September 2017 has been my most successful month as an author so far. Not only did my latest book gain traction and hit #1 on 3 different bestseller charts and earn the coveted orange bestseller badge on Amazon (a first for me, after being in the business for almost 2.5 years), but it has also been the month that found the largest number of buyers for my books since I first published in May 2017 – both small but cherished personal milestones.
I really owe it to my readers who were kind enough to buy my books and give them the thumbs-up. Years of effort and perseverance have finally started giving their dividends. Publishing is a bittersweet journey.
There are countless people today who have the potential to succeed as writers, and yet so often, it is only a minuscule lot from those with potential who actually make it. There are a lot of factors that are crucial in making a breaking a writer and whenever I get a chance to speak with a budding writer, I tell them about these factors, which I learnt mostly from experience.
Sometime back, I had written a small post on the 9 things that helped me to succeed as an indie-writer and I’d like to share them once again in this post. If you are somebody who wants to write and publish someday, do spare a few moments to go through them because these are things you’re unlikely to find in a writer’s manual.
Here are those 9 things that helped me over the years and those that can help you too:
- Practice, Practice, Practice : I worked on my writing for over 10 years before I wrote my first book. I maintained three blogs at one point, and wrote a variety of articles that were between 1500–3000 words in length. Additionally, I never missed an opportunity to write articles for company magazines. I ended up writing so much that whenever I sat down to write, I could write 1000–3000 words effortlessly on any topic I had chosen to write on.
- Ask for Feedback : I encouraged readers to comment and rate my articles, and slowly, over many years, I learned what resonated best with readers. I identified my flaws and worked on them, and started leveraging my strengths.
- Work on your Language Skills : Despite possessing better vocabulary and language skills than most of my peers, I still kept learning. Most people know as much English (I write only in English) as they did when they were in high school; I made a conscious effort improve my grasp of the language. Even today, if I am not clear about the usage of a particular phrase, or a word, I look it up instead of simply avoiding it.
- Read, Read, and Read : I read books both on general topics, and books on writing – there are many factors that symbolise good writing. Many of these are oblivious to layfolk. If anybody thinks he/she can become a good writer without ever reading or learning from great writing, he/she is incredibly naive. I had cultivated a reading habit when I was very young, so as I grew older, I found it easier to shift from reading popular fiction to more serious topics.
- Change your Priorities and Started Valuing Time: I gave up watching TV almost permanently. I’ve watched only 2 TV shows over the past 3 and half years, one episode per week, (online streaming) and I seldom watch movies on my computer – instead I watch a movie at a local cinema with my wife on weekends.This change alone gave me a lot of time for writing. I stopped doing activities to just ‘kill time’. You never realise how much time you can save once you make an effort. Almost every free moment I get is spent on either reading something of value, or on doing something that contributes towards my writing. I don’t indulge in idle gossiping at my workplace and always take a book to read when I’m having lunch or dinner (if I’m alone). Apart from reading and writing, I love playing my guitar (I’ve been playing for almost 19 years now) and I play it only during the weekends or when I miss it sorely nowadays. Everybody gets 24 hours, it’s about how you use it that matters.
- Learn from your Mistakes – My first book, despite getting a lot of positive feedback got buried because I didn’t know anything about the publishing process and didn’t have any friend who had written a book. Writing a book is not even a third of the work that one needs to do to get published. I failed miserably in my first outing as an author despite writing a book into which I poured my heart and soul, and despite it being loved by readers; only because I didn’t know anything about the system. My second book, a non-fiction management guide that didn’t require a third of the effort I put into my first one, did much better – it still features in Amazon’s top 100 for its category, after almost a year.
- Get involved in the Processes of Self-Publishing – Content editing, proof-reading, cover designing, blurb writing, formatting, setting up web-pages, setting social media pages, publicising, networking – I didn’t know the importance of many of these activities before I published a book. In the past couple of years, I’ve done these all myself and have also outsourced critical activities such as editing, and proofreading (these definitely need to be done by a third party because writers are oblivious to their own mistakes.
- Stop Looking for Support from the Wrong People : I’m the first author in my entire extended family and yet, I found very little support from within my family. It’s probably more to do with cultural values than anything else. I found it disheartening that most of my family members were mostly indifferent to my endeavours. It wasn’t surprising that many of them didn’t read either. They were more interested in pestering me about not being married even after I turned thirty (I suppose many Indians can relate with this feeling). Apart from one very supportive cousin, there were few in my family who were supportive. I found support instead from a few good friends, and from my fiancée (who’s now my wife). Nowadays, I never speak about my writing to any family member unless they ask me about it.
- Stop Looking for Short Term Gains – Every newbie author dreams big before publishing and in ninety nine instances out of a hundred, he/she ends in disappointment. I’ve stopped becoming disappointed or dejected in failures and keep doing what I do, because I love doing it. I improvise each time and as long as I’m moving forward, I know that someday I will attain the level of success I have targeted. It could be tomorrow, it could be years or decades from now but I believe it is only a matter of time.
There are far more factors that could influence your success as an author and this is not a comprehensive list. Nevertheless, once you take care of the nine points listed above, your journey as a writer will become far more easier that it would be otherwise.
Note: This post contains content that was posted in one of the author’s responses to a question on Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-have-you-done-so-far-in-order-to-become-a-writer/answer/Roji-Abraham. Also posted on https://firstname.lastname@example.org