For those of you who’ve followed me regularly over the years, you know that Wednesdays can sometimes be What Not To Do Wednesdays. Because let’s face it, grasshopper. I’ve learned a lot about what to do from learning what not to do. And when I started reading Nina Amir’s The Author Training Manual, I had that old “what not to do” feeling. Mistakes? I’d made a few…
But the good news is, I realized I could change, could correct a few of my errant ways, starting with the way I thought about myself as an author. The Author Training Manual will guide you, step by step, with exercises, in What To Do to be a successful author. Here’s Nina with answers to some of the questions I thought you might have:
1. I love that you start by saying that anyone can move from aspiring writer to published writer—but only if we have the AUTHOR ATTITUDE. Can you share a little about what you mean by the AUTHOR ATTITUDE?
Sure! With the advent of digital publishing, it seems easy to become an author. But to produce a successful book and to become a successful author takes more than just slapping together a manuscript and throwing it up on Amazon as a Kindle book, or even as a POD book on CreateSpace.
To do it “well” takes much, much more. For that you need the right attitude, what I call an Author Attitude, which is comprised of four primary elements.
First, you need willingness. To succeed as an author generally takes an enormous amount of willingness. To succeed as a self-published author takes even more. You must be willing to do whatever it takes, do more than just write, to change, to learn new things, to step outside your comfort zone, to make mistakes, to take risks, to fail, to succeed, to play big and be seen, to get rejected, and to run your own publishing company.
Second, you need optimism. Studies show that optimists succeed more often than pessimists. Optimists don’t take rejection, criticism and mistakes personally, which helps them avoid getting stuck. Optimistic people approach challenges as opportunities to move closer to their goals. Pessimistic people see them as obstacles, or reasons to quit.
Third, you need objectivity. Writing and publishing requires the objectivity to see yourself and your work from readers’, editors’ and publishing professionals’ perspective. When you can do this, you can take the necessary steps to improve your work and make yourself into an attractive publishing partner.
Fourth, you need tenacity. Writing a book isn’t easy. It’s often said that the real work of a writer begins after publication when you begin promotion. You must have determination, persistence and perseverance—all elements of tenacity—to get from aspiring to published (and successful) author.
I created an acronym to make it easy to remember the elements of an Author Attitude: WOOT. According to the Urban Dictionary, the word “woot” originated as a hacker term for root, or administrative, access to a computer. It works well when applied to the topic of attitude because to change your attitude you must access your “computer”—your mind.
2. WOOT! Even I can remember that. Next question: I’ve always thought that a business plan for a book referred to non-fiction, but you recommend this tool for any book. Many of my readers are fiction writers, including children’s writers. Do I need a business plan for a picture book?
Every book is a product. Publishers want to know if that product is viable—if it will sell. If you want your book traditionally published, you must offer a publisher, who is really a potential venture capital partner, a business plan that proves you have a marketable product and that you can produce it and help sell it. That means that you can or will promote it. That business plan convinces the publisher they can make back their investment and, hopefully, earn something on it as well.
So, why wouldn’t you need a business plan for every genre of book? Of course, you would.
You also need one if you self-publish. You need to convince yourself that you should invest your own time and money in your book project—that you will earn back your investment. When you self-publish, you become an entrepreneur and create a start-up publishing company. A start up needs a business plan.
3. The Author Training Manual lists nine steps (and includes training exercises to go along with each step!). Is there any one step that’s more crucial than the others? Is there any step that maybe the fiction writer can skip? (Not saying that I would, of course…)
I think they are all crucial. I wouldn’t skip any. Many fiction writers don’t bother with platform, competitive analysis or chapter-by-chapter summaries, for example. I think these will help any writer in any genre. In the book I discuss the fact that some novelists might just do a synopsis instead of the chapter-by-chapter synopsis in Step #6, but I still think the former option is better, and it leads to the writing guide I describe in the book.
If you want to help your book stand out in an ever-more-competitive marketplace, be sure to do a competitive analysis. Then apply that information to your idea so you can craft a unique idea that is truly necessary in the book’s category. Fill a hole on the shelf. Produce the book your readers have been looking or waiting for.
If you don’t do this, no matter your genre, you take the risk of producing one more book like all the others that have already been written in your category.
4. You also provide four excellent samples of business proposals and/or business plans. What’s most important in a business plan/proposal, and where do most writers make their mistakes when they make a plan?
Again, all the sections are important. What can make or break a traditional book deal, especially in the nonfiction category, is an author’s platform and promotion plan. These days, platform and promotion can help a novelist stand out from the pack as well.
Indie authors should keep this in mind as they create their business plans. Author platform provides the foundation for a promotion plan. It convinces a publisher you will do what it takes after book release to help sell your book. If you aren’t building platform, you likely won’t promote your book. That can mean failure for a book—and an indie publishing company. Few books just take off on their own.
5. It occurred to me that in completing the training exercises, I’ve practically done the work of all those people at an acquisitions meeting! Do you think it would be helpful to share that research from the training exercises when pitching a fiction book? Or in querying an agent?
The point of the training exercises is to help aspiring authors compile the information necessary for a book proposal or business plan and to evaluate it—something most writers don’t do when they put together a proposal. They also don’t use that information to craft a marketable book.
You should, therefore, put the appropriate information from the exercises into the business plan after you have tweaked or revised your idea to make it the most marketable one possible.
6. I like to end with a good take-away bang. So what’s the ONE thing you want to impress on writers when it comes to The Author Training Manual?
Creating a business plan for a book may seem uncreative. It may seem like the farthest thing from writing the book you imagined. But that’s not true.
If you want your idea to have impact and to reach many, many readers, it must be marketable. If you learn to see that idea through the same lens used by publishing professionals, such as agents and acquisitions editors, and if you evaluate it in the same way—using the same tool (a business plan), you can then put your creativity to use to craft the absolute best idea possible—one that will sell to a publisher, if you want, and to readers. You can allow yourself to get inspired and to write a book—your book based on your idea—that will give your audience what it truly seeks. In this way, you can succeed as an author.
Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual, and 10 Days and 10 Ways to Return to Your Best Self, transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs as an Inspiration to Creation Coach. She moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. She writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.
And oh, happy day! You can win a copy (US and Canada only) of The Author Training Manual! All you need to do is leave a comment. And if you share this giveaway post, on either Facebook, Twitter, or your blog, you’ll get an extra entry for each share. Just let me know in your comment; I’m a trusting sort.
Okay, grasshopper, now you know exactly What To Do to succeed as an author. I think it’s about time you did it. (WOOT!)