How to Be a Massively Successful Author

First, a disclaimer. I’m not a massively successful author. … Well, depending how you define “success.” I’m writing full-time and just published my first book. (Yeah, in that order. I took the do-or-die approach.) I’m doing what I love, so I feel pretty darn successful.

My goal, and Carrie’s, too, is to make my living completely off writing and self-publishing. When I got started on that idea, I realized I’d just taken a bite that was almost too large for me to chew. But I’ve been gnawing away for a while now, and I’ve just about got to the point where I’m thinking about seconds.


The first key to success, I had right off the bat. I’d already tried a handful of other things with my life, and none of them felt right. I finally threw caution to the wind, hung out my shingle, and said I was going to make this work, no matter what the obstacles.

And I knew up-front that the biggest obstacle was me. In fact, the only  real obstacle between me and success was me. Because I was the one most capable of crippling my own attempts.

Crippling them how?

By being afraid to take risks.

And by not being disciplined enough to get up every day and write.

A lot of authors try, or say they want to, and I’m not so sure it’s the whims of the market that keep them from success. A lot of authors don’t even make it to the market with a finished book. So I think, more than anything, that we keep ourselves from success by being afraid and by not finishing the darn book.

The Magic Bullet for Fear

When I first started writing as a career, fear was my biggest obstacle. I searched desperately for a magic bullet that would lay my fear to rest and make me capable of, say, querying magazines. (I was into freelance writing at the time.) I spent months and months and months looking for that magic bullet.

And then I found it.

It was called, “Shut your eyes and send the &*@! query.”

And a funny thing happened. I got accepted. As a matter of fact, I got a four-page feature article in a glossy, which is a success pretty well unheard-of for a first-timer.

That magic bullet pretty much shot my fears in the knee, and ever since, I haven’t had much of a problem sending off an email to a perfect stranger. In fact, it’s kinda fun.

The Magic Bullet for Procrastination

With fear pretty well taken care of, I still had to figure out procrastination. And I’m right up at the top. I quickly found out that legitimate marketing and brand reach could transform into plain-old wasting time on social media at the drop of a hat. At the end of every day, I looked at my list of accomplishments and noticed something missing. I wasn’t really accomplishing anything.

I can’t say I actually searched for a magic bullet for this one. Because I didn’t want to find one. Yep. I was happy procrastinating. Playing on social media was far more fun than writing a book.

But I’d promised myself that I would make it as an indie author, no matter what the obstacles. Even if that obstacle was me. In the end, success was more important than comfort. For a long time, I failed every night, but I woke up every day determined to do better.

And then I found it. The magic bullet.

It was called, “Shut your eyes and write the &*@! book.”

And a funny thing happened. I finished my first book.

Doing Exactly the Thing You Don’t Want to Do

Rory Vaden points out in his excellent book on success, Take the Stairs, “Success means we have to develop the self-discipline to get ourselves to do things we don’t want to do.”

I’ve paraphrased that into my own sort of mantra that I use when I don’t feel like doing a task: “Success is doing exactly what you don’t want to do at exactly the time you don’t want to do it.”

And then I shut my eyes and write the &*@! blog post. (It’s ten p.m. I’d rather be curled up with my Kindle.) But over the course of this adventure in self-publishing, I’ve learned that I value success more than I value the comfort of avoiding fear, and the comfort of procrastination. I promised my followers a blog post every Wednesday. Keeping promises is a big part of success. So I’m writing the blog post.

The Pay-Off

Journaling cover 05 600 02 (400x640)Here’s the pay-off to choosing success over comfort: I’m now a published author. In fact, I even have a few sales. I have my first five-star review. And my friends and family are lookin’ mighty proud and happy for me, which makes me  happy. Probably the best part of publishing a book.

Now I’m starting my next book. With one book down, I’m finding first draft (a dismal proposition) a far less painful experience than it has been before. I’ve learned how to shut my eyes and write the &*@! book.

And I’m more hopeful than ever that I can really make this work. I can make a living as an author. I’ve conquered my biggest obstacle: ME. Everything else is tiddlywinks by comparison.

What about you? What have you found were the biggest obstacles between you and success? Join the conversation in the comments!

Resources for You

Take the Stairs. Carrie and I both highly recommend this book by Rory Vaden. He focuses on a topic not very popular these days, but essential to success: self-discipline. One of the most hopeful take-aways he offers is what I found out after riding my bike seven miles a day, five days a week: Self-discipline, once mastered, becomes a habit-forming addiction.

How I Do It: Kristen James Shares The Secrets of Her Self-Publishing Success. In this interview on the Alliance of Independent Authors blog, successful indie author Kristen James shares her secrets. Guess what? She’s a go-getter. I get the impression from reading this interview that she doesn’t waste time on fear or procrastination!

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