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Beyond Talent and Skill: The Making of 6 Figure Author

You're an author who feels like a failure! You've put in so much hard work, honed your skills, but you struggle to get noticed online. No matter how talented you are, you only receive a few views and likes on your social media platforms. As you scroll through short videos on #TikTok or #Instagram, you can't help but wonder why you can't achieve what others seem to effortlessly accomplish. Why don't thousands of readers online recommend your books, becoming devoted fans who can't get enough of your stories?


You decide to purchase the book that has held the top spot on New York's bestseller list for an incredibly long time. You read it and come to a realization: the book is far from special. The story is subpar, the message is overly cheesy, the characters are uninteresting and predictable, and the author's style is far from unique. Yet, they've managed to sell millions upon millions of copies of the same book.


This realization triggers an existential crisis, an authors' one, and it only amplifies your imposter syndrome. You begin telling yourself: You're not a literary god. Your writing is inadequate. Your work is worthless.


Well my poor pathetic friend,

I'm not here to provide you with the key to becoming a six-figure author or to instruct you on how to achieve New York Times best-selling status.


I'm here to let you know that I am in your shoes. And, I must say, I'm not alone. Thousands of authors I know find themselves in the very same shoes. So, I hope your feet aren't smelly, because it's getting quite cozy down here!


Now, why I am here.


There's a common belief that success depends exclusively on talent and skill. However, many talented authors and artists spend years refining their crafts, only to face the daunting task of making a living. Paradoxically, there are stories of seemingly untalented individuals who quickly rise to fame and fortune. So, what's the mysterious force driving these transformations? The answer may not lie solely in innate talent; instead, it's found in the complex interaction of media, publishers, and the broader cultural context.


Debunking the Myth of Pure Talent


The age-old myth of pure talent proposes that the most proficient individuals are destined to ascend to the zenith of their fields. However, the reality often tells a disparate story. Scores of artists and writers, brimming with immense talent, wrestle with the challenge of obtaining recognition, let alone achieving sustainable success. What, then, is the underlying reason for this discrepancy, and how do publishers and media outlets fit into this narrative?


Skills aren't as worthless as they might seem! Believe me.

Not everyone can invest countless unpaid hours in designing and sculpting a meaningful narrative, a world, and characters, along with their interactions, without possessing both skill and passion. And all those wealthy and renowned authors, no matter how mediocre their books may appear, indeed possess a talent for writing. They refuse to give up and won't merely contemplate their stories mentally, labeling themselves as writers without putting a single word on paper or into their computer.


The data shows a direct correlation between the number of books published and income level. Stage 1 authors, earning between $0-$249 per month, had the fewest published titles, while Stage 8 authors, earning over $10,000 per month, had well over 100 published titles. (source) This indicates that as authors progress in their careers, they tend to invest more time in writing and publishing, honing their skills.


Editorial Investment


Well, let's assume you wrote and revised and rewrote that masterpiece of yours. Now what? Simple: Hire a good editor and be open minded t their suggestions.


The data highlights a shift in the use of professional editors as authors move up the income stages. Stage 4 authors, earning $1,000-$2,499 per month, were more likely to work with professional editors, showcasing a commitment to quality (source). This reflects that higher income levels often come with the realization of the importance of professional editing in delivering polished work to readers.


The Dominance of Marketing and Hype


In the modern creative landscape, marketing and hype frequently outweigh pure skill. Publishers and media outlets have the power to transform an obscure artist or writer into a household name through strategic promotion and media exposure. This encompassing strategy comprises meticulously tailored press releases, viral marketing campaigns, and endorsements from influential figures. You like it or not, there is a clear correlation between the time authors invest in marketing and their income levels. For instance, in the highest income stage, Stage 8, a substantial 23% of authors continue to actively participate in marketing activities (source). This emphasizes the enduring importance of marketing as a critical factor in an author's success and highlights the necessity for authors to maintain consistent and persistent marketing efforts to sustain and increase their earnings.


Here's the question, what is an effective marketing?


Across all income stages, certain marketing tactics like Bookbub Deals, promo sites, and Facebook Ads were consistently rated as the most effective (source). As we analyze data across all income stages, specific marketing tactics mentioned above, they were consistently ranked as the most effective strategies, as reported in the source. This underscores the crucial role of comprehending and employing these tactics in an author's marketing arsenal, irrespective of their skill level.

