The 7 P’s of Publishing Success

Image provided by the author (Adapted from the book cover)

When I first started traveling around the world and speaking to authors about writing and publishing success for Kobo Writing Life (Kobo’s platform allowing for direct publishing to their online catalog), I came up with what I called the “3 P’s of Self-Publishing Success” for indie authors.

They were Patience, Practice and Persistence. After sharing and then briefly explaining what each of them meant, I would remind the audience that those elements were not all that different than what it took to be successful in traditional publishing.

I enjoyed drawing comparisons between those two paths, which, in 2011, when I really started to make the rounds in the writing and publishing community speaking circuit, were quite diverse.

Now, of course, they aren’t necessarily diverse and separate paths; they are more intertwined and complex, as authors understand the benefits of taking a hybrid approach to their writing and publishing journey.

Just a few months after I left Kobo at the end of 2017, I agreed to do a talk for them at a writing seminar that focused on the business of writing. As I reviewed the slides that were sent to me for the presentation I was giving on behalf of Kobo Writing Life, I spotted a version of my 3 Ps’ in the deck.

It was like looking at an ex lover, an old flame. I felt a sense of nostalgia for it; I was reminded of the good times we had together, of the shared memories of the two of us working together helping to enlighten writers’ lives.

But, in that same manner, I saw how I had grown since first creating it; or, to follow the “old flame” analogy, how we had both grown in different directions, still appreciating what brought us together, but also appreciating how our paths diverted.

I was reminded of how I had drafted those original 3 P’s up in about five minutes, likely either the night before or perhaps even an hour before I took the stage sometime in late 2011 or early 2012 and then had continued to use those same P’s in various other talks over the years. I had taken that hastily drafted concept for granted over the years, but I hadn’t really taken a longer, more reflective look at it.

It’s funny how, when you look at something from the outside, you begin to see it in a new light. This, of course, is one of the reasons why an editor brings such value to a writer. It’s not just their skills related to language, grammar and story; it’s the fresh and outside perspective they bring.

So, I sat back, and I admired this concept, this structure.

I am, after all, a fan of alliteration. (Sorry, I really should have said that I admire, adore and advise alliteration, and am an ally to its application. There, that feels more applicable)

So, ever since I delivered this concept, this old flame, for the KWL team, I’ve been reflecting on it and finding a new perspective on it that is different than when I first created it. Elements that I suppose I missed when first drafting it together. Yes, those three elements of Patience, Practice and Persistence are still definitely true. And I had ordered them in a way that sounded better rolling off my tongue. It was something I could easily conjure up when a writer would ask me for short and quick tidbits of advice; the three words could easily be rhymed off, always in that order.

But I began to realize that those were merely almost half of the overall picture of success.

Yes, the three elements were necessary ingredients, likely the core or underlying foundation for a writer to build to success. But there was more.

After reflecting on my career representing self-publishing, digital publishing and bookselling and all the information I had read, listened to, and participated in sharing, I determined that something was missing.

I needed more P’s.

And I needed to re-order them.

And so, here are all 7 of them, in what I feel is a more natural order:

PRACTICE — This is the act of making writing a common and regular practice. The more you write, the better your writing will be. And while Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule has been debunked as being an over-simplification of a path to success, this goes hand in hand with Progression which you’ll see below. But working at something, and regular practice often lead to becoming better. So write often.

PROFESSIONALISM — A three-tiered aspect that relates to how you manage your author business (paperwork, contracts, and content) as well as your behavior in the writing and publishing community, which includes in person/virtual appearances, and how you deal with adversity and rejection.

PATIENCE — Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time. It’s often not until a third or fourth book is published when authors start to see some success. This was true in traditional publishing — historically publishers would often stick with an author until after their third book, knowing the first few weren’t likely to be glowing successes. And the same holds true within indie or self-publishing. Most of the authors from either side who are doing well today stuck it out for the long haul.

PROGRESSION — Just doing something over and over isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you are iterating and learning as you go. This goes hand in hand with practice when it comes to the craft of writing. But it’s also important to continue to learn about the business of writing, as the publishing landscape is constantly evolving.

PERSISTENCE— This ties in quite closely with patience, and practice. Working hard, continually learning, and never giving up no matter how many times you fall are what’s important here. You never heard of the success stories of the people who gave up, only those who picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, applied the learning of the failure they’d just experienced, and tried again.

PARTNERSHIP — I have long said that the future of publishing will involve more collaboration than ever before. Successful writers are often those who partner with others. They partner with any number of publishers, editors, fellow-writers, industry experts and advocates in mutually beneficial relationships that become those tides that float all boats.

PATRONAGE— You can’t be a successful writer without having those who are willing to consume your work. It might be the 1000 True Fans that Kevin Kelly talked about, but it’s often a complex layer of that relationship an author has with their readers for encouragement, support, and promotion.

For good measure, here in the 8th often “silent” P:

PROMOTION — I call this the silent P because it often works quite collaborative with all of the other aspects covered. Promotion takes the form of learning advertising strategies and tactics, but also operating with professionalism, practicing different strategies, persisting and patiently analyzing results of testing.

My hope is that, on your own writing and publishing path, you take the time to probe your own goals and needs, pick your own unique position with respect to these seven P’s and prescribe them into your own plans for a successful journey.

This article is the re-adapted Introduction from the book THE 7 P’s OF PUBLISHING SUCCESS, with additional details attached to the outline of the 7 P’s in order to abridge the book’s content into a single self-contained article. The book itself is available in eBook, Audiobook and Print formats.

You can also read the content from each of the chapters of the book via these links below, which are behind the Medium paywall.

PracticeProfessionalismPatience ProgressionPersistencePartnershipPatronagePromotion

Mark Leslie (Lefebvre) is a writer, bookseller, speaker & book nerd who haunts Southern Ontario and is known as a digital publishing evangelist.