Many writing or publishing experts can advise you on how to write a book and become a published nonfiction author. Fewer authorities can tell you how to succeed as a nonfiction author, but that’s the advice you need most—and it has little to do with writing or publishing.
I’m not talking about receiving tips on promoting your book or building a raving fan base. I’m talking about developing the ability or skill set that helps you succeed at whatever you decide to do—including writing and publishing a book.
How Do You Define Success?
What’s the use of writing a book—or even an article—if it doesn’t sell or get read? After all, selling your work and knowing it impacts people’s lives equates to success, right?
As a nonfiction author, success also could mean your words and work:
- Transform lives
- Start movements
- Create positive change in organizations or communities
- Produce income (for you)
- Develop a business (for you)
For you, any one, or a combination, of these might define success. Or it might mean something entirely different. For instance, you might only want to write a memoir as a legacy for your children. Completing the project and handing each member of your family a copy would equate to personal success.
How to Succeed
That begs the question: How do you achieve success as a nonfiction author?
- Choosing a topic
- Book proposals
- Query letters
- Finding an agent
- Working with an editor
These are all important subjects, and ones you need to understand and master to succeed as a nonfiction author. However, if you don’t have the ability to take action toward your goal of becoming a successful nonfiction author, none of this information matters. You have to be able to take each necessary step or complete each necessary task, including all those related to the list above.
Learn How to Get Results
That’s why first, you must learn how to get the results you seek. Successful people in all industries get results. The publishing industry is no different. Successful authors know how to accomplish their goals and achieve their dreams. If your goal or dream is to become an author, you must learn to do the same.
In the publishing industry, writing a book is the result of many hours spent composing a manuscript. If you say you want to write a book but never sit down and type a word, you’ll find it difficult to achieve your goal.
Becoming a successful nonfiction author comes as the result of:
- Creating a marketable book idea
- Knowing your market and competition
- Promoting well
- Building platform
- Developing a business plan or book proposal
To achieve results in these areas—or in any area—you must first manage three things:
- Your beliefs.
- Your decisions.
- Your Actions.
A Harvard University study proved that 85 percent of your success depends on your attitude and only 15 percent on your technical aptitude. As I wrote in The Author Training Manual, “To a huge degree, your attitude is based upon your beliefs. Beliefs affect your decisions. Decisions then affect your actions, which affect your results.”
If you don’t know what you believe about any aspect of becoming a successful nonfiction author, you won’t be able to:
- Decide if it is something you want to achieve, and then…
- Take concrete actions so you can…
- Achieve the results that move you closer to your goal.
The formula you need to learn if you want to succeed as a nonfiction author is:
You have to decide to write the book and then perform the action of writing. Doing so results in a manuscript.
You have to decide to become a published nonfiction author and then perform the actions necessary to achieve this result, such as building platform and producing a book proposal. Those actions results in a business plan that convinces a publisher you have a viable product and are a good publishing partner.
What Do You Believe?
You won’t make a decision, though, if your belief system doesn’t support that decision. Without the decision, you take no action and achieve few, if any, results.
Do you believe one or more of these statements?
- Writing a book is hard.
- I don’t write well enough to succeed as a nonfiction author.
- I am not an expert.
- I am not good enough.
- No one will want to read what I write.
- I don’t have the time to write a book.
- I’d have to sacrifice too much to succeed as a nonfiction author.
- I’m afraid I’ll fail.
- I don’t know enough about writing and publishing to write a book.
Such negative beliefs will keep you from deciding to move forward and take action toward your goal. That’s why, if you think you want to become a nonfiction writer or author, the best advice I can give you—or anyone can give you—is not how to structure your book, or write a fabulous book proposal or get your book published on CreateSpace. The best advice I can provide is this:
Uncover your beliefs, and, in particular, your negative beliefs, about becoming an author. Next, determine if those beliefs are fact based and supportive. Then, change those that don’t serve you to new, positive and supportive beliefs.
To do so, try this exercise.
- Write down all the beliefs you have about becoming a nonfiction writer or author.
- For each one, answer this question, “Is this true?”
- Cross off the beliefs that are not true.
- For each one, answer this question, “Does this belief serve me?”
- Cross of the beliefs that don’t serve you.
- Rewrite new, positive, and supportive beliefs.
For example, you might believe, “I don’t have time to write a book.” Is this true? If you spend three hours every evening watching television or reading novels, it seems you have time. Mark this off the list as untrue. Does the belief serve you or help you become an author? Definitely not. A new, supportive belief to adopt might be, “I create the time to write a book,” or “I create time for the things that are important to me, such as writing a book.”
Maybe you believe this: “I don’t like being in the public eye, so I don’t want to use social networks.” Is that true? Becoming an author puts you in the public eye. You want to become an author. Therefore, the belief is untrue. Does it serve you? Not if you want your books to sell. Assuming you do, better to wrap your mind around the idea of being active on social networks by adopting a new belief like, “I enjoy finding potential readers for my work by increasing my visibility in every way possible.”
Anchor Your New Beliefs
With positive and supportive beliefs, it will be easier for you to decide to watch just one hour of television and write for the other two hours per night or to prepare to approach a publisher or self-publish your book. And you will follow through with action, and see the results of your efforts.
It took time to adopt your old beliefs. Somewhere along the line, you made a decision to believe what someone told you or what you heard or learned. Now you are making a choice to believe something different. Similarly, it will take time to adopt your new beliefs. Work with them like affirmations. Write them on Post-It Notes and stick these on your computer screen and bathroom mirror. Add your belief statements as reminders or alarms on your SMART phone. Repeat them aloud or in your mind several times per day. In this way you anchor them in your mind.
Every time you find yourself unable to take action toward your goal of writing a book and becoming an author, explore your beliefs around that action. Discover how you beliefs stop you from making a decision, and how that indecision prevents you from taking action and achieving the results you desire.
Once you’ve cleared out the old, unsupportive beliefs and replaced them with new ones, use that other information about how to write a book and become a nonfiction author you’ve received from me or another nonfiction writing and publishing expert.
Then decide to write your book, take the necessary actions, and become a successful nonfiction author.
As Jimmy Buffet wrote in Off to See the Lizard, “Believe it, and it will come true.”
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