Posted On June 26, 2017 by Print This Post

Ten Tips for the Successful Writer – by Dani Collins

We’re starting off the week with Harlequin Presents author Dani Collins. Dani’s last post with us was back in 2013, and she’s been very busy since then! 

Welcome back, Dani! 

I’m so excited to be back here at Romance University! When I was last here, my fourth book was coming out and I was just getting the hang of promotion. I was still working a day job so I very earnestly titled my post, Blog Tips For The Busy Writer.

Now I write full-time, but I’m still very busy. My twentieth title for Harlequin just came out (see below) and I’ve also published seven books with Tule’s Montana Born and seven indie titles. I have three books in production and today I totally blew off the word count on what I hope will be my thirty-eighth book because I have a blog post to write (hi!).

Do I consider myself a ‘success’ four years after I first visited RU? Well, one of my longtime goals was to write full-time, so yes, I do count that as a success—which segues nicely into my first tip.

  1. Define ‘Success’ For Yourself

It’s easy to get blinded by someone else’s idea of success. Industry awards or making a best-seller list are wonderful, but not achieving those things doesn’t mean you’re a failure. After twenty-five years of submitting and getting rejected, receiving The Call was a huge success for me. But while I was still unpublished and we had little kids, getting a few hundred words written was a win. Think about what you are achieving and give yourself credit for it.

  1. Set Small Goals

Related to above, know your limitations and build on small goals. Perhaps your definition of success includes hitting the New York Times Bestseller List. Well, there are a lot of moving pieces to a goal like that, not all of which you can control, but you can control some. For instance, you can write a book, because almost no one makes it onto that list without having written a book.

You’ll probably also need a huge promotional campaign leading up to your launch. I won’t even try to break that down. Just thinking about it gives me an ice cream headache. However, if I was going to tackle something like that, I would start by listing all the things I need to do. That would be one goal, and it’s very achievable. Might only take an hour or two. Then I might set up a timeline and pat myself on the back when I got that done.

You eat an elephant one bite at a time. Be sure you build on each of these small successes, but at the same time…

  1. Reach High

You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve if you step beyond your comfort zone. Indie publishing is a huge feat and not for the faint of heart. If you’re already doing it, go you!

But deciding to write a book at all is an act of blind faith in yourself. Keep doing that! And while you’re there…

  1. Be Okay With Failure

Failure means you’re trying. Sometimes books bomb. Sometimes blog posts wind up being eight points instead of ten. Sometimes you do a lot of work and it doesn’t move the dial. Don’t despair. Nothing is wasted. You will have learned something, even if it was only that you shouldn’t do that thing anymore.

Also, knowing what failure feels like makes success all the sweeter, so embrace failure. Related to that…

  1. Embrace Obscurity

I’m stealing this one from Mark Coker of Smashwords. When I came across it, my brain exploded.

It’s really easy, when you belong to a tight-knit community like us romance authors, to feel as though there is a finite-sized pie of readers and we all compete for attention in that one slice that matches our particular audience. Not true. Okay, sometimes it’s a little bit true, like when you post to a forum where (seemingly) all the vampire-romance readers hang out and your book is one more of the same.

Sometimes we feel like we have to get all these credentials behind us to help with getting noticed. ‘I’m the expert in blabbety-blah. I’m doing a workshop (or a blog post) on #ImportantTopic. That’s why you should buy my book.’ If we don’t have street cred, we feel like crud.

But guess what? There is a world—literally an entire world—of readers who have never heard of you or your area of expertise. They don’t belong to forums and when they discover your book, you might be their very first and now, very favorite romance author. So be okay with being unknown and get out there and make yourself known.


  1. Get Help When You Need It

Nas Dean, an author assistant and all-around goddess, is posting this for me. Despite my proven system in my previous post about blog tours, I can’t do everything. I’m in the fortunate position of being able to pay for help, but it’s still hard for me. Partly, I hate paying for things I know I can do myself. Mostly, I’m just your basic control-freak.

But ‘success’ is never defined as ‘burnt-out mess,’ so ask for help or,

  1. Say No

Honestly, I would bet there are all sorts of life coaches and psychologists who would include the ability to say ‘no’ in the top three on a list of successful life skills.

Marketing and promotion is an endless string. However much time and money you can throw at that beast, you can always do more. The right amount, the magic amount to give, is the amount that matches your resources.

By the same token, it can be hugely flattering to be asked to do a special project or to work with a certain author or editor. If that works well with your schedule, great! If the deadline is tight, or the return is prestige, not payola, and it’s liable to turn you into a blubbering mess?

Well, I’ll leave it to you to decide if that works with your definition of success, but saying ‘no’ is okay, especially if you have your own plan you want to stick to. Which means you should…

  1. Have A Plan

It’s the ol’ plotter and pantser debate again. To some extent, I’m guilty of pantsing my career—and yeah, there are times where I felt like I had been pants by it.

In those first couple of years, I was a deer in the headlights, so stunned that I was actually selling books, I just went with whatever came up. I wound up writing in a lot of different genres and eventually arrived at ‘full-time author’ so I got where I wanted to go.

