“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master” – Ernest Hemingway

The world of the self-published author is a rapidly shifting landscape.

There are constant changes to the practicalities and tactics involved in self-publishing. Although the fundamentals stay the same, there are always new opportunities waiting for the eager authors out there to see them.

At the same time, aside from the logistics and practicalities of publishing, it’s important to continuously learn more about the craft of writing.

Today, I’d like to share three of my tried and tested methods for continuously learning and improving as an author.

Know Your Writing Self

The first step on the path to becoming a wiser author is to know yourself.

This requires radical honesty and acceptance to look beyond our ego and see things for how they truly are.

One helpful conceptual framework for achieving this aim is the SWOT framework. Taken from the world of strategic business, this works in the following way –

  • Strengths. What are your strengths as an author? What are your unique advantages that help you stand out from the competition? How can you maintain, maximize and develop these strengths?
  • Weaknesses. None of us are perfect. What are your weaknesses as an author? Where can you focus your time and energy to see the maximum tangible benefits from your intentions?
  • Opportunities. What are some potential opportunities in your author life you’re not taking advantage of? This could include author platform opportunities you’re not taking advantage of, hot genres or niches you’re not publishing in, or marketplaces you’re not publishing in.
  • Threats. What are the main threats to your current author situation? These could include changes to the cost of self-publishing, new competitors entering the market, or changes in your audience that could negatively impact your outcomes.

By first determining your strengths and weaknesses as an author, by using the SWOT framework, your further learning efforts will be coordinated in a way which provides the most strategic benefit for your author career.

Thankfully, you don’t need to undertake this journey of self-discovery unaided. There are both DIY and options involving others you can use to discover your personal SWOT.

Tools

I’m a big fan of using apps and other tech tools to become a better author. This is a great option for authors who prefer a DIY approach or who don’t have a supportive or suitable author community available to them.

My personal pick for writing apps to help you level up as an author is ProWritingAid. Some of the reasons I favor it include –

  • Over 25 in-depth writing reports to help you apply the SWOT framework to your own writing
  • Able to catch all the mistakes that a standard writing checker tool like Grammarly would, in addition to advanced qualitative and quantitative analysis of your work
  • A very capable free service, as well as excellent value lifetime access to the full ProWritingAid service

Tools can help provide unbiased, objective insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

Community

One of the main advantages provided by the internet age is the opportunity to connect.

Aside from the distraction and constant temptation to procrastinate, the internet also provides the chance to connect and network with people you would never otherwise encounter.

Some of the best ways to leverage community to become a better writer include –

  • Making the most of fellow writers you know to share work in progress and support each other toward your goals
  • Participating in Facebook groups, writer societies and other communities which will aid your writing journey
  • Getting involved in events such as NaNoWriMo and hashtags to contribute to broad writing events.

If you enjoy interacting with others, the communal aspect of the writer world is a priceless resource to assist you on your journey to leveling up as an author.

Choose Careful Study

When it comes to options for learning as self-published authors, there truly is no shortage.

There are no end of self-proclaimed gurus out there who will happily take your money in exchange for whatever course or program they happen to be pushing at the time.

Some of the criteria that will help you decide whether a particular course or teacher are worth your time or money include –

  • Reputation. What is the reputation of the teacher or course in the author community? What kind of reviews have people left? Do people widely agree the course offers a good rate of return on investment?
  • Suitability. Is the course right for you? Is it aimed at authors at the same point in their journey you are? What are the tangible, actionable benefits you seek to enjoy by taking the course?
  • Value. Does the cost of investing in the course represent value for money? How does the course compare to other options out there? Could you get the same level of value from free resources out there, such as blog posts or YouTube videos?

Knowing your author SWOT is simply the first step in the process. Next, it’s important to determine which path of learning is right for you, and why that is the case.

Two of my personal favorites for formal programs of learning include –

Udemy

Udemy is one of the most popular and best known online learning platforms out there, packed with plenty of useful courses for writers and self-publishers.

Some of the reasons for choosing Udemy as your method for leveling up as an author include –

  • Variety. Almost any topic you can think of has a course on Udemy.
  • Value. Udemy is affordable, and often becomes more so thanks to sales and other deals.
  • Reputation. Udemy is an established name in the online learning world. They are a reputable company, and rest assured, they aren’t going anywhere soon.

If you want an affordable entry point to the world of online learning, Udemy is well worth your attention.

MasterClass

Think of Masterclass as a premium, luxury alternative to Udemy.

It’s similar, in the sense that it’s an online learning method taught primarily through online video content, it also has some unique aspects that set it apart from Udemy.

Some of the reasons I love Masterclass include –

  • The teachers are the best of the best. Absolute masters in their field. For example, imagine learning acting from Samuel L Jackson, or writing from James Patterson.
  • Quality. Each course offers the highest quality video content out there, with professional standards of editing.
  • Extras. Each course features a useful and informative workbook, as well as an active community featuring feedback from the instructor.

If you want to learn from the biggest names out there, Masterclass is your best bet.

Improve on the Move

It can often be difficult to carve out time to write, let alone time to learn and improve.

As such, I’m a big fan of learning on the go. It’s a great way to make mundane activities into valuable learning opportunities.

Some of the reasons I advocate learning on the go include –

  • Turn your commute into a classroom. You can listen to podcasts and audio courses no matter where you are.
  • Learn while you’re working out. Turn that boring cardio session into a valuable learning opportunity.
  • Learn at your own pace. With the right variety of e-readers and audiobooks, you can dip in and out of learning in a way which suits you.

Now that you know why I favor learning on the go, let’s take a look at my top methods for doing so.

Podcasts

I love podcasts. So much so, that I started my own Book Marketing Show podcast. Some of the reasons I love learning from podcasts include –

  • Personality. You get a far better sense of who an author is, and what their personality is like, by listening to a podcast rather than simply reading their words.
  • Show notes. If you struggle to retain all the information and ideas shared during a podcast, the show notes are a valuable resource for you to refer back to and deepen your knowledge.
  • Audio learning. For many people, it’s easier to recall information when you’ve heard it, as opposed to reading it.

Find a podcast that is the right mix of enjoyable and informative, and you have a resource that is well worth sticking with for years to come.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks are a more in-depth, but otherwise somewhat similar, resource to podcasts.

I favor them due to –

  • The depth of information provided. Simply put, audiobooks offer the best information from the best sources.
  • The ability to stay on top of the cutting edge. Influential books go on to inform subsequent blogs and podcasts for years to come.
  • Flexibility. I’m equally comfortable listening to an audiobook for a few hours at home with a glass of wine as I am enjoying it in ten minute bursts while driving.

Ultimately, if you want the depth and detail of a book, but with the convenience and portability of a podcast, audiobooks are the way to go.

Author Improvement Final Thoughts

Thanks for checking out my thoughts on the best way to learn and grow as an author.

In summary –

  • The first step to attaining useful knowledge is to know yourself. The SWOT framework can help with this.
  • Carefully vet your options. There are a lot of unscrupulous marketers out there – make sure any given course is a good fit, and good value.
  • Learn on the go. It’s a great way to fill dead time in your schedule and turn the mundane into the useful.

What are your favorite ways to level up as an author? Any tried and tested methods to share? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments?