Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Successful Author?

Do you have writing talent?

At conferences, I’m often asked by writers if they “have what it takes” to be a successful writer. I usually interpret that question as: “Do I have talent?” So in this flowchart, I try to answer that question. Click here to view it at full size.

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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17 Comments on "Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Successful Author?"

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[…] At conferences, I’m often asked by writers if they “have what it takes” to be a successful writer. I usually interpret that question as: “Do I have talent?” So in this flowchart, I try to answer that question.  […]

Paula Cappa

I agree that it takes more than just talent or a desire to write. Becoming a good writer with any amount of success is a lifetime of honing the craft and commitment to the art. I see one essential ingredient missing in the flow chart (if you don’t mind me saying) and that is “joy.” There must be enjoyment in the process of writing. Without that, the hard work becomes overwhelming and discouraging. Love of writing is the engine we all need.

Dale Phillips

So right, Jane- I’ve seen a number of writers who had talent, who aren’t working at it to any significant degree. It’s a shame that their lights will not shine for the world. But you need passion coupled with persistence and the ability to work hard for a long time. You can become a better storyteller over time- if you’re willing to work at it.

Marcy Mason McKay

In the 2.0 version, also consider a block that says for every path, “Shut up, sit down, and write.” :0

Ernie Zelinski
First, I disagree with the “hard work” part mentioned by Stephen King. This valuable advice that has served me well over the years. “It’s better to do a sub-par job on the right project than an excellent job on the wrong project.” — Robert J. Ringer Of course, the “right project” here refers to a “damn good book” that people actually want to read. Problem is, every author thinks that he or she has a great book but the reality is that fewer than 1 percent of authors have a really great book. This quotation applies: “Even the most careful… Read more »
Emily Wenstrom

Love it! Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

However there’s another element to being a SUCCESSFUL author (though I suppose the definition of success can be quite personal) that this doesn’t address: the marketing side. I’m not quite there yet myself, but from the mountains of information I’ve consumed from authors who have “made it to the other side,” success also requires a diligence and persistent attention to promotion and reader connections.

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[…] Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Successful Author? by @JaneFriedman […]

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[…] Ever wonder if you can make it as a writer? Jane Friedman answers the question: do you have what it takes to be a successful author? […]

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[…] I especially like the flow chart in this post by Jane Friedman. […]

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[…] Awesome post: Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Successful Author? […]

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