How to Become an Author

Last weekend, at the close of Book Bonanza, as I sat at a table full of some of my favorite humans on the planet, one of my friends mentioned how she'd had to stand in line to see me behind one of those readers that basically asked, "How do I become an author?" 

My friend groaned and laughed at the same time. "I bet you get that all the time." 

I laughed too. Because I do. The real challenge for me though, isn't hearing the question on a daily basis, it's in how to answer it in less than five minutes. I want to write a book about writing a book, but all they really want is an inspirational soundbite.

And let's get real guys, I'm still trying to figure it out and I've been writing books for eleven years. 

Also, I think the answer varies from one person to another. What made me an author, will not make you one. What motivates me to succeed and to keep publishing and to push harder, will not, even a little bit, motivate you. 

It's one of those answers that is person/circumstance/situation specific. But it also has an overarching tone that I think every person can relate to. 

The big answer is this: HARD WORK. 

Ugh, which is the worst, right? Not only is it ambiguous and obnoxiously vague, it's the opposite of what we want it to be. 

We want secret sauces and magic formulas. We want "X algorithm + X number of IG posts + this name-brand protein shake = $1,000.000.00"

Or is that just a snapshot of my personal Google search history? 

No, for real! I don't know how many articles and posts and books I read at the beginning of my career that stemmed from something like, "How to Publish a Book." or "How to Sell Your Book on Amazon." 

Or at the very beginning, "How to Write a Book." 

And after all of these years, I can honestly say the only thing that has ever worked for me, I mean, really, really worked for me, is WORK. Hard work. Endless hard work. So much hard work there have been legit times I thought it would kill me. 

Once upon a time, I was convinced I'd given myself A-Fib. No joke. 

It turned out to be just constant panic attacks. So... is that better? 

Sure. We'll go with a solid sure

My point is, unless you're willing to pour all of your blood, sweat and tears into this thing, and I do mean all of them, rethink your life plans. Because nobody accidentally sells a bestselling book. Usually there is a whole lot of sleepless nights involved and an infinite amount of panic and probably a sketchy deal with someone who occasionally goes by The Devil. 

Jk. Don't sell your soul for a book deal. 

Mainly because it doesn't even last. 

You have to start all over again with book #2 and then all over again for book #3. And then yep, you guessed it, straight back to the beginning for every single book after that. 

Just ask JK Rowling who wrote, unarguably, one of the most successful series of all time. And yet how many movie deals has she been offered for Cuckoo's Calling? 

Have you even heard of Cuckoo's Calling? 

I'm not even going to ask if you've read it. 

I already know the answer. 

(It's a great book, I'm sure! She's a phenomenal writer!! Just trying to make a point here... ahem.)

Writing a book takes an immense amount of effort. And then, after that, after you've finally typed the glorious words THE END, you realize the real work is only just beginning. 

Imagine that. Imagine finishing the hardest thing you've ever done and feeling so great about yourself. And then lifting your head to stare out at the rest of the world, your neck is stiff, your fingers are bloody and your entire body aches with the last six months of your life that you will never be able to reclaim, and then realizing that you now have to sell the damn thing. You have to actually convince rational, opinionated people that it's worth reading.


Good luck to you. 

But in all reality, it's tough. Like really, really hard. 

Although so is everything worth pursuing. 

I told my friends that Saturday night at Book Bonanza, I answer that question a lot. I'm not exaggerating when I say it happens almost daily. I got a DM tonight from someone I admire greatly. She just finished a book she's been working on for years. She needs to know the next step. Over the Fourth of July, I chatted with an old family friend about the book he had written. He doesn't think he wants to publish it. It's just for family and friends. But then again, maybe he could...? The last weekend was filled with readers thinking about becoming authors. My panel specifically dealt with how to put a book together. Plus all the other messages and emails and friendly cornerings from people in my real life. 

After years of this, I've come to believe that it's not a coincidence I get asked this question so often. It's not that I'm surrounded by excessively creative people or even that I'm just one of those open, approachable kinds of people. It's this- everyone has a story to tell. Every single person on this planet has something inside them that they want to share with the world.

Being human means being born with the innate desire to share your story.

I mean that.

I believe it. 

And maybe "writing a story" isn't writing a story at all. Maybe it's designing clothes. Or balancing someone's finances. Or playing guitar. But it's something that is bubbling up inside you, begging to be given to the world. 

This world we live in can be so sickeningly entitled. We're used to being given things. Or at least we'd like to be given things. All the things.

But have you stopped recently and asked yourself what you have to give? What you have to give away? 

I'm not talking about tangible things like money or possessions-- although those are nice if you do donate. 

I mean, the thing inside of you that is so big and so blindingly beautiful and so beneficial that you can't help but share it? 

There is something. I know there is. And I know you know there is too. 

Mine is words. Not just in my stories and books that I publish, but in the words I share with others. Encouragement, poetry, affirmation and inspiration. I have been given words to give away, to throw up in the air like confetti and make it rain. 

What is your gift? How are you going to use it to make your mark on this world? 

Figure it out.

And do it soon.

Let it become the thing you do for a living. Get paid for it even! But stop hoarding it for yourself. Stop hiding it. Share it with the world. Give it to strangers and loved ones and anyone and everyone you can. 

It's going to take a hell-of-a-lot-of effort to reach people. You're going to be tired. And exhausted. And probably wonder at least once or twice if that same gift is going to kill you. 

But it's a worthy, valiant effort that I would love to see you chase. 

Run hard after that thing you want most. That thing that is nagging your spirit and invading all of your thoughts and causing your heart to trip over all the clamoring "what ifs" and 'if onlys."

And don't stop. No matter how many obstacles are in your way or road blocks or wrong turns. Don't stop pursuing that thing inside of you begging to be unleashed on the world. For your sake. And for ours. 

It can be your dream. And it can also be your gift to give away. They're one and the same. 

You have a story to tell. And it's going to be epic. And the journey to share it is going to be incredible and awful and awe-inspiring. 

In all of my life experience I know this, failure and victory walk hand in hand. The one thing that tips the scales in either direction is hard work. Don't stop, you guys. Don't give up. Keep asking questions and making baby steps and pushing your body and your gift and your spirit beyond anything you thought or dreamed was possible. 

How do you become an author? (Or anything for that matter?) You decided to work harder than you ever have before. You decide you're never, ever, ever going to give up. You decide your gift is worth sharing.


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