This guest post is a contribution from author/agent Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett, who together have created The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software. You can find out a bit more about them in the biographical notes at the end of this piece.
Over the course of our careers working with authors, we have observed that the most successful ones share certain habits and attitudes.
- They work hard to keep their lives balanced. Balance between writing and promoting, because if you don’t write, you have nothing to promote. Balance between their writing career and their families and friends, because having a happy life fuels good writing and keeps you refreshed.
- They’re careful about building their “career dream team.” This includes their agent, their editor(s), their attorney, their accountant. Once a quality team is built, the writers have the peace of mind of knowing they are in good hands and can relax and do their best writing.
- They never stop learning and improving their craft. They strive always to come up with fresh new story ideas. They try new techniques. They’re not afraid to try new genres.
- They promote themselves, knowing it’s not enough to leave this to their publishers. However, they are selective about how they promote, knowing that a few highly effective promotional techniques have far more impact than doing it all helter-skelter. (See also #1.)
- They adapt. Trends in publishing are constantly changing, and these writers make it their business to know what’s popular at a given time and give this to their readers. Adapting also means being willing to try writing other kinds of books when necessary, and even to consider a pseudonym when a fresh new name is in order.
- They keep reading! That’s how they know what’s popular. Reading also enables them to know what other authors are doing in terms of story ideas, in order to avoid copying.
- They’re realistic. They don’t expect overnight success and are willing to work hard over a long period to achieve success. Being realistic also includes not watching constantly to see what other authors are getting—advances, bestseller placements, promotion, and so on. Every career is different, authors are each on their own path, and career envy is childish and fruitless.
- They’re professional. Sounds obvious, but many authors are so good at shooting themselves in the foot that you would think they do it on purpose. Being professional includes treating your agent, editors and other publishing staff with the same courtesy and respect you expect from them; delivering your manuscripts on time (or giving fair warning when you don’t); expressing gratitude when appropriate; and never whining.
The most successful authors we have worked with over our more than 30 years in the business have possessed all of these habits and qualities. Work to cultivate them in yourself and you will enjoy a long and satisfying writing career.
Evan Marshall is a fiction expert, mystery author, and former editor. For 30 years he has been a literary agent specializing in fiction. The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software, co-authored with Martha Jewett, is based on his bestseller The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing.
Martha Jewett is a memoir advocate, editorial expert, and co-author of The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software. She has worked as an editor, editorial consultant, ghost writer, and literary agent.