Beyond How to Write a Book: Planning for Long-Term Success as an Author

POSTED ON Nov 30, 2023

The Book Designer

Written by The Book Designer

Home > Blog > Marketing, Self-Publishing, Writing > Beyond How to Write a Book: Planning for Long-Term Success as an Author

This November marked the 25th annual National Novel Writing Month and for many people, this was likely the first time they wrote a full-length book manuscript. But learning how to write a book (and actually finishing a draft) is only the first step in creating a successful career as an author. 

The “I just want to write books” strategy worked at one point in the past (for a few authors, at least), but those days have mostly passed. Becoming a successful author, especially a self-published one, takes deliberate planning and action.

Below, we’ll break down exactly what you need to know to embark on a career as an author, beyond writing more books. 

Embracing the Writing Journey

Embarking on the journey of writing a book is a transformative experience that requires dedication, creativity, and a strategic approach. And while writing a book is only the first step in creating a career as a successful author, it is the most crucial. Here’s a look at each step in this important phase:

Start with a Book Idea You Love

Passion is the cornerstone of any successful writing project. Your book idea should resonate deeply with you, sparking a sense of excitement and commitment. This intrinsic connection will fuel your writing process, especially during challenging periods.

To identify a book idea you love, reflect on themes, stories, or subjects that fascinate you. Consider what you enjoy reading about or discussing with others. A great book idea often lies at the intersection of your interests and expertise.

Be open to inspiration from various sources, including personal experiences, historical events, or even imaginative worlds. The key is to find a concept that you’re eager to explore and expand upon.

New call-to-action

Clarify Your Motivation

Understanding why you want to write a book is vital for maintaining focus and direction. Your motivation might be personal fulfillment, a desire to share knowledge, or a means to advance your career.

Being clear about your goals helps in making informed decisions throughout the writing process, from the tone and style of your book to the marketing strategy you’ll employ post-publication.

Take some time to introspect and jot down your reasons for writing a book. This clarity will serve as a guiding light, especially when you encounter obstacles or writer’s block.

Create an Outline

An outline serves as a blueprint for your book, providing structure and a clear path forward. It helps in organizing your thoughts and ideas, ensuring that your narrative flows logically and coherently.

Start by jotting down the major themes or chapters of your book. Then, expand each section with key points or subtopics you want to cover. Don’t worry about getting it perfect on the first try; outlines can evolve as your book develops.

Consider different outlining techniques, such as a traditional linear outline, a mind map, or a storyboard. Choose the method that best suits your thinking process and the nature of your book.

Establish a Writing Schedule

Consistency is crucial for progress in writing a book. Establish a regular writing schedule that fits into your daily life. It could be a specific time each day or designated hours each week.

Set realistic goals for each writing session. Whether it’s a word count target or completing a section of a chapter, having clear objectives keeps you motivated and on track.

Treat your writing time as sacred. Minimize distractions and commit fully to your writing during these periods. Remember, even small, consistent efforts can lead to significant progress over time.

Embrace Your Creativity

Writing a book is not just about stringing words together; it’s an artistic endeavor that demands creativity. Allow yourself the freedom to explore different ideas and perspectives.

Engage in creative exercises that stimulate your imagination. This could include brainstorming sessions, free writing, or even taking inspiration from other art forms like music or painting.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different narrative styles or plot twists. Creativity in writing often comes from stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new approaches.

By focusing on these foundational aspects of the writing journey, you lay the groundwork for a fulfilling and successful book-writing experience. Remember, each step is an opportunity to grow and refine your skills as a writer, bringing you closer to the ultimate goal of sharing your unique story with the world.

Research and Preparation

Delving into the research and preparation phase is crucial for any aspiring author. This stage lays the groundwork for your book, ensuring it’s well-informed, relevant, and appealing to your target audience. Here’s a deeper exploration of each step in this process:

Conduct In-depth Research

In-depth research is the backbone of a credible and engaging book. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, understanding your topic or genre inside and out is essential.

For fiction writers, research might involve understanding the historical context, geographical settings, or cultural nuances relevant to your story. For nonfiction authors, it means becoming an expert on your subject matter, whether it’s a scientific concept, a historical event, or a self-help topic.

Utilize a variety of sources for your research, such as books, academic journals, interviews with experts, and firsthand observations. This diversity ensures a rich and multi-dimensional perspective in your writing.

Keeping abreast of current trends in the publishing industry can give you a competitive edge. Understand what genres are popular, what themes are resonating with readers, and what marketing strategies are effective.

