Five Things All Great Authors Must Have (That Actually Have Nothing to Do with Writing)

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By: Les Maness

It’s been said that nearly everyone has one great book in them. But the reality is that most people never even attempt to write it. And while there’s several factors why aspiring authors give up before they ever get started, the most frequent reason given is, “I am not a writer”.

Well, if that’s you, then best-selling author and CEO of, Michael Stickler has got good news for you – “The most important things you need to be a great author have nothing to do with writing.”

“There’s this misconception out there that you need a formal education in writing to be a successful author. And while it’s great to have that training, it isn’t essential for writing a great book.

Just look at some of the greatest authors of all time: Samuel Langhorne Clemens – better known as Mark Twain -dropped out of school at age 12. William Faulkner, author of the best seller, “The Sound and The Fury” earned a Nobel Prize but never a high school diploma. Ray Bradbury, one of the most successful science fiction writers of all time, barely finished high school. Maya Angelou, internationally renowned author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was so poor she couldn’t afford college. And personal development icon and author of The Art of Exceptional Living, Jim Rohn dropped out of college after one year. So how did they do it? What did that have that was more important than knowing punctuation or grammar? Well, here are five things you must have to be a successful author.”

1. You Are Passionate.

“Helen Keller became a best-selling author despite not being able to see or hear. Author of the autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” was born into slavery and was illiterate until he taught himself how to read and write. World renown author of “The Power Of Purpose,” Les Brown was declared ‘educable mentally retarded’ by his elementary school teachers. Yet, while they all had vastly different challenges and circumstances, they all had one very important thing in common – they never let what they didn’t have keep them from getting what they really wanted. And because they were deeply passionate about what they wanted to say, they wrote books that changed the world.”

“With this as a foundation, I ask every aspiring author I mentor, ‘what are you deeply passionate about? Do you have a burning desire to share your unique insights, wisdom, struggles and triumphs in order to make a difference in the lives of your readers?’ And if the answer is ‘Yes’, then my experience tells me their passion will fuel their fires to become a successful author.”

2. You Tell Stories.

“Steve Jobs, legendary founder of Apple and author of several best-selling books has a quote that sums up how important this character trait is. He said, ’The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.’  And if you are tempted to think that gift is going to fade in importance as technology advances, consider these words of prolific best seller, Margaret Atwood, ‘You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.’ “

“We all recognize that technology has changed the world. In a relatively short time, we’ve gone from telling stories next to a forest stream to having stories streamed directly to our mobile devises. But despite the radical difference in how they were delivered, the one thing that hasn’t changed is this: We all LOVE great stories! So, if you are someone who can spin a yarn, tell a tale, land a joke, or punch up an ordinary story up so people want to hear the end, then you are a good storyteller. And if that’s the case, all you need is some help on how to translate that skill to paper.”

3. You Are Observant.

“Harper Lee, best-selling author of To Kill a Mockingbird, once said, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’ So, what does that mean for aspiring authors? It is this: You must be a great observer of people to be successful.”

“Here’s how that character trait might show up in your life. You find yourself going to public places sometimes just to ‘people watch’. You like seeing the vast differences in the way people dress, walk and interact. You watch how they flirt, get embarrassed, assume leadership, or shy away from conflict. From all of that you get a sense of what their lives must be like deep down. What makes them laugh or cry, happy or sad, or strong or weak. As a result, you begin to understand their point of view and you begin to imagine what their lives must feel like inside. And when you can translate those intimate, heartfelt, or raw feelings into words, you gain the ability to make the reader feel what you feel – which is paramount.”

4. You Are Persistent.

“So much has been written about the power of persistence that this tremendous quality might be glossed over. But I can’t stress enough how important it is that you are hard wired to persevere. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about sitting down and doing the work – even if you don’t feel like it. And let’s face it, sometimes sitting down to a blank page is daunting, or as Stephen King so aptly put it, ‘The scariest moment is always just before you start’.”

“So, if you are blessed with being persistent in life consider it an extraordinary gift. Because perseverance will help get you to the finish line when nothing else will. And if you need a little encouragement along those lines just consider the advice of these two best-selling authors: Art Williams – ‘I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.’, and Dale Carnegie – ‘Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all’ ”

5. You Are Coachable.

“Best-selling author of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” J.R.R. Tolkien once said, ‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’ And if you’ve decided to devote some of your precious time to authoring your book, you can succeed at any age or background – IF you are coachable. If you aren’t teachable, then you will probably stop when you get stuck. You might finish your manuscript but fail to market it properly because you don’t know the industry. You could be a good marketer but not know how to access the other income streams that will help sustain you. The pitfalls are many, but the answer is simple: Find a person, resource or mentor who’s successfully done what you want to do, then learn to do what they recommend.” 

Final Thoughts.

After interviewing Michael Stickler and reading his article “Ten Things You Should Know to Get Published” I think I can sum up his encouraging words like this. If you have these five things great authors possess, you have the basic character traits required to be a successful author. And if you have something to say, the world needs to read it. So, don’t get caught up in what you don’t have, start with what you do have – and take comfort in knowing you can learn how to do the rest.

Bio for Michael Stickler.

Michael Stickler is the author of four best-selling books. He is also the CEO of, a publishing company dedicated to coaching non-fiction authors from concept to completion and guiding experienced authors to higher book sales and financial success.

Bio for Les Maness

Les Maness holds a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University and has taught Communications at seven colleges. He has authored content, created images, and provided marketing services for international companies and publications. For additional background, see his website

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