The 9 Traits You Need to Succeed as a Nonfiction Writer

what you need to succeedYour ability to generate ideas or produce compelling manuscripts represent a small determining factor in whether you will succeed as a nonfiction writer or author. Your success depends in larger part on the possession of the essential personality characteristics necessary for success.

Every year it becomes more difficult to succeed as a nonfiction writer. The book publishing industry becomes more competitive, and publishers require you to do in the way of building author platform and promoting your books. If you want to write for publications, fewer places exist to pitch, but they have more requirement to fill before you land an assignment. With so much to do, you likely feel overwhelmed and in need of a lot more time to accomplish the necessary tasks.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: It’s not enough to have a good idea or great writing skill if you want to succeed as a nonfiction writer. You need more…much more. But today, I want to go beyond the need for business savvy, a base of raving fans who will buy your books, or the expertise to produce marketable work—all of which I’ve written about in previous posts. I want to talk about your ability to succeed. I want to discuss you.

Yes, you.

Do you have what it takes to succeed as a nonfiction writer this coming year and beyond?

Do You Have Author Attitude?

First and foremost, you must be able to produce the work. If you can’t produce the work, you won’t succeed. Many wannabe writers and authors have ideas, and some of them can write, but they aren’t productive. Does that describe you?

ATM x200To become a productive writer, you must first have an Author Attitude. In The Author Training Manual, I discuss at length what I call an Author Attitude. I’ve written about the four characteristics of Author Attitude here as well. In general, to succeed as a nonfiction writer an author you need to possess or generate:


You must be willing to do whatever is necessary, including sacrificing to make time to produce work. Producing your articles, essays, blog posts, and books must be your priority. And you must send your work out regularly.


You must have an optimistic attitude, or the ability to see the positive side even when presented with the negative side. Optimism prevents you from getting stuck in self-doubt, fear, inner and outer judgment, self-criticism, or any other negative emotions, thoughts or beliefs. Optimists see setbacks as opportunities to improve and move forward. They feel challenged by difficulties rather than stopped by them.


You must be able to get distance from your writing project and see it—and yourself—from someone else’s perspective. Objectivity allows you to see yourself and your work through the lens of an editor, agent, or reader. Your opinion matters much less than theirs, so you have to be able to stand in their shoes and see through their eyes.


You have to have a “refuse-to-fail” approach to your work and career. Tenacity supports you in moving forward no matter what and never giving up…ever…until you reach your goal of becoming a successful nonfiction author or writer.

Are You a High-Performer?

Additionally, you must possess the same qualities that the highest performers around the globe use to achieve success in every industry. They produce an enormous amount of work daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. And they don’t achieve peak performance—occasional moments, days or weeks when they reach heightened levels of performance. No. High performers have the ability to reach heightened and sustained levels of performance not just in the professional areas of their lives but in every area of their lives.

If you want to succeed as a nonfiction writer or author, you need to possess—or cultivate—these same qualities. You need to have:


It’s impossible to achieve goals or accomplish work if you feel unclear about what you should be doing or need to do next. The more clarity you have, the more easily and quickly move toward achieving your goals. You must be clear about the following:

  • Why you want to write what you want to write. * Your target market (readers).
  • Your goals—for your current projects and for your career.
  • How you need to change, or what habits or character traits you need to develop, to succeed.
  • The benefit your work provides to readers and editors.
  • How to make your work unique and necessary in a bookstore category or for publications.

Becoming a successful author can be likened to running a marathon—or many marathons. Each time you write a book or article, you need to get off the starting line and cross the finish line. You must be in shape to do so. You need energy and stamina physically and mentally. That means you must:

  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Eat well.
  • Sleep enough.
  • Take highly-absorbed and high-quality supplements. (Check out Usana for both supplements and nutritional products. I use these every day! If you need a consult with my health team, email me.)

Both your body and your mind must be in shape to produce work consistently and effectively. Take time to relax, breath deeply, and rest. And give your body what it needs to perform.


