Most writers would give their eyeteeth for tips on writing a best seller if the tips actually worked. Like many other creative occupations, writers can be divided into those who do (that is, write), and those who make an appointment to think about writing at some point in the future.
Tips on Writing a Best Seller
Writing itself is a difficult discipline, but to devise the kind of writing that will spin itself into a best-selling book requires even more planning and forethought. It's not enough to have a great idea or write well. As you'll see in the tips below, there's a lot that goes into making a book a best seller.
Start With Your Target Market
The first thing to do is to figure out your market. You may be dying to write the ultimate English romance novel, but if that kind of book isn't selling, your heartfelt prose will languish, unpublished and unloved.
What kind of books are selling? Take a look at at least six months' worth of the New York Times best-seller list (or a similar list). What books are getting readers' attention - and their money?
Novels have a tendency to go in cycles. A Harry Potter-type book that climbs and stays at the top of best-seller lists will elicit more of the same type of fantasy or witchcraft plots... but remember the converse: too many books on the same theme will wear out their welcome with publishers.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling submitted her novel to literally dozens of publishers, with nary a flicker of interest. That's because her book was different, and a different book needs a publisher with the imagination to see what the next big thing is. Just by following the right tips on writing a best seller, you could be that writer!
Zero In on a Best-Selling Book Topic
Your initial inclination might be to believe that you need to appeal to the largest audience possible if you want to have any hopes of writing a best seller. That's how you'll be able to push out as many copies as possible, right? Perhaps counterintuitively, what you'll find instead is that books with a more specific niche topic can be much more successful in attracting a passionate audience.
A book that is too broad and tries to be all things to all people is probably going to get lost in the mix. By trying to appeal to everyone, you risk appealing to no one. Instead, you need your book to stand out from the crowd.
It's just like choosing an essay topic. A topic that's too broad lacks depth and meaning. Conversely, a topic that's too narrow may not leave you with enough material to say anything of substance. Browse through the top sellers in your chosen category and identify a gap that's being underserved or a unique angle you can offer on a popular subject.
Create an Outline
Yes, it may sound like something your third-grade teacher might have assigned, but planning what you're going to do gives you the right framework within which to be creative.
Remember, you want to create a top-rated book, and by following these tips on writing a best seller, you'll discover that the way to realize your dream is to write a novel that's unusual and attention-grabbing. You have to be wily and stay within the margins of planning in order to unleash your creative energy in a way that will give your book a shot at the best-seller list.
This means writing a cohesive story where the sequence of events actually makes sense. While the specific details may be subject to flashes of inspiration, the overarching plot direction should be mapped out from the very beginning. Know where you're headed before you set out on the journey.
Title Your Masterpiece
Remember that a publisher looks at dozens of proposals a day (and those are only the ones that make it through the first round of readers). You are marketing your book first to this unknown holder of your fate. You'll have a minute, maybe even seconds, to make an impression. That first impression will be heavily influenced by your book's title.
Take a look at the books on those best-seller lists again. Look at the books that are within the genre you're tackling. What kind of titles are selling?
It's very likely, if a publisher takes you on, that your title might be revamped or changed completely. That's fine because it means you got a publisher to take your book! Even so, you should also remember that you're using the title to get the attention your book needs. Your book title is what will make your manuscript stand out from the avalanche on the publisher's desk. Put some thought into this. It'll be worth your effort.
Grab the Reader's Attention Early
Yes, you've created an outline, and maybe the major action of your book doesn't come for chapters yet. Still that first chapter, and the first few pages of that chapter, should be written using the same guidelines as devising the title of your masterpiece. Think of it like writing the hook for a news article or essay.
You are selling your book (and yourself) to the publisher. You have mere moments to grab their attention. The first pages of the first chapter should be the best you can do.
Again, it's very likely that these words will be recrafted if the publisher gives you a contract. That's not the point, though. You have to entice the reader into wanting to see what comes next. The publisher has seen it all. You need to grab them by the throat and make them curious. This is your audition! Make the most of it by following these tips for writing a best-seller.
Prepare for Revisions
Don't be hurt if your manuscript is returned. There may be a best-selling writer who hasn't been rejected at least once, but that's a remarkably rare bird indeed.
Expect to get your proposal back. If you're good, though, you may get a note from the publisher that will encourage you, or tell you what works, and what doesn't. Take that note as proof you're onto a good thing. Eventually, if your book has what it takes, you will get noticed. Look at J.K. Rowling! She didn't give up!
While taking the route of the traditional publishing house seems like the path to publishing a best-seller, it is not the only way to go! You can also achieve great success via self-publishing on platforms like Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP, which also handles print books) and Lulu.
However, recognize that when you choose to self-publish, you also take on all the other responsibilities that go along with launching a book, including marketing.
As much as we would like to believe that the cream always rises to the top, that is actually rarely the case. As incredible as your book might be, as enticing as the title may be, as unique as the angle or plot might be, none of that will matter if no one notices (and buys) your book. Marketing plays an astronomical role in whether your book becomes a best seller.
Unsurprisingly, many components go into a successful marketing campaign for your book. Having a great cover design can help your book stand out from the crowd. Promotion through interviews, social media, email newsletters, forums, "meet the author" events and more are what it will take to get your book in front of your potential audience.
What It Takes to Be the Best
According to Reader's Digest, you'll need to sell 5,000 to 10,000 copies of your book to make it onto the New York Times' best-seller list. And, you'll need almost 1,100 copies a day to get on Amazon's top five. That's no small feat! On average, authors can expect about a 10 percent royalty on books sold. How can you get there?
Make sure you write every day. Set a schedule and stick to it. Writing is a job like any other and you need to put in the hours to master your craft. And that's why you will covet your name on that best-selling book. To get started in creating your story, familiarize yourself with the types of characters in fiction and how they can lay the foundation for your story.