What it really takes to have a best selling book

One of the questions I am asked regularly is “do you guarantee you can sell my book.”

The answer is always, “no.”

Here is why.

Your book must be a well written book.

Has your book been through the process of a critique group? This is the first thing I was told when I went online with my novel Night of the Cossack.

Long story short—I joined a local critique group and shared what I thought was a completed manuscript. After a year, what I thought was the beginning of my novel was the middle.

Instead of my eyes only, there were twelve pairs of eyes reading my manuscript. What a difference this made in my manuscript and me, as an author.

This group helped me make my characters live; my plot deeper; my scenes sharper; my grammar corrected; and to show—not tell—my story.

Your manuscript may be your baby, but it takes a team to bring it into the world healthy.

Your book must be professionally edited.

I have been told numerous times, “I have gone through my book umpteen times and I don’t need an editor.” My reply is always, “Yes, you do.”  You cannot be objective enough to see your errors. Your eyes see what you want to see, not what is there.

A substantive editor (also known as a developmental or structural editor) can tell you if something does not make sense; if your flow is not good; if you told instead of showed the action; and many other things.

A substantive editor is a writer’s coach.

Next, you will need a copy editor who is primarily concerned with grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style. This editor will ensure proper word usage, fix awkward phrasing, suggesting alternatives when needed.

Ultimately, the copy editor will ensure consistency and accuracy.

Finally, you will need a proofreader. This editor will go over everything one last time looking for typographical and mechanical errors and any other mistakes the copy editor may have missed. This editor also looks for formatting, design, and layout issues.

This is the final edit and the last opportunity to make changes before printing.

You must know your target market.

The shotgun approach rarely, if ever, works. You cannot write a book for the whole world. You may say, “the Bible was written to the whole world.” The Bible is a collection of books written to different people (target markets) with a specific theme—Jesus Christ.

In the writing world there are hundreds of genres and sub-genres; fiction and nonfiction; biographies and autobiographies; and more.

Who did you write to? Who did you have in mind? And who are the buyers?

You may be a children’s book writer, but children do not usually buy books—parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles buy books for children. These are the buyers who read to the children until they can read, but they are still the buyers or at least the overseers.

You must build a relationship with your readers.

No one can do this for you.

Instant gratification is your worst enemy.

Building a readership is a long-term effort. It takes a website; blog; newsletter; videos; podcast; and social media.

No, a traditional publisher will not do this for you. Amazon has changed everything over the past 20 years. Oh, and just because your book is on Amazon is no guarantee it will sell.

Even if all the criteria mentioned above has been met, you still must point your readers to your book.

Your comfort zone is your second worst enemy.

On the average, most people know 300 or so people—family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members, club members, etc. Authors on the average sell less than 350 books—per publication. Notice the correlation between the number of people known, on the average, and the number of books sold, on the average.

You cannot be a successful author and stay in your comfort zone.

And you cannot be a successful author by trying to sell your book to other authors. This is a trend that has been going around the Internet for years with authors. An author joins an author’s group. The first thing they do is promote their book… to other authors.

Let us say there are 1,000 authors who belong, and you want them to buy your book. Are you prepared to buy each one of their books? 1,000 books?

This is reciprocity, right? You scratch my back, and I will scratch yours?

Even if everyone sells their book for $.99—that is $1,000 out of your pocket. You sell a thousand books, and you buy a thousand books. Your profit is how much? ZERO! That is not how it is supposed to work!

Who did you write your book for? When you were writing your book, did you have a specific person in mind? Who is your real target market?

Not authors.

Yes, I am being sarcastic. I am also being serious. Really serious.

Promoting your book to other authors is not marketing, promoting, or readership building. It is not networking. It is not cross-promoting. It is a waste of time. Time you will never get back. Time you could spend productively.

You must have a professional looking book cover—front, spine, and back.

Book cover prices range from free (Amazon KDP stock covers) to $600 and higher.

My independent publisher paid $3,000 for an artist painting he used for the front of the first printing of my novel Night of the Cossack. You can have one created on Fiverr.com.

The thing to remember is you get what you pay for. You will see every kind of cover imaginable on Amazon. My opinion has already been stated—you must have a professional looking book cover—front, spine, and back.

If your book is going to be displayed in a library or brick & mortar bookstore, the spine is very important.

Take a trip to a bookstore and you will quickly see why. Most of the books are on shelves with only the spine showing.

If nothing on the spine, including the title, attracts you, you will keep walking. If the spine catches your attention, you will pull out the book and, probably, look at the front and then the back.

If you like what you see, you will open the book to the forward or the first chapter and read. If the writing hooks you, you will probably make a purchase, if not, the book will go back on the shelf.

If all the above is satisfactorily accomplished, you are now ready to do some serious promoting of your book. However, if it is not, it does not matter how much money or time you invest in book promotion, your book is not going to sell in any great number.

This is only the beginning.

Now I can coach you through the book promotion process. This will involve a website, email list, social media strategy, blog, a newsletter, and your getting out of your comfort zone and developing relationships.

Last, but not least, if you are writing purely for the joy and you are not interested in investing your time and money to build a substantial readership, then you are a hobby writer. My advice is that you write until your heart is content and forget about being an author.

If your vision, desire, calling, and goal is to write, publish, and succeed in getting your book into the hands of readers or go even further as a speaker, workshop leader, and beyond—invest everything, overcome every obstacle, and never take your eye of your goal.

Your monetary cost in engaging me as your Readership Building Coach is $24.99 USD per month or $249.00 USD if paid annual.

The process starts by going to https://authorscommunity.net/memberships-available/ and registering as a member. Let the journey begin.

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