A Successful Author Builds a Team

photo by JF Schmitz

Do you have a team working for you every single week to ensure you are a success? Do you protect your writing time, getting strategic or tactical help with some aspects of your writing career, freeing up your creative energy and your time to actually WRITE? Today, we are going to talk about how you can – and SHOULD – build a team to give you more time to write, and find more success doing so.

Drowning? You are not alone. So many authors I know feel completely overwhelmed with some, if not all, of the following:

  • Their day job
  • Attending to needs of their family, and also “quality” family time
  • Keeping a home
  • Hobbies
  • Finding time to write
  • Ensuring their writing finds an audience. I call this ‘author platform,’ but you may refer to it as something else.

So stop pretending you can do it all, that you are just one productivity app or one productivity book away from balancing it all. Balance is an illusion. Why? Well, imagine a perfectly balanced scale. What does it take for it to become unbalanced? ANYTHING! The slightest movement, the slightest weight put on one side or the other kills the balance. Now, imagine a scale trying to balance six thing, representing each of the obligations many writers face which I described in the bullets above. How easy is that to balance?

Managing a successful writing career takes time to figure out. You need a team. The best time to start building one? Right now.

When you are overwhelmed, you miss opportunities. You don’t show up to events, you don’t schedule meetups, you don’t pursue new ideas to find an audience, you don’t take some crazy risk. You… just… try… to… keep… your… head… above… water.

You need space to not just be creative in your writing, but to be open to new experiences, have the space for long unexpected conversations, and to potentially try new things.

Opportunities happen because of relationships. Getting that speaking engagement, a chance meeting with an agent, connecting with another author who reshapes how you think about your own writing career.


In my life, I have created a lot of art, writing, and (very bad) music. I believe in the power of art, and that it’s value cannot be judged merely by sales figures.

But I also know that many writers, artists and musicians feel that their hands must craft EVERY aspect of their careers. That every strategic or tactical decision must be 100% their own. And that is often a mistake. Instead, one needs to understand how the entirety of what needs to get done breaks down into specific skillsets and actions. That, NO, you are not the only person that needs to do absolutely everything. There are aspects of your writing career where the input of others is incredibly helpful. That you want to preserve your creative energy to do what you do best. (hint: WRITE!)

Is your career being managed by merely falling forward? Where you wake up one day and say, “WOAH! It’s NEARLY NOVEMBER ALREADY?!” You need a strategy. And you need a team to help keep you on track, strategic, motivated, and able to focus on ONLY what matters.

Put it all on the table. What do you need to do to succeed? What specific tasks are involved in creating, publishing and finding an audience for your writing? How do you leave room for meaningful authentic engagement?

Create teams, both informal and informal relationships that push your career forward. This can be comprised of colleagues or friends. To put this in context, I will share some examples from my life. I am UNBELIEVABLY lucky to have a generous group of friends who spread the word about the work I do.

But I also have formal relationships that help me manage everything:

  1. A mastermind group I am a part of that consists of three other people. We meet via Google Hangout every 2 weeks, and each come with a specific challenge we want the group to address for 20 minutes each.
  2. Biweekly Skype chats with a close friend about the meaning behind what we create.
  3. Monthly in-person chats with a close friend about business strategy & publishing.
  4. Weekly Skype chats with a collaborator on writing projects.

So that is 10 hours a month of critical discussion on strategy. On getting input about various aspects of what I need to accomplish. About making hard choices as to where I should – and shouldn’t – focus my resources. This is my team. These are the people who help me succeed, and fuel me to do things I would normally shy away from under the guise of “I am too busy…” Everyone feels they are too busy. To address the problem, it is about better managing resources, not running faster on the treadmill.

Productivity tools can SOMETIMES give us a false sense of control. The day planner. The calendar in my iPhone. That amazing email system that helps you batch through hundreds of emails per day. They can be an illusion of control.

Relationships are a resource that is flexible and often provide far more than they take. For every ounce of energy you put into the right relationship, you can 10 ounces of energy in return. (Wait, is energy measured in ounces?!)

I build this into everything I do: RELATIONSHIPS, not just information. It’s how I construct my classes with authors. I work to connect them with not just myself, but with powerful experts and other writers. This week, one session of my Build Your Author Platform online course is ending, and all the writers in the course are busy chatting about how to stay connected, exchanging email addresses and ensuring that these relationships continue in powerful ways. For the session which starts next week, I have scheduled an INCREDIBLE list of guest experts that the writers in the course get to work with: Jane Friedman, Richard Nash, Joanna Penn, Jeff Goins, Colleen Lindsay, and Kathleen Schmidt. This is about relationships, not just information delivery. This is a TEAM of sorts.

