Have you ever wondered what makes one indie author more successful than another? It’s possible that one wrote a better book or another devised a fabulous idea. It could even be that an author with a not-so-great book mastered the art of marketing. More than likely, you’ll find that successful authors, much like successful people in almost any industry, share one common element: a successful attitude.
In a recent post, Joel talked about an author’s mindset as the “secret sauce” of successful independent publishers. I agree. More often than not, this element distinguishes a successful author from an unsuccessful one.
Think of mindset as your overall approach to something, like writing and publishing your book. Embedded within that mindset is your attitude, which is based on your beliefs, feelings, thoughts, or ideas about that same thing, experience, or situation. Your attitude affects your behavior, or how you choose to act. Your actions determine your results.
And that’s why attitude is so important to your success as an indie author.
Here’s what indie authors need to know about how their attitude affects their success:
Change Your Attitude, Change Your Results
If your current behavior isn’t helping you achieve your goals as an author or publisher, it’s time to take a hard look at what causes it. As the adage goes, “Your current habits have only helped you achieve your current level of success. To achieve a higher level of success, change your habits.” To do that, you need to change not only your behavior but also your underlying attitude. That might mean changing your corresponding beliefs, feelings, thoughts, or ideas about writing and publishing your book. When you do this, your results will change as well.
Doing this internal, personal development work is tough, but it’s where you’ll get the real payoff for your time and energy.
Four Elements of Successful Indie Author Attitude
Of the list of elements I believe make up a successful “Author Attitude,” only one duplicates Joel’s list. So I think you’ll find what follows a nice compliment to what he wrote about previously.
1. Willingness to succeed
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: You can’t just be a writer. No matter your genre, no matter how you publish, you must be willing to perform tasks that take you away from your focus on craft and producing what you think of as the “real work” of being a writer: writing. You have to be willing to focus a huge amount of your time and energy on platform building and book promotion.
If you self-publish, you must be willing to manage your book project, which means every aspect of book production from editors, designers, indexers, and proofreaders to ISBN numbers, copyright, metadata, and uploading content to printers or distributors.
You Must Be Willing To Change: If you find you are unwilling to do these tasks, you dislike them or you aren’t good at them, you must be willing to change so you can succeed. If you find you can’t self-manage yourself to meet goals and deadlines, you must be willing to find the internal drive, passion, purpose, or desire to help you do so.
If you find your work needs improvement, you must be willing to hone your craft. If you discover you need to do anything differently or better, or even to become something new, such as a speaker, or to give something up, such as your fear of public speaking, so you can succeed, you must be willing to do so.
You Must Be Willing to Learn New Things: The publishing industry constantly changes, and you must be willing to change with it. The technology of publishing and promoting books also changes constantly; you must be willing to learn something new every day to keep up with the pace of the industry if you want to succeed as an indie author.
You Must Be Willing To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: You must be willing to step outside your comfort zone. Putting your work out there can feel uncomfortable. So can speaking in front of an audience, starting a blog, using social media, running a publishing company, writing from a deeper, more authentic place, or promoting—selling—your book. It still has to get done if you want to succeed.
You Must Be Willing to Make Mistakes: Sometimes, in your effort to succeed or to get it right, you don’t. It’s the pushing and stretching that matter. You must be willing to learn along the way—even from your mistakes. That means you must be willing to try, even if you mess up or fail (and to get up and try again).
Studies show that optimists succeed more often than pessimists. If you are an optimist, you don’t take rejection, criticism, and mistakes personally. You don’t see negative reviews, for example, as indications that something is inherently wrong with you or your work—something you can’t change. Therefore, you don’t get stuck. Pessimists do take them personally, and they do get stuck.
Optimistic aspiring indie authors approach all types of challenges as opportunities to move closer to the goal of successful authorship. Pessimistic aspiring indie authors see them as one more sign to stop in their tracks.
If you have an optimistic approach to life, you also won’t become a depressed writer or publisher. No joining the ranks of the drunk and depraved creatives for you!
Writing and publishing require a thick skin. And the objectivity required comes in many forms and shows up in a variety of situations. In all cases, it requires that you see your work, and sometimes yourself, from a different perspective than your own.
The Reader’s Perspective: First, you must develop the ability to view your work from the readers’ perspective. After all, you are writing your book for them, not for yourself. When you can do this, you can write something they want to read. You also can step back and evaluate if you’ve met that goal.
The Editor’s Perspective: Second, to produce a professional-quality book, you must turn it over to editors. Then, you must have the objectivity to see your work from their perspective. This allows you to determine if their (constructive) criticism is worth acting upon as you revise your work.
The Publishing Professional’s Perspective: Third, even though you might want to self-publish your book, you need the objectivity to see yourself and your work through the lens used by publishing professionals, such as literary agents and acquisitions editors. Every day they determine if books are marketable and if writers have what it takes to succeed as authors. You want the ability to look at your own work and at yourself and make that evaluation.
You must objectively answer tough questions, such as: Does my book offer value to my target market? Is my book unique and necessary in its category? Am I cut out to be an indie author? And do I have enough author platform to help my book succeed?
If you don’t have tenacity, you’ll get going when the going gets tough. In the world of writing and publishing, it gets tough a lot. Writing a book isn’t easy. Publishing it yourself can feel even more difficult, and it’s often said that the real work of a writer begins when you start promoting it.
If you are a tenacious writer, you have:
Determination: You will do whatever it takes.
Persistence: You won’t stop until you meet your goals.
Perseverance: You will always find a way to meet or overcome every challenge.
Change Your Payoffs, Change Your Habits
I put these elements together into an acronym: WOOT. According to the Urban Dictionary, the word “woot” originated as a hacker term for root, or administrative, access to a computer. Your computer is your mind. To change your attitude and mindset you must access your mind.
To access your mind so you can change your attitude, and, therefore, your behavior and results, use these three steps:
- Make a list of the habits or attitudes that aren’t helping you achieve your goal of successful authorship.
- Describe your payoff for the habit or attitude: (Write down all the payoffs you can think of. Payoffs are things you gain or ways you benefit.) Typically, you’ll find that your payoffs are things that don’t move you closer to your goal of becoming a successful author but rather that foster your fears and beliefs that staying where you are is better than changing. They may also support your low self-esteem. That’s why step three is necessary:
- Change your negative payoffs to positive ones—ones that will support the changes you need to make so you can achieve your goals.
If you develop an Author Attitude, hopefully you will be able to use the term “woot” in some other ways. Gamers, specifically players of Dungeons and Dragons, used it as a truncated expression for “Wow, loot!” If you become a successful author, you might actually make money from your book causing you to use it in this manner. These days it is used simply as a term of excitement. If you produce a professional-quality, commercial book with above-average sales, you should, indeed, do the Arsenio Hall rotational hand movement and shout, “Woot! Woot!”