There are four basic journey-choices you can make to get all the success you want as an author.
Some of these are known, some can be observed. At least one isn’t obvious at all. That last one only came up recently in trying to explain some mystery successes I’d heard about. But we’ll get to that shortly.
There are four ways to be an exceptional success as an author:
- Tap into an eternal desire with a book that is good enough to gain adoration. Doesn’t have to be perfect. You’ve made a classic.
- Promote yourself with advertising that raises your books to classic level. Expensive. Takes your whole life, if you aren’t extremely smart about it.
- Be prolific your whole life through and write in many varied genres. Produce your work in so many forms that your best become classics.
- Wait until the time is right.
None of these can be faked. The first is often by accident, and is the first (and usually only) book the author ever publishes. If there are others, they are unlikely to succeed as well, since the first was an inspired stroke of lightning (that never strikes the same place twice.) You see this in J.D. Salinger, Margaret Mitchell, Anna Sewell.
Funny enough, only the second requires a great deal of advertising or remarkable marketing to make it happen. This is the most common approach these days. Grahl, Morkes, Dawson, Stephenson, and others are our current crop.
The third gains by sheer brute force of will and rivers of sweat-equity. That set knows all about publishing and has worked out what people want and how to best serve them. They serve humanity by using the long tail. Charles Dickens was one of these. Isaac Asimov another.
The final one is where the other three start. The author who starts only when the time is right. And otherwise makes their way through this world with a Day Job. We know who we are.
Each of these four types have their “platform” in place, even if they don’t know it.
The one-shot-wonder taps into a wide audience with that classic and rules thereafter. There is enough sales to that book that they can live off residuals (or reinvest them) thereafter.
The second is constantly promoting to his audience in order to keep them. They move into and out of various forms to be worthy of following. Once they quit advertising, their books slowly dwindle down in sales. The promotion is what keeps their audience following them.
The third is alway paddling away in their river of interest, always finding more to write about and loving their lifestyle. By sheer volume, some of their stories become great hits. Others sell well. Some don’t sell. But there is always another story after that last one. If they are promoted, someone else is doing it as part of their team. Someone else running their marketing. Because they are too busy writing and inventing and describing in order to pay much attention to the world at large.
The fourth has an invisible audience who is waiting.
Each serves humanity. Each has their own way to do so.
Their story of success in each case is different. The story of the first one is enigmatic and cannot be explained easily.
The story of the second one is explained too much, as they constantly are promoting themselves and selling courses on how to do it as well as they did.
The third will tell people to simply write what they are interested in (and their market will buy) and to read other authors in order to improve their own style.
The fourth reads all about the other authors and buys their books, courses, and audio.
The first and third are not believed. People spend a great deal of money in the second, but learn to write no better and have no more particular success than any of the three types. The fourth generally they keep their day job, as they are always buying courses and not doing the writing they want and have a need to do – yet.
The first are the real leaders, and they never particularly wanted to be.
The second are the following-followers. They don’t really listen to their intuition to be as good as the first one. And don’t have enough persistence to be a dogged success as the third. They live well as long as they keep finding stuff to promote to their audience to keep them interested.
The third lives well and independently, because their content can be consumed by multiple audiences. If their marketer is also a good manager, they live a comfortable life.
The fourth live as good a life as they work for others.
Amazon, and other book outlets fund the first three well. The fourth is part of that funding effort.
It’s your choice which you will be, even though most people think they can’t be one of the first, and don’t want to “work as hard” as the third. So they either crack the conventional wisdom of the second, or keep their day job until they buy enough courses and read enough great books to work it all out.
I’ve studied all four types and can tell you that any of them can by done by anyone. The first is mystic, the second is mechanical, the third is inspired, the fourth is where we all start out.
None is any easier than the other. The hardest might be the fourth type: those who won’t just sit down and write the stories that come to them and so never get started at all. They keep their day jobs. (And, if they only saved 10% out of every single paycheck they got for 40 years, they’d be a millionaire on retirement and could live off the interest comfortably. That would also be a great time to write.)
No one tells any of these four how to succeed. They each count their success differently. Salinger and Mitchell relished their private lives. The business person with their single book and the speaking gigs and coaching deals, keeps promoting themselves and enjoying the respect. (Celebrities fit this mold.) The fairly anonymous authors who crank out tons of work under pen-names enjoy doing what they are doing and are well supported by their sales. The fourth has a decent job, and all the security that can go with it, as well as all the entertainment it can buy.
All are authors in their own right.
Mark Twain in his “Letters From the Earth” described seeing a line of the greatest generals in history. At the head was someone dressed as a common farmer. The explanation for the obvious question, “Well, he just never got around to generalling.”
You are an author first in your own mind. The rest of it depends on what actions you take.
This study started out because the collection of material on the how-to’s of authorship was mostly filled with the stories of people who had made it big by promoting their few books and then bridging off into courses and affiliate sales. Also in this category were entrepreneurs who published only a single book and then make a living with that (and brand extensions.) This huge category seemed to be all there was. And the conventional wisdom was that an author needed to learn to sell and promote and give talks and so on. (Meanwhile, the authors themselves said they disliked having to do this, and would rather just be writing.)
That huge amount of data didn’t explain the one-hit wonders. (Nothing really seems to, except metaphysics. This was their time and they took it.)
Meanwhile, my own route was publishing everything I could lay my hands on in addition to my own written works. Some sold, some didn’t. A few did really well. But I was able to get my financial freedom enough to simply do research. The more I researched and published, the better I did financially. On the fringes, I started collecting other stories of people who were making six-figures from just writing what they felt like and what people were interested in buying. A lot of these stories are in Geoff Shaw’s “Kindling” course and his Facebook group.
The most disregarded has been the author who just “hasn’t gotten around to it.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with this category, although some will beat themselves up because of being there. One day, they will move into one of the categories above, or they won’t.
The point to any life is thoroughly enjoying what you are doing while you are doing it. Joy is what we are really here for. And the more joy you spread, the more you get back.
With that, my studies of the “how-to’s” of authorship are complete. And thanks to the books I’ve published, I was able to afford all these courses. Digesting them will still take some time, and will wind up with other books for you to read. But I don’t need buy any more courses or webinars or how-to manuals. I am going to write up what I’ve found, just to get it out of my head. After that, and probably at the same time, I’m going to find some more books to write, edit, publish, produce – all just for you, to spread the joy I’ve found.
My only advice to this is: Have fun with your choices. Choose to do those things you can enjoy.
Until next time…