Myth 5: Everyone Should Shoot for the Bestsellers Lists

By Chris Maddock and Michael Drew

When you publish your book, how will you measure success?

For the author of the first book I worked on, success meant seeing his book in an airport bookstore. Books on the truncated lists of airport bookstores are almost always bestsellers. So indirectly, that was his goal. As fate would have it, I was lucky enough to be walking through an airport with that author the moment that dream come true. Which was pretty cool. His book, like his next two, became a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller.

But most authors aren’t really ready for primetime. And shooting for the bestsellers lists, especially with your first book, or even second book, is probably not realistic.

So maybe your goal is to get your book into bookstores. Problem is, if you do get onto those shelves, but don’t have the platform and marketing plan to move your books, you might not get another chance when you write your next book. Most authors would be better off self-publishing or small-publishing, making a little money, and using their books to build their platforms for another day.

In previous posts, I’ve written about creating a platform which you can market to upon publication of your book. Your platform consists of the people that know you, or know of you or your work.

Here’s the thing: to make the non-fiction bestsellers lists, you probably need 500, 000 to a million people in your platform. And while you certainly don’t need that kind of a platform to sell books in retail stores, you do need a substantial one.

So – do you have a big, invested platform? Neither do I. But I do have a plan for getting one. A plan that’s working for several authors I’m working with: grow your platform by disseminating your ideas via the new-fangled electronic media. Keep at it until you have a platform big enough to move books off shelves.

Even if your goal is just to get your books in bookstores, my advice is to create a big, deeply invested audience that can help get your books out of them.

Because even if your book does get published for you, it’s chiefly up to you to market your book. And if you can’t, things can get ugly. The crummy part about making it into bookstores: if you don’t sell half your books in about 90 days, they’ll take all your books off the shelves. And because book buyers have long, detailed memories, your initial commercial failure will serve as a red flag the second time around, making you and your book a much harder sell – even if you do then have all your poop in a group.

So, when you publish your book, how will you measure success?

Hopefully, you’ll be shooting for the stars—–but measure your success realistically. And in the meantime, make “realistic” as spectacular as possible by building a strong audience in advance of publication.

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How To Publish A Best Selling Book

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