Hey Authors! I’m really excited to be here today, at Penny’s request, to share with you a brief summary of what goes into building and maintaining a six figure author career!
I often see authors chatting online and saying things like “Don’t quit your day job” and “most authors won’t make more than $100 publishing” – and while both of those statements can be true, they need context.
Most authors won’t make money publishing because they don’t know what to do, and they’re not willing to learn. And while I wouldn’t suggest quitting your day job to start pursuing an author career, many of my students do end up quitting their day job once they put in the work to build their author career up to a full time income (which they can build up to in less than 5 hours a week, though it’s a faster build if you have more time at the start).
Another thing I hear all the time is “Success is about who you know” or “Success comes down to luck.”
Again, context is important. You can certainly gain success from knowing the right people, but in my experience, anyone can BUILD success, even if they don’t. It’s less about who you know and more about building good relationships with people you meet (or just working really hard doing the RIGHT things!) As for luck, I’m not a fan – and since we’ve been able to “turn it on” for hundreds of authors, you’ll never convince me that luck is the only way to succeed. It’s probably the LEAST likely path to success.
We have a saying in my free author group: Dreams don’t work unless you do.
So if you’re ready to work, let’s overview what that work will look like!
STEP ONE: Develop Your Concept
You’ve probably heard a lot about “Writing to Market” and may even be thinking “I don’t want to write the latest fads. I want to write what *I* want to write.” The good news is, anyone who said you have to write the current “fads” is the only way to make money…is wrong. And my team has proven this hundreds of times. While you do need to do some market research to develop your concept, you don’t have to sacrifice writing the story you want to tell.
STEP TWO: Create a Pitch
A pitch is essentially a short one-liner that can help you sell your book. In the traditional publishing world, they would call it an “Elevator Pitch.” A lot of Indies skip this step, thinking you don’t need this if you aren’t looking for a publisher or agent. Other authors don’t do this until after the book is complete and they are ready to start marketing it, because they realize that agents and publishers want this for a reason: to know the book will sell on the market. I recommend doing this step BEFORE you write the book because it can help you focus every other decision you make in the context of “How will this help SELL the story I want to tell?”
STEP THREE: Come up with a Series Name and Book Titles
Obviously every book has these things, and again, many authors choose these things after they write the book. We suggest deciding this before, for two main reasons. Reason 1: The best cover designers book months, sometimes up to a year, out. You’ll want to get started on the process of hiring a cover designer right away so that you won’t have any delays publishing once you’re ready to do so. Reason 2: Is that your series name and book titles can help sell your book, and depending on the title/series name you choose, you may want to work that into your novels. It’s easier to write a story to fit a title than it is to pick a title that fits a story…and is still marketable.
STEP FOUR: Select & Hire A Cover Designer
You probably knew this was next from reading step three above. Don’t delay! Get on a cover designer’s schedule ASAP. This is one area that you don’t want to skimp on. If you want some recommendations, I have a free service provider database inside my free Roadmap to Writing Success course.
BONUS TIP: TOP THREE THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO SKIMP ON
- Knowledge (of Marketing, Craft, and Business Planning)
- Cover Design
Everything else – even Marketing and Advertising – can be skimped on and still result in you making EXCELLENT money IF you nail these three things above!
Okay, moving on to…
STEP FIVE: Plot Your Story (Even for Pantsers)
When I work with my students, I actually teach them THREE levels of plotting: Plotting a Series, Basic Plot Summary, and Advanced Plotting (for which I teach a few different methods). But the most important thing to understand about plotting is that you don’t HAVE to do it before you write – but you SHOULD do it. You can plot AS you write or even AFTER you write – but the goal is for the end result to be a well-structured novel, as this will impact the readers’ perception of your novel and whether or not they want to a) finish your book b) leave a positive review or c) purchase more books from you. I have a free webinar on basic plotting here, if you want to learn more.
STEP SIX: Write an Un-Put-Down-Able Book
This probably goes without saying…but if you want to have a successful author career, you need to write good books. This means an entertaining story that’s written in an entertaining way. Most authors feel they are already doing this, but I’ve met many authors who are SUPER talented, but readers don’t seem to be connecting with their book, and the authors don’t understand why. Often they are wonderful writers, but making a book “addicting” requires a series of techniques that they just don’t teach in books on writing or online articles. To summarize, your goal here is to use READER PSYCHOLOGY when writing your book. I offer a course on AuthorGrow.com that helps with this, but as long as you write an unputdownable book, you’ll see the career growth you’re looking for with publishing.