Putting your work into the world can be scary. You are afraid that someone might judge or criticize your or your work. You might get rejected, or you might fail…publicly. If you let these fears stop you from producing your work or sending it out, you’ll never reach your goal. You won’t become a successful nonfiction writer or author. Remember, the things you fear won’t cause you bodily harm. And they are only possibilities that might happen in the future. You create those fears—in you mind. Stop focusing on the negative or scary things you think might happen and, instead, focus on the positive, exciting possibilities instead. When you place your attention on the future you could and want to have, you will courageously move forward step by step.


Most aspiring writers and authors complain about one thing: lack of time. They tell me they just can’t get the work done. Does that sound like you? It’s time to develop high-performance habits that help you achieve and sustained heightened level of productivity. Try:

  • Blocking writing time on your calendar.
  • Setting daily work priorities—and sticking to them.
  • Tackling the hard stuff first.
  • Taking frequent breaks so your brain stays clear, focused, and energized.
  • Staying out of your email box and off of social networks until you accomplish your primary goal for the day.

Choose the habits you find most helpful. Find ways to stop struggling with distractions. Focus your attention on the work at hand—and nothing else—for the amount of time you allot to the project each day. That’s what matters most if you want to become a productive writer and achieve your goals.


No matter how you look at it, as a nonfiction writer, you need the ability to influence those in your target market—your readers. To do that, you not only need to build an author platform, but you must also learn how to influence your fans and followers. To do that, you must be authentic and inspiring, and you must showcase your expertise and provide value consistently. Yes, this takes effort and time. (Block time for blogging, curating great content—yours and that of other experts—daily on social networks, producing YouTube videos, etc.) But every book publisher requires it of a nonfiction writer. And you’ll have an easier time landing assignments from publications with a platform and authority. Beyond building your platform so you develop influence in this manner, practice your influence daily; inspire everyone you meet. Ask them about their dreams and goals, and encourage them to make them a reality. Write inspiring blog posts, social media status updates and email. Provide benefit every chance you can. Practice swaying people’s thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors in a positive manner.

Cultivate the Characteristics You Need

Combine all nine of these qualities, and become unstoppable! Become a high-performance writer.

But what if you don’t feel you possess one or more of these high-performance or successful-author traits? Choose to develop them.

That’s right, decide to be willing, optimistic, objective, tenacious, clear, energetic, courageous, productive, or influential. As bestselling author Brendon Burchard likes to point out, “A power plant doesn’t have energy. It generates it.” See yourself as a power plant. Generate the qualities you need or desire.

To do so, first, decide or choose to become a successful nonfiction writer or author.

High_Performance_Writer x200Next, determine which characteristics you need to develop. Then set out to generate or cultivate those qualities by:

  • Getting training.
  • Educating yourself
  • Affirming daily that you already possess that quality.
  • Behaving “as if” you already are a successfully author—and possess the characteristic.
  • Reminding yourself regularly to display that characteristic. -Finding good role models and inspiring peer groups.

Every day, focus on becoming a successful nonfiction writer or author. Give yourself tasks that allow you to cultivate the characteristics necessary to succeed as a nonfiction author. Before you know it, you’ll possess all nine traits, and you will have become a successful nonfiction author or writer.

Truly, success depends upon you. To create all the other things you need to succeed, you need to cultivate the habits, attitudes, and traits that help you succeed as a nonfiction writer and author–and in every area of your life.

Make 2016 the year you succeed as a nonfiction writer or author.

Join the Nonfiction Writers’ University or purchase one of my many products or services (including coaching) during my New Year Sale. Get the tools you need to help you succeed.

  • Best year for writers Learn to write a book fast.
  • Discover how to blog a book.
  • Get the education and support necessary to become a nonfiction writer or author.
  • Produce marketable book ideas.
  • And more…

Shop the New Year Sale NOW! It ends on December 31.

2016 is your year. Invest in yourself.

Photo courtesy of vitanovski|


  1. You “must” take “highly absorbed” supplements to be a successful writer? Really? Must you also employ the services of the author’s own “health team?” Not sure but that appeared to be quite the shameful plug.

    • I said take supplements…because they help you stay healthy and energized. And your brain needs them to function well. I didn’t say you must employ my health team. And I get nothing out of anyone contacting my health team–my sister. I do get something if someone buys Usana products, and I will, indeed plug them shamelessly because I use them and believe in them. And I make my living with income from a variety of sources.

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