So you’re thinking: writing a book, getting published, being a successful author—all easy so long as you’re a good writer and have the right hook ups, correct?
No, not necessarily. It’s easy to say “Just do it already!” It’s much harder to actually sit down and write. It’s much harder to put yourself out there and have your work picked up. It’s much harder to flourish as a published author. Being a killer author takes a few more qualities than innate good writing and luck—and if you can nail these eight qualities down, you are much more likely to succeed.
1.) Time Management Skills: If you’re an author or author-to-be, you know the battle well: sit down to write, have absolutely nothing to write about, dig deep into your soul for inspiration, give up and spend four hours on Buzzfeed and Netflix, return to work and write three crap sentences, call it a day. It’s rough. That’s why developing an author routine is so important. If you don’t plan out time to write, to respond to fans, to post on social media, etc., you just won’t do it. Time management is a pain, but it’s a necessary pain, and even simple things like downloading apps to keep you on track or buying a planner can help immensely.
2.) Listening Skills: You’re going to have people critiquing your work nonstop, from friends and family members to editors to readers of the final work. This can be extremely frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful—especially the feedback that comes from fans of your work once it does get published. Don’t be too proud to listen to what your readers want. These small insights via email or letter or social media could be the key to your next character or plot. And the best way you can create meaningful connections with people is to listen to them and to respond. If people feel like you care, they’ll stay loyal to you and to your books.
3.) Fearlessness: Also known as your ability to take the plunge. How many potential authors could be knocking it out of the park right now if they could only build up the courage to send their work out? Too many. That’s the answer. Sending out something so personal can be terrifying, but it’s the only way to show it to the world.
4.) Ability to Take Criticism: As stated above, you will constantly get feedback about your work. This can be difficult, because this work is your life: you’ve put hours of love and hard work into each and every page. Your editor and publisher know this. They aren’t trying to tear you down by making suggestions about your characters and plot and title—they’re trying to make your wonderful book even better. This could have to do with best-selling trends or gaps in the story; it could have to do with marketing or cohesiveness. Either way, trust that the experts to whom you’ve entrusted your book will take care of your book. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t veto a decision you really don’t agree with; but make sure you have the conversation about why it was brought up before you do so. There’s a reason they’re in the business.
5.) Perseverance: Here’s the hard thing: you’re going to get rejected. Most likely enough times to seriously reconsider your choice of profession before you get a positive word back. This happens to everyone (if you don’t believe me, take a peek at the rough time these authors had). What sets best-selling authors apart isn’t a great story idea—it’s the determination to get that story out there. We know it’s much easier to give up than to continually put yourself out there even after you’ve been batted down countless times; but if you’ve got a story, you owe it to yourself to see that story through.
6.) Gratitude: This is huge, especially in an industry as tight-knit as the publishing industry. It can be easy to get caught up in the frenzy of getting everything done on time and the isolation of actually writing and the excitement of making progress. But in the midst of all the craziness, it’s important to remember to thank those who have helped you along, and we’re not just talking about giving a shout-out to your mom (although you should definitely do that too). A handwritten card or a thoughtful email to your editor or the guy who connected you to your eventual publisher or even an agent who took the time to give you feedback on your cover letter in your rejection email can go an awfully long way. Think about paying it forward to other authors to help them out just like someone helped you out. The industry can be thankless; be the bright spot, and you will be remembered.
7.) Passion: Also known as love for what you do. This is not a happy-go-lucky industry; if this was a throwaway idea, a “why not?” decision, you probably aren’t going to make it. Just like any other meaningful relationship, there will be hard times. There will be fights and second-guessing and disappointment. You will be forced to ask yourself: “Do I love this enough to keep going?” And your answer, no matter the pitfalls and obstacles, should always be a resounding “yes!”
8.) Belief in Yourself: This is easily the most important. As we’ve said, you will get shot down. You will run into obstacles. You will be critiqued and criticized and it will hurt. Don’t let these things get you down for too long. You have a story in you; you care enough to make that story into a beautiful, tangible thing. Believe in yourself! Believe that you can make it through, can see this thing to the end. If that’s hard for you, then believe us: we know you have it in you. If you didn’t, you never would have started.