Three Perpetual Keys to Success as a Writer

by Peggy on June 30, 2014

penFor years, the business world touted Kaizen, a Japanese word that means “good change.” In the eighties style -business-guru books Kaizen was not just a word, but a philosophy. The philosophy of continuous improvement.  Sadly, the word kaizen has no such philosophical basis that I could find. (The Sino-Japanese word “kaizen” simply means “good change”, with no inherent meaning of either “continuous” or “philosophy” in Japanese dictionaries or in everyday use. Wiki reference, 2014)

However misguided the definition or the made-from-whole-cloth implied philosophy, I was, and am, intrigued with the idea of continuous improvement … what I call building your intellectual capital. It is my belief that building your intellectual capital is the central key in achieving long-term success in any endeavor. In my office, I have a wonderful leather-covered and beautifully tattered, two-volume dictionary called Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, circa Geo. W.  Ogilvie, copyright 1904.  I also have a newer dictionary copyrighted in 2001. I looked up the word improve in both  dictionaries and here is what I found:

1904 Version: improve; 1. to use or employ to a good purpose; to make productive; to turn to a profitable account; to use to a good advantage

2001 Version:  improve; 1. to enhance or increase in quality

Do not get me wrong, I am a huge fan of brevity but in this instance, I think something is lost. Call me old school, but I like the first version better. What does all this hand wringing have to do with the three perpetual keys to being a successful writer? The key word here is improvement. As writers, marketers and authors, we must always be improving. Becoming a better marketer, a better writer, a better networker, a more accomplished social-media-articulator are not just important but necessary for continued success. How do we meet with success in a crowded market, with lots of voices, and limited time and resources? Without further delay or digression, here are my three keys to success as a writer:

3 Keys to Success as a Writer

  1. Build Your Intellectual Capital: What I mean by intellectual capital is building your own expertise in your field. If you are a mystery writer, you should be taking classes on plotting, enrolling in a course on social media, attending conferences on how to market your book/s, and going to book signings. Improve by investing in your intellectual capital which means being open and willing to invest in yourself. When was the last time you took a course or attended a class on writing or signed up for a writer’s conference? Too many of us are willing to spend money on other things but never on our craft and ourselves. That’s just wrong.  As professionals, we need to improve our skills, grow our reach, and increase our knowledge of the business we are in: the business of writing! Last year I attended a conference in Philadelphia called APPS. This conference is focused on selling books in specialty markets. It is more of a publisher’s conference than a true writer’s conference. I wasn’t elated about spending the money but I was determined to put myself in situation where I could meet new people, learn something, and gain a new perspective. Attending a writer’s conference is a two or three day opportunity to grow as an author, marketer, and as a businessperson. I had a great time, learned a lot, and met some fabulous people. Many of those people have become friends. Was it worth it? It was worth every penny—and more! Never forget that spending money on an event, a class, training, or a lecture is an investment (in you), NOT an expense. If you haven’t attended one to three writers’ conferences this year you should make it your mission to attend at least one before the end of the year. (Watch for my next blog post on how to take advantage of a writer’s conference.)
  2. Write Every Day. I know it sounds simple and it is—in theory. Writing every day builds the habit of writing. In the book Outliers, by author Malcolm Gladwell, he says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Whether it is 10,000 hours, or 5,000 hours, or 15,000 hours, we all know intuitively and empirically that with practice we get better—at anything. Incorporate writing into your daily routine. Make it as natural and habitual as that first cup of coffee or tea. Embed writing into your life by making it a part of daily routine.
  3. Get Out There: Have you ever heard of the word transmedia? It sounds intimidating but it isn’t. Transmedia simply means writing in different venues. Blog posting is different from novel writing which is different from Tweeting, which is different from article writing. Build your writer credentials and your skills in different areas. Get out there as a writer. If you don’t have a blog, start one. If you haven’t written an article for a magazine or newspaper, you have missed an opportunity to connect with a group of people who might never discover you otherwise.“Getting out there,” doesn’t just mean writing for other venues, it also means attending events. When was the last time you attended a local writer’s group meeting? Have you gone to a book signing for another author lately? As an author, you should be where other writers and author’s gather. I can’t stop here without talking about social media. At conferences and workshops, I always hear the same thing: How can I be active on social media and have any time left to write? I feel your pain. Here is my philosophy on social media: a presence in all, an expert in one. If you love Facebook and hate Twitter, have a modest presence on Twitter, but a heavy presence in Facebook. Combine Facebook with your blog. If you don’t like social media, and there are plenty of writers who don’t, watch this video, it will change your mind. Most local libraries teach basic classes on various social media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. The best part? They are free to the public. All you have to do is sign up in advance. One more thing, if you don’t have a website you need one. All of your most important writing should originate on your website. Once it appears on your website as a blog post, you can link that post to your social media. No more excuses, it is time to get out there, to be a part of the community.

“Your book is not your baby … your book is your business.” Peggy DeKay

Learning Resources: – take a class on Twitter, LinkedIn, or WordPress and many more. Prices vary but most classes are 3 to 8 hours of video and range from $30 to $130 each. has thousands of videos that are produced by users to help other users become more knowledgeable. On YouTube, you can learn how to setup a WordPress blog site, or learn the basics of many social media platforms.                   

Conferences to Consider Attending:

The Business of Writing International Summit

Meals included, four programming tracks: social media, platform building and marketing, craft of writing, and self-publishing.
Gift bags, door prizes, great food, access to experts, over 30 sessions, 20 experts from all over the country.
Louisville, KY at Indiana Wesleyan at I64 Exit 17 and Alliant Drive
August 1-2, 2014
|$249 |Website:
Questions: Call Larry at 502-303-7926 |Need more information: visit the website or call Larry at 502-303-7926

How to Self-Publish Your Book

Learn how to self-publish with Peggy DeKay. A practical, hands-on approach to self-publishing.
July 31, 2014
|$119 | lunch and Peggy’s book Self-Publishing for Virgins is included
Louisville KY,
Indiana Wesleyan at I64 and Alliant Drive, exit 17 |Need more information: visit the website or call Peggy at 502-541-4670

Writer’s Groups:

Romance Writers of America
Sisters in Crime
Critique Circle (an online writers group)

If you can’t find a group that meets in your area and you don’t want to join an online group, then start your own. Find three to five like-minded writers, find a place to meet or meet in your homes and get started. Most local libraries will have free classes on website building with WordPress, and social media classes. I frequently teach basic self-publishing classes at libraries.

 Peggy DeKay, Author & Publisher, Podcaster & Speaker

Website: The Business of Writing Today |
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Annual Conference for Writers: Business of Writing International Summit

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie Bowman July 13, 2014 at 9:29 am

Can you give me some simple information on getting a copyright and IBSN code? Who would you advice for a publishing Company. I had attended your conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina a year or so ago, and have been in the hospital several times and have misplaced your notes. I am ready to let my children’s .
stories be heard. Please if you would, help me gather some right information.
Thank you,
Debbie Bowman
P. S
We just bought a home in Bardstown, Ky,


Peggy July 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Hi Debbie, Good to hear from you. If you print your book through CreateSpace, they will give you an ISBN number free of charge. This means that the “publisher of record” is You can also purchase a set of ISBNs at The cost for a set of ten ISBNs is $295.00. If you want a step-by-step guide on how to print your book and publish it on Amazon read my book Self-Publishing for Virgins. I also recommend you sign up for my newsletter on my website. Good luck!


john smith July 3, 2014 at 8:47 am

Fantastic article! I am forwarding the link to several writing friends.


Peggy July 3, 2014 at 9:12 am

Thank you John. I appreciate that.


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