If you want to write a bestselling book, don’t reinvent the wheel.
I get at least a dozen email a week from friends who want to write books.
After three #1 bestsellers from 2007 to 2012, and publishing in 35+ countries, I’ve tried a lot. Having experimented with everything from “traditional” (Random House) to Amazon Publishing, from BitTorrent Bundles to self-publishing audiobooks, I’ve developed strong opinions about…
– What works and what doesn’t.
– What sucks and what doesn’t.
– What makes the most money and what doesn’t.
This post is intended to answer all of the most common questions I get, including:
– “Should I publish traditionally or self-publish?”
– “How does a first-time author get a 7-figure book advance?”
– “How do I get a good agent or publisher? Do I even need an agent?”
– “What does the ‘bestseller list’ really mean? How do you get on one?”
– “What are your top marketing tips if I have little or no budget?”
– “What are the biggest wastes of time? The things to avoid?”
– And so on…
My answers are grouped into sections, all of which include resource links. Here are the four sections of this post:
PR AND MEDIA
TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING VERSUS SELF-PUBLISHING
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
As a prelude, here are two books I found useful when selling The 4-Hour Workweek. both as a proposal to publishers and as a finished book to the world:
For the first meaty section, we’ll cover marketing,
as it’s where I get the most questions.
- Wrangling book blurbs or cover testimonials is one of the biggest wastes of time for new authors. Take the same number of hours and invest them in making a better product and planning your marketing launch. I think one quote per book is more than enough, and a passionate quote from a credible but lesser-known person is FAR better than faint “meh” praise from a famous person.
- If you only have time to read one article on marketing, make it 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired Magazine.
- In my experience, more than 50% of the CEOs who have bestselling books buy their way onto the lists. I know at least a dozen of them. See The Deception of Bestseller Lists for more detail. I’ve never done this, as I aim to have books that are bestsellers for years not two weeks. That said, if you’re busy and simply want “bestselling author” on your resume, it can be had for a price.
- If your book is mediocre, you can still market/promote a book onto the bestseller lists…but only for a week or two, unless you’re mega-rich. Long term, book quality and pass-along value is what keeps a tome on the charts. I value the Amazon Most-Highlighted page more than my NYT bestseller stats. The weekly bestseller lists are highly subject to gaming. I’d love to see a shift to monthly bestseller lists.
Now, the meat of this MARKETING section: