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Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Millionaire Author?

15/04/2014 17:19 BST | Updated 15/06/2014 10:59 BST

We often hear the romantic story of J.K. Rowling penning her first Harry Potter novel in her local coffee shop, her baby daughter sleeping alongside her. The atmosphere sounds friendly and familiar. It feels achievable - even effortless - to write your own book.

But this is a far cry from the reality of most millionaire authors' lives. I'm fortunate to have worked with many of the world's greatest authors... and it's definitely not a life for the faint-hearted. Yes, they make it look easy. They glide like swans across the surface of a crystal lake - but under the water, their feet are often paddling like crazy.

Barbara Taylor Bradford , author of A Woman of Substance, has written 28 novels and sold over 89 million copies. Yet she'll often rise at 4.30am or 5am when she's writing a book and will carry on working until 4pm: "I don't accept lunch invitations unless it is a business thing and I have to, or it is somebody's celebration, someone's birthday, because I think it kills the day for me," she explains.

Even with 270million copies sold, Jeffrey Archer, also rises at 5.30am - when most ordinary mortals are still in bed - and writes on and off until 8pm:

"It's sheer hard work, sheer discipline," he admits. "To young people who say, "I've written a book," I say, "I doubt it; you've probably written a first draft!" My books have had 13 or 14 drafts, every one of them handwritten. So, it's hard work and it's a marathon every time. You've got to accept that it's a marathon, and if you're not willing to, well ..."

Not only are the hours are long, but millionaire authors also set themselves formidable word-counts and daily writing targets. Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire, often writes 15 to 20 pages per day: "I've written whole books totally at night! Even recently, I wrote them at night to get away from all distractions, but I can't do it any more. I get very sick from that kind of upset schedule, and I guess my body is just too old to do it," she confesses.

While many first-time authors take over a year to write their books, Alexander McCall Smith, bestselling author of The No1 Ladies Detective Agency, produces three or four books per year. He's written over 100 books now, but still wishes he could write even more: "I've actually genuinely stopped counting. I know that that sounds affected, but I really have. So I don't know how many I've written," he says.

It doesn't seem to matter which genre bestselling authors are writing in. When, they're at the top of their game, they do whatever it takes to stay on top. Motivational guru, Brian Tracy, bestselling author of Eat That Frog, has written over 60 business books, yet still aims to write a new book every 90 days: "I'm producing eight this year: six of which are already in the market; the other two will be in the market this fall. My goal was to produce a book every 90 days, and I've done that now consistently for 12 or 13 years," he explains.

I have mentioned just a few aspects to the process of writing a book. The millionaire authors I've worked with apply the same gargantuan effort to: their book launches; to marketing; to promotion; to speaking; to media appearance; to touring.

Less than 70 US authors have sold over a million copies of their book since Nielsen BookScan started keeping records in 1986. The personal sacrifices, the extremes of preparation, and the daily regime of pushing oneself to the limits are similar to those required of a world-class chess champion or an Olympian athlete.

This isn't just about going the proverbial 'extra mile' for your profession. This isn't even about going an extra 100 miles. It goes beyond discipline, beyond work ethic, beyond enthusiasm. It's about obsession. It's about addiction. It's about living and breathing your book, day in day out. It's about writing not being a part of your life, but writing being your life.

Many people think it's down to chance which books sell millions and which don't. Experience tells me otherwise. Too many authors dash off books, plonk them on Amazon, then wonder when they don't sell. Or they get a handful of rejections from publishers and moan about how 'difficult' it is to sell books these days.

The fact is there's a reason why some authors sell millions of books and others struggle to sell even 100 copies. This isn't down to luck or chance. The question is: how many writers really have what it takes to be a millionaire author?

Extracts taken from Celebrity Authors' Secrets by Stephanie J Hale

Available for pre-order on Amazon.