Pay attention to bestseller lists, book reviews, and literary awards. These can offer insights into what readers are enjoying and what critics are praising.

Don’t just follow trends blindly. Instead, use this information to inform your writing and marketing strategies, ensuring your book remains both authentic to your vision and relevant to current market dynamics.

Know Your Competitors

Identifying and understanding your competitors is key to positioning your book effectively in the market. Analyze other authors who write in your genre or on similar topics.

Study how these authors approach their subjects, their writing styles, and their engagement with readers. Look at their marketing strategies, including their online presence, book covers, and promotional tactics.

Use this knowledge to differentiate your book. Find gaps that you can fill or unique angles that you can take. Learning from your competitors’ successes and failures can help you avoid common pitfalls and innovate in your own writing and marketing efforts.

New call-to-action

Understanding Your Audience

Knowing who your readers are is a vital part of becoming a successful author. While you can certainly write books without knowing who your audience is or will be, if you want to create an actual career as an author, you’ll want to understand who’s reading your books.

Create an Ideal Reader Profile

Crafting an ideal reader profile helps in tailoring your writing and marketing to the people most likely to enjoy your book. Consider factors like age, gender, interests, and reading habits.

Think about the problems or needs your book addresses. What pain points or aspirations might your ideal reader have? How does your book provide solutions or fulfill desires?

Understanding your audience’s preferences helps in making decisions about your book’s tone, style, and content. It also informs where and how to market your book effectively.

Engage in Market Research

Market research involves more than just understanding your genre. It’s about knowing what’s available in the market and identifying opportunities for your book to stand out.

Visit bookstores and libraries to see what’s on the shelves in your genre. Pay attention to book covers, titles, and blurbs. What draws your attention and why?

Read reviews of similar books, especially those that target your ideal reader. What do readers love? What are they missing? Use this feedback to fine-tune your book and fill in any gaps.

By thoroughly researching and preparing, you’re not only equipping yourself with valuable knowledge but also ensuring that your book resonates with your intended audience and stands out in a competitive market. This phase is about laying a solid foundation upon which your book can be built and thrive.

Planning for Success

Planning for success is a critical phase in the journey of writing a book. This stage involves strategic decisions about launching, marketing, and sustaining the momentum of your book. Here’s a more detailed exploration of each aspect of this phase:

Choose the Right Launch Time

Selecting the optimal time to launch your book can significantly impact its initial reception and ongoing success. Be mindful of the publishing calendar and try to find a window where your book can stand out.

Understand the key seasons in book publishing. The New Year period often sees a surge in health and finance books, summer is popular for lighter reads, and fall is a busy time with major releases, especially in fiction and business genres​​.

Consider aligning your launch with relevant events or trends. For instance, if your book is in the sci-fi genre, launching it around the release of a popular sci-fi movie can help garner interest. Similarly, tie-ins with holidays, significant events, or cultural phenomena can boost visibility.

Set Realistic Goals

Establish clear, achievable goals for your book. These could range from sales targets to reaching a specific audience. Setting realistic goals helps in measuring the success of your book and guiding your marketing efforts.

Understand that success in the book industry often doesn’t come overnight. Be prepared for a gradual build-up, and focus on long-term strategies rather than just immediate gains.

Your goals should align with your reasons for writing the book. Whether it’s to share knowledge, entertain, or build credibility in a field, ensure your objectives reflect your personal and professional aspirations.

Prepare for Post-Launch Activities

The launch of your book is just the beginning of its journey. Post-launch activities are crucial in maintaining momentum and building a lasting presence in the market.

Develop a marketing plan that extends beyond the launch. This might include book tours, interviews, social media campaigns, and engaging with readers through various platforms.

Continuously gather feedback and insights post-launch. Understanding how your book is being received can inform future marketing efforts and even guide your next writing project.

Planning for the success of your book and your career as an author involves a combination of strategic timing, realistic goal-setting, and ongoing engagement post-launch. By focusing on these aspects, you can maximize the potential of your book, reaching the right audience at the right time and building a lasting impact in your chosen field.

Remember, the journey of building a successful career as a self-published author is a marathon, not a sprint. With thoughtful planning and perseverance, your books can achieve the recognition and success they deserve.

New call-to-action

Editor’s Note: This post was originally written by Judith Briles but has been updated and rewritten by The Book Designer editorial team.

The Book Designer

Written by
The Book Designer

Liked this post? Share it with friends!

More Helpful Articles