Luck, timing, or talent?
Every author has that story of their ‘lucky break’.
A moment when a small thing happened to change their path, propel them forward, or break into a whole new area that they had never imagined.
It may have been an email from a publisher wanting to talk about a book deal; a connection from a friend of a friend who just happened to think of them at the right moment; a chance meeting with an agent at a conference or event. Or even just someone at work, or on Facebook, with a throwaway remark that became the inspiration for their book.
Seven years to overnight success
But one thing that all of these ‘lucky break’ stories have in common is what they don’t tell you: the hard work that went before.
Those hours and hours of researching the right crowd, the agents, networking, events, and tedious launches that put them in touch with that one special connection. Or even all those late night conversations with their partner, friends, and family, which primed them for that moment when they decided they needed to commit to writing their book.
The truth about a ‘lucky break’, is that it’s not just one moment, but a culmination of a thousand little things, over many years, that finally lead to (what looks from the outside to be) a huge breakthrough.
Create your own ‘Luck’
If you’re fed up of waiting around for that one breakthrough moment, then it’s time to prepare, to put in the hard work and, finally, make it happen for you.
I have a friend who earns over $50,000 a month from his books.
He’s become a bit of a phenomenon, sought out for podcasts, interviews and telesummits. People look at his success and think to themselves,
Oh I couldn’t possibly do that!
But I remember when he started out, when he wrote his first book. And then his second, and realised he liked it and was good at it. He just carried on where most people give up. His success wasn’t overnight, he built it himself, book by book.
Stop looking at where people are now and comparing yourself — and start studying what they did to get to that level of success. Because we all start from nowhere and we can all create our own luck.
It’s your time
Success comes to those who are ready. I know You need to stop expecting success to come to you, and start to prepare for it. And here are nine easy ways you can lay the groundwork for that ‘lucky break’.
1. Read. A lot.
What we learn as readers, we use as writers.
A good writer will read with an eye for the writing and be both critical and complimentary of other’s writing, trying out new techniques, and learning to adapt what you read to suit your own style.
Read within your own genre, and outside it as well, for wider inspiration. Try to experiment, innovate, and analyse to become a better writer through your reading.
2. Choose wisely
As a writer, wanting to become an author, as much as you need to follow your dreams, you also need to follow your audience.
I work with people who often have many decades of experience, and a depth of expertise rivaling a university professor (sometimes there are!), but you shouldn’t put your whole head’s worth of knowledge between the pages of your first book.
It’s great that you have so much information to pass on, but choose what to write, and choose wisely. Take one idea, one area of your teaching, something that leads to one main outcome, and write about that.
Look for the most commented blog post, the most shared Facebook post, or look for a gap in what is published already in your field and use what you know to fill it.
And take a reader’s perspective; start with what they want to know, not with what you want to say. Readers usually want something tangible that will help them, not just inform them, so remember, there are two people in every writing relationship.
Not everyone will help you get your lucky break – but someone will.
Networking isn’t just about meeting people at an event and then dropping their name when you approach a publisher (although I do know one successful author who did this!) – no, it’s about forming and maintaining strong, professional connections.
Even for introverts who hate networking, there is a way to do this successfully. Jeff Goins recommends you take the approach of service. When you meet someone, don’t think about how they can help you; find a way that you can help them, and hope that it comes back to you, one way or another, in the future.
Which is why many writers advocate an 80/20 model of authoring content. This means you spend 20 percent of your time creating content, and 80 percent of your time promoting it. Wow — 80 percent promoting — that sounds like a lot, right?
Well, great content without an audience goes precisely nowhere.
So, put the bulk of your time, energy, and even money into getting your content out there and increasing traffic to your website – and then rest of the time making sure it’s worth it.
5. Talk – to everyone
Every single person you meet has the potential to lead you to your lucky break. So go and meet them!
Travel, not just in the circles of your expertise, or your profession or career, but more widely. Go to literary festivals and conferences (here’s a comprehensive list for the UK; and a pretty decent one for the US), and talk to people there to gain insight, and tips, and to make valuable connections. Or even just to make friends.
6. Never say ‘no’
When you’re looking for your first big break in your non-fiction writing, try not to turn down any opportunities that come your way.
You might be thinking,
Oh but I have to focus on my writing,
and yes, that is true. But, when you’re starting out, it’s often better just to say yes to more things that you say no to.
You never know who is in the room.
You might make important connections, learn new skills, or even just do someone a favour that they can later repay when it comes time to launch your book. Whether you’re asked to help out at a friend’s book launch, or to give a speech at your old school – every opportunity can lead somewhere.
7. Write a blog
All aspiring or established non-fiction authors should write a blog. You have expertise and there are more ways to share it than simply a book.
Blogging is a great way to practice your writing, to test your ideas, to build a fan base and establish yourself as an expert in your area, and to come up with new ideas from your audience’s feedback.
They all sound fairly important when you want to become an author, right?
8. Invest in your peers
No-one is an island, and peer support is something that will help you on your journey to becoming a successful author.
Finding a group of peers who are successful and ambitious positive thinkers could be one of the most important things you ever do for your writing career.
9. Be persistent
Along your journey as a non-fiction author, you will experience setbacks.You might lose inspiration, face rejection, or just struggle hard to get attention for your writing or your business.
But don’t give up.
Every setback is a small step along your path towards your ‘lucky break’, and every small success is a huge leap.
So celebrate the leaps, and appreciate the steps, and keep on walking.
It really isn’t about ‘luck’
I believe that we make our own luck. That we find luck by doing the work and taking the chances. By seeking out opportunities and consistently, day in day out, taking one step after another, until we find what we are looking for.
Or maybe, until we enjoy the journey so much that we forget what we were looking for in the first place.
Are you creating your own luck? Or has fame and fortune found you already? Let us know on social media.