• Mark Stibbe

Six Steps to Becoming a Successful Author

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

Over the years, I’ve been asked many times by aspiring writers, “What’s the secret of success when it comes to writing a book?" Emerging writers need to realize that achieving success isn't something that happens quickly. If you're looking for instant rewards, then writing is not for you. You need to work hard, incredibly hard. Long gone are the days of the lovey author who rises at midday and strolls down the stairs bearing a smoldering pipe, wearing nothing but a dressing gown, intending to do an hour's work, if that. No, writing involves perseverance, passion, devotion and discipline.

As a published author for over 25 years, there are six things I've learned you are going to need if you're to succeed in this demanding but delightful vocation.


There are so many books published every day. The world is crowded with books, especially now that any writer can upload their book anytime onto platforms like Amazon. What's going to cause yours to stand out from the rest? What's going to give yours a USP (Unique Selling Point)? The answer is "a great premise." It has to have something different, new, fresh about it. So, what’s the killer idea at the heart of your book? Is there something new? Do you write with a fresh voice? Do you have an ECP (Excellent Central Premise)? We'll be looking at this in future blogs. It is a key question to ask right at the start of your book-writing process.


Not only must there be something fresh in the content of your book, you must also show that you're able to organize and articulate that content in a finely crafted way. This is what I mean by a great product. Yes, it is true that badly written books can do really well. Dan Brown is a prime example of someone who has great premises (killer ideas) but is a very poor writer. If I'm really honest, J.K. Rowling isn't the best of writers, but she has brilliant ideas. So, it is true that some great premises don't become great products. But you and I need to make sure that our books are the irresistible combination of fresh content expressed in fine writing. Again, more in future blogs.


It used to be said, "Don't judge a book by its cover." What nonsense that is nowadays. Presentation is everything. How a book looks is a vital ingredient for success. Once you have a great premise and you've written a great product, you need great packaging. You must have a book that looks great. We are a very visual culture so you must pay attention to topics like "Visual language" and "the hierarchy of information" in cover design. Excellent, enticing, unusual presentation is vital. Hook them with your cover! Again, we will look at what this means in future blogs. This is a particularly important task if you're self-publishing your book.


Once you have produced a great premise in a great product with great packaging, you need to make sure that you choose the best publishing option. Some have found success through self-publishing, others through traditional publishing. There's a "third way" now which is Indie Publishing. To achieve success as a writer, you must choose a great publishing route, and this may not always be the one you anticipate. Most of us want an elite publishing house, but the days when the doors of such places were open are over. Getting into such select environments is nowadays often more about who you know then what you write Again, more in future blogs.


I'm afraid you're not going to like this, especially if you enjoy solitude. Most writers are introverts; they like their laptop and their loneliness. But this is not enough anymore. The days when a writer could just submit a manuscript and then, at best, do a book launch and a few signings are long gone. You must spend a lot of time building a great platform. Publishers today are only really interested in whether your book is "commercial". They know that authors who have a big following on social media, TV, in conferences, etc have a great platform, and therefore have a greater chance of being a commercial success. We'll be looking at how to do this in future blogs.


Again, long gone are the days when a publisher would readily take on your manuscript, publish it, then promote it all on their own, using their expert marketing team. Today, publishers want full participation and collaboration from you. You must be prepared to embrace a promotional strategy, not just writing creativity. And I'm afraid this doesn't just mean promoting it through social media. I know you'll want simply to wave the flag for your book on Instagram. But you're going to have to do much more than that and get out there, into bookshops, schools, book clubs, etc. Yes, horror of horrors, you're going to have to meet people. More of this, again, in future blogs.

So that's my six-staged process for success as an author - what I call "the Prosperity Hexagon." If you look at these six steps, the first three are about your creativity in composing your book; the second three are about your creativity in selling your book.

In future posts, I'll be looking at the YBH, YES BUT HOW, in relation to all six of these skills that you need to master as an author today.

I wish you great success!

Happy Writing!


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