The Four Characteristics of Author Attitude and Why You Need Them

2131270754_45fbced850_z
Victory by sgatto (Flickr Creative Commons)

Today’s guest, Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs. Known as the “Inspiration to Creation Coach,” Nina moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. Some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses, and created thriving businesses around their books. She writes four blogs, has self-published twelve books, and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month (aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge).

First, and foremost, I want to help writers succeed—to write books that get read (which means they sell) and to create careers as authors. It’s one thing to have a good idea or to be a good writer. It can be quite another to actually get your good idea and good writing read (sold).

Nina’s goal: “First, and foremost, I want to help writers succeed—to write books that get read (which means they sell) and to create careers as authors. It’s one thing to have a good idea or to be a good writer. It can be quite another to actually get your good idea and good writing read (sold). Second, I think there are some missing pieces in the information provided both to writers who want to become indie authors and to writers who want to become traditionally published authors. I wanted to fill in those gaps. I’m passionate about this topic because, like every writer or author, I, too, want my writing to have impact. I want my work to be read and to touch and to transform lives. So I set out to figure out how to make that happen. Now I want to share what I learned with others.”

Connect with Nina on Facebook and Twitter and check out her Write Nonfiction NOW! blog.

Today’s post is an excerpt from The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2014) by Nina Amir.

The Four Characteristics of Author Attitude and Why You Need Them

I have created an acronym to help you remember the four characteristics of Author Attitude. The acronym spells a word that recently has come into common culture: WOOT!

Let’s look at each characteristic of WOOT. Know that—like attitude—each one reflects a choice you can make and you can learn each characteristic if you feel you don’t possess it yet. Indeed, you can make the choice to learn it or adopt it into your way of being as you train to become an author. That’s what the “Author Training Process” is meant to accomplish.

Willingness

To become a successful author you need a general willingness to change and grow. Your old attitudes, actions, behaviors, thoughts, decisions, beliefs, and habits have only gotten you this far. They helped you achieve your current results. If you want a new level of success as a writer, something has to change. For that to happen, first and foremost, you need to be willing to change. Every one of the following characteristics and each step in the Author Training Process requires that you have some degree of willingness to explore, do, learn, evaluate, try something that may be new or different, or do something you know how to do already but in a different way.

wootAdditionally, you must be willing to change your book idea. The actual story, characters, subject, angle, theme, purpose, audience, or any number of other aspects of your project might need to be altered to make it viable in the marketplace. This may be difficult to swallow at first, but successful authorship relies on your ability to evaluate the marketability of your idea from every angle possible and make the tough calls. Only when you have discovered that you have created a salable idea can you turn to writing the book. When you have completed the manuscript, you must be willing to receive feedback on how your writing and manuscript can be improved to make it successful and to make those changes.

Optimism

Whether you call it faith, positive thinking, reverse pessimism, Positive Psychology, or learned optimism, to become a successful author you must be willing to see everything that happens to you as pushing you closer to your goal of successful authorship. This means a rejection from an agent presents an opportunity to improve your query letter or your book proposal. A negative review of your manuscript by a book doctor at a conference presents a chance to rethink your plot or your content—or even to hone your craft. A session with a proposal consultant who tells you your platform section needs strengthening offers the opportunity to rethink your pre-promotion activity level.

In case you think I am suggesting you become a Pollyanna, let me share some scientific data with you. In a report published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Michael F. Scheier, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, wrote that optimists tend to respond to disappointments, such as being rejected by a literary agent, by formulating a plan of action and asking other people for help and advice. On the other hand, pessimists more often react to the same event by trying to ignore it or assuming they can do nothing to change their results.

In a similar study, Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, found that pessimists tend to construe bad events, such as low book sales or being told a manuscript doesn’t fit a publisher’s needs, as the result of personal deficits that will plague them forever in every aspect of their personal and professional lives. Optimists see the same events as caused by mistakes they can remedy by making changes, once they discover what changes are necessary.

You will have many reasons for optimism as you move through the Author Training Process and in your career as an author, and this optimistic attitude will help you achieve more positive results.

Objectivity

To become a successful author, you need to see yourself and your work objectively, from a different perspective than your own. Specifically, you need to see through the lens used by publishing professionals, such as literary agents and acquisitions editors. Both view your book idea not only as a creative project but also as a business proposition. They view you as a potential business partner. Even if you don’t plan on seeking a traditional publisher for your book, you must learn to stand back and evaluate yourself and your work objectively from a publishing business perspective. Doing so becomes even more important if you plan to independently publish since you become the publisher of your own work.

The publishing industry is the book production and selling business; if you want to become an author, you must be willing to make this your business as well. You have to be willing to craft your work with an eye to the industry’s needs and standards, which are, more often than not, focused primarily on marketability and sales.

ATMcover 399 for webYou also must distance yourself from your idea. You must detach from it so you are willing to receive, hear, and act upon criticism—and so you can learn to evaluate your idea and offer constructive criticism of your own. And you must make the necessary changes without cringing as if you are cutting off fingers and toes. You must do this with excitement because you know you are making the end product more salable. In other words, you must act in your book’s best interest—even when it feels hard.

