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How to "make" a bestseller.

Ahh...I thought that would get your attention.

Notice I didn't say write a bestseller.

I've been in the business of books about ten years now. Before I published my first book three years ago, I worked behind the scenes as a proofreader and a marketing adviser. I’ll admit that I too had the belief that if you wrote a great book, it would sell. If you wrote something refreshing and new, it’d fly off the proverbial bookshelf.

And in some cases, that’s true. 

I believe the success behind Twilight and Hunger Games lies in the originality of the story and the fact that they catered to young-adult readers, without treating young adults as though they were young and ignorant. In both stories, the main characters acted—for the most part—mature. So the books appealed to the younger crowd. And the mature situations and chivalrous heroes appealed to the older women too. Errummlike me.

But what if you haven’t come up with the ‘next best thing,’ just a great story? If readers love it, it’ll sell, right?

Not so fast, tiger.

Sadly, no. I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of books that have hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews averaging five stars, and they still sell one to two copies a day. Whereas, there are books that are in the top twenty—that have been in the top twenty for months, if not years—that have less than a four-star rating.

If you're not sure what that means in sales versus the one or two a day I mentioned above, according to information I found across multiple websites, a bestseller rank of 10 to 20 means you’re selling 1,300 to 1,800 books a day. A bestseller rank of 3 to 8 means you’re selling about 4,000-plus books a day!


What makes these books special?

Well, since I peruse the bestseller list quite often, I will tell you I've noticed several techniques that stand out, but one outweighs all of them.

The first is advertising. Yep. A good promotion can jump-start your book's visibility. The problem. Most of these promotions, while good, are usually short lived, and the best ones are extremely expensive for a book you might only be receiving .35 cents a copy.

The second is having a recognizable name. No doubt, when Nicholas Sparks, Dan Brown, or Nora Roberts release a book, it will be a bestseller, usually even before the book is available. Why? Because readers know what they are getting. They trust them. You can sell your book for .99 cents or even give it away, but until you build a large base of readers—as these authors have done—so readers know they can trust you, you can’t buy their time. Let’s face it; there are a lot of badly written books out there. You have to earn the reader's respect and the eight to ten hours of their time.

And the last key factor in making a bestseller, HYPE! NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, sells a book like HYPE!

Want proof? Of course you do. :)

I have two book titles for you. First, 50 Shades of Grey, but I don’t want to talk about that book, because honestly, that’s just the wrong kind of hype, and I’m simply not interested.

But this other book did interest me…

“Before Rowling's identity as the book's author was revealed ...7,000 copies of the ebook... had been sold since its release in April 2013. (Note: I'm nobody, but I sold 2000 books in one weekendyou see where I’m going) The book surged from 4,709th to the 1st best-selling novel on Amazon after it was revealed on 14 July 2013 that the book was written by Rowling under the pseudonym "Robert Galbraith". Signed copies of the first edition are selling for as high as $4,000–$6,000.” Wikipedia

Friends, you can go for the hype or you can go for the advertising—I suggest advertising. But there is a fundamental method for selling more books—and I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

If you want to sell more books, improve your craft and write more books. It’s as simple as that.

Until next time, happy reading and writing!


Thank you for stopping by my place and reading my musings. Remember, these are just my opinions and shouldn't be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer.  If you’re curious about what I write, please visit one of my author pages, where you can read all about my novels and short stories. And hey, I’ll even give you a free book just for stopping by.

If it isn't available free in your area, use…


  1. I agree with you Carmen. It's promotion tecniques and marketing skills that sell most of the books I've found that are cutting through the traffic and selling like hotcakes. And you can't buy this support - not so it lasts. You build it... book by book.

  2. As long as the advertising and hype are backed up by a good story and at least decent writing, the book should sell. I don't believe any amount of hype can sustain an uninteresting or really badly written story. So we need to keep writing and hope we live long enough to see it pay off. Carmen, good thoughts. Mimi, I agree. Book by book.

    1. You know... As much as I agree that great advertising and a well-written book are the key, I can't discount hype. Because--and I don't want to name titles since I haven't read it--one of those hyped books is still in the top 100, and it's been a while now.

      You, Mimi, and I will stick with improving our craft and writing more. And I sure hope I live long enough to see the NYT bestseller list. :)

  3. Great post Carmen

    We couldn't agree more.

    Would be interesting to know who blew the whistle on J.K. Rowling's pen name.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed. If I had to guess on the JK leak, I'd say that it came from the same place most leaks come from: THE SOURCE! The book wasn't doing well by 'traditional' publishing standards. Okay...but not great for the amount of money they still put into it since the same publisher published it. In fact, I believe the print sales were only 1500! Eek!!! Heaven forbid! So...what better way to get your book noticed? One: be a famous author. Two: Hype! Double whammy! #1 bestseller in a matter of hours. Hey, I have no issue with it. If it works, all the power to you. The only issue I had was the bio...even if you have a pseudonym, you shouldn't create fake details. Just my opinion, of course. Cheers! Have a great day. :)

  4. This article improved my whole day. Thank you. :)

    1. Ahh... I love to hear that, Michelle. I'm glad you enjoyed.

      Just keep writing... :)

  5. I agree with your post, Carmen. A great story is a great story, but what makes it stand out from many other great stories? Marketing, that's what. Thanks for sharing! I'm late in this certain game, though I've been writing free lance since 1983, I just sold my first novel for publication, and of course, I'm hoping it'll be a best seller. Holding breath-crossing fingers.
    S.J. Francis

    1. Thanks for stopping by, S.J. And lucky for you, you can never be 'late' in this game. Unlike many products that become antiquated and unnecessary, I truly believe that people will never stop reading. So our toughest task is to write something better and more interesting than everyone else has, and then make sure everyone knows about it. :)

      Good luck, new friend!

  6. Replies
    1. Thank you, Melinda! Just my opinions, of course, but I'd like to think I've learned a thing or two in the last few years. LOL!!!

      Glad you liked it!

      And now, back to writing--or in my case, editing! New book on the way! :)


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