Stop thinking of yourself as a starving artist.
Your book is your business.
Writing is funny. It’s one of the only professions where it can be frowned upon to be professional. Society approaches writers as mythical creatures who haunt coffee shops and are generally disheveled. They live in worlds of their own making and will work around the clock for a byline instead of a paycheck.
That’s not okay.
It’s time to stop thinking that way.
“I’m an artist. Artists are serial entrepreneurs because we have to figure out ways to sell our work. It’s either that or you become a starving artist, and I’m not a starving artist.” – Gabriella Redding
Gabriella is someone who never gave up. She ran a few businesses before hitting success with her hula-hoop business. One of the qualities that made her successful was her ability to pivot.
To become successful, you need to define success.
You’ll never be able to become successful if you don’t know what it looks like for you.
Forget Oprah’s couch or having Ryan Gosling play your hero in the movie adaptation of your book. What does success as a professional author look like for you?
Everyone has a different picture of success. For some people, success comes with a dollar sign. Others define their success by the number of books that have their names on the spine. Many bloggers define success by how many people visit their website every month.
You need to sit down and figure out what success looks like for you.
If you are working on a freelance career, I highly recommend Virginia Sole-Smith’s articles Writing Your Business Plan as well as On Getting Paid (And Knowing Your Worth). She breaks down how she engineered her career and provides help for writers who aren’t sure how to navigate the freelance writing world.
- Your book is your business. Start treating it like one. Click to Tweet
- Want to be a successful author? Start acting like one. Click to Tweet
- Harsh words or a breath of fresh air? // Your book is your business. Click to Tweet
- Need a kick in the pants to get started as a writer? Here you are. Click to Tweet
Spend your time like a professional.
Bestselling authors don’t spend their days on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Pinterest.
As much as we like social media, the truth of the matter is the most successful authors are the ones who can block the distractions and create.
Tim Ferriss helped bring the 80/20 rule (also know as Pareto’s Law) back into popularity in The 4-Hour Work Week. The general idea is 80% of the benefits in your life are influenced by 20% of how you spend your time, and if you spend 80% of your time on that 20%, you’ll become much more successful.
Start by identifying the activities that directly influence your success as an author. Prioritize your time around those activities instead of the secondary activities. Budget your time so activities like social media take up less than 20% of your time. It will make a huge difference in your life.
It’s very dangerous when writers talk about writing more than they actually write.
Think about your brand.
If you are online, you better believe that people are following you and scrutinizing your actions.
Think about the brand you are building. What do you want to be known for? What kind of persona are you building? Are you irreverent and funny? Will you be running for public office at some point in your life? Knowing who you want to be online will help you as you build your brand and as you figure out what to post.
If you post things that are incongruent with the message you are trying to proclaim, people will out you as a hypocrite and stop listening to you. It’s not only about brand consistency, but it’s also about honesty and authenticity. Be genuine.
Success isn’t hard to come by. It just means picking one thing and hustling like crazy.
You can choose to build your brand by being selective with what you post and print, or you can spread yourself thin, diluting your message and sapping your energy by running through every door that opens up.
There will always be open doors for people who hustle.
Go back to your definition of success. Now take a moment to write out what that actually looks like. Give yourself a blueprint for success, not a treasure map.
What milestones do you need to hit before you make your goal? Work backwards so you can deconstruct the process. Knowing how to get to your success point will help you actually get there.
Make lists of goals – achievable goals – and deadlines in which to meet them. It’s surprising how much can be accomplished with goals and deadlines.
Be willing to diversify.
Randy Ingermanson is a writer who has responded well to the shifting climate of the publishing industry. He has found his niche (The Snowflake Method) and approached his website like a business. You can bet he has specific goals for his website and platform. That’s why he has:
- An E-zine
- Physical books
- Special reports
- A store on his website
- A professionally built website
He’s the go-to guy when it comes to learning how to write a novel. By staying true to his message while diversifying his product line, Randy has been able to secure a spot for himself as a very successful author.
Surround yourself with professionals.
Even rock stars have bands.
Success is almost always a group effort.
It’s been said you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I don’t know about you, but that inspires me to surround myself with people who are aggressively moving forward toward their goals and dreams.
You will never become a successful writer if you surround yourself with a community who would rather stay comfortable where they are now than grow.
Get to know writers you want to be like, who are where you want to be. Get involved in writing groups, meet-up groups, and professional networks. Ask them what they did to get ahead and adapt what they did in a way that fits you.
If you want to be a professional writer, the only person stopping you from reaching your goal is yourself.
It’s not the editor. Not the agents. Not social media. Not your job.
Stephen Pressfield calls it the resistance. Maya Angelo calls it the fear of success. You can call it whatever you want. It’s a mindset and it’s worth fighting.
Throw out the romantic idea of a starving artist. Substitute it with the idea of a successful business person who just happens to be able to choose their work and where they want to work. It’s a flexible lifestyle with its own unique sets of perks and challenges. In order to make it work, you have to take it seriously.
Get familiar with spreadsheets and deadlines. Keep records of who you’ve queried, how many words you need to write a day, and where your work has been published. Talk to an accountant if you need help learning how to keep records and setting yourself up as a professional writer.
If you have books, learn how to market them. Dig into email marketing and selling books off your website. Discover affiliate programs. Take classes. Ask questions. Work smarter. Think like a savvy business person. Mindset is everything.
You can do it.
It’s your turn –
- What resources have helped you build your writing business?
- Do you think of yourself as a professional writer? Why or why not?
Thanks Caitlin for the insight. I particularly like your advice on pulling back on social media and focusing more on the business of writing.
I find myself often in the whirlwind of social media and before I know it, the day is gone and I am still going in circles.
Its a toughie because all of the experts tells us that social media the foundation of your “author platform” however, it can greatly inhibit your overall productivity as a writer.
I also appreciate your tip to Launch. Now 🙂
Yes, there will always be a million “things” you can do before launching, but tomorrow is one promised…
I do feel like I’m going in a million directions in an effort to make money, and have little time to do my actual writing. I strongly believe I also suffer from that fear of success. Or maybe it’s that I think I have to be working 24/7 with no down time to reach that success.
Thanks for these tips and perspective on being a professional writer.
Great post. I feel validated!
As a visual artist first (over 40 years) and a writer more recently, I’ve had to learn most of these lessons the hard way.
Thanks for the clear and concise information.
Great post, Caitlin! Really resonated with surrounding myself with professionals. It’s easy to get distracted – so having professionals to look to who have reached goals that I’m striving toward will help keep me focused. God bless~
Great post! You hit it on the head. However, it is difficult to build that book business while also working full time, being in ministry, and taking care of family.
So, I do what I can and when my 2nd book is released later this month, I will create my author web site and start speaking at schools and hold book signings… I am grateful for an understanding family! They are supportive of my book “business”. God is good!
Great post. It’s just like with writing our story in the 1st place. We must keep our goal, our theme, our aim, in front of us at all times to write it right & to promote it right. Thanks.
Great post and its really motivating! Now I need to get off the computer and write. Its hard doing everything yourself, as I’m trying to set time between writing and marketing.