So, you want to know how to become a writer. Good. You’ve come to the right place. There are a lot of ways to do it — become a writer that is (meaning write for a living and not have to do anything else for money). But what’s going to probably be the most helpful to you is to get really explicit instructions from someone who has done it. I’ll try to keep it brief.
From my point of view, having done it, it’s absurdly easy. When I hadn’t found a way to get there, it was like a big impossible dream in the sky. It’s not an impossible dream. If you are literate and can type with more than just your index fingers, you can become a writer. In today’s day and age, you don’t have to even be good anymore. Just literate. I joked in THIS POST that a person can call themselves a writer if they have fingers that are strong enough to push the buttons on a keyboard. Well, that and you have to be patient and persistent, and that narrows the field down to just about 2% of the population.
Anyway, here goes my attempt at step by step instructions for how to become a full-time, well-paid, writer. This is not the only path. But this route or something close to it will get you there if you follow through on it…
- Get inspired and deeply interested in something. This is the most important thing. You’re not going to research and think and ponder about a subject long enough to have something more interesting to say about it than Joe Schmo if you don’t really dig deep into some specialized subject matter. Rocks, sex, solar energy, raising chickens, vegan recipes, fart acoustics… Anything will work. Dig deep and be honest with yourself. What would you do all day if you had to do nothing? If you were a millionaire what would you do? What section do you gravitate towards in the book store (remember those?)? What keeps you up late at night if you think about it right as your head hits your pillow? What unique information or insights has your life experience brought to you that others don’t know about? Most importantly, what would you write about for free, just to share it with others and/or get it out of your skull? That’s the big question because, starting out, you will be doing it for free and might need to do it for free for a year or longer before you start to pick up an audience.
- Drop your nets. Create a website (WordPress is good, they have free templates you can use to get started, and it’s about as easy to figure out as email or Facebook when it comes to writing some basic posts so just do it), a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account. Also get started with a service like Aweber or Mail Chimp to try to build some kind of subscription base on your website. I call this “dropping your nets” because you want to have nets in the water when you come across some fish. Social media, subscriber lists, and a website capture potentially interested readers and give them repeated exposure to you.
- Write like crazy. Both quality and quantity is important. I’ve written over 1,000 pages a year since 2008. I say go with quantity and the quality will come over time. Don’t psyche yourself out by being overly anal and a perfectionist about your writing or you simply won’t do enough of it to really get good at it, get clear on how you feel about what you are writing about, and test how people respond to your work. Write all these posts on your website, multiple times weekly minimum, and share it diligently through your social media channels. You’ll need to do this obsessively for at least a year before even thinking about making any money, and several years before you really make it big enough to quit your day job. You may wonder how you will have time for this while working 40 hours a week, but trust me, if you are really inspired about becoming a writer and passionate about what you are immersing yourself in, you’ll find writing in your spare time a heck of a lot more fulfilling than what you are currently doing in your spare time (watching tv, drinking, trying to get someone to touch your genitals, etc.).
- Game the social networks. I hate ’em too, but they are your friend. They can also get you in touch with much more successful people in your field or genre. Facebook is a great place to make meaningful connections with people who can promote you to audiences a dozen times larger than your own. Really spend some quality time there, and have fun, but productive fun only with people in your field. Get in arguments, make people laugh, ask sincere questions, leave tons of interesting posts and funny pictures, and practice the art of getting noticed without being branded a “troll.” Also try to leave as many comments on other, related sites with links back to your own site as possible. Many sites allow you to leave your website address and your name hyperlinks to your site, which is great. Links back to your site from related sites are huge for helping to boost your rankings in Google. But make sure they are genuine, interactive comments or you’ll just get blocked from commenting. Doing all these things will expose you to new people and hopefully get you noticed enough to get invited to do some guest articles or interviews.
- Write some books and self-publish them. A “book” is no longer defined as a 700-pager like Harry Potter and the Seven Dwarfs or whatever that’s called. The books of the future are going to be short, sweet, and inexpensive. It makes much more sense as a self-published author and a relatively novice writer to write four 20,000-word books than one 80,000-word book. It’s easier to manage, keep clean and sharp, and allows you to sell multiple titles, undercut the competition’s price, and keep coming out with “fresh product” for your hatchling audience. Self-publishing a book is very easy and inexpensive. For an average of about $1,200 you can get a 20,000-word manuscript edited, formatted for Kindle/Nook, turned into a print book (they are now printed one at a time and mailed out without you ever touching them), narrated as an audiobook, and listed at dozens of retailers right here at Archangel Ink. You can also sell it on your own website if you choose. If you followed steps 1-4 properly you’ll easily make $5,000-$10,000 per year, per book, and already be close to making a livable income. Perhaps the best example I can think of steps 1-5 executed to perfection is Sol and Kurtis’s www.examine.com. Those guys came out of nowhere, researched and wrote their asses off for two years, built a great audience and tons of traffic with good articles and excellent social networking skills, then released a book and yanked in, from what I hear, about a quarter mil in the first couple of months.
- Pimp your blog. Spend the first $2,000 you make getting your website/blog professionally designed, which will easily pay itself off in the long run.
- Monetize Your Blog. If you’ve executed steps 1-6 to perfection, then you’ve got a good audience that grows every month, your website and social networks are looking sharp and growing, you are selling some books, and basically on your way. You could continue to do this. I have chosen, with my website 180DegreeHealth, deliberately NOT to monetize if fully. But you probably shouldn’t be a prude like me and add a lot of extra earnings to your already decent book sales. To learn how to monetize your blog, read my article How to Make Money Blogging. You can make insane money blogging depending on how big your audience is, how much they trust you, and what you are writing about.
Good luck Grisham! If you have any questions or need some help getting your books published, my partner Rob and I are more than happy to help. Watch our welcome video HERE and fill out the Contact Us form and we’ll be in touch.
Matt Stone is a successful self-published author of more than 15 books and co-founder of Archangel Ink. When he’s not writing, he spends most of his time helping independent authors distribute, market, and successfully sell their books.