The Fast Track to Success for Writers

There are many aspects to being a writer, depending on what exactly you are doing. A common thread of events that happens with many writers looks like this: come up with an idea, write a book about it, get speaking engagements from the book, create another product based on the book.

Even though this is the common perception of the order of things, and the way many people go about it, it’s really the long way around the track to becoming a successful (and profitable) writer. Let’s look at this from a different perspective and you’ll see how you can start earning an income on your idea before you ever write about it.

Experience Comes from Practice

Let’s say that you are an expert in social media, or you have an idea about it that is unique and worth sharing (or at least making money from). There are multiple ways to turn your idea or expertise into cash flow. Writing a book is obvious, but you could also hold workshops, teach classes, create a system to sell, or about a dozen other things that would be both fun and profitable.

Everyone thinks that the first step is writing the book. After all, if you’ve published a book on the subject then you automatically have some clout, right? Well, maybe. Except that since the self-publishing revolution came about, there seem to be more authors than there are people, and millions of new books are published practically every month.

I’m not trying to dissuade you from writing your book, but if you are looking for money you may be disappointed with your chances in that area. Unless of course you’ve already established yourself a bit in the field.

The Big Ticket Item

Here’s a better plan, and it works if you work it. Start with something you will make more money at, then use the book as a prop later. It sounds backwards, and it may sound implausible at first, but it works.

For example, create a DVD set teaching your ideas, then find somewhere that you can teach classes on the subject. There are opportunities, you just have to look for them. You come up with a curriculum, drum up some guinea pigs, and charge a decent fee (say $50-100 per person). Then you can let them know about your DVD sets that will teach them more, and sell them (for even more than you charged for the class). You can also seek out places to speak on your subject. Even if you don’t get paid for speaking, you can let people know that you know what you are talking about and create a name for yourself.

Here’s the trick: you have to be good at what you are doing. Really good. Great, as a matter of fact. If you balk here and don’t think you are great at what you want to convey, what makes you think that anyone would want to buy your book?

Be Creative, Be Confident

You’ll need to be creative when you are coming up with the item you want to sell. It doesn’t have to be a DVD set, it could be a package with worksheets and a manual, an online course, almost anything you can think of.

Another big secret is that if you charge less, you’ll sell less. If you are trying to sell a video course for $20, people will think it’s worth $20, and what good could that possibly be? A $200 course automatically sounds like something that is more worthy of someone’s time, before anything else is even known about it. The thing is, if you do a great job and really deliver value in your product, you’ll see the sales pick up quickly.

There are numerous advantages to doing things in this “backwards” order. First, you’ll get more experience and iron out the wrinkles in your presentation or ideas before it goes to the masses. Small classes give you great opportunities to tweak things, and you can even include the opportunity for feedback and ideas as a perk for the participants.

Second, you’ll be able to get some income right away. If you haven’t already, check out some statistics on book sales (especially self-published books). You’ll find that the revenues are much harder to come by for most people. Think about this: if you sell your book for $10, after whatever costs and commissions you have to give up you might be making $5, if you are lucky. If you book one class of ten people at $50 each, that’s $500 for a day, and that’s thinking very small and conservatively. That also doesn’t include selling your product there.

Third, you’ll establish a reputation and experience that will help you when you do write your book, and which can give you a much better chance of selling copies right away.

Here’s the bottom line: if you have knowledge or a skill that people would want to learn about, don’t sit behind a keyboard for two years trying to write the perfect book and figure out how to market it. Come up with a product that will demonstrate your knowledge and that you can sell for a good profit, and get out there in front of people. You can always write your book as you go.


Wally Peterson is a freelance writer and aspiring beach bum with a face made for blogging. He lives 60 seconds from the sand (walking time) on the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.


  1. Naomi Garnice on the 1st July

    Great article, Wally. These are some really important ideas! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Hugh Tyzack on the 4th July

    Interesting ideas all round, especially in the already very competitive market, as everyone seems to be trying to get into it right now! The thing with the pricing could possibly be a bit trickier than that I would say though!

    • Wally Peterson on the 19th July

      Hey Hugh, thanks for the comment. It’s true that the pricing aspect has more nuances than could be fit in this short article. Interestingly though, research has shown that a rock-bottom price on a product like some of those I listed usually gets passed over as being inferior based on the price alone. A higher price psychologically tells people that there is more value in it before any other considerations are even taken into account. It’s counterintuitive to what most of us would assume, but it works!

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