STEP SEVEN: Select Your Editor
This is one of the hardest things to advise on, as authors of course know they need an editor, but they also don’t know what they don’t know, which means they have no way of knowing if an editor is actually any good. Even asking friends for recommendations is dicey, because friends ALSO don’t know if an editor is any good. This is how authors end up spending thousands on edits and still getting bad reviews. The best thing you can do is:
- Learn as much about grammar and punctuation as possible, so that you can tell if an editor knows their stuff or not.
- Learn as much about creative writing techniques as you can, for the same reason.
- Determine what your weaknesses are: do you struggle more with story and character, writing technique, or grammar and punctuation? This will impact what kind of editor you need.
STEP EIGHT: Create Your Publishing Release Schedule
You know what’s more important than how much money you spend on a release? How consistently you can deliver new books to the readers who love them. Contrary to what some tell you, there’s not some magic number of published books you need to have to make money, and you don’t have to release a book every week or month to make six figures. We’ve proven this many times over. However, you do need to be consistent for your readers. Try to focus on one series at a time; try to keep a consistent pattern of releases (whether that’s every one month or every three or less). Having a good author schedule can help you meet those goals, too, which is why I created my Six Figure Author Business course for time management!
STEP NINE: Develop Your Release Marketing Plan
You don’t need a huge release budget to have a successful release. In fact, many of my clients have hit Six Figures with only $500 spend on their entire series (total) for marketing. We’ve helped authors launch their books successfully with ZERO dollars many times, because what we’ve found is that it’s more about the pattern of your release, and less to do with spending lots of money or spamming people. So take a moment to slow down and come up with an intelligent plan!
STEP TEN: Write Your Blurb
After your cover, your blurb is going to be your next most powerful marketing tool. With your blurb, you need to do a few things: Hook the reader in, get them invested in the story idea, and end on a hook that makes them want to buy the book. All in 300 words or less. It may sound hard, but with practice, they can be a lot of fun to write! And if you’re really well-informed on blurb writing, you’ll also learn there are ways for your blurb to practically sell your book for you (right down to generating traffic to your book on autopilot!) Sounds like magic, but it’s not. Definitely don’t skimp out on learning this skill!
STEP ELEVEN: Distribute ARCs
Also known as Advanced Reader Copies, an ARC is a pre-release copy of your book that readers can get their hands on early in hopes that they will leave a review when they are done reading/at release. Having reviews helps build trust in your product and can increase sales, so you don’t want to skip this step either! There are a ton of tools out there to help manage your ARCs and also tons of services to help you find reviewers – just keep in mind it’s against Amazon TOS and against the FTC laws to purchase reviews. So look for services that connect you with reviewers, and not services that are trying to sell you reviews.
STEP TWELVE: Select Your Categories and Keywords
Categories and Keywords get selected when you’re loading your book to a vendor, such as Amazon’s KDP platform or Barnes and Noble, iBooks, or Kobo. These selections can impact the visibility of your book, so you want to select keywords and categories that will help bring you more traffic. A great tool for this is Publisher Rocket – they even offer some free trainings on how to use their tool! Granted, I have my own advanced method that can be used with or without this tool, but your takeaway here should be that it’s important to put time and research into this step!
That concludes my overview on the 12 Most Important Steps to a Successful Author Career! I hope this author career strategy overview was helpful! If you’d like to learn about any of these strategies in depth, I do offer an intensive mastermind course (with weekly feedback and lifetime access), that contains over 400 lessons on how to put these steps into action effectively! You can learn more here, and even grab a sweet discount that I’m offering just for readers of Penny’s author blog!
New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rebecca Hamilton is known for being obsessed with helping authors reach their publishing career goals. She created her courses to help get authors like you on the path to success, whether you’re a new author, experienced author, or somewhere in between. Her goal for all of her students is to remove the guesswork and get them from where they are to where they want to be, as quickly as they wish to get there.