When do you move from being a hobbyist to being an author? It’s a question that has plagued me over the past months. Fear not. I have looked at all the important qualities that make an author and put them together here for you as a simple test. Look at each of the following statements and its accompanying information. If it applies to you, give yourself a point.
- I have massive self-doubt; no one will like what I’ve written; my family will shun me; Amazon will probably come to my house and slap me.
- I check my Amazon sales ranking every ten minutes. This is a proven method of ensuring your rank improves. It is part of the Amazon algorithm that rewards authors who check their status regularly.
- I have my own website. This is another good indicator of author status. Having a website GUARANTEES the success of your book.
- I like to tinker with my website. In addition to point 3, having a website affords authors the opportunity to engage in what is considered a staple of proper authors – PROCRASTINATION. At its highest level, procrastination is an art form. ***Bonus points. Score 1 for each – Change the website background three times per day. Try to get your profile picture just right. Research the hell out of how long it takes a human body to decompose in a garden composter. Order your Createspace proof with the slowest delivery time and do nothing while you wait.***
- I like to tell people about what I’m going to write. Another killer technique that the best selling authors DON’T tell you, is that the chance of your book being successful is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to the amount of time you spend talking about writing. Stephen King didn’t mention that in On Writing did he? No.
- I find myself thinking of my plot during important meetings at my day job. Another sure-fire way to spot an author. This trait also has the added bonus that if you do it often enough, you will soon have much more free time available to write.
- I have developed a taste for coffee. The many healing properties of caffeine can only stimulate your creatoid nerve. This is the point in your body where your ideas are created. It sits part way between your brain and tongue.
- I have listened to every piece of white noise and ASMR on YouTube. The soporific sounds of rain falling onto a tent, or the haunting sounds of a woman crinkling a crisp packet and scratching a toothbrush, can fire an author’s creative cells.
- I have a lucky pen that I write with. No self-respecting author writes with a free pen you picked up at a careers convention for your daughter. That would just be silly. For maximum impact, the pen should have your initials engraved on it. It must have a value upwards of £95.
- I can spend all day looking at stationery. Another rarely spoken secret of best-selling authors, is that any self-respecting author should have a selection of high quality notepads in a variety of sizes. This is true even if you only ever use your laptop. As long as the books are within sight, you can still reap the rewards of high-class stationery.
- I keep several backups of my work. No author wants to lose his / her work. An author will store work on the hard drive AND in the cloud. A GOOD author will also keep a copy on a CD in the drawer. A GREAT author will also leave a copy at a friend’s house. An AMAZING author will also dig a hole and bury a USB stick in the garden. A BEST-SELLING author will also keep a copy on him / her at ALL times. Yes, even then. STEPHEN KING goes Todash and leaves his work in a parallel universe.
- I watch people. People-watching is an excellent way to source material. If you haven’t been arrested for stalking at least twice, you cannot call yourself an author.
- I would rather write it than say it. If you feel an urge to tell someone about your work, you shouldn’t. You should jot it down on a Post-It note and stick it on their forehead. This is a much more efficient method of getting your point across.
- I prefer solitude to company. Authors don’t have friends. Sometimes they might pretend and, say, visit your Facebook page, but ultimately you just want to lock yourself away with your thoughts. Best-selling authors can go for weeks without food or water. For those of you hoping to be authors, you can start by shutting yourself in the smallest room in your house for hours at a time. No laptop, just you and your thoughts. Nothing focuses the mind like oxygen starvation.
Scoring: Count up the number of points you gave yourself. Find your total below and learn the type of author you are:
1-3 You have the potential to be an author. It’s not a dead-cert or anything, all it would take is for you to use your nice notepaper to scoop up cat-vomit, and before you know it, you’re playing Xbox.
4-6 You can call yourself an author, but only just. You cannot tell anyone, as they will ask you questions like ‘Where do you get your ideas’, or ‘can I tell you this idea I had for a book?’ From there you’re just a hop, skip and a punch to the face away from being in prison, where the only paper is toilet paper, and that won’t even soak up urine.
7-9 You are now well into the realm of authorness. You’ve told people. Some laughed, but you could handle it. You are working towards publishing your first book, but nothing is set in stone, and there are still hurdles for you to get over – Your first rejection letter threatens to return you to a life of reality TV and Jeremy Kyle, and before you realise what’s happened you will be planning your evenings around episodes of Eastenders.
10-12 Now you are starting to feel like an author. You have your first book published in paperback. Someone has left a review. It’s a good one – 4 stars. You are set to work on your next book. Don’t count your good fortune just yet, as you could very easily catch sight of another, more successful author. Then it’s a short hop to doubting if you could ever write something that good. Then it’s the slippery slope: the next book gets left on the shelf; you remove your one book from the internet and try to track down those people that purchased it to make a personal apology for ever having written it; you take out a full page ad in the Financial Times, apologising for ever having had the idea of becoming an author; you retreat into yourself and stop talking to people which will gradually morph into not looking at people; you start to eat only cardboard and Smart-Price baked beans; you let your hair grow down to the floor, and you move into the countryside to be away from people and get a job milking cats. I tell you, if I had a penny for every time I’d seen that happen…
13-15 You’ve finally arrived. Your first book entered the charts in the top 100 in your genre. You’re well on your way to completing your next book, and you have received a call from a reasonably-sized publisher who wants you to write a series. Don’t let the success go to your head. I’ve seen it happen so many times: the big time comes calling and you lose your nerve; Your first book for the publisher is not well received; you ask for another try which they give you; you rewrite using a red wax crayon, claiming it puts you into the action; your friends stop coming round; your children start calling you by your first name; you write the second book in the series, but this time in blue crayon; your publisher informs you that you are being dropped, by throwing a carrier pigeon through your front window when it is closed; you are forced to leave town and move to Mexico; they don’t want you, so you are forced to move to a remote island that has no internet; you lose your daily play streak on your IPhone game, driving you into a depression; you lay out coconuts on the beach and pitch your next book to them; they turn you down. We’ve all been there.
16-18 You are now truly an author. Stephen King and JK Rowling drop round for tea and scones. You talk about a collaboration, which involves a school of wizards who are forced to travel across the Earth, searching for an enigmatic man in a black. The book will be called Harry Deschain and the Prisoner of Lud. But, now you’ve climbed this high, just remember that it’s a much further fall should you take a wrong turn. If you are not careful, before you know it, you have created an argument with King and Rowling, throwing the book into doubt; both authors place restraining orders on you; Rowling places a banning order on you from using the word ‘chapter’, claiming sole rights to it; you try to fight back with your own lawyers, but they are with Rowling and place a restraining order preventing you from being within a hundred miles of Hogwarts; to make money you are forced to ply your trade on street corners; there is very little demand for a street-corner-novelist, so you try micro-fiction; eventually you find yourself selling your stories for a pittance in the London Underground, living off what dregs you can find in thrown-away Starbucks take-away cups.
Well? How did you do? Post your scores in the comments.