7 Things You Can Do Today to Get on The Bestseller Track

7 Ways to Become a Bestselling Author (text)

But first, the publishing stories worth reading this week:

Amazon is Quietly Eliminating List Prices (David Streitfeld for The New York Times): A fascinating look at the deterioration of the list price/discount marketing tactic and how it’s influencing online commerce, including the massive online book business. I thought this was a must-read this week, and it’s definitely a trend worth watching for anyone involved in online commerce.

Training to Be a Good Writer (Leo Babuata of Zen Habits): “You get good by doing it a lot, and caring. You’ll never be perfect at it—goodness knows I’m far from perfect — but the only way to get better is to practice. And to care about what you’re doing. Do that every day, and every step of the struggle will be an amazing one.”

My Top 5 Favorite Marketing Books (Chad Cannon): “They say that reading is a key habit for success–that our society’s leading thinkers, investors, and decision-makers must be readers. I fully believe it’s true, and I love this quote from Warren Buffet. Once, when asked what his key to success is, he pointed to a stack of books and said: ‘Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.'”

Do You Lock Your Best Ideas in a Vault? (Benjamin Percy for JaneFriedman.com/Glimmer Train): “For every story or essay or poem you write, you withdraw one image, two characters, maybe three of the metaphors you have stockpiled—and then slam shut the vault and lock it with a key shaped like a skeleton’s finger. I used to be the same way, nervously rationing out my ideas.”


7 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Become a Bestselling Author Tomorrow

I hope everyone had a delicious and fun Fourth of July weekend! The fireworks in DC were a bust with all the rain, but Jarrett and I spent the first half of the long weekend exploring Louisville and Lexington. We ate:

  • Brisket and smoked sausage at the Blue Door Smokehouse (picked by Ashlea Halpern of Condé Nast Traveler as one of her two favorite BBQ joints in the country!)
  • The most glorious country ham on an Eggs Benedict at Proof on Main inside the 21C Museum
  • A 4-course tasting menu of delight at Edward Lee’s fantastic 610 Magnolia
  • Really very naughty sandwiches at Ouita Michel’s Wallace Station (that Hot Country Ham and Pimento Cheese sandwich…oh my.)
  • And because we couldn’t help ourselves: more of Ouita’s food at Smithtown Seafood. They’re participating in the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project that challenges chefs to create more sustainable burgers by adding mushrooms to their patties. This makes the burger better. In fact, it was the best burger of my life. Yes, I said it. Go try it and tell me if I’m not right.

I think we did some other stuff in between there, but mostly we ate, and a lot.

Which brings me to the question: what productive things can you do as a writer or blogger when you are, say, too gut-bombed on Southern food to concentrate on your manuscript? Not every moment needs to be write-or-die, and there are so many things that can contribute to your skill-set that have nothing to do with typing away.

Here are 7 of them, which I first covered for Bustle Books, and which I hope make for some easily digestible reading no matter how gluttonous your holiday was!

7 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Become a Bestselling Author Tomorrow

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5 Must-Follow Authors Who Can Show You How to Market Authentically

how to market a book authentically for authors

But first, the stories work reading this week:

Follow the Influencers: Social Media Stars 2016 (Alex Palmer for Publisher’s Weekly): “The books that succeed, editors and publishers say, are those that are approached as something more complex than a typical online post or promotional tool.”

How to Get Started as a Professional Speaker (Michael Hyatt): “Public speaking is a tremendous way to: discover what resonates and why, build your personal brand, promote your products, and monetize your content. Most important, it is one of the best ways I know to influence people: to expose them to new ideas, motivate them to take action, and creative transformational experiences.”

7 Simple Steps to Building the Structure of Your Nonfiction Book (Chad R. Allen): “A lot of people have some scattered ideas about what they’d like to write about, but they really don’t know how to take those jumbled thoughts and organize them into book form. … [This is] a proven way to take your untidy ideas and organize them into book form.”

Why Indie Authors Need a Business Hat (Helen Sedwick on The Book Designer): “Many writers who dive into self-publishing are surprised to discover they are running a business. They have questions about incorporation and business licenses. They wonder what to do about sales taxes. They fear hiring editors, designers, and other freelancers.”

5 Must-Follow Authors Who Can Show You How to Market Authentically

Two weeks ago I talked a lot about the psychology and emotion of marketing, and why so many authors struggle to do it in a way that doesn’t feel fake and sleazy. I also shared a 3-step process for how to learn what authentic and effective marketing really looks like. (Hint: If it feels icky to you, don’t do it!)

But when you think about it, marketing is all around us, and we can learn so much about it just by watching closely. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel–we just need to pinpoint the people who are doing it well and learn from them.

