Sunday, 6 September 2015

Rules for success as an author

Some tips from the 2015 Society of Authors Children's Writers and Illustrators Group conference.

1. Talent
You need to be able to write. Obviously. Many people have the basic talent to write a book.

2. Work
You need to work at your writing to make it even better. Fewer people are willing to put in the necessary amount of work.

3. Luck
You (and your book) need luck. I think this means during the publishing process rather than the writing process, although life can interrupt your writing. Luck is something the writer cannot control, so even fewer people have this one. Or maybe you just need to avoid the bad luck? I've heard people say "you create your own luck", which I actually think means working on the other rules (see 1 and 2 above) so you're in the right place at the right time when the luck comes along... if you don't write the book, then how can you possibly be lucky?

4. Ambition
You need to be hungry for success. Most authors are hungry (some are starving) to publish their first book, but how many authors keep that initial drive to succeed through the decades and countless books? Early success can take the edge off hunger (you have achieved your original goal so what next?), as can repeated failure (you've worked at 1 and 2 until you are blue all over and 3 just never seems to happen for you so what's the use?) I believe even fewer people retain long-term ambition than have short-term luck.

5. Time
Writing takes time, and it takes a lot of it. If you have a demanding family or a second job or a glamorous jet-setting lifestyle, you probably don't have enough time for all of the above. Very few authors are in a position to give 100% of their time to their writing career.

6. Success
You need ALL of these things to succeed as an author in the long term.

With thanks to:
Philip Pullman, author (rules 1, 2, 3 and 6)
Caroline Walsh, literary agent (rule 4)
The unicorn (rule 5).
All comments are the unicorn's own.

Do you have any personal rules for success as an author?


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