If you’re reading this because you think it’ll give you one answer to being a successful author, I have two things to say to you: 1) bless you, and 2) you must have known it couldn’t be that simple. There is no one skill that will make you successful. No, being an author requires mastering a number of skills. Like learning how to multi-task – you know, writing your new book while working on revisions for or proofing another. Or learning how to work with an editor, how to market, how not to burn yourself out… See what I mean? But there is a simple skill that will help you achieve all of this:
Yes, I know, that sounds terribly boring. But the reason I’m a published author today is because I researched my butt off. And then, when my publishing contract came, I did some more research. And now that I am published, I still research. Research is an author’s best friend, and this post gives you an idea of why*.
Before the publishing contract…
I’ve always wanted to be an author. That dream floated around in my head for years before I actually did something about it. The first step in making my dream a plan was research. I knew I wanted to write romance, so I researched romance publishers. Harlequin was the most well known, yes, but they also had their So You Think You Can Write competition coming up. And it just happened to be open to South Africans. So, I read up on which books were published by which lines. I found Harlequin Romance because I thought it most suited my voice. I made sure I knew what the submission guidelines were, and I wrote a book that suited it.
And now I’m here.
I would never have known about the competition if I hadn’t read up on publishers. Finding a publisher might be your first step in becoming published, too. If you’re not sure where to start, look at the Amazon bestsellers in your genre. Do you enjoy any of the books on that list? Do you think your voice is similar to any of them? Who are publishing those books? This is a great place to start, and will even give you an idea of what themes are popular in your genre.
When the offer comes…
I always get ahead of myself, so when my publishing contract offer came, I’d already done the necessary research on Harlequin to accept it. If you haven’t researched the publisher at this point, doing so should be your first step. Make sure you know that the publisher is credible. Read up on other authors’ experiences of the publisher. Look at the publisher’s social media presence, and check out their website. This will give you an idea of whether you’d be happy there, or whether they’re the right fit for your book.
Research will also allow you to understand the basic terminology in the contract. Or at the very least, tell you you’re out of your depth and you need help. Also think about your work at this stage. If you’re just starting out, for example, it might be beneficial for you to sign and get your work out there. If you’re already established, you might want something else.
After you’ve signed…
The research doesn’t stop because you’re published. (For the record, it never does.) Your research will now help with those skills I mentioned in the introduction of this post. It should also help you with what you can do to build your brand. What should you write next – again, what are on the bestseller charts? How should you market yourself? How should you market your books? Read up on what’s happening in the publishing industry. And if you’re happy with your publisher, start looking at how you can build your career with them. If you’re not, research your other options.
Research will help lay the foundation for you to become a successful author. Start honing this skill now!
(*This post is aimed at authors without agents – like me! Once I get one, I’ll write a similar post about that. Because I’m pretty sure that process will start with research, too. 😉 )