The Secret to Being a Successful Writer

Rachel Thompson, today’s guest, is my mover & shaker writing friend who hosts two sites, Bad Redhead Media and We’ve cross-blogged over the years and hang around on Facebook and Twitter. Rachel shared her popular post titled The Secret to Being a Successful Writer on my website a while back, and it had great reception—it’s a real motivational kick-in-the-a. I thought it’s well worthwhile for Kill Zoners to read, so Rachel generously gave me permission to repost it here. Let’s welcome writer, book marketer, and social media expert Rachel Thompson to the Kill Zone.


Regardless of how you publish your books, articles, or blog posts, the secret to being a successful writer is not anything pie-in-the-sky or full of inspirational goo-gah. Besides, I’m not the kind of person to spray glittery sunshine up your you-know-what, so here’s the real deal. It’s the big secret. Ready? Grab your pen.

Don’t Be Lazy.

That’s it. Let me deconstruct this a bit. Pull up a chair.

Make It Happen

You. Yes, you. Stop looking around.

I’ve worked with writers in all kinds of ways since hmmm, gosh, 2009-ish. Ten years of observing that unique species of human we refer to as, writer. I’m a writer myself (six books released so far , been in a few anthologies, two new books on deck for this year), so I fully comprehend the challenges of balancing writing, marketing, the day job, real life, chronic pain, mental health, and single parenting.

Completely and totally get it.

There isn’t room in any of those roles to be lazy if we’re being #TruthBomb honest here. Yet, in my ten years of working directly with writers, I can count on one hand the writers who are get-out-of-my-way go-getters.

Not the kind who will eat you for lunch with some fava beans and a nice chianti. I mean those who actively set aside time for writing AND marketing AND promoting strategically — not creepy, spammy, ‘must take a shower after seeing this’ ways. Nope, I mean those who treat their publishing career as a business, not a hobby where they lollygag around on social media arguing politics or talking about writing their book, then hope and pray someone eventually buys it.

In fact, I so related to that panicky, ‘Where do I even start?” feeling I experienced with my first book back in 2012, that I created an entire month last year (year two is happening right now! and every May going forward if I decide to continue this exhaustive effort) where I’ve wrangled publishing experts this entire month of May to generously donate books, guides, and consultations, and yet shockingly (she says not shocked), few writers are taking advantage of it.

When I speak with them as to why not, several have told me they know about it but don’t want to participate because then they’ll HAVE to work on their writing and marketing.

This baffles me. And yet, nah, it doesn’t.

Lazy Writer Syndrome 

It’s a thing, right? We all get it. I get it, too. It’s not that I’m not writing. I’m here, aren’t I? I also write for my own author blog, as well as on Medium, which are important parts of my author marketing and business marketing. I have those two manuscripts mentioned above on my desktop: one is in edits, and the other is in draft. I also keep a journal, a planner, and a book just for creative notes and ideas.

So, yea, I’m writing. Yet sometimes it feels like I’m not writing writing.

Am I accomplishing stuff? Am I climbing the mountain? Well, yea. Kinda.

It feels like this: it’s a big mountain, full of mud. It’s raining. Hard. I’m carrying this heavy weight. But I’ve got this! It’s just that some days it’s just…so exhausting. Or I have a migraine. Or I’m running my kids around (single mom). Or I’ve got client deadlines (solopreneur).

So, I set the weight down and make camp. For a little while. To rest and recuperate. And then get back out there when I’ve got my wind back.

That’s okay. I’m getting there. We’re all getting there (wherever the hell there is). (Maybe lazy doesn’t describe me. I am a Capricorn, after all.)

Are You a Lazy Writer?

These are the hard questions you have to ask yourself:

  • What am I doing to move my writing career forward?
  • What am I not doing?
  • What actions am I taking to build relationships with readers?
  • How can I learn more about how to market my work?
  • How am I standing in my own way?

