Can You Compete with the Author Pros? (Includes Quiz)

Guest Post by Irene Watson

The everyday person often thinks an author is a celebrity who lives a glamorous life. The truth is that being an author is an extremely difficult job, while writing the book is the easy part. Before would-be authors publish their books, they should assess whether they have all the qualifications needed, including stamina, patience, determination, and a little craziness, to become successful authors.

Being an author is no job for wimps. It takes a lot more than glamorously writing books in Paris cafes surrounded by admirers. It takes long solitary hours of writing—what John Steinbeck called “the loneliest job in the world.” And it takes a willingness to promote your book, no matter what the cost.

Authors have to deal with the public—not just admiring fans, but indifferent readers, and those who want to string them up by a rope when a typo is found in a book. Authors have to work long hours both writing and marketing, often with little reward. And authors have to sacrifice their free time and sometimes make difficult decisions such as using that money saved for a new car instead to print the next book. And yes, when someone tells you how he loves your book, it can be all worthwhile, but a lot of work is required before you may receive that compliment.

Before you publish that book, you may want to find out whether you have what it takes to be a successful author. It’s a lot like being Superwoman or Hercules while having the patience of Job. Find out whether you have what it takes by taking this short quiz:

The Successful Author Quiz:

  • You are invited to speak at an event on Saturday that is a three-hour drive from home, both ways, for which you will not get paid and there is no guarantee you’ll sell any books. Do you:
  1. Instantly say, “Yes!” and feel elated that someone wants to hear you speak. (2 pts)
  2. Tell the event planner you can’t come unless you are paid for the mileage. (1 pt)
  3. Say, “No, sorry. Saturday is family time.” (0 pts) 
  • A reader points out to you the typo on p. 38 of your book. Do you:
  1. Realize no one is perfect, but fix it for the next printing. (2 pts)
  2. Tell the person, “I’d like to see you do better.” (1 pt)
  3. Go home and cry. (0 pts)
  • The local bookstore wants 60 copies of your book delivered before it closes in two hours, all autographed, and they want a 40% discount payable on consignment (after the books sell). Do you:
  1. Say, “No problem,” drop everything else, print up an invoice, sign those books, load your car, and make a delivery within the hour. (2 pts)
  2. Say, “Sorry. I can’t make it today but I’ll be there tomorrow, and my price discount is 30% and I need to be paid up front.” (1 pt)
  3. Reply, “Are you crazy? Do you realize how much work that is and how heavy those books are—I’ll bring you five and when you sell those, then I’ll bring you more.” (0 pts)
  • You are inundated with requests from people who say they are also writing a book and want to meet you for lunch. Do you respond by:
  1. Saying, “I’m sorry but I don’t like to talk about my writing or share my publishing secrets—and it cuts into my writing time.” (0 pts)
  2. Give out free information in the hopes other people will be interested in reading your book even though they are actually only interested in their own. (1 pt)
  3. Refer people to a local publishing or writing group where they can learn everything necessary and which you belong to, while politely explaining you’re just too busy right now to meet. (2 pts)
  • You are invited to an event where the event planner assures you you’ll sell 100 books and insists you bring that many with you. Do you:
  1. Refuse to come. (0 pts)
  2. Bring only one box of 20 books with you because you know you’ll never sell 100 (1pt).
  3. Buy a dolly to reduce how many trips you need to make to carry that many books back and forth from the car and hope for the best. (2 pts).
  • You are at an event where a customer complains that your books are too expensive. Do you:
  1. Say, “Sorry, ma’am. It’s not my fault you’re poverty-stricken.” (0 pts)
  2. Patiently explain about the costs of printing and profit margins on books. (1pt)
  3. Tell her you’ll make her a deal and if she buys two books, you’ll give her a free one. (2 pts)
  • You’ve successfully sold over a thousand copies of your self-published book and are invited to a local event where an author newly published by a small press is also appearing. This author tells you if you are interested in becoming a “real” author, she can hook you up with her agent so you can sell more books and get royalties. Do you:
  1. Jump at the chance to become a “real author,” kiss her butt, and contact her agent. (0 pts)
  2. Explain that you are a real author and that you make more money off of self-publishing your books than you would traditionally publishing them. (1pt)
  3. Thank the pompous author for the offer and avoid her in the future. (2pts)
  • You are asked to speak to a group of schoolchildren about being an author even though you have not written a children’s book. Do you:
  1. Say, “No, I’m not a children’s author.” (0 pts)
  2. Show up and give your usual talk about writing and put the children to sleep. (1 pt)
  3. Spend hours planning and thinking up ways to engage the children in writing activities and entertain them so they are interested, then come home exhausted but hoping you made a small difference in the children’s education. (2 pts)
  • You have written a historical novel set in your hometown. A reader asks you which house the fictional people in your novel lived in. Do you:
  1. Say, “What are you stupid that you don’t know the difference between fiction and non-fiction?” (0 pts)
  2. Explain that the characters are fictional but the fictional house is based on a real house in town. (1 pt)
  3. Take it as a compliment that your characters seem like real people to your readers. (2 pts)
  • You are inundated with requests from other authors to read and edit their books. Do you:
  1. Say, “Sorry. I have a day job and like to write my own books in the evening. I don’t have time.” (0 pts)
  2. Form a writing group with the few authors you think are serious so you can exchange manuscripts and give each other feedback. (1 pt)
  3. Agree to help in exchange for payment and spend your evenings working on other people’s books until you have enough clients to leave your day job and make it your full-time business to be an author expert and help others, thereby selling more of your own books as well. (2 pts)


18-20 points: Congratulations! You have the makings of the next Stephen King, Danielle Steel, or John Grisham! I’ll see you on the New York Times Bestseller list…maybe. Well, at least you should make a profit someday.

10-17 points: You might become fairly successful, if you consider success as selling 500-5,000 books over your lifetime. Keep at it.

10-0 points: Keep your day job. There are real authors out there.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find  reviews  of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity  and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.


Posted on January 6, 2012, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Loved this article! Informative and funny as well. Loved the "sorry ma'am that you're poverty stricken"…lol. Depending on their attitude sometimes I do think that one but I don't say it I just default to let's make a deal mode.

  2. Very insightful, Irene…I nodded my head in agreement at most situations, chuckled at others, and teared up at a few. You've captured the writing life! PLUS, there are the social and family aspects to consider. Do I totally withdraw from church, friend, family, etc., contact to finish a project (writing, marketing or research), or is going to that child's school event more important? Having experienced almot every situation you've described, I can only say there is a spark in most writers that keep us moving forward….I love it!

  3. Hey, a quiz I aced. Great observations, Irene. I will hold you to your promise that I make a profit someday. Thanks.

  4. Great article!I liked it all, but particularly the one where the reader was confused about fiction vs nonfiction. I once had a girl tell me she liked a trilogy I wrote because all anyone ever published were fantasy books, and she liked to read "real" books. The funny thing is that my trilogy is about traveling through dreams to another world!Thanks again!

  5. Great article Irene!I can relate to your comment about writers having to be a little crazy!Happy writing, publishing and marketing…Dixie

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