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 Things You SHOULDN’T Worry About When Building Your Platform

easy platform building for authors
let these worries go!

I know it’s technically September, but I have unanimously agreed with myself that we could use one last article in August’s The Good Stuff series. In case you missed the last few posts, you can catch up on them here:

Week 1: Why Publishing Professionals Have to be Eternal Optimists

Week 2: A Success Story with a Side of Cheesecake

Week 3: 6 Moments to Celebrate on Your Publishing Journey

Week 4: The Most Important Character Trait in Publisher, Plus a Free Jack Kerouac Art Print

A Literary Agent's advice on how to enjoy the process of writing and publishing a book

One of my very favorite cities in the country is Richmond, Virginia. It’s where I went to college; it’s where I met some of my best friends; it’s where I met Jarrett (and also where he proposed to me last weekend—more on that in Friday’s roundup!); and it’s where I’ll be back for another year at the James River Conference on October 17th.

The James River Conference is such an especially fun one for me, since it’s usually a smaller and more intimate experience than the big mega conferences like the Writer’s Digest Conference (although I had a blast there, too!). The JRW organizers asked me to put together a quick little “5 Things About Anything” list to include for their newsletter subscribers, and as I was writing it, I realized it’d also be a great send-off to The Good Stuff series.

As September kicks in and the publishing industry comes to life again, you’ll probably be doubling down on the platform-building and picking up your regular writing schedule again. Even as things pick up speed, here are the 5 things you just shouldn’t waste your energy worrying about:

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Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish? The One Thing That Matters.


self publishing vs traditional publishing

When you work in a coaching role like literary agents do, you tend to get a lot of the same questions. This is one of the big ones.

So, in the interest of efficiency, let’s hash it out right here. Should you self-publish or traditionally publish?

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Why Twitter Might Not Be Right For You as an Author

Twitter for authors

In the past few weeks, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from aspiring authors about Twitter. Everyone seems to want to know if they should be on it, why I like it so much, and whether they should focus more of their own book marketing efforts on it.

Well, like everything else in this age of digital marketing, the answers to those questions are a bit complex. So I’ll just go ahead and tell you why I love Twitter, and why I think it’s not right for all authors.

Many of my readers are nonfiction writers/bloggers rather than fiction writers. And there’s an important distinction there: practical nonfiction is often highly illustrated (with four-color photos), while fiction is almost always straight narrative (with black-and-white text). Why does this matter when it comes to social media? Am I just being picky for fun? Are all literary agents out to befuddle writers and make social media even more confusing?

I hope you’re thinking no to those questions. Right? Right?

Right! So the format of your future book really does matter when it comes to social media. For practical nonfiction writers/bloggers, your aesthetic is your brand. The design of your online properties, the images you include in your posts, and the images you curate and share on social media are all part of your brand. Practical nonfiction is inherently image-driven, and therefore, it’s best suited for image-driven platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. (I’ll write more about the distinctions between these platforms next week.)

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