After working with dozens of authors over the past decade, I have noticed some patterns. Published authors have established patterns and maintain attitudes that unpublished authors do not. 

Published and unpublished authors may take issue with these stated differences. While they are certainly verifiable observations, they are not universal. There are exceptions to every rule.

The following observable differences are not rules or guarantees. You may check every box and remain unpublished. I’m not promising publishing success. But consider these differences a list of best practices for most authors.

Let’s begin with the most controversial observation.

Difference #1 – Consistency

Published authors wake up early and write every day.

You’ve heard the old analogy about putting big rocks in the jar before you fill it with gravel and sand. Your most important and highest priority tasks are your “big rocks.” You must schedule them into your day before your calendar fills in with smaller or even higher-priority tasks. 

The benefit of writing early in the morning is that typical daily distracts are still sleeping or closed. You don’t typically receive phone calls or text messages before 6:00 AM. Your family is likely sleeping during those early morning hours.

Regardless of the chaos life stirs in a day, early-morning writers get their daily writing done. 

Unpublished writers write sporadically and often at night.

James L. Rubart is one published author who takes issue with this difference. 

He is a self-proclaimed night owl who doesn’t write daily. He writes sporadically. But sporadic writing for him means writing eight hours per day for ten days. He may rest for three weeks and then write for ten days.

A small percentage of people can and do make this strategy work. I call them cabin-in-the-woods writers. They can eliminate distractions, and they are physically able to write for long stretches of time. Most people can’t write for eight hours. Shoulder and wrist pain may increase, and creative juices tend to dry up after several hours. 

If they could write for eight hours on day one, they would have trouble sustaining that pace for the remainder of the week.

I suspect Jim’s ability to write for long stretches is a product of his former day job in advertising. His mind and body had trained for an eight-hour day of typing, and actual client deadlines forced him to stick with the task until it was done.

Most writers dream of writing this way, but when they get a long, quiet block of time, they end up filling their hours researching or “marketing” on social media. They accomplish very little writing.

Difference #2 – Purpose

Published authors write to educate, entertain, and inspire others. They write to do something.

Published authors write to serve a reader. They are thinking of the people who will one day read their book and deliberately write as an act of generosity and service to future readers. They aim to give information, inspire readers to do or believe differently, or provide an entertaining escape from the real world.

Unpublished authors typically write for themselves. They write to be somebody.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing for yourself. Journal writing can be very cathartic and helpful. But if you’re writing for yourself, you have to be okay writing for one reader: yourself.

Difference #3 – Platform

Published authors started building a platform years before their first book came out.

Some published authors have regular in-person speaking engagements. Others have listeners who engage with their radio show or podcast. Still others have collected email addresses from their readers for years and can easily communicate with the large group through email. I even know of authors who have borrowed a platform from another author through coauthoring a book.

I can’t think of a single published author who doesn’t have some kind of platform. If you’re wondering how to build a platform, check out our episode on How to Build a Rejection-Proof Platform.

Unpublished authors have little or no platform. 

Some unpublished authors don’t know what a platform is.

If you’re not sure what an author platform is, spend some time reading the following articles by Dan Balow of the Steve Laube Agency that explain:

How do you tell people about your book if you don’t have a platform? Who will you tell about your book?

If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of building a huge platform, start by building relationships because that’s how platforms begin. You can also listen to our episode on Where to Build Your Platform As an Unpublished Novelist.

Difference #4 – Reading

Published authors read books about writing and marketing books.

Published authors never stop learning. I have taught classes at conferences and seen luminaries from the industry sitting in my class, ready to learn. They already know about writing and publishing, but they’re so eager to learn that they’re listening for a new nugget of information that will help them in their careers. 

Whether you’re reading books or listening to podcasts like Novel Marketing or seasons 5, 6, and 7 of the Writing Excuses podcast, you are cultivating your own hunger for learning that will serve you well into the future of your career.

Unpublished authors complain that the publishing world is ignoring their ground-breaking work.

A mindset shift from victimization to “what can I learn?” would serve these unpublished authors well. 

Difference #5 – Work

Published authors know that the difference between great and lame is hard work.

There are no shortcuts to writing a great book or becoming a bestseller. Published authors know it takes hard work. They know they must earn industry attention by being faithful in the little things, such as revisions, tweetsblog posts, and magazine articles.

Unpublished authors feel that they are the next best thing just waiting to be discovered.

Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of life is showing up.” You see that principle demonstrated in all professions, especially when writers start a blog and abandon it after a few posts when no one engages.

Entitlement and dogmatism reign amongst angry unpublished authors. Not all unpublished authors are angry. But if you’re unpublished and feel offended and ignored, consider the possibility that you still have something to learn about writing, publishing, or communicating.

Difference #6 – Website

Published authors typically have a website that is usually www.TheirName.com.

If you’re just getting started, you need to go online and buy www.YourName.com

If www.YourName.com isn’t available, you may need to add your middle name. 

I have helped authors figure out what author name will be printed on their books by researching what domains are available. If you don’t own www.YourName.com, your other marketing tasks become harder.

If you’re having trouble finding the right domain name for your website, listen to the following episodes for help:

Unpublished authors have a free Blogger blog that they rarely update.

Not only is their website URL hard to share verbally (it’s www.blogger.myname.com), they aren’t consistently adding new content.

Your website is your business card. When you meet someone at a conference, you can count on them googling your name and looking for you online. 

Even if you’re not ready to create a website, you can still buy your domain name for $10.00-$15.00 while it’s available. (Just don’t buy it from GoDaddy.) 

I had a brilliant idea for a book title once, but I didn’t buy the domain name since the book wasn’t ready. I pitched the title to agents, and they loved it, but when I went back to purchase the domain, someone else had already bought it. It was no longer available.

Difference #7 – Marketing

Published authors see marketing as part of their mission to entertain, help, and inspire others.

Indie publishers especially understand that marketing is central to their mission, and they make it part of their business plan.

Unpublished authors see marketing as their publisher’s job.

These authors view marketing as something that gets in the way of their writing and not as an integral part of disseminating their message.

Differences Can Be Overcome

None of these differences are secret or hard to emulate. And as I said from the beginning, they are observations I’ve made in a decade of working with authors. 

If you’d like to push back or disagree, particularly with the first observation, please pop in at authormedia.social, and let us know what time you do your regular writing.

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