How to Blog a Better Book: Lesson #9
As National Book Blogging Month (NaBoBloMo) 2013 comes to a close, it’s time to ask yourself an important question: Do You have what it takes to become a successful author? If you blogged your book in 30 days, you know you can complete a manuscript. If you followed the lessons in the How to Blog a Better Book series that appeared during April, your manuscript should possess the ability to succeed—to attract readers and to generate sales. But what about you? Are you up to the task of helping yourself and your book succeed?
What Do You Consider Success?
Before you can answer this question, you must know how you define success. In particular, you must know if your definition of success is different than the definition used by the publishing industry. The industry defines success in terms of sales. Thus, a book or an author is considered “successful” if it has the ability to generate above average sales.
The average book sells only 500 copies per year, reports Publisher’s Weekly. Some say 80 percent of the books on Amazon sell fewer than five copies per month. I’ve seen calculations showing that the average ebook author makes under $300 per year.
Do you want to be average or above average? It’s important to know this. Being average in the publishing industry isn’t easy. Being above average is even more difficult. So, define success, and then determine what you must do to reach that goal. You must also decide if you are willing to do what it takes to achieve that goal.
You Need an “Author Attitude” to Succeed
You may think that all you need to produce a successful book or to become a successful author is a great idea, a sound book or story structure, and a well-crafted manuscript. And sometimes that is enough. More often creating a bestseller—a book with above-average sales, involves more than that.
It takes a particular attitude, which I call “Author Attitude.” I teach this attitude in my Author Training 101 class and in my new book, The Author’s Training Manual (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2014). Here are the essential elements of that attitude:
- Willingness: To become a successful author you need a general willingness to change and grow. Your old attitudes, actions, behaviors, thoughts, decisions, beliefs, and habits have only gotten you this far. They have helped you achieve your current results. If you now want a new level of success as a writer, you must be willing to change.
- Optimism: Whether you call it faith, positive thinking, reverse pessimism, or learned optimism, to become a successful author you must be willingness to see everything that happens to you—negative or positive—as pushing you closer to your goal of successful authorship.
- Objectivity: To become a successful author you need a willingness to see yourself and your work through the lens used by publishing professionals, such as literary agents and acquisitions editors. You must see your work as both a creative project and a business proposition and evaluate yourself and your work objectively from a publishing-business perspective.
- Tenacity: To become an author, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes for however long it takes to reach your goal. Determination, persistence and perseverance carry you though to successful authorship.
Becoming an author entails wearing many hats, not the least of which is a writer’s hat. You need an attitude that will serve you well as you take off your writer’s hat and put on all the other hats necessary to help you and your book succeed.
Attitude is a choice. That one choice can make the difference between your success or failure as an author.
“The average book sells only 500 copies per year” – that’s fabulous! I can’t talk to 500 people in a year – but a book that reaches 500 people is a huge influence.
If you start from there, and are even average, you have nowhere to go but up.
I’m still somewhat clueless – it took me until today to realize that there IS a NaBoBloMo, and I completely missed it – while blogging my novel. So the work is critical, the time-frame, not so much. I am so focused on what I need to do – for now, getting that scene up every Tuesday on the blog – that I will have to wait 11 months if I want to blog a book in a month.
I’m sure it is possible to blog a novel in a month. Probably not for me – but never say never. That’s what NaNoWriMo does (without the blog part), and people do that, and complete a novel, within the month. Dean Wesley Smith just blogged for 10 days while he completed a ghosted novel – starting from scratch.
Some novelists, including Lawrence Block, have been known to write a novel in under a week. Repeatedly. Though Block says, in one of his books on writing, that he remembers little of what he wrote in some of those novels.
Your basic question – do you have what it takes to be an author – is one I’ve been working on since 1995.
Back then, when I finished my first novel, a mystery set in the world of science and graduate school and plasma physics, the path available was only the traditional one, and, while I received some very nice rejection notices (the kind with personal suggestions on them – requests for further work), I wasn’t in a position then to follow up immediately with a second novel.
In 2000, almost in the exact middle of writing that second mystery novel, I got the flash of inspiration I’ve been working on ever since. The story came as a whole, loaded with questions, and I’ve been using my available writing time and energy on it since then.
It also required that I up my writing skills, which I have been pursuing in parallel.
I took a side-track to write a play (great for writing dialogue – see http://liebjabberings.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/for-better-dialogue-in-fiction-write-a-play/).
I wrote some short stories. And lots of non-fiction.
And I have been educating myself on publishing and self-publishing, marketing and blogging, ever since. I’ve paid a professional ebook formatter to show me how it will look, and had it evaluated by a professional editor/reviewer.
So this may be slow, and take up a lot more of my life than I initially planned, but I’m having a ball, still love my story and those characters who won’t shut up, and I am 100%* certain I will finish the trilogy it has become.
My aim: I want to be the next Darcie Chan.
What do you think?
*God willin’ and the creek don’t rise!
Nina Amir says
I think you’ve got willingness, optimism and tenacity for sure. If you also have the objectivity to see your work from a publishing professional’s perspective so you produce marketable work–and make yourself marketable–you will surely succeed (become more than average)! Go get ’em!
Aye, there’s the rub.
If you have a good story, it is possible to get developmental editing for content. I think that’s a wise investment.
But at this point nothing is lost by me trying to see that each scene gets the full treatment I’m capable of.
Over the past year or so, my ‘voice’ and ‘style’ – hard as it is to define those – seems to be settling into a way I’m happy with. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when I make choices in editing and revising, I know what I’m aiming for.
I have found two chapters in Donald Maass’ book The Fire in Fiction to be invaluable:
Chapter 3 – Scenes that can’t be cut
Chapter 8 – Tension all the time.
His examples and what he talks about are prescriptive – when you finish, you know what he means, and have some idea how to apply his suggestions.
At this point, his is the book I’d take with me if I only got to take one writing book to a desert island.