Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author

Image via segagman Flikr Creative Commons

Image via segagman Flikr Creative Commons

Yesterday, one of our WANA International instructors, Amy Shojai, wrote about the importance of reinvention, and I strongly recommend her class this Saturday (which is recorded if you can’t make the time). Use code: OWFI for $25 off. As authors, we are in a new paradigm that changes faster than we can keep up with it, thus Apple seemed to be a natural segue into the topic of reinvention and excellence.

Yes, Steve Jobs was known as a lot of things, including a tyrant and egomaniac. Yet, no matter how we feel about the man, Jobs remains the poster child for reinvention, and I found some quotes that make great lessons for all of us writers.

Granted, I was inspired by another blog. Last month, I ran across a fantastic post by Tiffany Reisz Wisdom for Writers from Steve Jobs which I strongly recommend you read as well.

Tip #1—Dare to Be Different

One of the major reasons a lot of other computer companies failed is that they tried to take on Microsoft, by being just like Microsoft. Instead of being brave enough to be different, they were imitators.

Imitators are not interesting.

In a world that has an increasingly shorter attention span, we must stand apart from the crowd. As writers, we are artists thus we have the power to create art in our work, not just some tired copy of something else. Be different. Be excellent. Put in that extra effort to stand apart from everything else.

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”~Steve Jobs

Lack of flexibility is one of the current weaknesses in the traditional publishing paradigm. Because this is a business with a lot of overhead (beholden to shareholders), frequently, publishers will look to books they believe they can sell, which is code for “something like the last big thing that sold.” This doesn’t mean these publishers are putting out bad books, but it does mean that their business model limits the boundaries of creativity and innovation.

For those of you who decide to take a non-traditional route, you have more freedom and flexibility to be daring. Daring is exactly what we need to be to stand apart, versus being just another brick in the wall.

Ask yourself, Why me? Why my book? Why would anyone choose my book over another? And if it’s just because of price, prizes or freebies? TRY HARDER.

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 10.03.48 AM

One of my all-time favorite Demotivationals.

Tip #2—Dare to Be Excellent

Learn the craft. Read. Learn this as an art form. If you choose to self-publish, find beta readers who can give honest feedback and let you know if your book is ready. One of the biggest mistakes self-published authors make is that they publish too soon. Invest in good editing and a knockout cover. If you blog (and I recommend you do) be excellent. This is a sample of your voice, of you. In a world of cheap Taiwanese imitations, people long for excellence.

When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through. ~Steve Jobs

Ask yourself, Have I done all I can to make this work as good as it can be?

Tip #3—Keep it Simple

New writers often try to reinvent plot as we know it. Three-act structure works. It’s worked for thousands of years. The greatest stories of all time can be summed up in a sentence. Simplicity leads to complexity, where as complicated leads to confusion. Great stories are very basic. There are no new plots. I could hand ten writers a great idea for a story and we’d end up with ten totally different novels. It is all in execution.

Same with social media. WANA methods are simple. Be kind. Be focused. Be consistent. Be authentic. Add value. Be part of a community. Serve others first. That’s it. And yes, I have written a new book, but everything I teach can be summed up in those seven sentences. Algorithms and fancy marketing plans can quickly overrun the most important part of what we do—write books/create art.

That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. ~Steve Jobs

Ask yourself, Could I tell what my book is about in less than three sentences?

Okay, now make it ONE.

Tip #4—Love What You Do

Writers have more opportunity to succeed than ever before. For the first time, we are seeing novelists make six and seven figures. But, if you look at all the successful authors (traditional and non-traditional), they work their tails off. And, the funny thing is, it rarely feels like work. Why? To really do well in this business we have to LOVE IT.

Yet, there is a hard truth about love.

Love is not all kitten hugs and rainbow kisses. Love is work. Love has good days and bad days. Love requires sacrifice. It requires boundaries. It requires prioritization. It demands toughness and tenderness all in the same space. Whether it is our marriage, our family, our kids or our craft, love is not all a glittery unicorn hug.

I speak at a lot of conferences, and I generally can tell the writers who will succeed versus the ones who won’t. One type of writer wants to make hard cash. He loves money more than craft. He attends all the social media classes and marketing classes that promise to maximize his book sales. Sales, sales, charts, algorithms, outsourcing, programs! Yay!

The other writer? She believes writing is floating around with the muse being inspired all day. She is in love with a romantic vision of being a writer…not the craft or business of writing. She doesn’t need social media. “A good book alone will sell itself.”

Uh huh.

Take a gut check and make sure you love writing. If we seek to do this writing thing professionally, then there is a lot of changing diapers writing, staying up cleaning puke out of the carpet revisions, taking the kid to school every day blogging, toy box explosions social media.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. ~Steve Jobs

Ask yourself, Am I willing to do the unfun stuff, too? 

Tip #5—Embrace Failure

We didn’t learn to ride bikes by hopping on one day and pedaling away perfectly. Most of us fell…a lot. We all had our fair share of skinned knees and elbows before we looked like we knew what we were doing. Writing is the same.

