The second c word in the new model for becoming a successful author in the Digital Age is clarity.
There are more books and authors for you to base your books and career on than ever. You don’t have to figure out how to write a business book or a mystery or how to become a successful author. Use the books you love and the authors you admire as models. Telling agents, editors, and readers your models will enable them to understand your literary and financial goals instantly.
You need to be clear about your goals. Life, like art, should be the celebration of a vision. Sue Grafton believes that “Writing isn’t something you do, it’s something you are.” To be a successful writer, you must know who you are and what you want.
When a friend of Dorothy Parker’s had a baby, Parker sent her this telegram: “Dear Mary: Good work. We all knew you had it in you.” Well, what have you got in you?
You must have literary, publishing, and personal short- and long-term goals that are in harmony and motivate you to do whatever it takes to achieve them.
You need to choose literary goals:
- what you want to write
- how you want the book to affect readers
- the position in your field you want for your books
You need publishing goals:
- how you want your book published
- the size of your advance
- how many copies you want it to sell
- how much money you want to earn a year as a writer
You need to balance these goals with your personal goals of how and where you want to live and with whom, and the quality of life that will enable you to thrive.
One goal that clarifies your other goals is how much money you want to earn a year, because it determines what you write, and how you write and promote it. The smaller the number, the more freedom you have. So pick any number and write to that number. But if you want to be a successful author, make sure that your number strikes a realistic balance between writing for yourself and writing for the marketplace. I mean if you want to earn a million dollars a year writing haiku, you’ve got a problem.
Make writing and communicating about your work your calling. Imbue what you do with a sense of mission. As my mother used to say, “The world always steps aside for people who know where they’re going.”
Create a plan for your future. Sue Grafton advises writers to have a five-year plan. Once you decide where you’d like to be in five years, figure how to get from where you are to where you want to go. Find out how authors of books like yours succeed. Ask them and other members of the publishing community for advice.
Next: the third c word in the model: communication.
I write the blog to help you understand what you need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. Rants, comments, and questions welcome.
The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU