Updated: Aug 1
While many individuals’ bucket lists include writing a book, few actually achieve this feat in their lifetime. Of the few who finish, they hope their book is a success--whether that involves getting the attention of a publisher or earning additional income--but not every book reaches the same level of success.
From working with over 100 authors, I’ve observed some common characteristics amongst successful authors that I’m happy to share with you. In this post, I answer “What makes a successful author?” by sharing five qualities you can adopt if you want to sell more books.
What makes a successful author?
Discovering what makes a successful author can help you adopt the qualities to develop an effective marketing plan and sell more books. Here are the five qualities (the five C’s) that can help you achieve success when marketing your book:
As an author marketing a book, having clarity means you can identify:
Your target audience: The specific group of individuals most likely to purchase and enjoy your book. For example, college-aged females, black entrepreneurs, or elderly individuals hoping to develop healthy eating habits.
What this audience needs from you as an author: What your readers hope to gain from reading your book. For example, advice, motivation, entertainment, or escapism.
How your book is going to help them: The contents of your book that can help your readers meet their needs. For example, your book might help the elderly develop healthy eating habits by highlighting foods to eat, foods to avoid, and explaining portion control.
Authors who can identify this information are often more successful because they understand what their readers need and can communicate why their book is necessary for the reader. When planning your marketing campaign and the overall messaging surrounding your book, always consider your audience. For example, when planning how to utilize social media effectively, consider which platform your audience spends their time on and what types of posts they find engaging.
You can create marketing content for your book to help you connect with your target audience. Whether you’re creating an e-mail list, social media captions, recording videos, or sharing content related to your book topic on social media, carefully curate your content so it allows readers to connect with you and your book. As a nonfiction author, you might share content that supports your credibility to write on the topic. For example, if your book is about sales, you can create content that includes tips and selling strategies, that shows potential readers you understand best practices. Note that while you can repurpose your book’s content, creating additional content that reveals more about you as an author is beneficial. For example, you might share your opinions on industry breakthroughs.
Successful authors post content consistently on the social media platforms they utilize (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). Like other relationships, fostering one between you and your readers takes time and commitment, but it’s worth it! While you might not speak directly with your audience, sharing content on social media and interacting with them there can increase the likelihood of them purchasing your book when you’re ready to release it. For example, simply seeing a book cover repeatedly increases the likelihood of a person purchasing it.
While it’s best to remain active between books and continue to grow your social media following, sharing content consistently is especially crucial during a book launch period. For example, during launch you might post 3-4 times a week, but outside of this window you may post 1-2 times a week. You can read more about how often I recommend posting and how to best utilize different social media platforms in my post, Best Marketing Practices for Authors Using Social Media.
Successful authors are confident in their work and what it offers readers. When potential readers sense this confidence, they’re more likely to consider you an expert on the topic or a powerful storyteller, and pick up your book. Consider if you went to a concert where the artist was on stage whispering or mumbling through their songs. Would you want to stay and keep listening? I wouldn’t. The same applies to authors. If you’re shyly sharing your book, a reader is less likely to want to read it. This is especially true for nonfiction, so be confident, be loud, and communicate why your book is worth reading. Here are some tips to exude confidence:
If you’ve written a nonfiction book, realize that you know the subject well enough to write X number of pages about it, so you definitely know more than most!
If you’ve written a fiction book, be proud of the unique world and characters you’ve created, and share them with others.
Believe in yourself, your book, and its message, and you won’t have to fake confidence.
Practice speaking points about your book and the topics it covers to make you feel more confident in a live Q&A or video you share on social media.
Learn more: 7 Things Every First-time Author Should Know
An author’s ability to think outside of the box and use innovative marketing strategies can make the difference between a successful book launch and book launch that falls flat. Don’t let a current lack of readers keep you from thinking big. When planning your marketing campaign, consider unique ways to reach your readers that can set you apart from other authors. Here are some ideas:
a pre-order offer that relates to your book’s content, like:
free access to an online course
a ticket to an event
access to additional material like a workbook, audiobook, etc.
a virtual event, such as a live webinar with another notable author or leader in your field
a sweepstakes with a prize that's relevant to your target reader and your book's content
partnerships with brands or organizations that also speak to your target reader
While I encourage you to develop these five qualities to help you become a successful author, I also want you to set realistic goals for your book. Becoming an overnight success as an author is a myth and if you are a first-time author you shouldn’t compare yourself to authors who are on their fifth or sixth release. Instead, know that having the drive and will to not give up and keep putting yourself out there can help you achieve success in the long run. As you continue to write, you’ll improve and as you continue to grow your audience, you’ll have more potential readers.
Whether you’re in the midst of the writing process or have already finished your book, now is the perfect time to consider a marketing strategy. To help you get started, I’m offering a FREE download of my guide, 10 Things You Need For A Successful Book Launch. This valuable resource is packed with expert tips and strategies to empower you to craft an effective book launch and connect with a larger audience of eager readers.