If you aren’t failing then you aren’t doing anything interesting. Failure teaches us more than success ever will. Our greatest successes often will be birthed from the ashes of many doomed attempts.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. ~Steve Jobs

Ask yourself, Am I open to learning? Do I view failure as a tombstone or a stepping stone? 

What are your thoughts? What struggles have you faced in the new paradigm? Have you had to learn to set boundaries? How did you do it? What are some of the tips and tricks you’d like to share?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of May, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of May I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


10 pings

Skip to comment form

    • SweetSong on May 23, 2013 at 10:34 am
    • Reply

    I’m not sure I’d like a glittery unicorn hug. Glitter gets EVERYWHERE.

    1. And this is bad? 😀 It is…GLITTER.

      1. I knew their was more to it! After several weeks of pondering and trying to overcome my apprehension and fear, it’s time to sit down and put into practice the five tips. Thanks for the stepping stones!

    2. So do unicorns…

  1. This was interesting – I read it to the end.

    1. Always a positive when writing anything, LOL. 😀 Thanks!

  2. I have to admit that I would rather be a pirate, too. Lots to ponder with this post.

  3. With tip number four, I’d say writing is a lot like a relationship. The more you love it, the more you’re going to put into it. The tough times is just a speed bump you want o get over so you can get back to the good parts. The draw of the happy times to come is the Pipe Piper.

    Great tips. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  4. I love “Embrace Failure”. That is definitely the quote I’m putting on my computer this morning! I learn so much from failing, from rejections, from criticism. And I fail a lot more than I’m successful, so while I celebrate every little success, learning from and accepting my failures is just as important. Thank you for that, Kristen!

  5. As always, Kristen, an excellent post. Now I will go back and read Steve’s article.

  6. Thank you. I needed this today.

  7. Just got bitch-slapped by an agent I thought loved me. Ouch. Thanks for the pep talk!

  8. The 2 writers at the conference, you even got the pronouns right. That’s my hubby and I. lol But now I’m willing to get in the unfun stuff too. *deep breath*

    1. Um, *hubby and me.* Sorry.

  9. I liked what you said about being passionate and how love is not always perfect. I could relate to the toy box crossed out being a mom writer. – Rebecca


  10. Spot on, Kristen, as usual! I especially like the last, embrace failure. Steve Jobs certainly did and like the proverbial phoenix, rose from the ashes to take on Apple a second time and lift it even higher. But how many of us are Steve Jobs? Okay, that’s a question I shouldn’t ask (not even of myself…I know the answer, I’m not Steve Jobs, LOL!)

    Still, you’re perfectly right, one needs to be ready to embrace failure and try and try again. Never give up! Thanks for reminding us and, uh, let me get back to my serial novel, Part Three is due next month and it still needs writing!!!

    1. We don’t need to be Steve Jobs, we need to be the most EXCELLENT US ;). Doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others, though.

  11. Excellent post, Kristen. Thank you.

  12. Liked the post, especially the love. Not sure that simple is better…dare to be not simple lol!

    1. Love is hard, but simple. It’s the surefire ingredient for success in ALL things :D.

      1. I couldn’t agree more!

  13. Every time I read your blog I leave feeling inspired to try a little harder than what I think my “best” really is. Today, I will dare to be excellent. And do the hard work that this love of mine requires. Thank you! xo

    • Anne Marie on May 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm
    • Reply

    I think getting hugged by a unicorn might actually hurt a lot, but I LOVED the post!

  14. Great post! You’ve inspired me to keep on writing! 🙂

  15. Very true

  16. Reblogged this on Cynthia Stacey and commented:
    Dare to be different and embrace failure! Awesome article by Kristen Lamb.

  17. Awesome article Kristen. Dare to be different and embrace failure! My new Motto! I reblogged your article.

  18. <3 post as usual!

  19. On writing and social media: Be kind. Be focused. Be consistent. Be authentic. Add value. Be part of a community. Serve others first.
    — Steve Jobs

    Great quote! Thanks.

    1. That part was me :D. OUCH! I got a cramp patting myself on the back!!!!

  20. I couldn’t agree with you more that you need to keep it simple. In fact, when I come across an “expert” who gets too complex in his writing, I doubt his judgement. If you can’t make a concept simple, you’re showing that you don’t understand it very well.

  21. Great blog!

  22. This post is pure gold. I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot. I will share it on my blog roll!

  23. Reblogged this on kristin nador writes anywhere and commented:
    Another excellent post from author Kristen Lamb about getting a success mindset on your writing journey.

  24. Great advice. Thank you, Kristen!

  25. Honestly, Kristen, it isn’t so much WHAT you say, it’s how you say it. I “learned” all of these things about writing back in college, but never have I heard them put forth with such intensity. Thanks again for a great post.

    BTW, one of the most inspiring (but sad) things I ever heard was the story of John Kennedy Toole. Had he stuck around just a bit longer, he might have found that one person who finally championed his work. And lived to receive that Pulitzer personally.

