Rumi is happy.
It’s been a week since she published her first book on Amazon, a romance novella that she toiled to complete for almost a year. 70,000 words weren’t as easy as she had thought. But she knew she had a best-seller at hand.
Her friends and family have shown their support. Bought copies, some of them even published 5-star reviews and everyone continues to congratulate her. More than enough reasons to be ecstatic. But as the initial excitement wanes, the sales graph on her KDP Dashboard starts taking a nosedive looking like the path of an ill-fated Boeing-737 on its way to a horrific crash.
6th week. Crickets.
By the end of the 2nd month, it’s all over.
Seem like fiction but it is the story of many starry-eyed, self-published authors. Not their fault. They simply built a fantasy world around self-publishing after reading jaw-dropping success stories of other authors like her.
This post is a must-read for debut authors.
In today’s post, I want to help debut authors understand what it has taken others like them to succeed. So that you know what you need to bring to the game. Here are 10 qualities that set the best-selling independent authors apart from the rest.
They are Publisher-Authors
Successful indie authors are publishers along with being outstanding writers and storytellers. It means that they see their authoring career, not just a creative pursuit but also a business that needs to make money. Which means that they understand and are mentally prepared to go through the grind of becoming a self-published author.
They Value Market Insight
It doesn’t mean that an indie author who wanted to write a horror decided to drop the idea and chose to write a historical romance simply because there was more demand. It means that these authors are willing to invest their time, effort and money to study publishing and marketing nuances applicable to their genre.
A simple example would be to join a horror fan club on Facebook or researching the genre on Amazon. Reading reviews etc.
They Have Day Jobs
I love paydays. There’s no better extrinsic motivation than cash in hand. Every month. Successful self-published authors have day jobs. Besides taking your mind off paying the bills, the cash helps them spend on buying resources (tools, books, courses) or hiring services of professionals.
Think about it. If you had the money would you buy a pre-made cover for $40 or would you spend $500 or more and hire a professional book cover designer?
So if you have a day job, stay put. In case you don’t, get one.
They Have a Routine
I just finished reading Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon. If you haven’t read it I strongly recommend you do. Its a must read for anyone engaged in creative pursuits. I loved a quote in that book, “Be Boring. It’s the only way to get work done.” I think what he meant was to be disciplined and consistent in your work.
Even with day jobs and managing endless daily chores these marquee authors managed to finish their first book, publish it and marketed the s**t out of it. Many have in fact admitted in interviews and their blogs that without routine their books could never have made it to the shelves. And they continue to follow that routine as they keep churning one best-seller after another.
There is no way I could’ve taken this blog to where it is today without a routine. I admit I too hate routines but without it, work simply doesn’t get done. Period.
They Strive For Quality
Yeah, that’s an iPhone X. Imagine you got it for a steal. Works like a charm. You just can’t take your hands off it. A couple of days of use and suddenly the speakers stop working. Oops! To make it worse you learn its out of warranty and you’ll need to foot a bill of $500 to get those speakers working again.
Not a perfect analogy but I hope it makes the point.
My point here is that best-selling self-publishing authors do not compromise with their product quality. They take their writing seriously and strive to come up with a high-quality book in all forms – writing, editing, formatting, design and more if required.
They Are Investors
I mentioned earlier that successful indie authors see their authoring careers as businesses that need to make money. Which also means that they are basically investors of their own time and money in learning the craft and do the necessary groundwork to increase the chances of success in the future.
They sow the seeds today to enjoy the fruits tomorrow.
They’re Smart Learners
Self-publishing can take the wind out of one’s sails when started on the wrong foot. The enviable success of Indie authors that you’ve been reading about is a result of their commitment to learning everything they need to learn.
But what makes them smart learners?
Smart learning to me is when you go deep in one or two areas of your work while learning just enough in other areas. In the case of self-publishing, you’ll want to go deep in mastering your writing skills but may not really go that deep for work such as cover design. At the end of the day, your primary job is writing and finish your book. If you can manage it with other stuff with ease, great. But if you can’t, better look to hire outside help.
The first word that almost all writers hate – sales. More so when they are expected to do it. But this is also the single most important trait that sets best-selling indie authors apart. They have mastered the art and science of using marketing and sales to their advantage. They learn to market and sell their book as well as themselves (read outreach and networking).
They’ve invested their time and money learning and implementing marketing tactics and over a period built a marketing system that helps them live the life they dreamed of.
They Start Small
Successful indie authors recognize their authoring career as a journey. In that, they see their first book as one small step towards a larger goal. Starting small could be in the form of choosing to start with short stories or novellas instead of a novel.
Some have also kept their book distribution platform limited to Amazon or avoid print copies altogether in the early stages. It basically comes down to developing the business acumen to not try and eat the entire elephant at once.
They Have Grit
The primary personality trait of successful self-published authors. They don’t break and if they do, they get back up. By grit, I don’t just mean being thick-skinned but also being smart at learning and adapting to the unique characteristics of your market and listening to your readers.
For every self-publishing success story you read on social media there are hundreds of failures that don’t get the spotlight. Yes, self-publishing is hard, exhausting and painfully demotivating. But like every other goal we pursue in life, it only gets better with time. Put consistent effort, be open and willing to learn, have realistic expectations and take ownership of your success and you’ll be living your dream life before you realize.