All of us want to succeed. While your personal definition of success might be different from someone else’s depending on your goals and circumstances, no one sets out wanting to fail.
And that’s true when it comes to writing, too. We all want to succeed—to be a bestselling author, earn a full-time author income, spend more time on the things we love, and have room in our lives to grow and flourish. Humans tend to be good at magical thinking, though—as soon as I write that book, all those goals will automatically come true! I’ll have thousands of readers and be able to do whatever I want.
That’s not reality, though. Becoming a best-selling author is completely possible, but it typically takes a lot of hard work. As the old saying goes, it takes 10 years to become an overnight success.
But there are things you can do to help encourage that success. Think strategically and plan ahead, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself achieving all those goals and more.
Think Like a Business
When they set out to become writers, most people just think about the book. They’re focused on the plot or the value proposition, not on all the other moving parts that are involved with becoming a professional writer. And that’s great! The key to becoming a successful, profitable author, more than anything else, is writing a great book. If your book isn’t well-written, well edited, and doesn’t have a great cover, you’re not going to get far.
But setting yourself up for success as an author goes far beyond being a good writer. Being an author is a business, and so you have to think like a business to succeed.
That means you need a solid plan in place to make sure you’re taking advantage of opportunities and avoiding common mistakes that could sabotage your career.
You wouldn’t start a coffee shop without a business plan, would you? You’d map out who you thought your customers would be, where you’d put the business, what you’d charge, how you’ll let people know you exist, how you’d encourage people to keep coming back, and how you could start laying the groundwork for future expansions.
It’s the same as an author. You need a business plan for your writing career! In order to make the most of your earning potential as an author, think about the same things you would when starting that coffee shop.
Who Are Your Customers?
This is called audience or market research. In order to find and connect with readers, you need to know who you’re writing for—because the quickest way to connect with no one at all is to try to connect with everyone at the same time.
Start by being focused. Instead of writing a book for all parents everywhere, focus on writing a book targeted at working single dads of girls. There’s a lot less competition in that niche, meaning you can stand out more easily, and odds are, if you’re thinking about working single dads of girls, you know something about the topic yourself and can offer some unique insights. Build your niche and grow from there.
Where Will You Put the Business?
Once you have a book, how will you get it to people? If you’re self-publishing, the most popular answer is “Kindle.” It’s not hard to set up your ebook on Kindle in a few simple steps, and now you’re well on your way to making your first sales! From there, you can consider where else it might make sense to sell your book. Nook and Kobo are good choices, as is Smashwords.
What Will You Charge?
When your book is published, you have to set the price. Think back to that coffee shop metaphor: will you charge $10 for a cup of coffee, or 99 cents?
It might be tempting to do either, but you have to keep in mind what it cost create that cup of coffee and also what people are willing to pay. 99 cents might be exactly right for a short story, but is it compensating you appropriately for a 600-page novel you spent three years writing, or for a business book that collects all your expertise from decades in your field?
At the same time, $10 is probably way too much to ask people to spend on a short ebook. The sweet spot is most likely somewhere in the middle: $1.99 and $2.99 are popular price points for novels, for instance, and you can always try running free or 99 cent promotions to boost sales later.
That’s a great thing about being a self-published author: you’re free to experiment with your pricing and change it up to see what works best for your book and your audience.
How Will You Let People Know You Exist?
Once your book is in the marketplace and priced to sell, you have to attract readers. This is often the scariest part of publishing for many folks, because not too many people have experience in marketing. Thankfully, it’s not as difficult as you might think!
Remember that target audience you came up with back when you were planning who your customers would be? Well, where do they hang out? What social media do they use? What groups do they hang out in on Facebook or LinkedIn? Scope out some of those groups and get to know them, then start promoting your book through ads, guest blog posts, email newsletters, and more. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to market your book—you just need to be savvy about it and you have to be ready to put in the effort.
How Will You Keep People Coming Back?
Selling one book is great. Selling ten thousand books is better! So how do you get people to come back to you after you’ve sold them your book?
This can be tricky to balance with the needs of marketing your existing book, but with some smart scheduling, you can do it! The easiest place to start is with a niche that’s close to the one your current book is in. So if you wrote that book about working single dads of girls, maybe your next book is for working single dads of boys. You can build on a lot of the same expertise and similar audience targets, but now you’ve doubled your potential market.
How Will You Expand?
There’s more than one way to expand as an author. You can branch into new niches, like we just discussed, writing books that increase your scope and market. You can try writing something related but different, too, like adding children’s books to your lineup of parenting books.
But you can also expand into other products and services. What about a podcast for your fans? An online course to help those working dads streamline their lives and find more time to spend with their kids? You could even expand into selling tee shirts or coffee mugs with quotes or images from your brand.
The possibilities are endless!
Thinking like a business when you embark on your career as a professional author is a key way to set yourself up for success. By creating a strategic plan and thinking through what you’ll do to achieve your goals each step of the way, you can build your platform, connect with your audience, and reach heights you never even dreamed of.
And here you thought business planning was boring!
Take the next steps to plan your author career and break through to success.
If you’re ready to get started as a profitable author with a successful business, check out these articles for a little extra boost: