New authors often ask me about the secret to book publishing success. My answer is simple: content. Today’s most successful authors are content machines. They don’t stop writing just because they’ve finished a book. They understand that content—posts, articles, op-eds, guest posts, interviews, podcasts, video, and more—is the engine that drives their visibility.
Some authors balk at the idea of generating content to the degree that’s required to stay highly visible because it means working more often and (sometimes) for free. Authors sometimes complain to me that they don’t have enough to write about, or enough time in the day. And yet, new content is key to authors’ ongoing and future success. Here’s a snapshot of what writers who are doing this well actually do:
- They write at least three to four times a week (often more).
- They have at least two books in progress, and they’re actively working on at least one of those.
- They write new content—blog posts or articles—at least once a month, usually more than that.
- They post on at least two social media platforms every day.
- They create cross-platform/multimedia content.
- They re-purpose their content, meaning they recycle things they’ve already written.
- They publish.
I want to qualify #7 because you can obviously generate tons of content and not be publishing, but finding venues to publish your work—even if it’s in the form of guest posts for other bloggers—is part of being visible. And writing for visibility is key to being a successful author.
This may require a heart-to-heart with your resistance to re-frame what needs to happen on the content front, and that’s okay. It can take some time to wrap your mind around what it means to become a content machine, especially if writing is your second job.
To those who can’t fathom generating the level of content required to become a content machine, I offer this. Humans have somewhere between 20,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day. So it’s not that anyone suffers from a lack of things to write about, but rather some writers need systems for capturing the thoughts that matter, and recording them effectively so that there’s always a wellspring of new ideas ready and waiting.
To those who struggle with the time required to become a content machine, I offer solace, and invite you to redefine your relationship with finish lines. Authors sometimes like to fantasize about the finish line, imagining the time they’ll take off from writing when they’re done. But if you aspire to be a successful writer, you’re never done.
For some writers, writing is like breathing. These people are lucky, honestly, because they can’t even fathom non-writing days. They’ve structured their lives in such a way that they are already content machines. But for the vast majority, the rest of us, the writing-as-breathing metaphor might be apt, but it’s labored breathing at best.
The only requirement here is to be on point with your content—meaning that what you’re writing serves a distilled and singular purpose, in service to your primary project and the current platform you’re building. It doesn’t mean that you can’t change course later, but refining your topics so that you become a go-to person in your area of expertise is fundamental to your future success. If you are too diffuse in your areas of interest, you will end up looking like a dilettante.
If what I’m proposing here feels energizing, you’re well on your way. If it feels impossible, take heart. I’ve worked with talented writers over the years for whom every finished chapter of a book was like climbing Mount Everest in the dead of winter without the right gear. Some writers are spent and exhausted by the sheer effort of putting their words on the page, no matter how drawn they are to write.
If you recognize yourself here, start with baby steps. Try to adopt a discipline of blogging once a month, or posting something on one social media outlet once a day. But do develop a routine, and stick to it until it becomes seamless, and then up the ante, and rinse and repeat. And know that although there’s no single magic bullet, publishing success is not a complete shot in the dark. You can influence it, and you must.
Brooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Green-light Your Book (June 2016) and What’s Your Book?