The 7 Attributes of Highly Successful Authors
(This column first appeared in the St. Louis Publisher's Association newsletter.)
Are you a curious person? I am. Especially when it comes to people who have taken action to achieve worthy and creative goals. Whenever I meet a successful author, musician, artist, actor or whatever ... I try to find a way to pick his or her brain and discover what the person did to breathe life into their aspirations. I also pay attention to the qualities and traits that the most successful people seem to have in common.
Through the St. Louis Publisher's Association and other networking opportunities, I've been blessed to get to know several successful authors. I believe that taking what I've learned from them, and combining their strategies with my own views and methods, has greatly helped me to become a full-time, self-published author.
With that in mind, here is a list of what I consider to be the seven attributes demonstrated by the most successful authors:
- They're on a mission (or at least feel they have something to say). Many prominent authors write because they have to. What drives them goes far beyond money and recognition. They write and share their words because they have a story that needs to be told, a point of view that needs to be communicated, a message they feel the world needs to hear. To be successful, you must become an evangelist for your topic.
- Their vision is stronger than the rules and obstacles they encounter. I don't have to tell you that there are a ton of hurdles that aspiring authors run into. Many of them are tangible (such as editing, prepress and distribution matters) while others are mental barriers (like the fear of rejection, financial struggle and anticipated prohibitive costs to enter the field). What sets apart successful authors is their almost naive, child-like ability to not buy into common myths and let their greater vision guide them around any obstructions they encounter.
- They understand the "self" of self-promotion. No matter what level of success you attain, you will always be intimately involved in the promotion of your books. Struggling writers wish they could hand off the marketing work to someone else so they can concentrate only on the writing. Sure, you can hire a publicist or assistant to help with some things, but no one will ever promote you as passionately as you can. To succeed, get on friendlier terms with promotion.
- They make the best use of available tools. There are all sorts of ways to create, market and sell books these days. There are traditional methods such as sheet-fed printers, distributors, bookstores, trade magazine reviews, bulk sales to associations, etc. And there are relatively newer options at your disposal: print-on-demand, web sites, e-zines, Amazon's Advantage program, blogs, podcasts and more. You don't have to use every option (and probably shouldn't for sanity's sake). But you should at least be aware of what's available and choose the best new and old tools for your book topic and personality.
- They put a focus on readers and fans. What's the number one factor that determines an author's material success? It isn't the size of his publisher or the reputation of his agent. It isn't the amount of her advance or the raving reviews she gets in the press. The only thing that matters is the number of people who purchase and read the book, and then rave about it to their friends. The most successful authors understand this and always put a priority on attracting and retaining readers ... and turning readers into fans.
- They think of themselves as a personal brand with a clear identity. People may at first be attracted to the title and subject matter of your book, especially when you're a new author. But if they really enjoy what you've written, they will start to associate your name with the benefit you deliver through your books. Then, instead of looking for another book on your topic, your fans will seek out other books by you. Most of the top authors are known for a specific subject or genre, and once established, they crank out a series of similar books. You should consider doing the same.
- They understand that being a solo author doesn't mean working alone. The author's life can be a solitary one -- particularly when immersed in writing a new book. But successful authors realize that writing alone doesn't mean they have to be lonely or feel like it's them against the cold, cruel world. Even solo self-published authors can (and should) share ideas with other writers and assemble a team that might include editors, graphic artists, web designers, print brokers and more.
There's my list of the seven success attributes. How does it compare with your list? If I missed anything, please click the Comments button below and add your thoughts. I may also include your comments in a future article or blog post.
To your success!
For more book-related ideas like these, visit my Self-Publishing Tips & Resources page.
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Bob Baker is the author of "Unleash the Artist Within," "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook" and "Branding Yourself Online." Get a FREE subscription to Bob's newsletter, "Quick Tips for Creative People," featuring inspiration and low-cost self-promotion ideas for artists, writers, performers and more. Visit PromoteYourCreativity.com for details.