In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule. Although K. Anders Ericsson originally came up with the idea, Gladwell launched this notion into the mainstream.
The idea is that we must spend a minimum of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on a certain skill to master it. This idea applies whether you are learning how to play the piano or learning how to write a novel. If you do the math, you quickly begin to discover that mastery of anything, whether you believe in the 10,000 hours or not, is something that takes years, if not decades, to accomplish.
New writers often become frustrated because they cannot produce the same quality manuscript as the books they might currently be reading. However, there are a few problems with this comparison. First of all, a draft will never be as polished as a book. Most books have gone through one or more editors, proofreaders, beta readers, and an entire series of quality control checks. Comparing your first draft to a published product is apples to oranges.
Furthermore, what you don’t see when you’re reading a book is the years of writing and practice that the author had to do to reach that level of mastery. It can become frustrating, realizing that some of the best-selling and most popular authors of our generation have become so because they have written millions of words.
That daunting proposition can cause many writers to give up, and they do. Statistically speaking, less than 1% of Americans will ever finish writing a novel even though more than 40% claim that they will write one someday. It is this chasm between fantasy and reality regarding one’s own expectations and abilities that can be challenging at any point on the author journey.
The Internet is full of get-rich-quick schemes, especially since the dawn of the Kindle Gold Rush in 2012. There was a time not so long ago when anyone could upload a Word document to Amazon and make hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. But people have gotten over the initial excitement of the ereader. They have stopped downloading cheap and free books because many people have more books on their devices than they will ever read in a lifetime. Therefore, both sales and free downloads have dramatically decreased since the Kindle Gold Rush, even though the number of devices, books published, and readers, have grown.
These scammers take advantage of the fact that anyone with a Word document can make fast, easy money by self-publishing on Amazon. They offer guides and online courses, commonly called “hacks,” which supposedly guarantee your success in the self-publishing industry. Unfortunately, some people fall for this unrealistic approach.
That is not to say that I entirely believe in Gladwell’s version of the 10,000-hour rule. I do believe that deliberate practice regularly over an extended time is your best chance at success, whether you are a writer or a professional basketball player. I also believe you must have incredible ambition and believe that what you are doing is what you were put on this planet to do. If you decide to write paranormal romance novels because you’ve read that paranormal romance authors routinely make five figures a month by self-publishing, but you don’t like paranormal romance novels, you will burn out quickly.
There are ways in which you can cheat on the 10,000 hours required to become a master. It is still not a get-rich-quick approach, but you can leverage the mistakes other people have made in the past, so you don’t make them in your own future.
What I’ve discovered in both attending and organizing mastermind groups is that I can learn from what others have done without having to go through the effort on my own. That does not mean one should not try, or stop learning, but there are specific tactics to leverage, and if you know ahead of time what kind of results those tactics get, you do not have to experiment with what’s already been done.
A common conversation that arises in the mastermind groups that I run has to do with the book launching process. Everyone has their own ideas about what constitutes a successful book launch, and rarely do authors agree on every single tactic within the greater strategy. But in listening to what other authors have tried, taking notes on what has worked and what hasn’t, it has better informed the way the other participants approach their book launch plan, and it has helped me to reevaluate what I do for my own book launches.
Questions about digital distribution are another example of how the sharing of information among a small group of dedicated people can shave off some of the 10,000 hours required for mastery. Participants in mastermind groups will often document and share what they have done, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and why a tactic has succeeded or failed. Because there is such a positive and friendly atmosphere within the mastermind group, and because the members have agreed to hold the strictest of confidence, these people are much more willing to share than they would be on an Internet bulletin board or in a private Facebook group.
A third example of how rapid growth can occur within a mastermind group of authors who are collectively crossing off the hours toward mastery can be seen in marketing, promotions, and advertising. Without an agreement of confidentiality, most people are unwilling to talk about personal finances or business finances openly. But because that confidentiality has been established within the mastermind group, authors are more willing to share their sales and advertising numbers.
Because the digital advertising platforms are so nuanced and technical, it is almost impossible to become a master of them all by yourself. You can read books and take classes, but inevitably a situation will arise that will be uniquely yours, and without the ability to compare that situation to someone else’s, you’re left with making a guess, a guess that could be quite costly.
There is a shared experience that develops within a mastermind group, and as authors learn from each other, individual growth is accelerated and shared goals are, too. And, at least in theory, some of those 10,000 hours invested in mastery can be spread across the group.
Want to take your writing chops and business savvy to the next level? Check out The Author Success Mastermind group at https://theauthorsuccessmastermind.com/join/