One of the questions I'm asked on a daily basis is some form of, "I want to become an author. Can you help?" There are certainly better people to ask than me. But after writing hundreds of articles and nine books in 15 years -- both traditionally published and self-published, both non-fiction and fiction, both epic failures and national bestsellers -- I do have some thoughts on the matter.
1. There has never been a better time to be an author.
2. Writing a book is a wonderful gift to leave your children and a way to ensure your legacy.
3. The root of "authority" is author; nothing will do more for your business or career than writing a non-fiction book.
4. Becoming skilled at storytelling -- writing fiction -- will enhance your enjoyment of movies and novels, and increase your ability to captivate and persuade others.
5. If you have ever given someone advice that they have found helpful, you can write a non-fiction book.
6. If you have ever taught someone anything -- how to cook, how to code, how to parent, how to play soccer -- you can write a non-fiction book.
7. If you've ever told your friends a story that made them laugh, cry, or say, "So what did you do?" or "No way!" you can write a novel.
8. If you can speak you can write; you don't need to have done well in English class -- or even in school--to be a writer.
9. "I want to write a book, I just don't know what to write about." Well, you clearly need to get a life, or at least read more.
10. "I have a great idea for a book, but just don't have the time to write it." Oh, why didn't you say so? Want to borrow my magical author-time-machine? It's right over here...all writers have one. We call it the shut-off-the-TV-stop-posting-on-Facebook-and-get-your-butt-out-of-bed-at-5-in-the-morning device. Doesn't even need batteries.
11. "But my grammar and spelling is horrible." Fine, write a horrible book and hire an editor to clean it up.
12. Write your book for a single person.
13. Spend a ridiculous amount of time coming up with an "avatar" for your ideal reader, or spend one minute picking someone you actually know in the real world and write it for her.
14. Write in the genre that you like to read.
15. The most important variable in the success of a book is the size of the author's "tribe" (usually represented by an email list).
16. The second most important variable in the success of a book is its title.
17. The third most important variable in the success of a book is its cover.
18. The fourth most important variable in the success of a book is the number of positive reviews.
19. The fifth most important variable in the success of a book is the book description (back cover copy).
20. The sixth most important variable in the success of a book is the front matter, before the first chapter, because of Amazon's Look Inside feature.
21. The seventh most important variable in the success of a book is the quality of your writing.
22. Social media is a horrible way to find new readers.
23. Social media is a decent way to engage existing fans.
24. Social media is a great way to connect with influencers.
25. Traditional advertising doesn't sell books.
26. The only book marketing expenditure that actually has a positive ROI (i.e., doesn't just build awareness but actually moves books) is paying for placement in airport bookstores or display tables in Barnes & Noble. Oh, and sometimes Facebook ads.
27. Readers are fascinated by authors; remember in the midst of your poverty and despair you actually have fans.
28. For non-fiction, your fans want to know your zero to hero story.
29. For fiction, your fans want to know about your (idealized) lifestyle and creative techniques.
30. New authors should spend more time building their tribe than actually writing (Yes, reality stinks).
31. Go hang out with other writers. Don't know any? Then hang out with other wannabe writers. Either way, they'll teach you things, keep you writing, make you laugh, and maybe even write endorsements or reviews of your books.
32. Yes, you can make a living as a full-time author but it is very, very hard.
33. Many authors supplement their royalties with income from speeches, courses, coaching, teaching and consulting. (Yes, again, reality stinks.)
34. Most successful authors are prolific--they write one or more books each year.
35. Most successful authors slay the same dragon over and over again (Lee Child has written 20 Jack Reacher novels; John Maxwell has written over 50 leadership books).
36. We are not thinking creatures with feelings, we are feeling creatures that sometimes have thoughts; whether fiction or non-fiction, your readers want an experience -- you need to change their emotional state.
37. Your book will publish with at least one typo no matter how many copyeditors go through it.
38. "Is it better to be a Pantser or a Plotter?" Shut up, stop procrastinating and get back to writing.
39. Writer's block is not a real thing; it does not exist.
40. Writer's block is laziness or lack of preparation.
41. If you have "writer's block" try speaking your book into a microphone and have it transcribed; have you ever had speaker's block? Didn't think so.
42. Pictures, illustrations or doodles immediately make your book stand out from the competition.
43. Fiction? The hero's journey.
44. Fiction? You have to make the villain much more powerful than the protagonist.
45. Stephen King's On Writing is the most over-recommended writing book there is.
46. If I could only recommend one book on writing, it would be On Writing by Stephen King.
47. Most writers hate writing; they love having written.
48. Never stop writing.
49. Write drunk; edit sober.
50. Life is about making an impact, not an income. And writers who know what they're doing make both.