Creating an author platform is not a choice in today’s market. It’s not an option. At least, not if you want to sell books and be taken seriously by not only readers but also other writers, book bloggers, and book reviewers (as well as agents and publishers, if you go that route, or plan to). Many writers refuse to treat their writing like a business — they think if they can just sign with a traditional publisher, and then that publisher will swoop in and do all that work for them.

If only.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I deal with many stumbling blocks: anxiety, depression, chronic pain. There are days where all I can do is the bare minimum for my business, kiss my kids, and that’s it. And that’s okay. Big fan of The Four Agreements: always do your best, and if your best is just getting out of bed that day, okay. I Scarlett O’Hara that bitch: tomorrow is another day.

In my business, many of my clients are traditionally published. Big 5 even. They hire me to do their social media and book marketing because no publisher does that for them. It’s on you, writer friends. Start early, share often. Learn author branding (we brand the author, not the book).

You don’t need to hire someone to do this marketing stuff for you. You learned how to write. You can learn how to market.

The other big secret I’ll share with you is this: Book marketing isn’t about spamming your book links with everybody (that’s desperation). It’s about building relationships with readers early on.

I do a free weekly chat on my @BadRedheadMedia business Twitter, #BookMarketingChat, every Wednesday, 6 pm pst, 9 pm est. Every week for the last 4 years, I share my time and/or recruit an expert in publishing and marketing to share their expertise with you, the writing community.

Invariably, someone says, “Yea, I should do that,” or “I’ll give that a try.”

Writing is great. Publishing is a business. Treat it like one.


Rachel Thompson released the BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge in December 2016 to rave reviews. She is constantly updating the book, and released a newly updated version in 2020 in both ebook and print.

She is the author of the award-winning, best-selling Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in both the Los Angeles and the San Francisco Book Festivals), and the bestselling, multi-award-winning Broken Pieces (as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed).

Broken People was released in 2020.

Rachel’s work is also featured in Feminine Collective anthologies (see Books for details).

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington PostFeminine CollectiveIndie Reader MediumOnMogulBlue Ink Reviewand several others.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live weekly Twitter chats, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with Cee Streetlights and Judith Staff (Tuesdays, 6 pm PST/9 pm EST), and #BookMarketingChat, co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger and Dr. Alexandria Szeman (Wednesdays, 6 pm PST/9 pm EST).

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. A single mom, she lives in California with her two kids and two cats, where she daydreams of Thor and vaguely remembers what sleep is.


Thanks so much, Rachel, for joining us here at the Kill Zone. What about you KZers? Am I the only writer here who gets lazy from time to time and have someone else do their bi-weekly post for them? Does the L bite you too? Let’s hear the comments!

34 thoughts on “The Secret to Being a Successful Writer

    • Good morning, Cynthia. I’m a D-I-Y indie, but there’s two things I sub out. Covers and proofreading. Those are two jobs I don’t think any writer should economize on. The ROI is so worth it.

      • Hi Cynthia and Garry!

        Yes, you absolutely can do so much on your own. In fact, in my 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge, I have an entire list of free stuff we can do.

        That said, if you’re completely lost, it can be helpful to hire a coach or consultant to set you on the right path. Figure out what you don’t know/don’t want to do, and stay your research!

  1. Thank you, Rachel and Garry. Re: being lazy, I am fortunate in that I only feel that way on every day that ends in ‘y’. I’ve concluded after paying bitter coin that it doesn’t matter how you feel. What matters is that you start. Once you get started on a task things usually flow from there.

    One thing that I have seen recently is that because of the events of the last two years there seems to be an attitude that if one wakes up feeling the slightest bit “off” or ill it creates a license to blow off work, duty, and obligations. It is reinforced by the feeling that one is actually doing co-workers and others a favor by doing so since they might catch something from you in the event that you might be ill. While this is bad for the individual with the attitude it’s good for you as it thins the competition. All you have to do is show up and do your best. Thanks again.

