The Secret Sauce for Indie Publishers: Attitude

by | May 7, 2014

By Nina Amir

Have you ever wondered what makes one 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 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 upon 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.

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 a tough job, but it’s where you’ll get the real payoff for your time and energy.

Four Elements of Successful 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 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 publisher.
    • 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).

  3. Optimism
    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 authors or indie publishers approach all types of challenges as opportunities to move closer to the goal of successful authorship. Pessimistic aspiring authors or indie publishers 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!

  4. Objectivity
    Writing and publishing requires 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 publisher? And do I have enough author platform to help my book succeed?

  6. Tenacity
    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:

  1. Make a list of the habits or attitudes that aren’t helping you achieve your goal of successful authorship.
  2. 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:

  1. 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!”

Nina AmirNina Amir, is a Contributing Writer for She is also the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, and transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs.

You can learn more about Nina here.

Photo: Amazon links contain my affiliate code.

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  1. Johannes

    Attitude – yes that makes sense. I could never put my finger on it, but I think this hits the nail on the head.

    I believe that awesome marketing will sell your book regardless of content(the first time around), but without good content you just won’t make it as an author. It will be like a flash in a pan. Word of mouth is pretty powerful.

    There are some good things to take from this article of which ‘Optimism’ and ‘Willingness’ could be my favourite and perhaps skills to learn and practise; since they do not always come naturally to me.

    I do not consider myself as an author/publisher of anything – I only write short stories for my own pleasure, but I like to read Independent material now and again.

  2. jpchoquette

    Great article–I just shared it with my Indie Author FB group. Thanks for the great reminders, Nina. :)

    • Nina Amir

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate the share.

  3. Becky Lewellen Povich

    Hi Nina! I read about this blog post on C. Hope Clark’s “Funds For Writers” e-newsletter. When she described what it was about, I just had to pop over and read it. I so agree with you! Having those four attitudes and maybe a few more, has gotten me through the completion of my memoir, self-publishing it, and marketing it like crazy. It’s not on any best sellers list….yet, but I’m following my dream….following my bliss! :)

    • Nina Amir

      Hi Becky,

      Thanks for your nice comment–and to C. Hope for including a link to the post in her newsletter.

      It’s so interesting…I was just at my daughter’s NYU commencement and attended two different ceremonies. I can’t tell you how many times the characteristics of optimism and tenacity were mentioned!

      Attitude is so very important…people just don’t realize it.

      And following your dream is huge! And many people don’t. Why? Their attitude (beliefs, thoughts, etc.) stop them.

      Thanks again!

  4. Nina Amir


    Those are important qualities as well and do, indeed, go along with attitude. It can’t just be about selling but must be about a sincere desire to connect, help, inspire, etc. Thanks so much for this addition to my list!

  5. Christine Finlayson

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Nina! I like how you broke this down into the key elements, especially a willingness to try new things, fail, adapt, and keep trying (hence the tenacity).

    One author element I’d add is something about being friendly, personable, and excited to engage with readers. I’ve met several authors recently whose books (or the packaging) are not great, but they are successful with sales and have oodles of devoted fans. In all of them, I see a willingness to embrace the author’s journey, with its ups and downs, as well as genuine excitement about meeting people and engaging with them (whether online or in person). Their attitude is not “I’m here to sell my book” but “I love to hear from readers and am truly interested in what you have to say.”

    • Nina Amir

      That’s super, Jennifer! Thanks so much.

  6. Nina Amir

    Thanks, Frances! I have a so-so mic…and I was podcasting briefly. I need to start again and find a better way to upload. I never got mine to go to iTunes that I know of. So I’m with you there.

  7. Frances Caballo

    Great post, Nina. What you say here is very similar to what Jane Friedman advises. I think you’ve done a great job at “learning new things.” The next task on my list is to learn how to podcast. I already have the fancy mic; now I just need to get busy and take the next step!

  8. C. Hope CLark

    Awesome, awesome post, Nina. I’m asked all the time how I do what I do, yet I wish I had more time. Life is supposed to be exciting, and attitude is the first adjustment. My kind of message!

    • Nina Amir

      Thanks for the nice comment, C.Hope! I wish I had more time, too, LOL! But I work all types of crazy hours because I love it…even the so called “yucky” stuff. It all gets me where I’m going. And even when it’s hard, I just keep going…I know it will help me achieve my goals and fulfill my purpose and potential. Thanks again!

  9. Nina Amir

    Hi Paula!

    I agree that often changes in attitude create small, incremental results. But sometimes they create huge, immediate results as well. A change in attitude can get you unstuck in your writing so you produce a manuscript in a month rather than a year or help you embrace platform building so you build one in 6 months rather than 6 years.

  10. Paula Cappa

    Great little piece here. I do think changing perspective creates a new thrust in any kind of work, but especially in the creative arts. Karl’s comment above: he has a point that sometimes it won’t get you much in immediate hard results. It think it’s more the long-term positive perspective that pays off and recognizing progress, even small ones, as increments that are leading you to better results.

  11. Karl

    I hate to be negative (okay, maybe I don’t hate it as much as I should), but I find this sort of vacuous, generic, low-IQ rah-rah pep talk about as appetizing as I find the vacuous, generic, low-IQ rah-rah stock photo used to illustrate this article. Making a conscious effort to “change your attitude” won’t get you anything more than an unconvincing pasted-on grin, rather like the models in that stock photo.

