Becoming a published author is something a whole lot of people want to do--but very few people actually cross the finish line with a quality book they can be proud of.

Last year I wrote two novels. One has already been published by a small, independent publisher based in the Midwest. The second is another novel that will be published by a different publisher based in Austin, Texas.

Writing novels is a strange and incredibly difficult way to become a published author. There is no feeling more awkward than having to lie to your friends and family about what's based on real-life events and what isn't. That said, regardless of what type of book you write, writing books is really, really, really hard.

If you want 2019 to be the year you become a published author, here are a few things you need to know.

1.  There are no shortcuts.

Content in book form becomes a transformative piece of literature when authors experience their own transformation from the writing process. I don't believe you can outsource that transformation to ghostwriters or companies who promise to take your knowledge and convert it into a book in a matter of months or even days.

Writing a book that anyone will ever want to read means spending long hours alone, hunched over a computer. It means taking a hard look at who you are and being willing to throw out ideas and beliefs you've held for a lifetime once you see how trite, shallow, or ineffective they look when they're staring back at you from the pages of your rough draft.

Writing a book is emotionally and physically exhausting.

But, before you get too disappointed, there is a payoff.

2. Nothing beats a random stranger telling you they've read your book--and liked it.

Right before your book hits the market, you'll likely distribute copies to friends and trusted colleagues in exchange for a review. And given that they are friends and trusted colleagues, the review will likely be positive--and that feels good.

However, it doesn't hold a candle to the feeling you'll get when a total stranger tells you they've read and loved your book. That feeling is the single biggest payoff you'll likely get.

Why?

Because...

3. You need to keep your financial expectations in check.

All first-time authors have that hope in the back of their mind: This will be it.

Once this hits the market, I'll be rolling in dollar bills like I was the favored child of Scrooge McDuck and Jay-Z.

More than likely, that won't happen.

The economics of publishing are notoriously difficult. Whether you self-publish or receive an offer from a traditional publisher (small or large), the financial payoff will never match the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into your book. Contrary to popular belief, in 2019 books are thriving, with more titles in print than ever before. It will be very difficult for your book to break through the noise.

And that's okay.

Money isn't the sole measure of success--and if more cash is the only reason for writing your book, you should step away from your manuscript right now.

4. Make sure you are motivated to write a book for the right reasons.

Why do you want to write a book?

If you're like every other aspiring leadership coach/consultant/guru, chances are you want to write a book to enhance your brand. If that's your main reason for writing, America's reading public should brace themselves: There will soon be another wholly unoriginal book on the market written to promote the author, rather than change the reader.  

Great or even good authors have never written a book to "enhance their brand." Ernest Hemmingway, John Steinbeck, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Gillian Flynn, Maya Angelou, Truman Capote, and thousands and thousands of lesser-known writers put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards because they had a story deep within themselves that needed to get out.

2019 might be the year you tell your story.

If so, congratulations. 

You have a long, hard year ahead of you.

But it will be worth it. 

Published on: Jan 14, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.