Here is a summary of what writers need to know to succeed divided into three lists:Mike Larsen

  • Why Now is the Best Time to be a Writer
  • Why Now’s the Most Challenging Time to Be a Writer
  • How to Guarantee Your Success

Why Now is the Best Time to be a Writer

Here is why now is the best time to be a writer:

  • The Community of the Book is everyone everywhere who cares about reading, writing, books, storytelling, the truth, and freedom of expression. With facts and fiction threatened by censorship, misinformation and extreme beliefs, the community is more dedicated to its values than ever.
  • Writing, publishing, and bookselling are the best businesses to be in because they are labors of love that contribute to culture, create a spirit of community, and help sustain the Community of the Book.
  • The publishing industry is continuing to evolve to meet its challenges.
  • Books are the most efficient, powerful, and enduring form of communication ever invented. They are needed more than ever to help create the future of the human family.
  • There is a growing worldwide audience for books in English, the international language of culture and commerce.
  • Three and a half billion people have smartphones. Voice-driven devices are how most readers will find, buy, and read books.
  • With a database of 18 million titles, Ingram is the world’s biggest printer and distributor for publishers and self-published authors, and provides overnight delivery to anyone. It will also become the largest publisher of self-published books.
  • Sales of ebooks and downloadable audiobooks are rising.
  • Writing is the easiest of the arts to enter, succeed in, and keep practicing.
  • Publishers are more eager than ever to find books with lasting value and to diversify their lists and their staff.
  • Writers are the most important people in the publishing process because they make it go.
  • Agents and editors are as delighted to find new writers as new writers are to be published. Helping writers build their career and earn the recognition and rewards they deserve is the best part of the job.
  • Readers are the second most important people in the publishing process,
    because social media empowers them to make any book sell, which is why self-published books can become bestsellers.
  • You have more options than ever for publishing your work.
  • More freelance help is available to help you with every aspect of writing and publishing.
  • Agents’ and publishers’ websites describe how to submit to them. You can usually do a multiple submission.
  • You can reach more readers in more ways and places than ever for free.
  • You can use the books you love and the authors you admire as models for your books and your career.
  • There are more ways than ever to make money from your work.

Why Now’s the Most Challenging Time to be a Writer

Here is why now is the most challenging time to be a writer:

  • The pandemic is accelerating the transition to an online culture. Publishing is becoming a primarily online industry. Amazon accounts for more than 70% of combined print, ebook, and audiobook sales, and publishes more than a thousand books a year. Your online reviews, advertising, communications, and communities will drive sales.
  • More than 1.7 million books are published a year, more than a million of them self-published.
  • The competition for people’s time and money from other authors and other forms of information and entertainment keeps growing.
  • There will be fewer publishers, agents, and booksellers. Publishers are cutting their staff and lists, paying smaller advances, and it will keep getting harder for them to launch books.
  • The economic crisis will drive readers to libraries for free access to print books, ebooks, and audiobooks.
  • Competition drives down the price of ebooks. Writers are giving books away to build their audience.
  • Online subscription services, including those publishers are starting, will
    lower authors’ income.
  • Literary work will generate even less income than it does now.
  • Writers have to know more and do more than ever to succeed.

How to Guarantee Your Success

Here is how to guarantee your success:

  • Make your calling a labor of love for your craft and your readers.
  • Emulate other writers until you find the path that only you were born to follow.
  • Set literary, publishing, and personal goals that balance desire and necessity, give you a sense of mission, and inspire you to create a plan to achieve them.
  • Write books readers love. Content is king. The five keys to a salable book are reading, an idea, writing, sharing, and test-marketing:
    • Read as many books as you can, especially those like you want to write. Read what you love to read and write what you love to read.
    • Come up with an idea for a series or for standalone books that sell each other and that you are passionate about writing and promoting, and try it out on members of the book community. Your idea won’t last a lifetime, so if your passion or the market for your books wanes, be ready to pivot to another idea that will bring your readers with you.
    • Decide what you want your readers to think, feel, and do, then write as many drafts as it takes to make every word count and give your work maximum impact.
    • Get feedback from your community of knowledgeable readers as you write and after you finish your work.
    • Prove your book works by test-marketing it as often and in many ways as you can before you sell or publish it.
  • Use these three ways to help maximize the sales of your books before, on, and, after publication:
    • Build and serve the communities you need to collaborate with and give you feedback on every aspect of your work. Every field has its own community of media,events, organizations, and influencers.
    • Build your platform: your access to and continuing visibility with potential book buyers.
    • Integrate all of the ways you communicate to build your brand: your identity as a writer.
  • Choose the best publishing option for you and your book. The three basic choices: finding a publisher, hiring an agent, and self-publishing.
    • It usually takes five or more books to build an audience. If you have only one book you want to publish, or you want to write different kinds of books, self-publish. If you don’t a strong platform and promotion plan, that’s usually the best option.
    • Self-publishing will give you complete control of your book, speed up publication, and give you the potential to make more money. If your work is available online as an ebook and a print-on-demand book, readers around the world will have access to it. If you sell enough copies, agents and editors will find you.
    • For best results with self-publishing, get the best help you can. If your budget allows, consider hybrid publishing, which combines self- and traditional publishing.
  • Be an entrepreneur running a technology-driven content business.
  • Be a contentpreneur by reselling your content and services in as many forms, media, and countries as you can. How-to books offer more opportunities for this than fiction.
  • Make everything you do sell everything else you do. Keep publishing books that sell each other, and you will keep generating more synergy and opportunities.
  • Stay curious and keep learning what you need to know.
  • Use feedback from your readers to find new ways to add value to their lives.
  • Be resilient so you can overcome challenges.
  • Be flexible, creative, and innovative so you can anticipate and take advantage of accelerating change.
  • Help yourself by supporting the Community of the Book.
  • Trust your instincts and common sense, and only follow the advice that makes sense to you.

Your future depends on your ability to communicate through your work and to your communities. Success will take longer than you’d like, because the impact of your efforts will be cumulative. But if you persevere, success is inevitable.

This article is an adapted condensation of a talk I gave on a panel for the Women’s National Book Association/San Francisco Chapter. It’s also from book in progress: Writing Success Guaranteed: How to Deal Yourself Five Hearts to Win the Publishing Game.

About the author:

Mike Larsen is an author coach who loves helping writers achieve their goals by adding value to their readers’ lives. Mike cofounded Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents, which sold books to more than a hundred publishers and imprints. Books: How to Write a Book Proposal, now in its fifth edition, coauthored by Jody Rein; How to Get a Literary AgentGuerrilla Marketing for Writers (coauthor). His next book: Writing Success Guaranteed: How to Deal Yourself Five Hearts to Win the Publishing

If you like this blog post, you’ll love this book: The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan by Nonfiction Authors Association CEO Stephanie Chandler!