In the last year or so, however, I’ve taken a step back. I’m looking at where my readership is and the kinds of books I want to write moving forward. It makes me sad to abandon my epic medieval fantasy aspirations, but one book does not make a career and I can’t do it all. My time is best served writing contemporary romance (for now.)

Picking your own path and hitting the milestones that mean something to you, (as well as consciously abandoning what isn’t working) is a very important step in feeling like a success.

But having said all that…

  1. Diversify (If It Makes Sense)

We live in a really fortunate time to be an author. Opportunity abounds and something that was rejected as too narrow a niche by traditional publishers could be your opportunity to shine on the indie stage. Also, from a financial standpoint, it makes sense to have eggs in more than one basket.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Doing many things badly won’t make you feel like a success (unless you’re all about quantity over quality.) But be open to doing more than one thing, or writing for more than one publisher. It’ll keep you fresh, too.


  1. Toot Your Own Horn

Early in my career, I said to my sister, “You’ll tell me if I’m being obnoxious, right?” I always feel braggy when I tell people my good news, even if it’s just that I got my word count finished. Up there, at the top of this post, when I stated the simple fact that I’m pushing close to forty books? I’m thinking you’re thinking, showoff.

Maybe you don’t have my hang-ups. If so, skip this step. But maybe you don’t have nearly forty books and that makes you feel not as successful as you’d like to be. To that I say, keep writing. You’ll get there. One word at a time.

Also, writing is hard. Did you write today? Go get a glass of champagne and congratulate yourself for being here at all. You’re a huge success!

How do you define success? Are you following a plan? Or playing it by ear? What are you celebrating today?


Dani’s latest title is Xenakis’s Convenient Bride, Book Two in The Secret Billionaire’s trilogy about jaded tycoons going undercover to win a bet only to lose their hearts.

The challenge: two weeks without your billionaire fortune!

Greek magnate Stavros Xenakis must go undercover to win a bet—and escape his grandfather’s demands that he take a bride. Until encountering deliciously tempting housekeeper Calli proves that a wife is exactly what he needs!

Calli’s baby being taken away robbed her of the ability to trust anyone. Now Stavros’s offer to marry her gives her the chance to finally find her son. But Calli doesn’t expect their honeymoon to be so sinfully sensual—and for life as the temporary Mrs. Xenakis to be so exquisitely satisfying…

Amazon  iTunes  Barnes & Noble 


Bio: Dani Collins is the USA Today Bestselling author of nearly forty romances for Harlequin Presents, Montana Born, and herself. She writes full-time in her attic office, has two young adults with her high school sweetheart, and dreams of traveling as soon as she’s not on deadline. (She’s always on deadline.) To keep up with Dani’s news, find her on social media Facebook ( Twitter ( or visit her website ( Join Dani’s newsletter ( and you’ll receive a link to download Cruel Summer as a welcome gift.

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9 Responses to “Ten Tips for the Successful Writer – by Dani Collins”

  1. Dani, how lovely to see you again!

    I’ve been following your progress, and am so excited to see you’re a USA Today Bestselling author!

    Thanks for these very tweetable suggestions, and I look forward to seeing more books and more RU posts and more success for you in the future.

    Cheers, Faith Freewoman

    Posted by Faith Freewoman | June 26, 2017, 8:43 am
  2. Great post. I enjoyed your tips. I agree there are many readers out there who don’t belong to forums, follow authors on social media, or belong to any romance reading communities. I found a new fave author by seeking out what I was interested in reading by doing a google search. I took a chance on her first book, loved it so much, and bought her back-list for the two series.

    As for defining success. Mine is a lil weird. I see success as tackling what I think I can’t do, and after hard work, being able to do it.

    I’m one of those rare writers who has no desire to become a household name or on the Globe and Mail bestselling list. I just want to write stories a small group of people will love. Nothing more.

    Posted by Mercy | June 26, 2017, 10:02 am
  3. What a fantastic list! I really needed this today, especially “embrace obscurity.” I feel like I’m learning a lot of these things the hard way, and wish I’d had such great advice when I first started writing.

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips, and congratulations on your success!

    Posted by Lisa Brown Roberts | June 26, 2017, 1:13 pm
    • Hi Lisa,

      Thanks and oh gosh, I learn the hard way even when someone spoon feeds me the easy way.

      But writing is a funny process that way. You have to find your own voice and be motivated by what rings true for you, which means a certain amount of carving your own path.

      Also, writing is just plain hard. So as long as you’re learning, you’re succeeding. Yay!

      Posted by Dani | June 26, 2017, 1:23 pm
  4. Very good reminder for all of us. I am still a newbie and find it easy to falter but posts like this keep pushing me.

    Posted by Barbara | June 27, 2017, 7:11 pm
    • Hi Barbara,

      Heck, we all falter. It’s a tough business and very easy to fall into self-doubt. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate the small successes. Definitely keep going! 🙂

      Posted by Dani | June 28, 2017, 2:22 pm


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