    • Nina Amir

      You are, of course, welcome to your opinion, Karl. I know studies show something quite different.

      If I might, can I ask what you feel has most helped you achieve your publishing goals, if you have done so?

      • Karl

        I know studies show something quite different.
        Sure, there are studies showing that optimistic people tend to be more successful than pessimistic people, but that’s about on a level with saying that people without cancer are healthier than people with cancer.
        And there are some less-definitive studies showing that with diligent work, people can sometimes improve their level of optimism. A little. Sometimes. For a while.

        But success in writing is hugely dependent on innate talent, blind luck, and hard work (not necessarily in that order). To talk about “changing your attitude” as being a ticket (or anything more than a tiny, nibbled-off corner of a ticket) to success is just selling pixie dust, IMO.

        But whatever. I suppose a rah-rah pep-talk makes for a more cheerful article than: “Work hard, hope for luck, and give up if you don’t have talent.”

        If I might, can I ask what you feel has most helped you achieve your publishing goals, if you have done so?
        Hard work, innate talent, and a consistently bad attitude.

        • Nina Amir

          Tenacity speaks to the hard work, Karl. There is no way around the hard work. Success in writing and publishing does, indeed, take that.

          As for talent, many a bestseller has been crafted by a ghostwriter or editor. So, not ever “writer” need have that. I’m glad you do; it helps enormously. For some, the hard work comes in learning the craft itself.

          Bad attitude, IMHO, won’t get you far in any industry.

        • Jason Kong

          Karl: I don’t think the article’s message is that a good attitude guarantees success, or that there aren’t other factors involved. Of course luck and talent matter a great deal.

          What I took away from Nina’s post is that you can’t control luck and talent (if we define talent as something you start off with). You can only control your actions, so why increase your odds with a better attitude?

    • Cara

      Yeah, I had a similar response to the article. I know this article was meant for the lowest common denominator of reader, but throwing around phrases like “If you have an optimistic approach to life, you also won’t become a depressed writer or publisher” is just disrespectful to all people who experience depression.

      You can say, “Well, of course we don’t mean depression the mental illness!” but that’s little comfort in a world where there’s a huge stigma against mental illness that you perpetuate by spreading empty nonsense like this. There are many people who truly don’t believe depression as a mental illness, not a choice, exists.

      “Choose to be happier and you won’t be a depressed writer!” Are you kidding? You don’t think thousands and thousands of writers throughout history have, in fact, used writing as a method of working through their depression? And those people were, in your estimation, just choosing to “[join] the ranks of the drunk and depraved creatives” rather than choosing to be optimistic? And if this isn’t what you intended, you should change the language of your post to at least acknowledge mental illness as a real and valid and active force in many people’s lives.

  12. Michael N. Marcus

    Remember that the early bird gets the worm.

    There are lots of other authors competing for the same worms.

    It’s now 4:50 AM. I started adding a bit to a book at 3:30 and uploaded it to Amazon KDP at 4:30. In a few minutes I’ll work on my blog, and then Facebook and then another book.

    A lot can be accomplished in the predawn hours when other birds are snoozing.

    Latest book: Anthology of Third-Wirld Email Scams: Learn from the best and worst

    • Nina Amir


      You have an Author Attitude.

      One of my former clients didn’t like it when he complained about not having enough time to write and promote, etc., and I started talking about how I stay up late at night and get it all done. Basically, I was telling him to lose some sleep. Sacrifice. He said he didn’t like that advice.

      No Author Attitude.

      Congrats on all that you get done and accomplish. And thanks for your comment.

  13. Ernie Zelinski

    I included several quotations in my comment on Joel’s post about mindset being the secret sauce. Here are a few more quotations related to being a successful writer as it relates to your post:

    “There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing, to find honest men to publish it, and to get sensible men to read it.”
    — C. C. Colton

    “Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. Writing may be interesting, absorbing, exhilarating, racking, relieving. But amusing? Never!”
    — Edna Ferber

    “Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.”
    — Sylvia Plath

    “Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom, but they dare to go it alone.”
    — John Updike

    “I write for the same reason I breathe — because if I didn’t, I would die.”
    — Isaac Asimov

    “Writing books is certainly a most unpleasant occupation. It is lonesome, unsanitary, and maddening. Many authors go crazy.”
    — H. L. Mencken

    “Nobody ever committed suicide while reading a good book, but many have while trying to write one.”
    — Robert Byrne

    “Even the most careful and expensive marketing plans cannot sell people a book they don’t want to read.”
    — Michael Korda

    “Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Speak your mind even if you are a minority of one. The truth is still the truth.”
    — Mohandas Gandhi

    “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
    — Albert Einstein

    “Pay no attention to the criticism of people who have never themselves written a notable work.”
    — Ezra Pound

    “The best effect of any book is that it excites the reader to self-activity.”
    — Thomas Carlyle

    As readers of my books know, I use a lot of quotations to add to what I write. Of course, using quotations spares me a lot of thinking and is a great substitute for intelligence.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Nina Amir

      Thanks, Ernie! I might have to run off with a few of those…and I did see the ones you posted before. Thanks for sharing.


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