For many of us, writing is our passion. We chug along writing book after book, convinced we’re following our dreams. Rarely do we stop to ask ourselves whether we’re on the right path. Michael La Ronn did just that, reinventing himself, and in this encore presentation of his cover feature piece from the Q3 2019 edition of The Indie Author, our member magazine, offers five lessons to help you reinvent the path to success.
Reinvent the Path to Success
This story begins with a trip to Las Vegas, when I attended the 2018 20Booksto50K Conference. I delivered a speech to 1,000 people about writing better and faster.
At dinner later, I was talking about my newest release to a bestselling author. I showed her the book cover. This cover was my baby and I was proud of it.
The author smiled and cocked her head. Her expression said, “It’s crap.”
I was not a newbie. I’ve written over forty books and built a successful career as an indie author. And this book cover was so much better than my earlier ones.
But in that moment, I felt like a beginner all over again as the bestseller (who made more in a month than I made in an entire year) respectfully educated me based on her experience.
I could have been embarrassed or ashamed, but I was grateful. I listened to every word and I asked a hundred questions. I realized that, despite my success so far, I still had a lot of work to do. And if I wanted to sell more books, I needed to try new things.
Sometimes You’re Too Close to Your Work
Trends change, and as an author you’ve got to stay in tune with that. I didn’t. I fell behind and produced a book I loved, but that felt dated. It took blunt advice from a more successful author to help me see that.
I decided at that moment to do something bold: what if I started my author career all over again, relearning what it was like to be a debut author? What if I could rekindle the magic of being a beginner all over again, and learn to see this industry again with fresh eyes?
Daring to Fail in Public
It wasn’t enough for me to start over. I wanted to use the platform I’d built to document the experience so that others could learn from it. On my YouTube channel, I announced a new project to the entire world. It scared the heck out of me.
I declared publicly that I would establish a new pen name, M.L. McKnight, dedicated to urban fantasy, making myself a debut author. Under my normal pen name, Michael La Ronn, I write a lot of different genres. I wanted to start again with one genre and one clear choice for readers so I could develop a platform faster and improve my sales.
I also declared that I’d learn how to “write to market” while also writing what I loved. I had no idea how I was going to do this, but that was part of the fun. And, because I’m really crazy, I declared that I would write my first novel in public so readers could see everything I was doing to write, edit, and promote the book.
I had no idea if any of this would work.
In fact, it could have been a complete disaster, in which case I would’ve invited the entire world to see exactly how I failed.
The novel I wrote was Shadow Deal, Book One in my Good Necromancer series. Readers who followed along told me that it was the best book I’ve written to date. Even though I started fresh, I brought all of my writing and publishing experience to the novel.
Did I succeed? It’s too early to know.
What I Learned
Lesson #1: Be open to your own blindspots. The longer you are an author, the more “set in your ways” you become. Avoid that at all costs.
Lesson #2: Dare to fail in public. Take risks. Even if you fail, the adrenaline rush will help you reconnect with your “why.” Also, people pay attention when you dare to fail in public, and they respect you for it.
Lesson #3: Take risks. You can’t sell books unless you’re willing to experiment and take chances. For me, that chance was inventing my career. If you plan on being in the publishing business for the long haul, you’ve got to do that every few years to stay relevant.
Lesson #4: Adapt. With the rise of technology, like artificial intelligence, blockchain, 3D printing, and other technology that will disrupt the publishing industry, you don’t want to be the author whose career falters because you didn’t adapt.
Lesson #5: Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You may not always succeed at it, but it will make you more self-aware. Awareness will always put you on the path to improving every area of your writing life, which will help you sell more books.
OVER TO YOU
When was the last time you were out of your comfort zone and learning something new? Have you ever jumped ship on a project and tried to reinvent the path to success? What was your experience?
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