“The most important habit is discipline” to become a bestseller, with authors Sara Connell & Nihar Suthar

I think the most important habit that led to me becoming a bestselling author is my discipline. It’s ironic, but the greatest downfall I see in most writers is that they do not write. They spend time on all the “exciting” stuff, like building a website or designing a book cover, but put off dedicating […]

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I think the most important habit that led to me becoming a bestselling author is my discipline. It’s ironic, but the greatest downfall I see in most writers is that they do not write. They spend time on all the “exciting” stuff, like building a website or designing a book cover, but put off dedicating time to what really matters — their book!

As part of my series on the “5 Things You Need To Know To Write A Bestselling Book” I had the pleasure of interviewing Nihar Suthar.

Nihar Suthar is an award-winning writer, covering inspirational stories around the world. Believe it or not, he stumbled upon writing completely by accident after moving to New York City for the very first time (at the young age of 17). While in the Big Apple, Nihar noticed that there were thousands of people missing out on the greatness of everyday life, due to the very fast paced lifestyles they lived.

As a result of his observations, he had a big idea to inspire people around the globe by writing a book (which was strange, because he always hated reading books. Why would he ever write one?). With the support of his family and friends though, Nihar ended up debuting his first international book, Win No Matter What, in May 2013.

Since then, Nihar’s work has taken him to both distant parts of the globe and down strange alleyways. For his 2016 release, The Corridor of Uncertainty, Nihar traveled to the United Arab Emirates and received threats from the Taliban, as he sought to chronicle the miraculous story of the Afghan cricket team. To deepen his understanding of the Middle East region, Nihar also studied Pashto, one of the official languages of Afghanistan.

​Nihar graduated cum laude from Cornell University, where he studied applied economics and management, with concentrations in finance and strategy. He currently calls Boston home, and is constantly on the prowl for fresh, inspiring stories to document.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

I stumbled upon this career path completely by accident — let me tell you the story of how it happened. I was born and raised in a small central Pennsylvanian town called Lewistown. The population is merely 8,000 people. When the time came for me to go to college, I decided to complete my freshman year at NYU in New York City.

Of course, going from Lewistown to New York City was a major shock. Both are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Lewistown is slow-paced and quiet. People take the time to greet each other. NYC, on the other hand, is fast-paced, loud, and intimidating. New Yorkers have a reputation for putting up stone-cold facades.

Seeing how different life was in New York City just made me want to share aspects of my life from Lewistown with people so that they too could experience it. I took out my laptop and simply started writing stories on how to better connect with others, fully appreciate your experiences, and improve your overall life. Some of these stories were inspiring interviews with people I knew or had heard of while others were simply my own reflections. Initially, I had no intention of writing a book — but, at the end when I had finished writing the stories, I thought it would be valuable to make them accessible to others. That is what led me to the process of publishing my first book, Win No Matter What.

I loved that entire process so much, that to this very day, I still continue to write!

What was (so far) the most exhilarating or fulfilling experience you’ve had as an author?

The most exhilarating experience I’ve had as an author was being able to go on my first international book tour in 2016, following the release of The Corridor of Uncertainty. I traveled through India, South Africa, Tanzania, Argentina, Canada, and the United States, stopping at a mix of high schools and bookstores for book-signing and speaking events. It was so much fun being able to meet readers of my work in real-life. Writing otherwise is one of those fields where you generally do not interact with readers of your books.

What was the craziest, weirdest, wildest experience you’ve had as a bestselling author?

I think the craziest experience I had as a bestselling author was when I was in the process of writing The Corridor of Uncertainty. I was supposed to travel to Afghanistan in 2014 for interviews with the Afghan cricket team as part of the book. To build up some anticipation around it, I promoted some ads on Facebook about the trip I was planning to take.

Having amassed some followers as a writer, the ads actually spread pretty far, to even people in Afghanistan. Before I was supposed to leave, I received some scary threats from a person claiming to be part of the Taliban. I did not end up going to Afghanistan, and instead traveled with the team in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It was certainly a crazy experience receiving a message like that.

What is the greatest part about being a successful, bestselling author? What is the worst (if anything) part?

The greatest part about being a best-selling author is that the messages I have written will live on forever. It’s always humbling to see people picking up my books years after they have been released and to know that this will continue happening for years and years to come. It’s almost like a part of me I will leave behind.

The worst part, however, of having achieved success in writing is that I actually feel some pressure with every new book I write of having to top the previous ones in terms of quality, sales, and reach. When I started off with my first book, I had nothing to compare myself against, which was in some aspects a lot better.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?

I think the most important habit that led to me becoming a bestselling author is my discipline. It’s ironic, but the greatest downfall I see in most writers is that they do not write. They spend time on all the “exciting” stuff, like building a website or designing a book cover, but put off dedicating time to what really matters — their book!

When I’m working on a book, I make it a point to write every day without distractions. When I was writing The Corridor of Uncertainty, I made it a routine to wake up at 5:37am every morning so I could work in the early mornings without any interruptions.

