Successful published authors often model their success on the successes of other authors. They don’t they don’t model to copy or plagiarize, they model so they can understand the ideas and techniques that are working for other authors–or has worked in the past–so they can adapt the lessons to their own current situation.
Why reinvent the wheel, when the essentials are waiting to be reused?
Authors are not alone
Modeling is common throughout all creative endeavors. Musical composers, like Mozart, modeled and built on the music of their predecessors. Each generation of painters learns from its predecessors and builds on their accomplishments.
Authors can profitably model other authors at every stage of the Planning, Writing, Promoting, and Profiting process.
Step 1: Planning stage
Research and analysis play an important modeling role during the planning stage.
A good starting point is to spend time at online book retailers like Amazon.com, analyzing the characteristics of top selling books in your field.
Seek to identify the underlying elements that contributed to their success. Analyze elements like:
- Title. What were the title elements that contributed to the book’s success? Was it the title’s promise, the alliteration (or sound), of the words, or the engaging, curiosity-building, approach the author took?
- Position. How did the successful authors position their books relative to others that were available at the of publication? What did they do to differentiate their book? Did they adopt a contrarian tone, slant their book towards a specific market segment, or write to a broader, or more more sophisticated, readers?
- Style. What elements of the author’s writing style–as differentiated from information or message–contributed to the book’s success? Does the author use a “voice,” or personality, that is distinctly different from the other books? Does the the author show more reader empathy, or is his style more businsslike and detached?
One way to do this is to study the sample book proposals in Jeff Herman’s Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why, 2nd Edition. This book provides a guided tour of successful book proposals.
Another, similar, resource is BOOK PROPOSALS THAT WORKED! Real Book Proposals That Landed $10K – $100K Publishing Contracts by Angela J. Hoy.
Step 2: Writing stage
There are two ways authors can profitably study successful authors during the writing stage.
- Study what they wrote. One approach is to carefully analyze the the writing style found in the books written by the acclaimed authors. Study their writing in terms of sentence and paragraph length, their use of story, and how they organized the contents of their book and the techniques they used to engage and maintain their reader’s interest.
- Pay attention when authors write or speak about writing. Many of the top authors and writing coaches in the country have written about the act of reading, and most have been interviewed. Their views on the writing process in books like Stephen King’s On Writing, Jack Hart’s A Writing Coach, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and the forthcoming Essential Don Murray all share valuable “first person” writing techniques and strategies.
Step 3: Promoting stage
- Author marketing. The transparency of the Internet, and the fact that just about every author has a serious online presence, means it is easier today to know how competing authors are marketing their books. By spending time at their websites and reading their blogs, you can gain ideas for topics and formats for your own online marketing.
- Online market research. When researching competing books at websites like Amazon.com, you can find out what other books are often purchased along with the book you’re analyzing, as well as find out which titles are ultimately purchased by visitors to a book’s catalog page. Amazon.com’s “Related Books” feature can help you locate competing books you might now be aware of.
- Reader Reviews and tags. By studying the Reader Reviews that can be added to each book’s catalog descriptions, you can gain a new, “real world” perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of each book, helping you better focus your own book. In addition, the Tags readers associate with each title can help you do a better job of identifying the best keywords to use for for your book’s search engine optimization and pay-per-click search engine marketing
Step 4: Profiting stage
Finally, online research, or success modeling, can help you identify new ideas for creating profitable back-end products and services for yourself.
- Products. Studying the e-books, special reports, CDs, and DVDs displayed in the “Stores” sections of other authors in your field will likely spark ideas for creating your own. By tracking what various authors are charging for these products, you can gain an idea of the profit potential these products can offr you.
- Speaking and training. By monitoring the “Speaking” pages, you can get an idea of the types of speaking and training opportunities available in your field. Many authors use these pages to describe their fee structure and terms, which can help you price yourself in the field. The lists of clients and testimonials will also help you identify new categories of prospects for you to approach.
Turning ideas into action
Modeling the success of other authors requires a multi-step, systematic approach involving:
- Identify. First, you have to identify successful authors in your field, then, you must identify the information you want to gain.
- Organize. Second, you have to organize and simplify the results of your research.
- Adapt. Few ideas can be simply applied, as is. In most cases, you’ll have to figure out how to adapt and apply the results of your research to your specific circumstances and goals.
- Act. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information your research turns up. Best results occur when you analyze the potential risks and rewards of the various ideas you’ve identified, and you create an action plan for applying them in order of importance and available resources.
Are you a “modeler?”
Most important, how comfortable are you with the idea of modeling? Do you think it’s right, wrong, or neutral?
The comments area, below, is for your use! Use it to share your comments about authors modeling authors and to comment or ask questions about modeling techniques.
Roger C. Parker is a “32 Million Dollar Author,” book coach, and online writing resource. His 38 books have sold 1.9 million copies in 35 languages around the world. The NY Times called his Looking Good in Print “…the one to buy when you’re buying only one!” Roger has interviewed hundreds of successfully branded authors and shares what he’s learned at Published & Profitable and in his daily writing tips blog.