Insecure Writer's Support Group

Strategies to Be a Successful Author #IWSG

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

I’m co-hosting this month!

Be sure to visit my awesome co-hosts: Jacqui Murray, Pat Garcia, and Gwen Gardner.

Optional February 1 question: If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover?

Learn more here.

Going with my goals post from last month, I thought I’d share how I’m going to achieve that goal of earning enough income from writing books to quit one of my day jobs. Because only selling a couple of books a day isn’t enough for anyone to live off, let alone support all the animals I take in.

I’d totally take in a pegasus… Image credit.

So I read a load of craft books every year. I’ve already stated in October that I’m not going to be reading more craft books unless it is something radically different from what I’ve already read as most books are focused on beginner writers.

Reading craft books, though, falls under research. What is research?

Research is doing the essential work of finding out:

  • what the genre expectations are of your genre of choice,
  • what readers expect from this genre,
  • understanding the market and reading comp titles to know where your book falls within it,
  • learning how to write stories that readers love by reading a lot of books (in your genre)
  • and reading a lot of craft books to learn how to write compelling stories.

Doing research is all well-and-good, but you can get lost in it without ever writing a single word and practicing your craft. What is craft?

Craft is the act of practicing your writing and refining your craft so you become a better writer with each book. That is the key to becoming a bestseller: writing well. And you do that by:

  • identifying the sweet spot where what you love, readers love, and what you are good at (genre you write well) all meet,
  • taking the time to learn what readers love about stories (it’s probably not what you think),
  • writing a lot. Ignore the snobbery about prolific writers being bad writers, it’s an absolute myth.

But you know what? None of this will work if you aren’t in the right mindset for it to work. What is mindset?

Mindset is the way you look at things. So if you want to be a professional writer, think like one.

  • When someone asks you what you do, tell them that you’re a writer. Own it. Don’t make excuses for doing what you love.
  • Like attracts like. So if you want to be a professional writer, hang out with those who think and act like professional writers, and learn from them.
  • I love this quote: “Have you made art today?”. Make writing a habit by showing up every day and creating art. Writers write.
  • Writer’s block is a myth – either the story isn’t working or you’re suffering from burnout. How do you know which one is applicable? If the story can move forward but you’re having trouble writing, it’s burnout. If the story doesn’t want to do anything, but you can write, you have a plot issue.

There are a whole lot of great books about mindset and burnout for authors, but I recommend The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn and Keep Writing with Fey by Chrys Fey.

So when you have the right mindset, have learned everything you can, and written a great book, it’s time to launch your work into the world. What do I mean by launch?

To launch your books isn’t always about book/blog tours and advertising. There are more important factors:

  • Get your book in the best shape you possibly can: editors, beta readers, proofreaders, and proper layout so nothing about the content drives readers away screaming.
  • Professional packaging: make sure your title and cover is appropriate for your genre (and if you’re indie, make sure is competes with other indies and not trads as these are different segments of the market), and that your blurb is compelling. All of this sells the book.
  • Price point: price your book competitively. No-one is going to buy your 70k novel in eBook format at $7.99 when the rest of the indie market have theirs at $4.99 (or even lower).
  • Multiple formats: eBook and paperback are a must. And you can do it for free with Amazon (they have templates and free ISBNs if you can’t afford ones in your country). You can also do it for free on Draft2Digital (I haven’t tried their paperbacks yet, but they do offer it and their eBook formatting tool is easy to use).
  • Decide if you are going wide (all stores) or exclusive (usually with Amazon and KDP Select/Unlimited) with your eBook. There are pros and cons for both – and it depends heavily on your market and genre.
  • Decide how to market your book: Will you have a blog? Will you have social media where you share your books and do social stuff? Which social media networks are the right ones for your genre? Will you have a newsletter? Where will you host your newsletter? Will you have a website? Where will you host your website? Will you have author pages? Where will you have author pages? (e.g. Goodreads, Amazon, BookBub, your website, etc.)
  • After books are up (either live or for pre-order), test advertising and other marketing avenues to find readers.

So now you have everything. But, just like everything else you’re planning to have for a long time, you need to maintain in. What kind of maintenance does an author career need?

Maintenance includes (but is not limited to):

  • Love what you do – otherwise, what’s the point? A regular job has much more security.
  • Nurture your fans – they are the lifeblood of your author career.
  • Keep learning – things always change and you are never too smart to keep on learning.
  • Don’t become stagnant – just because something works well right now, doesn’t mean you won’t need to change it as you change or your circumstances change.

I suggest you download Joanna Penn’s Author Blueprint over on the Creative Penn for more awesome ideas.

And though I haven’t mentioned it above, read widely: you’d be surprised how is something handled in a different genre can spark ideas in yours.

Which is why I encourage you to join our book club. We read a different genre every month and we’ve added a craft book (something I’ve read and learned from and the other moderators approve). This is the perfect way to supplement your learning and make you a better writer.

Do you have a strategy to become a bestselling author? Or at least to make a living from your writing? Share your thoughts! Are you joining us this month with the book club?

