This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Patricia Volonakis Davis, author of HARLOT’S SAUCE) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.
Many writers who wish to become bestselling authors behave as though they already are bestselling authors. The strategy of “if you believe it’s true, it will become true” has been made popular by—fittingly enough—the bestselling book, The Secret. It’s a strategy that can work. That is, if you know how bestselling authors conduct themselves; and many new writers and newly published authors seem to think they do. Here are the seven things I’ve learned so far about how to become a bestselling author:
1. First and foremost, bestselling authors never need editors. The very idea is insulting. Think about it—how can an editor help you make your work better? You should be able to tell whether it has any flaws in it. Do you think Dan Brown needs to listen to an editor’s advice? Certainly not.
2. Bestselling authors demand the attention of other published authors. Whether it’s a blurb you want, a free reading of your manuscript, or dozens of questions answered, don’t be shy—be assertive. Issuing commands puts you in a position of authority. For example, I had one future bestselling author come up to me at a conference and say, “I wanted to attend your session, but there’s another one at the same time that might be better for me, so I’d like to sit with you at lunch and have you tell me what you’re going to say.” It takes a great deal of self-esteem to walk up to a stranger and insist on your rights as a future bestseller. She didn’t even offer to buy my book first. That’s confidence.
3. Bestselling authors ignore unpublished writers. Conversely, with everything you’ll have to do once your books start selling madly, you’ll barely have time for family, let alone friends. So to avoid making new ones, don’t waste time helping colleagues who can’t help further your career. Don’t be squeamish about taking this stand—it’s not uncouth, it’s just good business. With the steady and fixed way the publishing industry operates, it’ll be years before they’ll be able to repay you, if ever. Therefore, don’t write any online reviews for anyone, do not—heaven forbid—try to help anyone get a publisher; and most of all, if they do manage to get a book published, definitely don’t buy it, because The Law of Physics dictates that every book they don’t sell is one more you will sell.
4. Bestselling authors ignore their readership. In the same vein, as members of the literati, authors are elevated from the common person. Therefore, knowing who our readers are who enjoy our work, tell their friends about it, and even purchase additional copies to give as gifts, is unimportant. Your writing is too time-consuming for social networking.
5. Unless they give you a bad review. Bestselling authors do not ignore flamers or old high school enemies who anonymously leave ‘one star reviews’ on their amazon.com book page. Nor do they try to learn anything about their writing from a reader who takes the time to sincerely critique it. Bestselling authors announce on Facebook how offended they are that someone who paid for their book had the nerve to say what they thought of it.
6. Bestselling authors let the in-house publicist do all their marketing for them. This is a no-brainer. You’ve been assigned your own publicist, so let her do her job. Leave it exclusively to her to get the word of your new book out there. There are over 350 thousand books published in the U.S. annually, but your publicist has only about 300 of those new books and authors to work with each year. You know she’ll put yours in her ‘Top Five,’ because yours is going to be a bestseller!
7. Bestselling authors don’t let retail bookshops push them around. Would a bookshop be a bookshop without books—specifically—your book? Of course not. So once again, be persistent, especially with your local independent bookshop. They should be championing you, for sure. Expect that they’ll keep a spot open on their shelves for you always, even if new stock is coming in. If they do agree to a book event, assume they’ll do all the promotion for it; and then if it’s poorly attended, let them know you’re not pleased. If you’re a self-published author, be sure to haggle with your retailer over sales percentages. They’ll complain that they have overhead such as rent, utilities, and salaries to keep their doors open, and that online sellers are draining their blood, blah, blah, blah. Pay no heed, because if they don’t like the deal, you can just take your event to another bookshop, can’t you?
Hook agents, editors and readers immediately.
Check out Les Edgerton’s guide, HOOKED, to
learn about how your fiction can pull readers in.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- How to Make a Book Trailer: 6 Tips.
- 9 Things We Can Learn From Other Writers.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Why Writers Must Train Themselves to Produce on a Deadline.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
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