(1) Care more about what you’re writing than what you’re releasing.
90% of my focus is always on the book that I’m currently writing, never on the book that I just released, or that I’m about to release.
I know your quest here is to make money from writing—I get it. Mine too. But the number one thing to remember is that writers make money from writing books.
The writing has to come before and above the selling, always.
(2) Beware complacency
One of my least favorite phrases on the planet is, “It is what it is!”
I mean, fine, I guess I can respect the sentiment behind it: be Zen about those things you have no control over.
But don’t hide behind the phrase and tell yourself that you can’t do/change a certain thing because someone or something is standing in your way, when really the problem is that making the change or confronting someone/something is simply hard.
The people I look up to are the ones that are tearing up the foundation of what’s supposed to be possible, and refusing to take BS from their readers, publishers, friends/family, etc. They’re not taking things they don’t like lying down, they’re not accepting it “as is.” They’re doing their damn hardest to get what they want even if it means kicking a few tires.
(3) Be an artist first.
Being a full-time writer means treating yourself and your career like a business, but it’s important not to lose sight of the main goal: telling stories. And telling stories is an art form, don’t let anyone or any paycheck tell you otherwise. (From here on out, we’ll be referring to your artist-self as the Muse).
The best stories are the ones that ones that come from inside you, not from your agent/publisher telling you that a certain type of story/idea is going to sell.
(4) Have a business plan.
Okay yes, so you’re an artist, but you don’t have to be haphazard mess of one.
Take yourself seriously enough to write a business plan.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be as simple as “I will write this many books this year” or “I will release this many books next year” jotted on a sticky note or Evernote. Just the process of writing it down can be wonderfully motivating—it will also help with your financial planning (crucial, if this to be your main source of income).
(5) Tap your internal drill sergeant when necessary.
Let’s face it, the Muse inside all of us can be lazy. Or maybe not lazy so much as, “Let’s stop and smell all the flowers.”
If you want to write-full time, you’ll have to remind the Muse that if she wants the luxury of writing all day, she actually needs to write all day.
The Muse decides what to write, the drill sergeant decides the when/where.
(6) Set the trend, don’t follow the trend.
There’s a lot of talk in publishing about trends, and I try to ignore it as best I can. It’s a cliche phrase, but trends really do come and go!
I’m not saying you can’t write about the vampire, or stepbrother, or MMA fighter, just that you should only write it if it genuinely excites you. Remember, we’re playing the long-game here.
The people whose careers I want to emulate are the ones who’ve set trends, not followed them.
(7) Ditch the TV
Okay, I don’t mean this literally (although for me, it did mean literally cutting out TV), but I’m frankly sick and tired of those people telling me they can never release as many books as I can, and then five minutes later they’ve rattled off fourteen TV shows that I’ve never even heard of. Um, that’s why you’re not writing as many books as me. I’m writing a book while you were watching yet another singing/talent competition.
If you’re not getting the output you want from your writing, before you start blaming your slow writer’s pace, take a good hard look at where your time is going.
Be honest with yourself.
Everyone has the same number of hours in the day—but not everyone uses them equally.
(8) Trust Your Gut
My biggest regrets in this career are times when I’ve trusted someone else’s advice over my own gut. Trust yourself enough to know what’s best for you.
What does your gut feel like?
It’s when someone makes a suggestion on a title/book idea/promotional strategy, and I feel something inside me INSTANTLY veer away from it. You know like when you were a kid, and they gave you magnets, and you flipped them over so that it was impossible to push them together? When I feel that, it’s my gut saying no.
Alternatively, someone will suggest a title idea, or a story will pop into my mind, and I feel INSTANTLY drawn to it. Excited. I NEED it. Voila! the magnets are facing the right way!
When it comes to your career, start paying attention to your magnets.
(9) Learn how to model.
Mot the catwalk kind, the Tony Robbins kind of modeling.
Modeling is often defined as this:
Observing and mapping the successful processes which underlie an exceptional performance of some type.
It’s basically a fancy way of saying: have role models whose careers you admire, and then do what they do. Not in the sense that you copy their every move, and certainly don’t rip off their creativity or branding, but figure how how they got to where they are. When do they wake up, what tools do they use, what books do they read, how do they structure their day, and so on.
(10) Keep writing
Every now and then, there’s an author with a mega-hit who can make a living with a single book.
Most of us build a career by finishing a book—and starting the next one. Repeat.
The only trick to being a full-time author?
Write. A lot. There are no shortcuts.