books to invest your time, energy, and money.

If you seek a traditional publisher, realize you want a venture capital partner. The company that backs your project needs to see proof or a sound argument that your book is a viable business proposition.

For creatives, like writers, business savvy doesn’t always come naturally. To succeed as an author this year and in the future, commit to becoming just as good at business as you are at writing.

Key #5. Clear Goals

Successful people in all industries set goals. They do this yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. This helps them stay focused on the end results they desire, take action regularly, achieve milestones in a timely manner, and accomplish their priorities.

If you haven’t yet set goals for the New Year, it’s time to do so. Then chunk them down into smaller to-do items you can take action on daily. (To receive a free ebook, How to Create—and Achieve—Your Goals: A Quick Guide to Making this Your Most Productive Year Ever, click here.)

If you set the intention this year to put each of these keys to use, you’ll unlock the door to successful authorship.

NFWURealize your dream of becoming a successful nonfiction writer and author. Create a sustainable career as a nonfiction writer and author, and fulfill your potential by making a positive and meaningful difference with your words. Join the Nonfiction Writers University.


Photo courtesy of INFINITY|

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