Thursday, September 5, 2013

Do You Know How to be a Bestselling Author?

Prior to being published I was given a word of caution by a best-selling author. He said, “If you want to be an author, you better love to write.” 

So, I say, “Of course, I love to write. Why else would I do this?” 

He just smiled and said, “This business sucks.”

It wasn’t long before I realized what he was really trying to tell me. First of all, this is a business. If you want to write just for the love of writing, then don’t even try to get published. Because once you do, it all changes. This is true whether you self-publish or get picked up by a traditional publisher. You still have to market your books.

Ahh…marketing. So I figure there must be people in the real world (as opposed to the fiction world we writers live in) who know how to do that. There are. There are thousands, or maybe even millions, of books written on how to be a successful author. I think I’ve read about half of them. I picked up everything I could get my hands on that promised to show me how to be a “best seller” or “#1 on Amazon.” I stopped buying those when I realized that many of those “experts” were attempting to “become #1 on Amazon” by selling the rest of us a book on how to “become #1 on Amazon.” Now I won’t buy anyone’s book whose rank is lower than mine…duh!

There are many good books written and published that offer great tips for writing and for marketing. But the ones that offer a “too good to be true” solution, are probably just that. In fact, I just recently read a book called You Are the Logo, by Tom Adams. It’s not about authors per se, but about marketing your business. The man is brilliant and has been very successful (not necessarily as an author) but as a marketing consultant. Marketing is not easy. It requires constant attention and hard work. My advice to a new author would be, “If you want to be a published author, you better love to market.”

I hope I don’t sound bitter about the industry because I am not. Quite the opposite, actually. Being an author has been an incredible adventure for me. I have written four books that have been consistently in the top 100 “legal suspense” category for this entire year. Nor do I have a simple answer to the question in my title. If I did, I would be #1 every day. But I do know this: I love to write and just as importantly, I love to market. 

Writers, do you market your book? Do you enjoy it? Do you still love to write?

Readers, if you read a book and love it, do you help the author market it? Do you write a review when you love a book? All you have to do, is tell your friends about the book, maybe write a review now and then. It will keep your favorite author writing.

Teresa Burrell
Author of The Advocate Series


  1. Thanks for posting this Teresa. So many new authors come into the business thinking they don't like marketing and won't have to do it. Fortunately, much of marketing is really just making connections, which I love to do.

    Congratulations on being in the top 100 in your genre! Huhzzuh!

  2. Good post, Teresa, and a great heads-up for aspiring authors. And congrats on the success of your legal thrillers! Way to go!

  3. And I should add the obvious: The best way to become a bestselling author is to write a riveting book that readers can't put down, and will want to write raving reviews about! That takes a lot of study of the craft, dedicated writing, revision and self-editing, using some beta readers or a critique group, and finally, getting it professionally edited.

    1. Absolutely, Jodie. I once asked a best-selling author how to become successful and he said, "First, you write a really good book."

      And yes, it has to professionally edited.

  4. Teresa, If I'd read this post before I started writing, would I have still tried it? Probably. But I would have been forewarned, instead of having the dread "marketing" word sprung on me about halfway through the process of trying to interest an agent in my work.
    And I wish that readers would take your advice and post reviews. It may take six months to a year to write a book, a few days to read it, and fifteen minutes for a reader to post a review on the site of their choice. Frankly, sometimes that last action is as important as either of the others.
    Thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

    1. Richard, I think if readers really understood how important those reviews are, they would do more of them. The thing is that if they don't do it immediately upon finishing the book it doesn't usually get done. Life gets in the way.

  5. Love to read what ya'll are up to these days--promoting, marketing, it's something I brought to the table along with my love of writing books. Richard brought up the subject of reviews, and I can concur that reviews, good ones, are certainly a key to selling more books.
    I have a free pdf on promoting that includes a number of ways to get reviews. Want one? e-mail me off-list:

  6. I have found that the months I put together an actual marketing plan, and follow it, my sales are terrific. When I take a month off, sales fall. That's when I begin to understand the desperate authors who are incessently plugging their books. It's tempting to go there but so far I've resisted.

    Talking and connecting with readers is easy and fun, when you have them. Sometimes it's the finding them part that's more difficult. So far, I've been lucky… but then, I work at it too.

    Thanks for a terrific post, Teresa.

  7. I think one of the things that scares writers when they hear the word marketing is that they think they have to be a "used car salesman." (Excuse the analogy, but I'm a lawyer. Everyone uses our profession in I get to use others as well.)

    I think if they would understand that marketing is not hard-selling. It's the consistent development of relationships. No matter what the product, it's really yourself that you are selling. This becomes more difficult in the cyber world, but the concept remains. And while it has become more difficult to be personal, it has at the same time provided more opportunities to reach more people than we ever had before.

  8. David Gerrold, author of The Trouble with Tribbles (Happy Anniversary, Star Trek) wrote that there were three types of people: creators, marketers, servicers. (He may have used different terms, but that's the gist of it.) Nowadays, we have to be all three - though I doubt there was ever a time when one could sit on an island and write.

    Marketing takes as much hard work as building a relationship, gaining trust, and delivering - being there.

    It's a lifelong learning process.

    And congrats, Teresa!


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