The craft and business of writing and self publishing

5 Habits of the World’s Most Successful Writers

by Justin Osborn

Every writer dreams about the moment when their work hits the bestseller list. We wish for the perseverance and inspiration to churn out thousands of words each day, which will amount to more than a single bestseller. We fantasize about signing our books for thousands of adoring fans. Why is this a dream? Because it takes certain essential habits and a level of great tenacity to be able to get to where you want to go. Forbes’ Highest-Paid Author Report confirms what most of us already know: a small handful of authors earn a huge chunk of the revenue from book sales.

What can you do to inch your way closer to the top? Focusing on a few key tips can help every author be more successful. It’s important to remember that “successful” does not necessarily mean “talented.” This also does not mean that all successful writers are not talented, it simply means that you can attain success if you put in the hours and learn to practice these habits daily.

1. Write every single day, with or without inspiration

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

-Stephen King, On Writing

Writing needs to be your breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between snack. You need to be writing in every spare moment in your life. When you aren’t reading, you need to be writing. Most writers pace the hallways or the four walls of life, waiting for a single moment of inspiration to hit them into their chair behind the computer and create a bestseller. It will not happen. Inspiration will come, but you have to pave the pathway with hundreds and thousands of words to earn that vital inspiration, to make that bestseller. If you do not practice, you do not learn. The more you write, the easier it will become. The more you write, the closer success will be.

2. Marketing is critical

“The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.”

-David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising

If you have incorporated habit #1 into your life, but no one knows you are on the planet, it’s going to be a difficult task getting your work into a bestselling position. You need to be socially active on the internet. Join writers clubs, online forums, go to writers conferences, be active on Goodreads, go to book launches at your local bookstore or library. Break out of your comfort zone and become a public voice in writing and reading communities. If you’re looking to self-publish, take advantage of the many online resources available (often for free!) where you can learn about finding your audience, building a mailing list, and then marketing your books.

 

3. Make your finances your friend

“The writer has a body, which includes a stomach. Writers too must eat. You can have money of your own; you can marry money; you can attract a patron—whether a king, a duke, or an arts board; you can have a day job; or you can sell to the market.”

-Margaret Atwood, Negotiating With The Dead

To be a full-time writer is to leap into the unknown void of endless possibilities, including not making any money at all. You must approach being a writer as an independent businessperson, with a mind to your budget, savings, goals, and diversifying your income sources. There is no guarantee that your next book will make as much as your last, and only you can create the much-needed fail safe.

potter queue

Harry Potter fan queue. Source: Wikimedia Commons

4. Be tenacious and thick-skinned

“Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

-J.K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Great writers never quit. The writers who make it believe in their work. Believe in yours. Do not quit. You will face hardships and criticism, and it takes a lot of work to learn to accept the fact that not everyone is going to love your work. Take every piece of criticism from whence it comes and an added bucket of salt, and use it as a learning opportunity to make your next book even better. There is success at the end of the sweat and late night coffee number 10, and you’ll never know how much you can achieve if you stop short of giving publishing your very best shot.

5. What you say is what you deliver and more

“A professional who doesn’t deliver as committed is not just lazy; he is a liar.”

-Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words

In the writing world, deadlines are key. When you miss a deadline, you automatically become unreliable and untrustworthy. It’s no secret that being published and reaching readers is highly competitive, and there’s a long line of hopeful authors who are also striving to succeed. It is imperative to make the best of every opportunity and stick to your deadlines, every single time. If you are a freelancer, be mindful about the time that you require to complete the job. Set up a calendar with reminders to yourself to track your progress, and attempt to deliver it before the prescribed time, always. Be open and honest, and treat every job with the same level of respect and effort regardless of the nature of the job. You are your work, so make sure that what you say and what you deliver is on par, always.

What goals are you working towards right now? What tips and tools help you succeed? Let us know in the comments!

Justin is a teacher from Leicester, UK. When not teaching his little students and rooting for Leicester FC, he loves to share his thoughts and opinions about education, writing and blogging with other people on different blogs and forums. Currently, he is working as an editor at Bestdissertation. Follow Justin on Facebook and Twitter.

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