8 Keys to Becoming a Successful Author

These days, it seems harder and harder to not only carve out time to write but to get a book published.

Landing an agent and a publishing contract can take years and require tremendous persistence and patience (I’ve been trying to sell my latest thriller, find the perfect agent, interest film companies, and I’m going on year two …).

Self-publishing requires a massive amount of research and time. You have to do everything—cover design, marketing plan and execution, networking and strategizing. It can be overwhelmingly exhausting and make you wonder if it’s even worth all the trouble.

Clearly, becoming a successful author is no easy feat, and there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to guarantee your ascent to publishing success. However, there are practical steps you can take to position yourself for success in the competitive world of writing. I’m going to share eight essential keys that can set you on the path to becoming the author you aspire to be.

  1. Write Every Single Day

It may sound like a cliché, but the importance of developing a daily writing habit cannot be overstated. Treat your creative writing as a full-time job, setting realistic deadlines for yourself. Even if you can only spare twenty minutes a day, consistent writing is the key to honing your skills, overcoming writer’s block, and unlocking your creative potential.

There are countless stories of authors, like Toni Morrison, who had to work two jobs, raise kids as a single parent, and get up an hour early, before dawn, to get the writing in. Not saying everyone can do this, but sometimes you have to push to make that space for writing time.

  1. Join a Writers’ Group

Writing is often a solitary endeavor, but connecting with other authors can be a game-changer. Joining a writers’ group—whether in person or online—provides a supportive community where you can share your work, receive constructive feedback, and stay disciplined in your writing pursuits. Peer collaboration can be invaluable, especially when tackling ambitious projects like novels.

Along these lines, consider taking online master classes. I offer these classes with a critique component (my next master class, Cinematic Sizzle, is launching end of January 2024, and you’ll have the opportunity to be in a critique group to get immediate feedback on your writing and application of technique you’re learning! If you’re interested in these master classes, be sure to get on my mailing list at Live Write Thrive!).

  1. Find a Mentor or Hire a Writing Coach

Seeking guidance from seasoned authors or professional writing coaches (like me) can significantly impact your writing journey. Reach out to established writers for advice on navigating the business side of writing, from understanding the publishing industry to crafting effective query letters.

There are plenty of writers’ groups online, on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. A mentor can provide a wealth of knowledge and perspective, helping you make informed decisions on your path to success.

  1. Read Constantly

Great writers are also avid readers. Immerse yourself in various genres, from novels to nonfiction, and familiarize yourself with the works of both established and emerging authors—but focus on current books. Emulating the styles of authors whose books were published fifty years ago will not help you write to today’s market.

Yes, you can learn wonderful writing technique from those authors. But today’s readers want deep POV and cinematic style, and not many older novels are written like that. Consuming quality writing is crucial for honing your own craft, expanding your creativity, and staying connected to the ever-evolving world of literature.

  1. Build an Online Presence

I’m sure you don’t need to be told this, but marketing yourself is integral to authorship. Maintain an updated website that showcases your books, engage in podcasts to broaden your audience, and consider blogging to expand your online presence and exposure to your writing.

  1. Define Your Version of Success

Success means different things to different authors. Before embarking on your writing journey, clearly define what success looks like for you. Whether it’s book sales, recognition, media features, or audience accolades, understanding your goals will guide your efforts and help you stay focused on your path to success.

  1. Think Series for Fiction

If fiction is your realm, consider developing your work as a series. Building a backlist of books creates anticipation and loyalty among readers. Many successful fiction authors assert that it’s often the third book that captures readers’ attention. Remember, you’re not a one-book wonder but an author with a series worth investing in. I like how one author put it: You don’t have a book in you; you have an author in you!

  1. Keep Writing and Help Others

Even if you are writing books, keep writing to generate content for blogs, articles, and social media. Additionally, embrace the spirit of mentorship by helping other authors. Share your experiences, guide fellow writers through the publishing maze, and contribute to the collective growth of the writing community. Always give back and help out. What goes around comes around.

In conclusion, the road to becoming a successful author is a marathon, not a sprint. One of my literary agents told me (back in the 1980s!) that the writer who persists the longest “wins.” There’s a lot to be said about persistence and just staying the course despite the setbacks and discouragements (and those will come!). Embrace the journey, stay dedicated to your craft, and remember that success is a personal journey defined by your unique aspirations. Keep writing, keep growing, and one day you’ll find yourself proudly signing a book you’ve poured your heart into.

Featured Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash


Coming January 2024 – a new Master Class online – Cinematic Sizzle

Want to master “show, don’t tell”? Then get ready to dive into a 12-week intensive master class to learn cinematic technique.

Come participate in this unique, powerful master class that will transform the way you construct scenes and teach you to strategically “storyboard” for greatest impact. We’ll be drawing from the technique elucidated in my writing craft book Shoot Your Novel, which presents an innovative and intuitive method to writing fiction–and so much more!

Sol Stein, in his book Stein on Writing said, “Readers, transformed by film and TV, are used to seeing stories. The reading experience . . . is increasingly visual.” Fiction writers today—regardless of genre—need to learn cinematic storytelling because that’s what readers want!

You’ll have the option to be in a small online critique group, where you’ll get immediate feedback on your scenes to see how well you are applying what you’re learning.

I faciliated more than 30 online critique groups with 200 writers over the last few years in this unique type of master class, and many participants said this was the best way to learn! I hope you’ll join in.

Be sure to watch for details via my newsletters here on my blog. If you’re not on my mailing list, hop on!


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