Many people grow up wanting to be an author, but how many people know what it takes to actually have a writing career? Ask yourself these eight questions to see if you have what it takes to make it as a successful book author.
Can You Stick to a Schedule?
Writing for fun, or when your muse hits you, is a great way to have a writing hobby. If you want this to be a career, you have to treat this as a business. That means setting a schedule and showing up every day. That also means being tougher on yourself than any other boss has been. If you think you can't write without being inspired, learn to be inspired on cue or find out how to work without that magical muse. It can be done but, like anything else worth doing, it takes time and practice.
Do You Edit as You Go?
If you're constantly using your backspace button, you're wasting valuable time you could use on actual writing. Studies have shown that people who multitask actually waste time, while doing one task at a time is more efficient. It's tough to pass those typos at first, but once you learn to leave them for the first editing pass, your word production will go up right away. The key to being a successful author is to write, and the more you write, the more books you can offer to your readers. It's all about using your time more efficiently.
Do You Write in a Specific Genre?
Literary fiction may get all the praise and awards, but genre fiction is what gets you fans and money. Look at the bestseller lists any day of the week. Sure, you'll see the occasional literary work that everyone's praising -- while few are actually reading -- but most of them are the familiar names we've all come to know. For every Life of Pi or Eat, Pray, Love there are dozens of works by Stephen King, James Patterson, and Debbie Macomber. What kind of author do you want to be?
Do You Know Social Media?
Whether you're traditionally published or an indie author, book marketing is going to be your job, for the most part. The days when a publisher did all the promotion work for an author are long gone. You'll need to build a website, use social media to grow your tribe, investigate street teams and review teams, and use every other type of process you can find to get the word about your books. Paid ads can do a lot, but they get expensive very quickly. It's your willingness to put in the time and the work that will make the difference in your sales.
Are You Choosing Your Genre Because it's Hot?
Thrillers are killer and romance is constantly evolving, but are choosing the genre you write in because you'll get more sales? That's a fine motive for a side project if you want to make some extra cash, but your main focus should be on work you actually enjoy writing. This is not an easy business. If you can't wake up every morning excited about what you're going to write that day, you need to examine what you're writing.
Are You Afraid of Criticism?
If people tearing apart the work you painstakingly built makes you cringe or cry, you need to toughen up. Look at the reviews for the best book you've ever read. Every single one of them has bad reviews, guaranteed. A review is simply one person's opinion about a book. Editors, on the other hand, will tear your work down with the goal of building it back up again into a better form. No matter what you write, you have to be tough enough to hear criticism about it, and adult enough to use it as information about your work.
Do You Use a Professional Editor?
No matter how good of an author you are, no matter how great your editing software claims to be, nothing tops the talents of a good professional editor. Enough said.
Are You Aiming for a Bestseller Right From the Start?
Yes, some people hit instant stardom and make the bestseller lists seemingly with their first book, but the reality is that most of them have written for years and years before this book was published. Even in those rare instances where this isn't true, they're flukes. That's why they're so well-known. The vast majority of authors publishing today will be midlisters, at best. There's nothing wrong with being a midlister, you can make a great living writing at that level. But if you'll be crushed if your first book doesn't skyrocket as soon as it hits the shelves, you're in the wrong business. Aim for a solid catalog that readers can enjoy for decades, not one big flash.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!