So, You Want To Be a Best Selling Author?

Good for you!

What are you going to write about? How about something really exotic – something that hasn’t been done yet, like a book on cats? Oh, wait… Amazon currently has 311,183 books listed for cats.

Well, how about something informative? What do you know that nobody else does? Gardening? You love to garden, right? You have the best roses on the block. Hmmm…Amazon currently has 87,984 books on gardening. Well, then…cooking – I know you’re a great cook, your crème brulee is to die for! But, Amazon has 247,031 in cooking books (24 on crème brulee alone!). Maybe you can write on engineering – that’s pretty selective. Uh-oh–Amazon has 328,058 books on engineering. Wow… here you are, all fired up to write a best selling book and… Amazon is telling you it’s been done. More than once.

So, if you can’t write about what you know because a million people have already written books about what you know, what can you do? How can you create a bestseller out of a topic that’s been done, and done again, and then done again?

Here’s how—–by being you.

By writing your book on cooking, or gardening, or engineering or camping or love, or how granny became a painter, with YOUR personal twist. Writing a book that you hope to be a bestseller — and who doesn’t hope their book will be a bestseller? — begins with you and your ideas of why your focus on this topic is different, better, or more educational. Focus on the reader and what he or she will learn (or, in fiction, what he or she will enjoy) and you’ve got a great start. I especially like this blog post from Creating Passionate Users, which tells you in very frank language what NOT to do, if you want to write a bestseller.

But, just for fun, let’s look at bestselling books.

First, non-fiction. This week’s NY Times list (August 5, 2007) is citing a book on Navy Seals, a memoir of the first black coach to win a Super Bowl, a book on religion, and a book on homegrown food. Quite a variety of topics. You’re probably wondering how these books got on the NY Times list, aren’t you? I can tell you this much – it isn’t from good writing. Or perhaps I should say, it isn’t ONLY from good writing.

A lot of bestseller lists are compiled according to how many books independent book stores purchased. So, if Bookstore 1 purchased 500 and Bookstore 2 purchased 1000, and Bookstores 3, 4, 5 bought 250 each—well, when all is said and done, the numbers add up and the NY Times (among others) consider those books bestsellers. They do not take into account how many of the books get remaindered.

What’s remaindered? Remaindered is when the 500 books ordered sell out at 300 and the extra 200 get returned to the publisher, or some fraction thereof. It means – the NY Times bestseller list is compiled of data secured from bookstores reporting on how many books they bought, NOT on how many they sold. That would take way too long.

So, as noted in this 1999 article from The Salon, the NY Times and the bookstores it gathers its information from to compile its list of bestsellers, are in collusion.

Back to your book. How are you going to create a bestseller? Is your writing good enough to sell thousands of books? Yes, it takes thousands, upwards of 10,000 before most lists will look at you with an eye on putting you in their roll call. I’m here to say that more important than your writing – is your marketing.

Some truly outstanding, fabulous books have never made a bestseller list – for want of the right attention. And, some truly terrible books have made the best seller lists, as a result of good marketing.

The way to becoming a bestselling author, then, is—–

  • Write what you know. If you don’t know enough of what you know, learn it.
  • Write with passion. Make the reader feel what you feel.
  • Begin your marketing before you go to publication. Start a blog, create press releases, hire a publicist: in short, have a plan, well before the book comes out.
  • Choose your publisher wisely. Choose a print on demand publisher if you need to get your book out quickly – POD (Print On Demand) publishers can help you get the book of your dreams into print much faster than Random House or Simon and Schuster, and many POD publishers will also coach you on the ‘hard’ parts.
  • Get an agent, if you prefer a traditional publisher. An agent will keep your best interests at heart.
  • Be the loudest, craziest, most sincere supporter of your own work. Find ways to tell the world about it; create a short, two or three sentence overview that you can deliver to anyone, at any time, one that will have people drooling over your book and rushing to Amazon or your website or your blog to buy it.

If you’re writing a bestseller, then make it a best seller. More than anyone else out there, YOU have the tools needed to get your book on the bestseller lists. As a reminder that everyone started somewhere, once a week, take a look at the bestseller lists and count on your fingers how many of the authors you actually know.

Then visit this link and start working on your approach to Oprah! It can’t hurt!

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How To Publish A Best Selling Book

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