Think about the last nonessential purchase you made online, and why you made it. For me, it was a gorgeous art print from Jones Design Company for my gallery wall. The thought process behind that purchase was absurdly simple (as really most of my thought processes are, ha!).

It was something like: “I like her. I like that art print (or book, or course, etc.). I will now buy it.”

See? Those are the deep, insightful thoughts that happen up here. It is really hard to keep up with myself.

But if you look more closely at it, that thought process is actually the distillation of authentic marketing:

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The One Limiting Belief That Holds Authors Back From Success (And a 3-Step Process to Work Your Way Past It!)

how to market your book

But first, the stories worth reading this week:

  • TED-Ed Lessons for Writers to Kick Off 2016 (Maryann Yinn on GalleyCat): “Would you like to take in some writing wisdom? We’ve compiled a list of five TED-Ed videos on how to create captivating fiction, the definition of ‘orwellian,’ pronouns, misused modifiers, and the origins of the English language.”
  • Ten Things I Learned As A First-Time Published Author (Kristin Meekhof on HuffPo Books): “There were missteps on my part. I was green and it showed. Even a well-established person in the book industry told me so. She went to far as to say, ‘I knew you were on the learning curve, but I didn’t know you were at the bottom of it.'”
  • Details Help Writers Overcome Fear (Benjamin Vogt on JaneFriedman.com): “Writers are scaredy-cats. We go in fear of lots of stuff, like sharing our true thoughts or wondering how others will think of us.”
  • 7 Book Marketing Trends Authors Can’t Afford to Ignore (Kimberly Grabas on The Book Designer): “In today’s world of rapidly evolving digital media, an author’s book marketing strategy requires clear career objectives and goals, an understanding of what’s working right now (and what’s on track to pay dividends in the future), and some smart planning to tie it all together.”
  • At the Codex Hackathon, a Two-Day Marathon of Tech for Books (Jon Christian, The Boston Globe): “’There are a lot of really talented developers who love books, and who would love to participate if they knew the problems that needed to be solved.’”


The One Limiting Belief That Holds Authors Back From Success (And a 3-Step Process to Work Your Way Past It!)

When I was in college, I used to make fun of marketing majors. I didn’t think marketing was really a thing—it sounded more like a vague corporate job where you were paid good money to sit in meetings and say jargon-y things about customers and profits.

(This is especially hilarious, because I was an English major, of all things. Which is the epitome of a vague major, and one where you would most certainly not be paid good money. I guess I was just bitter.)

When I graduated and actually got a job in publishing (!!), I was still a little snot about marketing. Secretly (and I probably shouldn’t admit this because it is just so snotty)…but secretly, I thought the marketing assistants were just there because they hadn’t been able to get the editorial assistant jobs. (I know. I was new to publishing and too proud about working in editorial. Also, just dumb.)

Over the years, as I started acquiring books, building my own list, and working at different publishers with different systems, I got curious about why some books weren’t selling and others were. I really, really wanted to crack the code. I still do.

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Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Pinterest vs. Instagram: What’s Right for Authors?

Best social media for authors

There is a grand battle royale going down between social media networks, and writers and bloggers are caught in the middle of it. The boundaries are constantly shifting, the pros and cons of each platform are always changing, and no one ever seems to be able to decide where in the heck they should be.

So, which social media networks should you be on? Where can you get the best bang for your social media buck?  I get this question all the time, and like the Twitter-specific question from last week, the answer is complicated. Because really, choosing a network depends on what kind of writer or blogger you are and what areas of your author platform you need to bolster.

The one thing that applies to everyone? You can’t (and shouldn’t) build your numbers on all of them. You will drive yourself straight loony-tunes if you try to keep up with all of them, and your social media campaign will be less effective if it’s not focused. It’s worth it to find your social media soulmate–that one platform that will not only grow your platform but also be actually enjoyable!

Ready to choose? Here are the candidates:

  • Facebook: The big kahuna. I’m still of the belief that every single writer should have a professional Facebook page, and this is for one simple reason: sheer numbers. Facebook has 1.35 billion monthly active users. The other networks lag far behind—Instagram has an estimated 300 million users, Twitter has an estimated 288 million users, and Pinterest has about 70 million users. Facebook is still where everyone and their grandma is, and even though it’s been changing its algorithm to limit the reach of posts (more on the changes to Facebook’s algorithm and what it means for authors here), it’s still the best place to reach the most people. Facebook also allows you to integrate all mediums–text with no character limits, images, videos, GIFS, etc–so it can work for you no matter what your strengths are. I consider a professional Facebook page to be one of the foundational elements of building a platform.

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