    • Staring down the blank page, Joe. I have a ritual where I open up a Word.doc and then get up and do a short walk. The message seems to come from the ether as to how to start and then it flows from there.

      I haven’t worked in the private sector during the Covid time. (Thankfully) It hasn’t changed my routine or output, but I can see how it can be brutal at letting work slip as convenient form of professional procrastination.

      “All you have to do is show up and do your best.” ~Joe Hartlaub. So true!

    • Yes, exactly! Not having coworkers is one of the advantages of owning one’s own business (unless you count my cat, who is quite demanding).

      We do have to motivate ourselves to write, in whatever ways work for us. I’m finding Twitter Spaces (social audio) to be a great way to connect with inspiring people!

      Thanks so much, Joe.

  2. Thanks, Garry and Rachel!

    [Darn it, Garry, you weren’t supposed to give away the secret reason for inviting guest bloggers!!!]

    Rachel, your hectic schedule reminds me of the classic Peggy Lee song “I’m a Woman, W-O-M-A-N.”

    I’m still willing to do the work but the body gives out. I have to take more frequent rest breaks while climbing that never-ending mountain. Put one foot in front of the other…just more slowly.

    Thanks for an excellent kick in the butt, Rachel!

    • The secret for snagging guest bloggers, Debbie? Just ask. All they can say is no, right? Or just ignore you like Stephen King has been doing to me for years. Seriously, I’ve invited him as a guest here at TKZ.

      • Hey Garry, let’s gang up on him…maybe if we all invited him, he’d do it. Sort of like, nag him to death. (Does that sound like a King book title?)


    • It is A LOT but ya know, we’re all made up of several ‘selves’, so to speak. It is helpful to have a family who understands the dedication required to be constantly working on something, however, my guy makes sure I take breaks.

      And he feeds me, too (he’s a former chef). I’m a lucky girl.

  3. Great post, Rachel and Garry. And thanks. Just what I needed. I don’t have trouble with the writing, I love spending every morning cranking out new chapters, even editing, and publishing. What I struggle with is marketing. I feel like a tiny fish in a gigantic ocean. How to get noticed? What approach is best? Isn’t there a better way? What creative new way can we find?

    So, thanks for the motivation this morning. I’ll check out The 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge.

    • Hi, Steve!

      Yes, I hear this a lot, especially because marketing can seem quite intimidating. Breaking it down into manageable steps helps, which is why I wrote the book. Thanks for checking it out!

      Big tip; start slow and do your research. It’s not a race. x

  4. Mmmmmmmarketing, Steve. I used to dread this word because I didn’t understand the overall concept and, I have to admit, I didn’t have the confidence to promote my own work. It’s slowly coming around with trial and error and failure and success. Paid ads have paid off for me. So does building the backlist. It’s a long-term game, right Rachel?

    • absolutely! I’m up to 7 books now (this piece was originally written in 2019, pre-pandemic,

      Keep at it, and make appointments with yourself to not only write but also market.

  5. Good morning, Rachel and Garry.

    I love the energy in Rachel’s writing, and I can see why she’s a natural for marketing. I bet she could get a whole pack of sloths signed up for a 5K if she wanted to.

    Like so many others, I evolved from believing all I had to do was write the book and everything else would just happen — sort of like dominos. Then I learned to treat the writing life like a business from one of JSB’s books, and I absolutely love the challenge. Having more to do than I can ever get done is one of the great blessings of this writing life.

    My husband and I chair a monthly writers group meeting which happens to meet later this morning. I’m going to pass this post along to the group as I continue to nudge my colleagues toward the Kill Zone. 🙂

    Have a great day!

    • Thanks so much, Kay! Publishing absolutely is a business – we will (hopefully) receive royalty payments, which are taxed. So that alone takes it from a hobby to a business! Plus, many services you may hire out for will be tax-deductible (obvi, ask your accountant). In my city, for example, they require a business license and I pay city taxes as well.

      Lots to consider for sure.

    • I bet she could get a whole pack of sloths signed up for a 5K if she wanted to.