Ultimately, you must see your project from the perspective of consumers as well. Only when you do this can you pinpoint why they might pick up your book, carry it to the register and purchase it, and then tell their friends they must read it, too. That’s when you and your book become successful.

Tenacity

To become an author, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes for however long it takes to reach your goal. Determination, persistence, and perseverance carry you through to successful authorship, whether you are rewriting your manuscript, building author platform, submitting to the one hundredth agent, contacting the one thousandth reviewer, or writing the fiftieth blog post or press release about your book. You must have passion for your project and feel a sense of purpose. Every day you must show up eager to move forward, even if it is only by one small step or in spite of the challenges that have presented themselves.

You must love what you do. You must be in love with writing, being an author (or the prospect of becoming one), and your book. For you, authorship must not be about making money or selling books; writing books or this particular book must feel like a passion, a calling, a vocation, or a “soul” purpose. This will keep you doing what must be done to succeed every day.

What are some ways you have “WOOT”? We’d love to hear about some of the Author Attitudes that have made you into a successful writer!

0

Comments

  1. says

    Nine, you are an angel with boots on. This post simply kicks it!

    I love your direct approach and your depth in this brief run-down. A lot of what you say is the stuff author’s learn (pain, I say, pain…)over years. If you can knock it into our heads early, and it looks as if you can, you are an angel indeed.

    One quibble I have (more with others than with your mention of it above) is the emphasis some people put on improving the query and proposal for fiction. I know it’s important, but the truth is a fantastic proposal and a perfectly polished query letter… are unimportant if the book doesn’t work. It’s lipstick on a pig. Especially for fiction.

    I believe too many new authors spend way too much time, thought, and energy on making a book look good as a proposal rather than on making the book work better in the first place (as you suggest). I know your emphasis is definitely on the later and that’s terrific. It is. Also, I live in the world of fiction and I realize you are addressing authors of both fiction and non-fiction. I might be way off on the non-fiction stuff. Yup.

    I am also sure you have heard complaints from many agents who were (and continue to be) the victims of awesome query letters and exceptional proposals for books that do not hold up…because so many people online are focusing on crafting the perfect query. Crafting a good query letter is an easily taught skill (does it take more than a day?), while being really good at a query matters only if you get really good at writing a novel/book that fits an awesome query first. No?

    Personally, and as a novelist, I would only use a proposal coach to help me develop an outstanding proposal (and query letter… pitch) BEFORE I wrote the book and then pray that I could write the book that fits the proposal. Would this be the wrong thing to do? I think non-fiction might be different.

    0
    • says

      Randy,

      You are right on the money! I suggest writers create a business plan (book proposal) for their books — fiction and nonfiction — prior to writing a word. This ensures they create a marketable book. They need to evaluate if their idea is not only creative but unique (compared to existing titles) but necessary (readers want and need it and it fills a gap in the category).

      Writing a proposal also requires you to hone a pitch, which focuses your idea, and an overview, which is a lot like marketing copy. These can be crafted for use in a query letter as well.

      And yes, both of these documents take quite a while to write. But they are useful not only for landing agents but for writing a book that sells and for reading yourself and your book for the marketplace–no matter how you publish.

      0
  2. says

    Thank you for the thought provoking post, Nina. My author attitude has not developed YET- but I’m eager to read what others will say in regards to this subject.

    0
  3. says

    Nina, it’s very true that we have to be marketers first, and writers second. That sounds like “selling out,” but it’s actually the bedrock reality of being able to sell our writing. Thinking like a marketer first is what separates the huge commercial successes from the rest of us. This notion is reprehensible, or at least mildly offensive to the true artist, and what’s strange is that both are living in me – the marketer and the artist. Once those two get in sync it prove to be valuable to me eventually, don’t you think?

    0
    • says

      Mia,

      It shouldn’t be reprehensible. Art needs to sell for an artist to make a living. But none of us wants to be thought of as the a used-car–salesman type of person. That said, we want to have impact…we want to write books that meaningfully and positively impact our readers. To do that, we must write books that will get read–sell.

      A few books that are just well written end up selling well, but examine them. They have some sort of story that has value, inspires, is in some way marketable. And then there is the occasional book that just sells for seemingly no reason.

      So why not consider how to make that happen?

      If you want to make a living as a writer, you have to wear both a business hat and writer hat. Period.

      If you already think that way, great!

      0
  4. says

    Hi, Nina.

    Lemme see: W – we ARE going to do this, O – of course we are going to do this, O – on the path to know exactly what THIS needs, and T – too stubborn to quit. Check!

    Sometimes I wonder about myself – of what I started and what makes me want to finish (stubbornness says it all) – but when you want something more than everything else, you will make it happen.

    The next step: block the internet and get to work. It isn’t going to write itself. Check!

    Your kind of encouragement keeps people writing.

