I think it’s always good to look at other authors, not as competition, but as co-pilots in this crazy industry. I love seeing what they are doing, and how they are doing it, and seeing what I can and should adapt into my own career. In watching others, I’ve noticed a few things that all successful authors have in common.
- They are prolific. Maybe not even in ways you see on the surface, but successful authors are always either writing or working on writing-related things. Most spend several hours a day with ass-in-chair getting the words written. That can mean blog posts, short stories, research, outlining, marketing, or any of the million other things we do. Bottom line, writers write. And the most successful ones write every day.
- They are dedicated. This sort of goes hand in hand with #1, but what it really means is this: There will always be a reason not to write. It will always be a holiday/birthday/event, there will always be something you’d rather be doing or feel like you should be doing. But being successful means often putting other things on the back burner and getting the work done. It means disciplining yourself because most of the time there’s no boss making sure you don’t call in sick for a week straight to watch K-dramas in your bathrobe.
- They understand their audience. Stephen King doesn’t waste his time attending Christian writers conferences, and there’s a reason for that. Not because none of his readers are Christians (I’m sure many are) but because he knows who and where his core audience is. Successful authors not only know who their audience is, but they communicate with them effectively.
- They support other authors. Hey, it’s a tough business but no matter how long you’ve been doing it or how successful you are, there’s always someone bigger and better than you. So not being a douche waffle to other authors (or readers, fans, bloggers, heck anyone at all really) is super important. It really is a tight knit community. We rise by lifting others.
- They think outside the box. Successful authors aren’t just creative with their words, they are constantly learning, innovating, and trying new things within the industry. Some ideas are awesome and work well, others flop. But that’s ok. That’s how things change and new paths are created.
- They invest in themselves. They invest time and money. I know, it’s hard to invest (money at least) in yourself when you are still struggling to pay bills. We’ve all been there. But the small investments you make will pay off ten-fold down the road. Spend the $12 for a dedicated domain name. Spend the $25 to run an e-book booster ad on your sale series. Every penny makes a difference. It doesn’t have to be a fortune, and often the best investments are small, here and there, building you up until you can afford those higher cost items.
- They never give up. This is a hard business full of rejections, bad reviews, and limitless competition for visibility. It is so easy to throw in the towel. But, as they say, sprinkles are for winners and the only way to win is to play the game.
On that same note, I have seen so many huge mistakes that authors make.
So here are 7 habits of unsuccessful authors:
- They sell one book forever. You’ve re-written, re-released, and re-covered that same book five times and it’s still not selling. Let it go. Write something else. This one is done (at least for now).
- They treat writing as a hobby. Look, we can’t all write full time. But when you treat it as a hobby, writing only when you feel like it or when circumstances are absolutely perfect, you’ll probably never finish a book.
- They spam/scream/beg for attention. My lawd is there anything as annoying as that one author on Twitter who posts “buy my book” every hour? That’s not how marketing works, my friend. That’s not how any of this works. (And if you annoy people, it doesn’t matter how good your book is. No one is buying it.)
- Along the same lines, they spend too much time promoting. If you spend 4 hours a day every day on Facebook, when are you actually writing? For your own sake, unplug. Wise time management is a must.
- Tears down/criticizes other authors. Yes, that Dino-porn novel is outselling you. Rather than talk shit about it to make yourself feel better, why don’t you take a hard look at what that author is doing and how you can apply their strategy for your own work? Better yet, snicker at the ridiculous industry we work in and say nothing. Just move on. Losers focus on winners. Winners focus on winning.
- They can’t take criticism. Like at all. They feel the need to respond to every bad review, every editor’s comment, and every perceived pointing out of their flaws. You aren’t perfect. None of us are. Don’t be a dick about it when someone notices. No good comes from being a dick. EVER.
- They cheap out. Ok, I’m all for saving a buck, but if you can’t afford a banner, don’t glue a bunch of photos to a piece of cardboard and heft it to your events. Don’t try to promote your books by piggy-backing on another author’s page and leaving comments with your links. If you can’t afford to do it right, then don’t do it at all. At least not right away. It is ok to start slow, but looking unprofessional lasts forever (thank you internet).
So that’s my list. Is there anything here you want to add or disagree with? Leave your comments below!