    Yep, I reposted at my blog!

  26. Yes, you should love what you do, even the least fun parts. At different points in my life I have dug ditches and washed dishes and a whole lot of other things that were nowhere close to a fraction of the fun I have on my worst day of writing.

  27. Thanks for this post! It really made me ponder what it means to write, and I’ve been needing that. 🙂

  28. Excellent. Shared on FB.

  29. Hi Kristen,
    This was on target–thanks. I wrote a similar post, although it was specific to embracing obscurity. To those frustrated or straying from the reason–the passion–for writing, I offered a breath of levity. It solved nothing, but some folks got a chuckle out of it:

    Take care,
    LC Cooper

    • Rochelle on May 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm
    • Reply

    I hardly ever comment on any blog, but the chance at a critique has appeal. 🙂

  30. “Have I done all I can to make this work as good as it can be?” is one of my favourite questions. It keeps me focused while reading comments from my beta readers and my editor. It pushes me further to make sure my cover art is doing its job too. I think it’s a very important for self-publishers to keep this question in mind. 🙂

  31. I don’t always comment (I’m a slave to Feedly), but clicked over to tell you this is one of my faves!

    1. Thank you, Heather!

  32. Like others, I think that ’embrace failure’ is a particularly powerful point. If I do something write, I demonstrate what I already know. If I do something wrong, and work out how to do it better, than I learn something new.

    • Jenn on May 24, 2013 at 9:21 am
    • Reply

    Love this! I think #1 is the most important. People have a tendency to fear what hasn’t been done before, but being truly original gets you noticed.

  33. This is essential advice for any writer whatever the experience. I’ve been writing for over twenty years so I can relate to every one of your tips. Learning to write is such a long process and publishing right now is possibly the most exciting and fluid it has ever been (and I’m not talking about the big publishing houses here). Who knows what will happen in the future? I’ll certainly be reading your blog until we find out. A posthumous thanks to Steve Jobs, and thanks to you Kristen for bringing it all together.

  34. Reblogueó esto en absoluteureay comentado:
    5 Tips para Ser un Autor Exitoso: Steve Jobs

    • jenna on May 26, 2013 at 1:57 am
    • Reply

    Your blog was “shared” to me and I would say it was more “gifted” my direction. You affirmed I am in this writing game for all the “write” reasons. Thank you for your time, energy and words. Hoping I win your critique.

    • Diana Stevan on May 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm
    • Reply

    Love this post. You’ve pointed out some valuables truths of what it takes to be a successful writer. Thanks.

  35. I love the idea of the Steve Jobs lists of ways to be a better writer, but having read his biography I know that what we learn from him may be applied to many facets of life including being a writer.

    • Julie Duke on May 29, 2013 at 5:24 am
    • Reply

    All excellent tips! And right too! I’m practising putting my book into three sentences and then I will condense it into one. That will be my motivational reminder. Many thanks.

  36. Excellent advice, as usual. It is always hard to argue with success and Jobs was successful in spades.

  37. Great post as always.
    I have to admit I disagree with one thing you wrote and I have seen this sentiment before. It is about blogging, and the suggestion that writers “should blog.”
    I don’t agree. If you enjoy blogging regularly and feel you have something useful to say, then by all means you should. But that doesn’t hold true for every writer. It’s like when you see these articles about the “10 Rules for Fiction Writers” and they survey published writers and post their response. You’ll see things that start with “You must…” “You must NOT…” “You should NEVER…” “You should ALWAYS…”
    Then I go and read a classic novel and it has adjectives or adverbs or exclamation points or metaphors, etc., etc., etc.
    What works for one writer doesn’t work for all. I’m thankful that you blog and I read yours all the time, I just don’t think it is a must for all writers. I DO think that all writers should be writing and reading all the time.

  1. […] came across this quote while reading Kristen Lamb’s Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author, and it really got me thinking about self-publishing. But first, a thought about […]

  2. […] “Smash the Tomatoes: Dealing with Bad Reviews.” Kristen Lamb, WANA guru, writes about Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author in her may 23, 2013 post. Here’s the article that Kristen refers to in her post. […]

  3. […] Steve Jobs and 5 Tips For Being A Successful Author from Kristen Lamb. […]

  4. […] Lamb lays out 5 Steve-Jobs-inspired tips for being a successful author, while Sneed Collard reminds us that we are not required to sign bad […]

  5. […] Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author ( […]

  6. […] Image via segagman Flikr Creative Commons Yesterday, one of our WANA International instructors, Amy Shojai, wrote about the importance of reinvention, and I strongly recommend her class this Saturday (which is recorded if you can’t make the…  […]

  7. […] Lamb makes use of “Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author“, and I thought it was very inspirational. I love his comment on piracy and […]

  8. […] the shelves and one sure way to make our name memorable.  Kristen Lamb has a great blog post on Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author which I highly […]

  9. […] came across this quote while reading Kristen Lamb’s Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author, and it really got me thinking about self-publishing. But first, a thought about […]

  10. […] Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author […]

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.