10 good practices for every author

  1. Antique TypewriterSet goals. Know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to do it. What do you really want to accomplish with your writing? Do you want to quit your day job? Become a best-seller? Achieve critical acclaim?
  2. Have a business plan. Write down your strategy for how you will attain your goals and when.
  3. Review last year’s successes and failures. Analyze what you did that worked and what didn’t. Use that information to set new goals and write your business plan.
  4. Study the market/genre. What’s selling, what’s not? What are the top sellers doing different than the bottom sellers? Take note of changes. Last year’s hot genre may be this year’s dud.
  5. Aim high. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t just seek out what you’re pretty sure you can get, aim higher than that. Dream big and shoot for the sky. If what you really want is to become a New York Times bestselling author, don’t settle for midlist. Do what it takes to achieve your dreams.
  6. Set a writing word count and stick to it. No excuses. Push yourself to exceed your writing goal. Not only will this allow you to produce more books faster, it will free up more time for you do other things.
  7. Feed the engine, but don’t flood it. This applies to both writing and promotion. You have to be prolific, but you have pace yourself. If you do too little, you won’t gain enough momentum to reach your goals. If you overproduce, you’ll operate at a frenzied level that will lead to burnout.
  8. Be persistent, consistent, and allow time for your strategy to work. It takes years to build a readership. Yeah, some debut authors will hit it out of the ballpark with their first book, but that’s generally not how it goes. There is no secret formula, and if there were, “individual results may vary.”
  9. But conversely, don’t keep slamming your hand in a drawer. If you’ve given it your best and things still aren’t working for you, shake it up. Do something different.
  10. Be flexible because the market is going to change whether you want it to or not. E-publishing has revolutionized publishing. The market can shift quickly, and Amazon, the 600-pound-gorilla, can and will  change the game overnight.

How many of these practices do you follow?

What other practices would you recommend?

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20 Responses to 10 good practices for every author

  1. That last sentence – yep! Amazon can change the game overnight.

    I often wish I were more structured – not just in writing, but life in general. I do set a word count for the week so I don’t stress myself out daily (just weekly LOL), but I want to try to push myself a little to write a bit more at different times of the day (around family schedules). I let myself off the hook too easily, I think, and that is a goal for 2016.

    Great post.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      You’ve been prolific though. And your books are hot! Both in tone and sales.

      With respect to Amazon, I’ve been a day late and dollar short every time. I missed the old free days when you could list your book for free for five days and then keep your rankings when you switched back to paid. And I missed the Kindle Unlimited boat, when you could write a 30 page “pamphlet” and get paid triple for borrow what you would for a sale.

  2. Lacey wolfe says:

    #4 – something I need to learn from. I have a goal and dream to simply be a USA Today author. I would be super pleased with that title. I often look at whats selling and try to decide if I can wrote that. Such as, at the moment, readers are loving first person. I struggled to write out of 3rd person, but I sometimes wonder if I should make the switch, would I get more readers? But by doing that, I’m not staying true to my writing style. It’s so hard. When I started 2015, my goal was to not stress so much and get back to enjoying writing. I have achieved that, but that green monster creeps up when I see others getting the title I want. LOL – there, I said it! I wish them all a great success. We are all in this together and have to support each other along the way.

    Great blog post! 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I see a lot of things selling well that I would not be happy writing. I LOVE writing romance. I won’t give up love for money. But I think the market is so broad, that within it, there are changes that one can make that will make you happy and increase your chances for success.

  3. S.J. Maylee says:

    Yes, great post. I always do #3 and then #1 around this time of year and aim to beat the previous year which I’ve done already this year and did the year before but I feel so off course. The market has changed so much that I feel like I’ll always be behind. That’s when my frustration sneaks in and I have to remind myself that I do have many more readers than last year. #8 seems to be my strategy. My evil day job isn’t going away anytime soon. My family responsibilities will be around for a long time to come. So, steady progress is my path.

    Here’s to more success in 2016! 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I think you’re doing well at this stage of the game. You’re right about the market changing. Just when you start to achieve success, it shifts and sometimes you feel like you’re back at square one. I’ve had to reinvent myself.

      I’ve been writing/publishing for 6 years now. My lows now would have been my “successes” six years ago.

  4. Alta Hensley says:

    My first book came out in 2010, so I am at that point of “it takes years to develop a readership”. It’s true, and I see it. People are actually buying and reading my books. Although every new book I release, I still have nightmares that no one will buy it. Now the hard part is keeping the readers once you have them.

  5. Rollin Hand says:

    Good article and a reminder to keep plugging away. One fact check: Amazon — that’s an 800 lb gorilla.

  6. Susan Keene says:

    Great information. I copied it to my private files. Thanks.

  7. Good post, a lot of good advice, although of course there’s no one size fits all! Have to pick and choose what works for you. I’m not as structured as some people can be – no spreadsheets or detailed outlines here LOL – but it works for me. I take a little issue with #4, in that I don’t really pay attention to ‘what the market is doing’ – I write the books I wanted to read and couldn’t find enough of. Of course luckily there are readers out there who seem to also want to read the same kind of stories! Being independently published, I can get away with that BUT as you said, it’s within MY business plan and my goals. I do definitely take an annual look at where I’ve been and what I want to accomplish in the next year. (And I love your books BTW.)

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you!

      I agree, there is no one-size-fits-all. Your Egyptian-inspired romances are unique and offer something different in the market place. I write because I love it, and I wouldn’t write something I didn’t enjoy just to sell books.

  8. Lisa Medley says:

    Great post! I’ve made a 2016 plan. Now, if only I can follow it. I’m about ready to shelve my current WIP and move on. It’s just not happening. I’ve got to love a book to keep writing it and right now, The Astronaut’s Princess and I are ‘on a break’.

  9. Holla Dean says:

    Great post, Cara! I made a plan for this year and fell woefully short of following it due to unavoidable things cropping up throughout the year that kept me from my writing. But a new year is just around the corner and I’m working on my new plan and goals.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I achieved all my high priorities on my 2015 plan, but I didn’t accomplish everything, mostly because I decided NOT to do them. And I did a lot more that wasn’t on the plan.

  10. Livia Grant says:

    Awesome and helpful post, as usual Cara. I’ve learned so much from you over the years. I’ve tried to do most of these things. The biggest thing I need to remind myself constantly (that you capture perfectly) is that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It is so easy to get discouraged with slow progress. I especially like your advice to set big goals.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you, Livia. It is easy to get discouraged, and even after you achieve “success” (however you define it), there will be troughs. But I’ve noticed that the bottom comes up. I had a few books that didn’t do so well this year, but when I first started publishing, I would have been over the moon with that kind of return.

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