I am frequently asked, what is the first thing someone should do to become a published author? Becoming an author is a journey and a process, but every journey begins with the first step. Here are nine important steps that will contribute to a strong start.
1. Make the commitment
The difference between a writer and an author is that the author has made a commitment to becoming published. Commitment – dedication to a course of action – is always the first step. It is the difference between the idea of being published and taking the necessary steps to make that happen. Every commitment requires something of you, but also brings you great benefits.
2. Plan for the investment
Any commitment you make requires an investment. The smart investor plans for this. The investment required to become a published author is an investment of time, energy and – in many cases – money. You need to carve out time to write your book, you need to allow for the energy that process will require, and you need to budget the money it will cost. You’ll never feel “ready” to become an author, but you have to determine the steps you’ll take to make your commitment a reality.
3. Get clear on your goals
If you don’t have a clear idea of where you are going as an author, it is unlikely you will get there. Having clear goals honors the commitment and investment you are making. Do you want to leverage becoming an author to get more speaking engagements? To increase your credibility? To have something to leave with people that gives them a taste of you and your work? To be able to sell in bulk to companies that you work with? To leave a legacy? Your goal can be unique and very personal to you. But it’s important to define what success as an author means for you.
4. Self-doubt and fear will be companions on your journey
Self-doubt and fear will show up frequently on your journey to becoming a published author. This is normal. Every author experiences moments of crippling fear and self-doubt – in fact, many such moments. The reason more people are not published authors is because they lack the ability to continue moving forward in the face of those doubts and fears. If you are committed to becoming an author, you will need support in this area. Determine in advance whom you can go to for support when you are besieged or paralyzed by negative emotions.
5. Write in a way that works for you
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to get your book written. You want to figure out what works for you personally – your needs, your schedule and your personality. For example, some authors thrive within the regularity of “same time, same place” – a very scheduled approach. Others find that far too structured and confining, and write better when they take advantage of inspiration and ideas as they come. Some people write best when they have long stretches of time to devote to the task or are in a completely different environment. Those who fall in the latter group can benefit from taking a long weekend or a week in a completely new location to focus on writing the book. Some do their best writing in short stints of 20 to 30 minutes at a time – any longer is unproductive. Some authors do best when they “talk” their book initially, meaning they record the content as they speak it. Find out what kind of writing approach works best for you, and follow it.
6. Get clear on who your audience is
So many authors I work with don’t have a clear idea of who their audience is. This is a big mistake. You won’t be able to clearly communicate with your readers if you don’t know who they are. It make take some work and research to identify your readership. You want to consider all the possible audiences, not just the obvious ones. Any extra time you spend getting clear on this is well worth it.
7. Solve a problem your audience is aware they have
This is what will engage your readers and make them want to pick up your book and read it. You must be able to clearly answer to the question, “What recognized problem does this book solve for my audience?” To answer this question, ask yourself if there is a specific topic you are frequently asked to provide your advice or expertise on. If so, you can identify a clear problem, and you obviously are qualified to provide the solution.
8. Bring YOU into your book
What makes a book compelling for readers is when they connect emotionally in some way with the author. To do this, you need to bring yourself into your book. Bring your stories, your personality, your flair, your interests, your passions into your book. Allow your readers to experience you – the human behind the expertise, information and knowledge. This is how to make your book stand out in your readers’ mind.
9. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Get the support you need
Becoming an author does not need to be a solitary affair. In fact, “doing it all by yourself” is a guaranteed recipe for struggle. Getting the support you need may mean the difference between your book getting started (or finished) or not. You may need help organizing the structure of the book, being accountable for getting the writing done, sorting out publishing options, improving your writing, doing the editing, etc. People assume that they have to be great writers in order to become authors. Not true. The right editor can transform mediocre writing into good writing. You don’t have to be an expert at every aspect of publishing to become an author. Professionals can support you on your journey to becoming an author – and your book will be the better for it.
About Your Columnist
Bethany Kelly is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers everything about publishing. A publishing expert with a lifetime of experience in the industry, she writes about all things publishing. Since starting her own publishing business in 2011, she has partnered with dozens of authors, supporting them in becoming self-published and creating brilliant, beautiful books. Several of her authors have become #1 Amazon bestsellers. Her passions include reading books (no surprise), music (she plays guitar and piano) and a good laugh. Bethany is the Founder & President of Publishing Partner