  • Bookbub Deals: This marketing tactic was identified as highly effective at all income stages, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5.

  • Promo Sites: Promo sites, often used for book promotions and advertisements, received consistently high ratings for effectiveness across all income stages, with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5.

  • Facebook Ads: Another powerful tool, Facebook Ads, were also rated highly effective, with an average rating of 4.4 out of 5.

This data showcases the universal appeal of these marketing tactics for authors seeking to enhance their success, providing valuable insights into the strategies that can yield positive results, regardless of their skill level.


When it comes to marketing, there are always challenges. Based on a survey findings (source) authors commonly face marketing difficulties, irrespective of their income stage. Here's a breakdown of the challenges authors face:

  • At Stage 1, marketing challenges were rated an average of 3.5 out of 5, demonstrating that even at the beginning of their careers, authors encounter obstacles in marketing.

  • Moving to Stage 4, the average rating for marketing challenges was 3.6 out of 5, indicating that challenges persist as authors progress.

  • Authors at Stage 8, the highest income stage, still encountered marketing challenges with an average rating of 3.4 out of 5, underscoring that even highly successful authors are not immune to these difficulties.

This data highlights the universal nature of marketing challenges in the world of authors, emphasizing that the path to success is not without its share of obstacles, even for those who have achieved significant acclaim and earnings.


Cover Design Investment

When it comes to marketing, I insist that a top-notch book cover design is a must. You won't believe how many authors I've seen cobbling together their own covers without an inkling of design skills. They snatch images from the internet (forget about pesky things like copyrights and royalties), often low-quality stuff, slap on some basic fonts, whip up a design in Microsoft Word, or, for the daring, swipe a few designs from Canva. Et voilà! You're left with a cringe-worthy, eye-rolling, downright vomit-inducing book cover. Bravo!


Stage 4, 5, 6, and 7 authors increased their investment in professional cover design, demonstrating that, as income grows, authors recognize the significance of eye-catching covers in attracting readers . Stage 8 authors, earning over $10,000 per month, emphasized the importance of high-quality cover design, stating that "bad covers will kill a career."


Here some example of horrifically embarrassing covers:


The article, "When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books," the author acknowledges the role covers play in book selection but emphasizes that bad covers often deter readers, especially students at a school library. The article highlights a list of books that, despite their unattractive exteriors, have compelling stories worth exploring. Titles such as "When I was Joe," "Don't Call Me Ishmael," "Twisted," "Stargirl," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Catcher in the Rye," "Mice," "The Summer I Wasn't Me," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" are mentioned, each briefly described, showcasing their hidden literary gems.


As per a survey conducted by Written Word Media, 53% of independent authors collaborate with professional designers for their book covers. This statistic aligns with expectations, as book covers continue to be an exceptionally effective marketing tool, delivering a significant return on investment. In an A/B test ran by 99designs.com conducted on Facebook ads, the newly redesigned book covers showed a remarkable 51% increase in click-through rate compared to the original versions. Every book tested exhibited improved performance with newly designed covers, with click-through rate improvements ranging from 6% to an impressive 122%.


For instance, "Miles of Files" achieved a substantial 122% increase in clicks with its redesigned cover, targeting audiences interested in crime fiction and thrillers. These results emphasize the critical role book covers play in conveying a book's genre and appeal to potential readers, highlighting the importance of selecting appropriate colors and imagery. Authors are advised to research competitors and stay updated with genre-specific design trends when crafting book covers.


To know what makes a good cover, read my other article here.


Navigating Trends and Timing

In this age of social media, especially on #TikTok, writers like me often feel left in the dust. You wake up one morning, and there's an explosion of 'blah blah book is a must-read,' 'blah blah book made me cry,' 'blah blah book has a daddy I want!' Come on, TikTok, can you hold your dang horses for us millennials?


But here's the reality: that horse is untamable. Trends shift constantly, and we need to keep pace with them.


Success in the creative world dances to the ever-changing beat of trends and the impeccable timing of a surprise party guest. Today's toast of the town might be tomorrow's 'Who brought this spinach dip?' Publishers and media wizards wield their magic wands in spotting emerging trends and turning them into enchanting spectacles. So, even if you're an artist or writer with skills to rival a wizard, hitching your creative wagon to a trend can send you soaring into the limelight faster than you can say 'Abracadabra!'


