Published and Paid #2: Making a Living as a Writer by Writing Books
In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- Why many aspiring writers choose writing books as the avenue to writing success
- 3 things you need to master to start making a living as a writer
- What it means to have a growth mindset
- How to consistently improve your writing craft
- An honest look at the Christian market – and how to market to it effectively
- How to create your own action plan to get started today
Let’s be real: you know you didn't halfway do this thing. You put blood, sweat and tears into your book; you spent months writing; you had it edited; you got a beautiful cover design. And then, finally, you launched it into the world.
But the problem is that now you're sitting there scratching your head and wondering, “Why isn't this book selling as many copies as I thought?” The months have gone by, and you're trying to put on a brave face for family and friends, but the truth is that you lie in bed at night, fighting tears and feelings of failure. You wonder if you'll ever end up making a decent side hustle, much less making a living as a writer like you've always dreamed.
But it’s not over yet! Just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it never will.
Now, there’s no need to minimize your feelings. It's tough when your writing dreams don't quite match up to reality. But, while it may seem like Mission Impossible right now, there are still plenty of ways for you to be making a living as a writer while sharing your passion for writing with the world.
So don't give up on your dreams – there is still hope. In fact, that's what this Published and Paid series is all about: giving you the hope that your wildest dreams are possible. Because with God, all things are possible. So let’s get you started on a practical plan, with God's help, to get there.
Writing Books: The First Path to Making a Living as a Writer
In Part 1 of this series, we covered the first and most important thing you must do if you want to be published and paid. That’s the groundwork; it helps you begin with the proper perspective for success. To build on that, over the next several episodes, we’re going to look at the different paths you can take to start making a living as a writer. And the first one, which we’ll focus on today, is writing books.
For most aspiring writers, writing books as a means to success is pretty much a no-brainer. Typically, that’s because they were inspired by a writer who made a meaningful impression on them and they wanted to follow in that writer’s footsteps.
If that’s you, think for a moment about the writer or writers who inspired you. Who was it? And why do great Christian writers in general inspire us so much? When we stop to think about it, there may be many reasons. Often, great Christian writers:
- Have a deep understanding of the human condition and are able to articulate it in a special way through their writing.
- Provide a different perspective on the world.
- Offer hope in the midst of despair.
- Remind us that there is more to life than what we see with our eyes and why that's good news.
- Show us that faith is not a passive belief system, but something that should be actively lived out.
Finally, not only have great Christian writers made a major impact in each of our lives, but they’re also living proof that publishing books is a legitimate way to increase our impact, influence, and income.
3 Things You Must Master
If you’ve determined that writing books is the path you want to take to start making a living as a writer, the big question on your mind is likely: “How can I follow in the footsteps of these great writers?”
Well, it boils down to three things. If you want to make serious money writing and publishing books, these are the three things you must master:
- Your mindset
- Your craft
So let’s take a look at how you can master each of these things.
Master Your Mindset
In coaching philosophy, there’s a concept known as a growth mindset, and it’s something that can be applied to any goal in life – not just writing a book. Having a growth mindset means you believe you can improve and grow through effort and practice. It's the opposite of a fixed mindset, which is the belief that your abilities are set in stone and cannot be changed.
So how does this apply to your journey as a Christian author? Because you need to believe in yourself and your ability to write books that will sell. That way, in the face of rejection and negative reviews, you can stay focused and keep writing.
A growth mindset says, “I'm going to be open to learning and growing, and I'm going to be open to feedback from others, even when it hurts.” A growth mindset puts you in a place where you are willing to connect with other writers and build a strong network, because you know that we all need people we can rely on for encouragement and advice – and that developing relationships with other Christian authors is a great way to find those people.
A growth mindset also puts us in a place where we are willing to put in the work required to improve our skills. It's a way of thinking about things that says, “I haven't arrived; I can still grow.” And because we are believers, this growth mindset also reminds us that we need to have faith that God will help us grow. We're not in it by ourselves; we are partnering with God in this growth process.
So with a growth mindset, we can approach our writing with confidence, knowing that – with God's help – we have the ability to improve and become the best writers that we can possibly be.
Master Your Craft
Remember this: your audience deserves your best. And no matter how good you are as a writer, there is always room for improvement. After all, even the most experienced and successful authors continue to hone their craft. Michael Jordan was amazing, but he didn't stop having a coach or practicing, did he?
And it doesn't matter what field we're talking about. The best are the best because they work at it. So we can't go into authorship thinking that the first book we ever wrote is our best book, and that we don't have opportunities to continue to work on our skills. We've also got to remember that it's not just about writing well, but writing for God's glory.
Pause and think about that for a second. Yes, you're writing for your audience. But don't forget that you're also writing for God. Ultimately, this is you answering God’s call, and you want to bring your best to the table.
To do that, you have to be continuously learning and growing, and that means reading widely. Do you know how many authors don’t read? And do you know what they’re missing out on by not reading?
You see, you’ve got to be reading other books to understand how other people are communicating their messages. Furthermore, reading other people’s books is how you get better at your own writing, because you can see how successful authors do things like break down their message or tell a compelling story. Reading is learning.
Now, you may hear people say that you write for yourself. But while that may be true, there is also an audience that needs to pay for that book. There needs to be an exchange of money if you’re going to be making a living as a writer, and people don’t exchange money unless they believe they’re getting value.
Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, so you have to get the audience to see the value of your message. And that means you have to invest time and energy in your craft – and that also means practicing regularly. To start – and continue – making a living as a writer, you've got to write on a regular basis. Look at John C. Maxwell. Writing is one of the top five things he does every single day. No wonder he’s put out so many books!
