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Break the Rules to Build a Bestseller

Guest post by Rob Eagar.

The publishing industry is going through an incredible amount of chaos and transformation. Some of this change is good, such as new technology, lower prices, and easier ways for people to get access to information. In contrast, some changes are bad, such as Borders bookstores filing for bankruptcy, publishers working with lower budgets and less staff, and authors finding it harder than ever to land new publishing contracts.

In the midst of this change, the rules for becoming a New York Times bestseller are also getting rewritten. For example, if you asked most publishers 10 years ago to explain their marketing strategy to create a bestseller, they would probably emphasize the following five activities:

1. Secure numerous national-level TV and radio interviews.
2. Urge the author buy 10,000 - 15,000 of his own book directly from various retailers.
3. Schedule a whirlwind speaking tour in major cities across America.
4. Place expensive advertisements in major magazines and newspapers.
5. Setup as many bookstore signings as possible.

In today’s Internet era, these ideas no longer hold sway. Gone are the days of boring bookstore signings and pricey print ads. In addition, national media has lost much of its power as more programs cater to specific niche audiences. The good news is that authors now have more personal promotional power than ever before.

For example, I helped Lysa TerKeurst hit the New York Times bestseller list for over 25 weeks this year with her new book, “Made to Crave.” We didn’t use any of the old five bestseller rules listed above. Instead, I coached Lysa how to succeed by breaking the rules, building her own platform, and making personal connections with thousands of readers. I taught her to attract a large following by giving daily value through a blog and e-newsletter, conducting regular speaking engagements, providing helpful free resources, and highlighting reader testimonials. The results of this marketing strategy produced the following results:

1. Her author website received over 100,000 unique visitors in the first 30 days.
2. One of her free resources was featured for 21 days on over 350 niche radio stations.
3. She hosted a 6-week online webcast that garnered over 20,000 views per week.
4. We captured exciting success stories and promoted them both online and offline.
5. We used the power of viral video to promote a catchy book trailer and helpful FAQ author clips that received over 25,000 views in 30 days.

By utilizing a modern marketing strategy, Lysa sold over 200,000 copies of her new book in the first 6 months and hit the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. Even better, all of her success was created for a lot less money than publishers typically spend to produce a bestselling title.

This week's action step:
As an author, what are you doing to build your reader base? Are you relying on antiquated methods that are outdated and ineffective? I encourage you to add at least one new marketing activity this week that relies on distributing free value via the Internet. For example, you could develop a free resource, start sending a newsletter, create insightful or funny videos, capture reader success stories, start a webcast, etc. If you have legitimate value to provide people through fiction or non-fiction, the old barriers that hindered distribution no longer exist. Take advantage of the new opportunities to rewrite the rules and become a bestseller.

About the author:

Rob Eagar is the founder of WildFire Marketing, a consulting practice that helps authors and publishers sell more books and spread their message like wildfire. He has assisted numerous New York Times bestselling authors and his new book, “Sell Books Like Wildfire,” will be published by Writer’s Digest in May, 2012. For more free advice and information about Rob’s services for authors, visit:

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