No matter where I teach or speak, writers meet me with the same complaints. Aspiring authors say the necessary tasks required to achieve their goals—and dreams—of becoming successful, bestselling, published authors feel too difficult, occupy too much time, focus on business more than craft, and, worst of all, put their writing on hold.
I understand these arguments. I use to make them all myself, and sometimes I still feel like complaining. Yet, I continue to use and to recommend the strategies that cause these complaints—because they work. They make it easier and more likely for writers to succeed.
Truly, I’ve been in the same place. I’ve felt frustrated and overwhelmed by all the “hats” writers today must wear to create marketable books and help them sell. We must wear business hat, promotion hat, social media hat, speaker hat, and, last but not least, writing hat. Sometimes I still want to complain, but I don’t. I just do what’s necessary, and I embrace the tasks because I know they get me where I want to go. They help me create successful books and become a successful author.
Without any lack of compassion, when aspiring writers complain to me that they “just want to write,” I offer two responses.
- No one ever said becoming a bestselling author was going to be easy. In fact, creating a book that sells an above-average amount of copies and a career as an author, which means earning enough to pay your bills, is downright difficult.
- To achieve your goal of becoming a successful author, you must want it badly enough. If you won’t do what it takes—whatever it takes, it’s time for you to question the strength of your desire and commitment to your goal of becoming a successful author.
Not everyone likes those responses.
Embrace It All
This past weekend I had the honor of teaching a group of MFA students at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (NILA) on Whidby Island, WA. We discussed how to create a career plan for successful authorship. I covered the four steps I will be teaching in depth in my Create Your Bestselling Author Career program, which begins January 26, 2015. The four steps to creating a career plan for successful authorship are:
- Craft a marketable book idea
- Write a bestselling book
- Develop an effective book-promotion plan
- Build a business around your book
When I finished the three-and-a-half-hour class, the students filed out quietly. I had noticed that some of them had that “deer-in-the-headlights” look on their faces, especially as we got into the promotion and platform building topics. There were fewer and fewer questions.
One man remained behind for a few moments. “I guess I overwhelmed them,” I said.
“No. You told them exactly what they needed to hear, but most of them just didn’t want to hear it,” he replied. “And for many of them, this was all new information. Many of them have their books written already, and they just learned about author platform today. Or they are just getting started in the program, so this is all new to them.”
“Ah…well, that explains it,” I replied. “But the problem is that, like so many writers, they don’t want to plan marketable books, build platforms or promote. They just want to write as soon as they have a book idea. When I speak at conferences, almost every time someone raises her hand and whines, ‘But I only want to write…’”
“They need to learn to embrace all those tasks if they want to succeed,” he said with a smile on his face. “I do.”
I smiled back. “That’s exactly right. That’s what changed the course of my career—learning to embrace the activities or tasks I didn’t like or want to do but that would help me succeed as an author.”
He and I were talking about a necessary attitude shift. For me, it happened after about eight years of trying to get published. In one moment, I decided I was unwilling to fail. I realized I had to do just what this student said: I had to embrace the tasks I had been doing under duress—just because I should or had to. I embraced building my platform in any and all ways. I embraced promotion in all forms. I embraced the business aspects of creating successful books including evaluating each and every book idea to determine its marketability.
My attitude completely changed, and so did my results. Within four years, I had a bestselling, traditionally published book on the market, and my career as a successful author was on its way!
Prior to that, like the people I meet wherever I teach or speak, my attitude toward these same tasks was negative. I complained about the time it took to blog, to do social networking and to promote in general. I balked at doing a market or competitive analysis before planning out the content of my book. In fact, I didn’t want to plan the content because I preferred to write off the top of my head. I could see the book in my head. I knew where it was going and what content I’d include in it…sort of. (Yes, I was a “seatser,” someone who writes by the seat of their pants.)
To be honest, it was simply easier to act upon my ideas and write without a plan. Everything else felt too hard and time consuming.
But that attitude didn’t get me where I wanted to go—successful authorship.
Face the Truth
Why not just face the truth? Becoming an author is hard. Becoming a successful author is even more difficult.
But who said it isn’t worthwhile to do something hard? Of course, it is!
And, guess what? It doesn’t have to be as hard as you think…if you accept the fact that there are tasks you must complete, you embrace them, and you use a strategy that makes it easier to succeed.
What is that strategy? The Bestselling Author Career strategy has five parts:
- Develop a vision of your future, including the additional books you might want to write and the products and services you could provide. The more books you write, the more books you sell. That’s why you want to brainstorm spin-offs and series. But don’t stop there. Consider each book a product line. Brainstorming all the additional ways you can use your content as corresponding products and services.
- Develop a brand based on the themes and topics in your books as well as on your passions and values Determine how you want readers to know and recognize you and your work. Carry this brand out on an author website with a blog and a store where visitors can purchase your products and services—including your books.
- Craft your ideas into marketable books. Make sure every book you write is targeted to a market and fills a hole in a particular bookstore category. That makes it unique and necessary, which increases the likelihood it will sell.
- Create author platform and a promotion plan that builds on that platform and targets your market. Be willing and able to help your book succeed. A marketable book will sell well on its own, but the help you provide pushes it to bestseller status.
- Monetize your books for profit and promotion. Consider how to leverage your content into products and services that offer more value to your readers while increasing your income. The money you earn supports your continued writing efforts and gives you and your books more authority and visibility, which means your sales increase. Every time you promote a product, you promote your books.
Becoming a Successful Author Can be Easy
Sound like a lot of work? Maybe…Sound hard? Maybe…but if you love what you do and have a strong desire and passion for getting your message out into the world so you impact the lives of your readers, it will feel easy-schmeasy.
And with that attitude shift, you’ll begin to enjoy all these steps, as well as the tasks involved, and achieve success more quickly than you thought possible.
The night before I left NILA and Whidby Island, I had dinner with one of the directors of the MFA program. I told her about my class’ response to the material I presented. She said, “That’s why we brought you here. The MFA students need to know what to do beyond learning to write…and they need to know before they publish their books. They need to know as they get started in the MFA program. It’s a disservice to them to find out later that they haven’t taken the necessary steps to help themselves create a successful career.”
Several students came up to me after dinner. They shared similar sentiments with me. “Thank you so much for your class. It was a lot of information to take in, but I needed to hear your message. I feel much more prepared now to pursue my career as an author and to create marketable books.”
I smiled. They had absorbed the material, and their attitudes had shifted. They were ready…ready to apply what they learned and to succeed. And that makes my work worthwhile despite complaints, whining or blank stares.
What about you? Are you ready?
If not, learn how to create a career as a successful writer or author when you register for my Create Your Bestselling Author Career premier coaching program. Only 15 spots available. Or learn the strategies for creating a career as a bestselling author when you click here to watch my four-part video series. You’ll learn how to craft a bestselling book idea, how to write a bestseller, how to promote a book, and how to monetize your bestseller.