Checking for publishing trends in fiction is essential for staying up-to-date and attract your target audience. Here are several ways to do it:

  1. Bestseller Lists: Look at bestseller lists on platforms like The New York Times, Amazon, or Goodreads. These lists often indicate which genres and themes are currently popular.

  2. Literary Magazines: Read literary magazines and journals, both online and in print. Example can be Flaneur, Freeman’s, Somesuch Stories, and so on. (source) They often feature the latest trends in writing and emerging authors.

  3. Social Media: Follow authors, publishers, and literary agents on social media. They often share insights into current trends and book releases. #Twitter and TikTok is the best for this purpose.

  4. Writing Conferences: Attend writing conferences or webinars, where publishing professionals often discuss current trends and what's in demand. You can find such events in your area through websites such as eventbrite.com or dedicated writing associations such as writers digest, The Gotham Writers, DFW Writers, and so on.

  5. Bookstore Visits: Visit local bookstores and libraries to see what's prominently displayed and what readers are checking out.

  6. Online Forums and Writing Communities: Join writing forums and communities to discuss trends with fellow writers and readers. You can find a list of them on Words matters by Wix.

  7. Book Review Blogs: Follow book review blogs and YouTube channels. Reviewers often spotlight the latest trends in fiction.

  8. Publisher and Agent Websites: Explore publisher and literary agent websites. They may have guidelines or blogs discussing trends they're interested in.

  9. Book Awards: Pay attention to book awards and nominees. These often highlight outstanding books in various genres.

  10. Reader Surveys: Conduct surveys or engage with readers to understand their preferences and what they're currently looking for in fiction.

  11. Google Trends: Use tools like Google Trends to identify search trends related to specific genres, themes, or topics.

  12. Market Research Reports: Some market research firms provide reports on trends in the publishing industry. These reports can be valuable but may come at a cost.

In this era of social media and viral sensations, pop culture can either make or mar an artist or writer's career. A single mention or feature in a popular TV show, podcast, or on a social media platform has the potential to thrust an individual into stardom, regardless of their skill level.


HOWEVER AGAIN! Don't write for the sake of what's trendy. Because #trends are like, well, let's say it, a fart. They linger in the air, making you squirm, and sometimes you can't help but let one rip, loudly, only for it to vanish into thin air. So, remember, trends might be loud, but your unique voice is the fresh breeze that lasts! Be aware of trends but write what you love and it'll be your turn one day.


The Crucial Role of Networking and Connections


Writers like me, we're creatures of comfort in our writing dungeons where we'd rather cozy up with a pint of wine and our thoughts, far from the maddening crowd. But here's the twist: those artists and writers with a Rolodex as thick as a medieval scroll? They've got a secret weapon.


The media moguls and publishers, they tap into their vast web of connections like it's a treasure map, discovering and catapulting rising stars like they're the lost city of gold. Sometimes, this network advantage shines so brightly that it can blind you, even if you're a talent supernova, outshining the rest. So, while we might be comfy in our writing caves, sometimes, just sometimes, it pays to know the right dragons and knights.


Conclusion


Success, these days, in art and literature seems to go way beyond mere talent and skill. In today's ever-twisting creative maze, media outlets and publishers play puppet masters in deciding who gets the red carpet treatment. Sure, it can be a bit of a bummer for those unsung geniuses out there like me and you, but here's the twist – it's like a glittering golden ticket for us aspiring creators.


You see, it's not just about being Shakespeare with a laptop. No, siree! Success is this intricate cocktail where skill, marketing tricks, perfect timing, trend-surfing, and some good ol' schmoozing with the right folks, all dance together. While talent's the star, it's not the whole darn show. It's like a vibrant, kaleidoscopic journey, where a bunch of forces, maybe even some fairy dust, unite to lift someone to the stars. No matter how cringe worthy is truth, remember Vonnegut one said to "practise any art... no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow."


Do you believe the worth of your stories hinges on the number of readers you have?

  • 0%YES

  • 0%NO


Thanks for reading. Don't forget to like and share. And comment to tell me what do you think about this topic, we discussed. Cheers!

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