    Alicia

    0
  5. says

    Thank you, Nina,

    I cannot speak to author attitudes that have made me successful, but I can speak to the ones that are making me successful (there’s optimism and tenacity). Objectivity and willingness go hand-in-hand, I think: we work hard to hone our craft, but we must not become islands. Managers love congenial employees, and as writers we’re working for our publishers (readers are our customers, and our employers require customer satisfaction).

    Just because we’re practicing the advanced wizardry known as novel-writing doesn’t mean we’re above controls. In fact it’s all the more reason to be willing, objective, open. I’ve learned to approach writing this way and, with each passing day as I come back to my evolving project, I have utmost confidence (optimism) that, with maintained tenacity, I’m laying the stones of a happy career.

    0
  6. Bae Fox says

    Thank you for sharing, Nina. I certainly agree that all your suggestions would be immensely helpful for writers in any stage of development. For those who are, like me, early in the process and more fraught with self-doubt, I would caution against reading the list and thinking, well, that’s not me so I guess I’m doomed to fail. Truth is, sometimes you’ve got to fake it till you make it, and just forge onward. I’m not too optimistic, but I’m very determined, and I can’t help but think that optimism will come as I finish my first book, work with editors and cover designers and book formatters to make it the best it can be, and release it to the world–all while working on the next book in the series. Mine is a “feel the fear and do it anyway” approach.

    0
    • says

      Bae,

      Remember, this is an excerpt! I go on to explain that any one of these characteristics–or all of them–can be developed over time. And most of us are strong in one or another but not in all.

      Of course, this is a process. I call it the Author Training Process…The book explains this!

      And indeed, you do fake it until you make it, and that strategy convinces your subconscious brain that you are what you say you are–willing, optimistic, objective, tenacious…successful…a writer…an author.

      Fear is the largest inhibitor to success of any kind. It keeps us stuck in our tracks. Learning to move through it is a huge hurdle. In fact, we make ourselves afraid. It’s a mind game, and we must learn to not make ourselves afraid or take action anyway.

      So it sounds to me like your Author Attitude is coming along just fine.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      0
  7. says

    I agree with what you say about willingness to make your story the best it can be, that it involves incorporating critique from others. I’m passionate about my stories (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing them) and willing to do anything it takes to make them better, but the one thing I’d never compromise is vision. Vision is a bit of a vague concept, but I’d never want to change anything if it harms the story itself, and ignores the very reason I wrote this story, even if it would guarantee a six-figure advance with a major publisher. I value my own integrity more than I value business success.
    And as a reader, I value those books written with authenticity, not written because their ideas were highly marketable. They’re the novels that have something to offer, that have authenticity, the ones that stay with people, that have an impact and that are truly original. And funnily enough they often turn out to be successful as well.

    0
    • says

      Andrea,

      Of course, you must stay true to your vision and write your book with authenticity. There are ways to take in outside criticism or feedback, and to evaluate your book for marketability, and improve on your vision. It can be a very creative process and end up allowing you to strengthen your vision and impact more people.

      0
  8. says

    Willingness to change your book if necessary is important, but the key part there is if necessary. A lot of writers find proposed changes to their manuscripts hard to swallow not because of pride or laziness, but because we’ve all had well-meaning beta readers, fellow writers, and editors tell us to make changes that were completely unnecessary and, sometimes, downright arbitrary.

    Recently I saw a comment on this blog from someone whose acquaintance, a professional editor, always asks if a project can be rewritten in first person, out of the vague and questionable notion that it “creates intimacy.” I’ve had people tell me to delete all words ending in “-ly” because everyone says adverbs are evil. Once another writer told me to make my heroine sound prettier. The character was great and all that, but she would be even better as a buxom blonde.

    Arbitrary changes like these, applied without any foundation in logic or research, won’t magically make a manuscript more readable or marketable. It’s important to keep an open mind, but you also have to make sure the changes will actually improve the manuscript, and won’t just suck all the voice and originality out of it for no reason.

    0
  9. says

    Very true, Tamara. That’s why a second opinion, or third, is always a good idea. And trusting your intuition is important as well.

    0
  10. says

    Very good points for someone who wants to make a career out of their writing. However, I wouldn’t be able to write the kind of novel that I wouldn’t want to read myself, so my willingness and objectivity have their limits.

    Fortunately, there seem to be a lot of readers who like reading the same kind of novels that I do, so I’m hoping my optimism and tenacity will take up the slack!

    0
    • says

      Ruth,

      I would hope that you could be willing and objective to see how you might improve your novel in ways that would make it more enjoyable for you–and people like you–to read. I hear a bit of an assumption that any suggested changes will make it less so. That’s a belief system that makes it harder to succeed.

      0
  11. says

    I’ve been busy and reading only emails sent directly to me that required a response and shelving blog posts to look at later (or just trash, if I’m being honest). However, I stumbled upon this and am so glad I did.

    Love your WOOT philosophy! I think it’s what every writer needs. Especially the optimism and objectivity. Having a good attitude is sometimes the only thing that can get you to keep on, when everything else seems to not be going your way. And objectivity is important, too. Sometimes we love a character or story we shouldn’t. Taking criticism and viewing it objectively is always helpful. Great advice. Plan to tweet this post.

    0