How often are you practicing your craft? If you’re a fiction writer, are you writing short stories? If you’re a nonfiction writer, are you writing blogs? It may not seem important, but it is. It helps you perfect your craft so you can better communicate your message.
Finally, to master your craft, you must be open to your work being critiqued and to critique others’ work yourself. As you look at other people’s work and try to give them valuable feedback, it trains you on what to look for in your own work.
By taking advantage of opportunities to practice and critique, we can all become better writers and more effective communicators of the gospel. And the more we improve our craft, the better our chances of success.
The third and final thing you need to master to start making a living as a writer is marketing. This is important because you need to know how to reach your target audience and get them interested in your books. And that means you’ve got to understand your market.
The Christian market is incredibly competitive. Not only are there a lot of Christian authors vying for the public’s attention, but there are also a lot of different genres and subgenres. To stand out, you have to create a clear and effective marketing plan. Even if your book is awesome, it is not enough to have a great book – because if no one knows about it, they can't read it.
Additionally, the Christian market is constantly evolving. What sells today might not sell tomorrow. So in order to stay ahead of the curve, you have to be willing to pivot and adapt your marketing strategy on the fly. That’s why you must be constantly learning and growing in all areas.
Finally, Christians are notoriously loyal to their favorite authors and influencers. Remember all those great writers who inspired you to become an author in the first place? If you’re attempting to follow in their footsteps, then – much as you admire them – they are now your competitors. Your audience is already very drawn to their books, so you’ve got to go toe-to-toe with them with your books.
So how do you do that? How do you compete with a John C. Maxwell or a C.S. Lewis? Ultimately, it's not about competing from the standpoint of trying to be better than them. Rather, it's putting yourself in a position where you earn consideration. Where people consider your book when they are looking for options.
To get to that point, you have to tap into something called third party authority (TPA). This is what allows you to overcome the inertia that's pulling your audience in the direction of their favorite authors and influencers.
TPA means you have mastered your craft well enough that you can earn opportunities in places where your audience is already looking. These are places that they already respect and look to for advice, and people they consider credible. By borrowing authority from these other outlets, you can move up in position simply by association.
You can establish TPA by doing things like:
- Submitting guest posts on popular blogs
- Doing interviews on popular Christian radio shows and podcasts
- Speaking at conferences and events
If you can get the right positioning, you’ll have a much easier time selling your books. But if you're just going up against every other self-published author out there, as well as those who are already established in the field – authors the Christian audience is very, very loyal to – you will get lost in the crowd.
Don’t just wing it or rely on the “hope and pray” method to get your big break. Hope and prayer are powerful things, but hope is not a strategy. God gave you a brain and the opportunity to make connections, learn, and grow. So don’t turn off your brain – use the gifts, skills, talents, opportunities, and connection God has given you, and build on that foundation.
Ready to get started mastering these three things so you can get started making a living as a writer? If so, then here’s your homework.
Break out a single sheet of loose-leaf paper. On the left-hand side, write the word “Mindset.” Then skip a few lines beneath it and write “Craft.” Then skip a few more lines and write “Marketing.”
Next, on the right-hand side of the paper, give yourself a rating from 1-10 for each area. How would you rate where you are right now?
Start with mindset:
- Do you have a growth mindset, or does your mind tend to veer down the path of negativity so you can't move beyond where you currently are?
- Are you open to feedback and criticism from other people?
- Are you putting yourself in a position to get feedback?
- Are you surrounding yourself with other writers who can help you learn and grow?
- How are you responding when you get a negative review or a rejection letter?
Then move on to craft:
- How much time and energy are you investing in becoming the best writer that you can possibly be?
- Are you investing time daily in writing?
- Are you reading other authors and studying how they write?
- Are you practicing regularly?
- Are you investing the time to become a master communicator?
Finally, have a heart-to-heart with yourself about marketing:
- Are you leveraging the power of third party authority?
- Are you working to get yourself on podcasts – and not just any podcasts, but podcasts that have a loyal following and reach the audience that you want to serve?
- And if you're not yet doing that, why not? What is standing in the way?
- Do you need help getting booked on podcasts, or do you need to get more comfortable with speaking?
As you work through these questions, be really honest with yourself about where you are and what needs to happen so that more doors can open for you. If you’re going to make any kind of change, you have to start by being fully honest about where you are now.
What Can You Do Today?
Once you’ve finished your assessment, the next step is to come up with your action plan. And don’t think of this as a long-term plan for what you’ll do in the next six months or even 90 days. Rather, what is one small step you can take in your biggest area of opportunity in the next 24-48 hours? That's the first step of your action plan.
There’s no need to delay – you can get started right now, today, to get on track for making a living as a writer. Remember: the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll be published and paid, the faster your book will get into more hands, and the faster you’ll be able to enjoy the life you've always imagined.
My name is Tamara "Coach Tam" Jackson and I am a published author, Facebook© Certified Digital Marketer, host of the Top 100 Publishing Secrets podcast, and founder of The Christian Authors Network (C.A.N.) Facebook© community. I specialize in helping mission-driven authors, coaches, and entrepreneurs increase their exposure, impact, and income through strategic self-publishing and digital media appearances. Just say yes and we will work together to attract a tribe of loyal followers that 1) "get you", 2) love what you do, and 3) are happy to invest in your book, business, cause, or movement. Plus, we will accomplish all of this without fake, salesy, sleazy, or manipulative tactics. Yes you CAN write, publish, and profit in a way that honors God; join the community today at https://christianauthors.net/fbgroup.
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