The non-fiction selection is awesome and in a series — you can check out what I thought of it here.

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67 thoughts on “Strategies to Be a Successful Author #IWSG”

  1. A very informative post. Thank you for putting out every single thing I can think about when it comes to serious writing. I am taking down all the craft book suggestions. Thank you for co-hosting.

  2. Lots of great tips here. I appreciate the image credit link.
    Here are two statements that caught my attention, :
    “…identifying the sweet spot where what you love, readers love, and what you are good at (genre you write well) all meet,…

    “Nurture your fans – they are the lifeblood of your author career.”
    Thanks for co-hosting our 1 Feb blog hop.
    Lynn La Vita

  3. Hi Ronell – great post! Yes, maintenance is the tricky bit for me. Even when I’m gardening I start big and fizzle out, so I’ve learned to take my big goals and break them down to do-able chunks on a monthly or even weekly basis. Good pluck with reaching your goal and no that isn’t a typo!

  4. Thanks for co-hosting today!
    Writer’s block is a myth…I like it. This is going to be my new mindset. From now whenever I get stuck, I won’t see it as writer’s block. Whether it’s burnout or plot issues, I’ll try to find my way out of it and resolve it.

  5. Thanks for co-hosting this blog hop that I hold dear. Thanks for the thorough and pro-active tips for being a career author of long-lasting worth. Thanks for the suggestion to join the book club –

  6. Thanks for sharing all this information in a nutshell! (OK–that’s a cliche, but fits…. 🙂 I hope you can work out dropping one of your jobs in favor of writing! You can do it!

  7. Recently, I went in the opposite direction. I decided I was going to just have fun at writing and have it be a hobby and if by keeping at it, I grow a readership and can turn it into a money maker then yay! If not, well, I’m having fun and as long as I have other ways to pay the bills it’s all good.

  8. I get stuck at the finding the convergence between what you want to write and what people want to buy/read. It’s a very important part of being a successful, full-time writer, and it’s probably why I’ll never quit my day job. Well, that and the health insurance and pension. 😛

    1. Health insurance and pension are good reasons to stick to a day job — that, and it’s easier making money that way. LOL. You should try out “Write to Market” by Chris Fox — it might help you zone in to that sweet spot where it all comes together: what you want to write, what people want to read, and what is either evergreen or hot right now.

  9. This is a super great post! Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful blog and best wishes as you strive for your goals this year. I’ll definitely share this with some of my writing groups. Thanks for hosting today!

  10. Hi Ronel!
    I feel as if I just attended a highly informative seminar. Thank you for the refresher and, in some cases, enlightenment. It’s interesting how in achieving all the points you set forth, we might be able to quit our day jobs when I feel I’ll have to quit my day job to achieve them 😉 Sigh. One fine day…
    Thanks for co-hosting!

  11. Your points make a lot of sense. I’ve got a bunch of books on writing craft but have read little from any of them. They look nice on my bookshelves. What I need to do most is just do more writing.

    Good post for IWSG!


  12. Research, yes. Having established that there’s a demand for some books for a year or so younger than I currently write, I’m trying to add one or two. I’ve just finished the first draft, but even having researched what reading standard should be, before writing, I know I’ve really produced the same as I currently do at the young end. So more research, on library books, and this weekend, testing what my great-niece thinks of three styles!

    Lots of great craft suggestions there, Ronel, thank you (and thanks for co-hosting this month, too)

  13. I am a failure at being a pro. It takes all that stuff that you listed and it’s a lot of hard work. That’s why I try not to be envious of writers who succeed…most all of them busted their butt to get to the top. You keep at it and, I have no doubt you’ll do it!

  14. Thank you for all these gems of advice. You took a pretty broad topic and narrowed it down to something engaging and easily readable, which is no small feat all by itself! Every author gets to choose for themselves what works best for their particular situation, but if it helps add to the pros and cons list I’ve had good experiences working with Draft2Digital. They’re very user friendly and great for formatting, especially. Best of luck to you as you work on quitting that one day job! And thanks for co-hosting this month.

  15. Great advice there. I can’t take all of it, but I’m not trying to earn a living at writing, so it’s okay. Best of luck to you on that quest–you have the energy and willingness to work that can take you there!

  16. “writing a lot. Ignore the snobbery about prolific writers being bad writers, it’s an absolute myth.” I agree that a lot of that is absolute myth. I found that out about Stephen King. I used to avoid his books because I kept hearing he was a bad writer, and while he has some work out there that isn’t the best, he has a lot more that’s far better than what many high brow critics give him credit for.

    I downloaded Penn’s Author Blue Print. It sounds like it can be helpful. Thanks for the suggestions!

  17. Great info here! My biggest challenge is burnout. I have a demanding full-time day job and no option to quit unless someone pays me a 7-figure advance, because I’m the sole support for 2 people with chronic illnesses (gotta have not only the money but the health insurance). I have to balance the need to write, read, build skills, and build platform with my job, my family, and, you know, sleep. Mostly I manage, but I’m learning I can’t do everything well all the time. Breaks are important. Rest is important. I can’t be creative on an empty tank.

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