Which writer or leader has had the biggest impact on you as a writer?

The leader who has had the biggest impact on me as a writer is Pramukh Swami Maharaj. His goal was to make the world a better place, and the motto through which he did this was, “In the joy of others lies our own.” I have always aspired to encompass this into my writing and the stories I tell.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?

The greatest challenge I faced in my journey was just getting my first book published back in 2013. Not having written anything before, when I submitted my manuscript to potential publishers, they all turned me down. I remember getting rejected by more than 30 of them. It was incredibly discouraging for a first-time author. I never thought I would become a successful writer at that point. Luckily, I persevered and one of those publishers eventually decided to take a chance on me.

Ever since that point, having a history of writing, it’s become easier and easier to get published. If you’re an aspiring writer, I think the biggest lesson you can learn from my experience is to never give up. It may be difficult to get your first book published, but somebody will take a chance on you — and, it only becomes easier from there.

What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? What lesson(s) did you learn?

The challenge I learned most from in my career is how to stay motivated and disciplined to continue writing. Most writers do not have anybody telling them they have to finish a book by a certain deadline, and so it’s hard to continuously write. Writing is also a very long and sometimes grueling process, so it can be discouraging at times.

I’ve learned that you need to set milestones and find ways to hold yourself accountable, whether it’s telling a few of your close friends to follow up with you on those milestones or whether it’s simply punishing yourself (not watching TV for a few days) if you don’t reach them. Either way, you have to find what works for you to stay motivated and disciplined.

What are the 5 things a writer needs to know if he/she wants to become a bestselling author?

1.Current trends are important: Becoming a bestselling author is not just about writing. It’s about being aware of what readers are interested in at any given time. If readers are not interested in the topic of your book, it could be the most amazing piece of work you’ve ever written, but you will not sell anything. You have to be aware of what is trending. The best way I’ve found to do this is to follow the news. Journalism today encapsulates trends in society, because the media must cover what sells. For example, if the topic you are thinking of writing has been covered on multiple occasions by The New York TimesCNN, and Wall Street Journal, you can be sure that there is interest in it. You should do this type of research before youeven start writing if you want to have a chance of becoming a best-selling author.

2.There’s no substitute for market research. After you’re confident in your chosen topic, before beginning to write, do some competitive market research. For example, if you’ve decided to write a book about blockchain, do some searches on Amazon around blockchain-related books. You’ll see that there are already one or two bestsellers in this category. Read them and understand what differentiates them from others in the category. This will inform you about what types of content and formatting could give your book a chance of becoming a top seller.

3.These days, you have to market yourself. If you want to increase your chances of making your book a bestseller, then you should try to build up a community or email list prior to releasing your book. For example, before releasing a book on blockchain, you could start a blog on blockchain where you write interesting articles and collect subscribers. Or, you could answer blockchain questions on Quora and build up a following. Either way, think about how you can build a community or email list, so that when you do release your book, you already have a relevant audience to market it to (and that will most likely purchase it). Building a community or email list takes time, so this is best to begin doing in parallel while you are writing your book.

4.Carry a notebook. As you immerse yourself in your writing, you’ll find that you have ideas at the most random times. You may have an epiphany while you are at the grocery store or gas station. If you have a notebook, you can easily write it down and remember it later. This has happened to me several times before. I was in college while writing The Corridor of Uncertaintyand I used to always have random ideas in class (when my mind was wandering). I quickly learned to keep a notebook so I could remember everything I thought about.

5.Get reader feedback along the way. A lot of writers are secretive about their writing, but personally, I think that after you finish the first draft of your book, it’s a great time to get a small group of friends to read what you’ve written and give you feedback on what they like and don’t like. Doing this gives you the opportunity to revise the content in your book to give it the best chance of becoming a bestseller. Readers are the ones who are going to make your book a bestseller, so listen to them whenever you can! I’m at this stage right now with the book I’m currently working on and I’ve gotten some great feedback already.

What are you most excited to work on next? Most excited to read next?

I am currently working on a new book about a girl from Korogocho (a very poor slum in Kenya) who became one of the best rollerbladers in all of Africa and inspired other girls in her village to stand up for their dreams. I finished the first draft of the book and am extremely excited to go back to Kenya to work on edits and the next draft. This book is one of my most favorite pieces of work because a lot of millennials are passionate about making a tangible impact in the world, but often don’t know where to start. This book combines a heartwarming story with actionable advice as to how the reader can create real change in places that need it, like Korogocho.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

A lot of times, I believe it’s really easy to get caught up in our own schedules and lives. What I’ve learned from the stories I’ve written is that there are actually a lot of people out there who are struggling — from poverty, illnesses, or just about anything else you can think of. As a result, if I could inspire a movement, it would be for everybody in the world to do one kind act for another human. This could be something as small as complimenting another person.

Imagine how many people would be able to overcome their struggles if they just had somebody else take the time to lift them up.

Thank you so much for these great insights!

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