The other day, I got to meet J.K. Rowling at an event in NYC – she is an inspiration to so many writers. Now, one could say “Jo didn’t have a team when she wrote Harry Potter, and look at where she is now, counting her billion$.” Two things on that:

  • For every rule, there are exceptions. But don’t count on being that exception, it’s a lottery ticket that may never pay off.
  • Jo wrote those books all by herself, with zero input from anyone in the writing process. But she DID have a team helping her on many other aspects of her career. When I saw her, she told Ann Patchett that even though she could have self-published her latest book, she didn’t because she appreciates everyone in the process of producing that book.

As I was writing this post over the past week, I saw that Rachelle Gardener touched upon a similar topic: how to create your own marketing team. Well worth the read!

So tell me, do YOU have a team?


About Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers share their stories and connect with readers. He has helped hundreds of authors via online courses, events, consulting, and workshops, and worked with amazing publishing houses and organizations who support writers such as Random House, Workman Publishing, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer’s Digest, Library Journal, and many others.


  1. says

    You are so right. A team is vital for so many reasons. Writers enhance their prospects for success by creating a community of mutual support and assistance. This will not only help the writer, but the sharing of ideas uplifts the entire community. Writing is not a zero sum game, but rather a profession where, as JFK once said in a different context, a rising tide lifts all boats. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post on a frequently overlooked aspect of the writing process.
    CG Blake´s last blog post ..Book Review: “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield

  2. says

    Thank you for the informative and encouraging post. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all the things in life that interfere with writing time. Making the process part of a team effort is a great idea to help with not only productivity, but with the creative spirit.
    Pamala Knight´s last blog post ..Happy Friday

  3. says

    Guilty! Thanks for the timely post.
    This is great advice and ideas on how to overcome the problem of working alone. I need to join a group and writers dealing with the same issues would be great. I would love to be part of the next group, if I can work it in with my travel.

    I have several supporters, none of them writers and I don’t bring them together as a group. I am guilty of trying to do it all and I know that I need to get over it.
    ML Gomes´s last blog post ..Did you see the movie People Like Us?

  4. Linda Pennell says

    Great points! With all of the writers’ groups available both in person and on-line, there is no reason for anyone to struggle alone. In my experience, writers are almost universally kind and helpful to others. No one knows it all and having regular contact with a cohort of colleagues is just plain smart. It’s good for a writer’s mental health and creativity. It’s good for improving craft. It’s good for business. What more could one ask?

  5. says

    Fantastic post, especially the part about running on a treadmill not being good enough. You need more than that!

    I’d add two points:

    1) Part of building a team and getting that time back is CUTTING. Cut the activities that drain your time and the relationships that drain your energy with negativity. Assess these honestly and with clear sight, and DO it.

    2) If you get traditionally published, you become part of a team – editorial, marketing, publicity, down to copyeditors and typesetters – whether you like it or not. Going in with the right attitude makes a difference. (Also, getting published is a uniquely crazy time. I would never have gotten through it without my team.)

    Again, great post!

    • says

      Simone – those are two great points! Managing a career and a team is about choosing what to focus on, and what to NOT focus on. And agreed about those with a traditional publisher. I would advise this: don’t always wait for them to tell you a plan, be proactive in managing the team you have.

      Dan Blank´s last blog post ..Being There – The Importance of Showing Up

  6. says

    Amazing post that has come at just the right time. I had lunch with an author last week who had published with a vanity press, and though she was satisfied with her cover and some marketing materials and a couple of events they set up, she felt like she was fighting for every sale. She wasn’t feeling she had a team.

    If you’re with a publisher (of any size or persuasion), you might have a team, but without the expectations set, and good communication, you won’t know if that team is effective or not. I do feel like I’m likely overwhelming my authors with all that they can do to improve their author platform, but then I go back to a reason they are publishing with Buzz Books is for that very assistance – leading them where they need to go.

    With my fourth novel coming out in November, I’m so thankful for the team I’ve been building over the last three years. For CB Soulsby, I wanted to say that team could be: fellow writers in your writer’s group, a group blog you belong to where you each promote each other, and a tribe you can build by joining online groups, attending writing conferences and even people you connect with on social media that goes beyond the tweet.
    Malena Lott´s last blog post ..The Dark Side of Being a Writer

  7. says

    Relationships are definitely the holy grail of building more satisfaction, success and joy into our careers and our lives. This a great post worth revisiting. Thanks.