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Top 10 traits of a successful writer

An author’s journey to success is individual and, yes, pot luck has sometimes got a lot to do with it. But there are certain fail-safes that a successful writer does that you should to!

Here are the traits of a successful writer you can learn from:


1. See it as a business

Whether you’re choosing to self-publish or go the traditional route, screwing on your business head is vital. Be the successful writer you’ve been picturing.

Ask yourself the fundamental question: ‘What does success look like to me?’ and then set goals and deadlines to reach it. This is crucial for keeping up momentum.

If you are self-publishing, you need to see your book as a start-up business. That means everything you do must have a purpose. You have the beauty of being in control of your project. You have flexibility and retain your royalties. In reality, however, you rely on you.

And you need to have the same strategic mindset if you want a literary agent or traditional publisher to take notice of you. Make a spreadsheet of all the agents you’d like to make contact with. Fill it in with contact details, info and crossing off as you go.


1. See it as a business (2)

Even if you’re represented by a big publisher, you will have to be the major component to the marketing of your book. No one knows your story like you do, so you’re the best person to drive the marketing. Also, we’re seeing more and more that readers want to feel connected to the authors they love, so make the most of it! A successful writer makes time for their readers.

At the Bookseller Marketing Conference this June, a talk was dedicated to how important the role of the author is in successfully marketing a book.

A case-study entitled ‘Putting the Author at the Heart of the Campaign’ Canongate discussed marketing campaigns. They explained how they put author Matt Haig at the centre of the publicity for Reasons to Stay Alive.

It was the personal videos, author talks, social media feeds spearheaded by Matt that made this brilliant non-fiction book such a success.


To be a successful writer you must spend a lot of time editing

We as humans are extremely fickle. What holds our attention one minute can very soon dwindle at the next distraction. We need a constant cycle of content so that we incorporate it into our lives so regularly that we then become fans.

TV episodes, blog posts, newsletters all have ongoing content to keep them fresh in the audience’s mind.

Obviously, books are slightly different – creation timeframe alone. If readers love your debut you need to a). get on with writing your next book straight away. And b). in the meantime keep you on their radar by writing short stories on your blog and sending email newsletters.


1. See it as a business (4)

Cheese and grapes, writing and rejection, some things just go together. Every author experiences rejection. We never would have had The Wind in the Willows, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Lord of the Flies, if the authors had let rejection ruin them.

You could be the next bestselling writer. Each obstacle you face could be the final push before achieving your author dream.

It’s all about learning how to stay motivated with your writing.


Do your research in order to be a successful writer

If you are self-publishing but looking to use a publishing services company, make sure you do your research so they can’t take advantage of you.

Equally, if you’re submitting a query to an agent, research their likes, dislikes. You have to show them what kind of person you’d be like to work with and dedication is a huge attribute.

If you are attending an event, research who’s going to be there and try and get contacts. Also, sign up to The Bookseller newsletter to keep up with the latest publishing industry news.


1. See it as a business (6)

Word of mouth recommendation is still one of the main ways readers find out about books.

It’s also a way to build up positive opinion of you with people in the industry. A bad reputation is a hard if not impossible thing to squash, so make sure you make a good first impression. Say yes to things, be respectful to people who have been in the industry for years and don’t do the ‘BUY MY BOOK NOW’ on social media. It’s not a good look.

Give value to the people you collaborate with and also your readers. This could be in the form of hosting an interview with your editor on your website to help aspiring authors find out about the process.


1. See it as a business (7)

Take a look at the authors you love on all their different platforms. What do you notice about their book covers, social media, website, that delivers a credible author brand? This is what you need to be a successful writer.

To do this, you must think about your reader.

Are they the kind of reader who would love to see a photo of your cat sat on your manuscript? Or would they be more engaged with in-depth articles surrounding the themes your novel explores?

Is the tone of your social media serious, chatty, sarcastic, motivational? Sometimes it’s trial and error, but the genre you write in can help start you off in the right direction. Take inspiration from the authors who you admire.

Also, make sure your brand is consistent across all online and offline marketing.


1. See it as a business (8)

It’s important to reach out to your reader wherever it is that they hang out. Whether it’s in a library with a book club or on Tumblr, see where you get the most interaction and make the most of it.

Saying yes to as many events as you can is hugely beneficial to spreading the word about you and your book. People still really value human interaction and seeing what you’re like in person.

To promote her debut novel The Miniaturist, author Jessie Burton did over 200 events and saw first hand the benefits of this. Say yes to events, but don’t wear yourself out.

It’s all about getting the balance right for you.


1. See it as a business (9)

Successful writers are the ones who realise that there’s always another goal to reach. It’s good to set your main goal of publishing your book, but this isn’t the final hurdle, it’s the first.

You need to be constantly closing the gap between yourself and your readers, making them engage with your brand and buying more of your books.

This ambition and consistency circles back to the question at the beginning of the meaning of success. Think about what it is you really want out of this, because if you want to be a bestselling prolific author, you have to be prepared for continuous work.


To be a successful writer you must first produce a quality product

If you read our journals, you’ll know we bang on about the importance of creating a quality product in all aspects.

You need a professional edit, quality formatting and design, and slick sophisticated marketing. This is the best leg-up you can give yourself. If you’ve nailed a quality product and brand, the rest becomes a lot easier and you save yourself a lot of backtracking.

If you’d like our guidelines for cover design and typesetting for free, shoot us an email, and we’ll send this over to you.


Do you have any of these author traits? What do you think is the most important one? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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