      And it’s even funnier, Kay, when you look up the noun for a group of sloths and it’s . . . wait for it . . . a bed of sloths.


  6. And good morning back. Kay. I just realized what pack I actually belong to. No wonder I was born with three toes.

    My “breakthrough” (if you can call it that) was changing my mindset to treat writing as a business. It was game altering, for sure, and has opened a garage door of opportunity. And please do share this post with your group and any other writers you can think of. Enjoy your day!

  7. Thanks for hosting Rachel, Garry, and thanks for this great post, kick in the pants, motivational speech, whatever you want to call it, Rachel.

    Newbie here says, need to plant my butt in the seat and fingers on the keys, and learn, learn, learn… 🙂

  8. Thanks for the post. I read these and comment sometimes because the QUESTIONS are important. I’m looking for answers a writer like me can use. I’m far out in the boondocks of novelists, so not many do.

    “If you don’t do everything possible, you’re lazy.”

    Not necessarily. I know I’m competing with people who are not lazy. But chronic illness for decades forces attention to priorities, and mine is the writing. Whatever I do in the other channels is done when I can’t write, and if I can’t write, anything else I do is done very poorly because it simply means my brain hasn’t graced me with its presence.

    Marketing takes energy – your best energy. I do what I can – and don’t worry about it too much: worrying takes energy.

    But no one else writes what I write, and I want it out there and read. I’ll get there. I WILL be successful. I just don’t consider myself lazy when I’m giving it, literally, everything I have. Suggestions for writers like me would be great.

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Alicia. You put it well in perspective by mentioning chronic illness and the effects aging has on a writer’s stamina and focus. I just turned 65 and have been blessed with life-long wellness so my energy level is still right up there and I can spend an entire day on the business. I have to agree that laziness and medical low energy are two entirely different things.

    • Hi Alicia,

      I fully grasp how you are feeling. I deal with chronic migraine and it’s a bear. I would never refer to someone like you or me as ‘lazy’ and I apologize if this post came across that way.

      I’m referring to the majority of writers I speak with or work with – not you, personally. I wish you all the best and am happy to answer any questions you may have. Health first, always!

  9. Hey, Rachel & Garry!

    You can count on one hand the number of writers who treat writing as a business? I must be one of the lucky ones, because I’ve surrounded myself with professional writers from day one. Hobby writers make up the minority in my circles. Even so, professional writers still struggle with time management, which has a direct effect on the successfulness of book marketing. I wouldn’t call them lazy, more like overwhelmed. When you’re juggling too many projects and deadlines, it’s easy to put off marketing till tomorrow. Hence why I’ve taken your book marketing challenge several times and will probably do it again this year (I usually do). 🙂 Thank you for this valuable resource, Rachel! Much appreciated.

    • Sue, you are the most energetic writer I know. Larry Brooks once told me he’s never met anyone more dedicated to their craft than Sue Coletta. So that’s your compliment for the day, O Smart One. (Private thing here, folks.)

      Time management. Is their some sort of AI out there I could tap into and download a subservient virtual time manager? Man, he/she’d be sweet. I’d sit back, and drink, and fan myself while watching in awe as it worked like a shackled slave digitally encrypted in an Amazon cotton field.

  10. Thank you, Rachel, for today’s guest post. So much writing and marketing wisdom packed into this. Normally, I’d have a much longer response, but I’m currently at Rainforest Writers Retreat in the Olympic peninsula of Washington state, writing up a storm and talking with other authors about publishing and marketing. Like Garry, I’m also a DIY author from the beginning. It’s work, but very doable work and worth it. There’s nothing like being in charge of your own business. Thanks, Garry, for hosting her today!

    • It’s a pleasure to have Rachel here, Dale. She tells it the way it is which might not sit well with some, but I firmly believe the key to being a successful writer is simply getting the words down and getting them out.

      Olympic Peninsula? Which precise location? I worked on a screenplay set in Port Townsend.

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