Monday, June 4, 2012

One Way Publishers Create a Bestseller

If you have ever wondered how a new author can suddenly emerge and become an international smash, you are not alone. I meet many authors and in doing so I learn more about the publishing world all the time. 

In one conversation I had with a writer friend,  I asked how it is that a new author suddenly becomes a bestseller when no one had ever heard about him or her before? How can they release a new book and hit the New York Times, or USA Today's bestseller list so quickly? Have you ever wondered how that works? Have you ever wondered how many copies it takes to become a bestseller?

If you have ever asked yourself those questions, you may be surprised at the answer. And it's important to understand how critical the title "bestseller" really is. When that title is attached to an author, he or she receives instant credibility and can use it as a sales tool.

Note: This post is not meant to take away from the years bestselling authors spend honing their craft. This post is only meant to analyze a marketing method used by publishers so that indie authors can utilize it and

Funny thing is, it works. And here's how that happens… sometimes. Having a killer story helps a little, too.

In The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe, I teach how to use "Marketing Layering". This is the process of adding multiple layers of ads and marketing buzz within a short period of time to generate sufficient sales with the sole purpose of raising your ranking into a top 100 category and even an overall Amazon top 100 ranking. This can work when you schedule promotions across the Internet, using as many "non-static" ad spots as you can, on or near the same day.

Why? Attention creates more attention - especially with an awesome cover!

My friend revealed that this is exactly how publishers create bestsellers. They form a major national/international ad campaign that focuses on a single day or week. They do this because bestseller lists are calculated on a daily and weekly basis. They know that if the author can sell more books than most on a specific day, they will become an instant bestseller. It doesn't matter if the book sells 10,000 or as little as 3,000 copies. The sales total is relative. What matters is that it sells more than most.

The problem, however, with print sales in brick and mortar stores is that most print books live out their life span in the course of the first three months. So a book can hit the bestseller list and quickly die, but still be called a bestseller. But often times, a book that hits the bestseller list can extend its shelf life simply because of the notoriety it received from getting on the list.

The same is true for indie authors… sometimes. If you hit The Amazon Top 100 you can stay for weeks or days.

So what's the point? The point is, learn from publishers. They've been around for a while. They know what they are doing and they know how to make a profit. Let's not get into what they do wrong. I'm not going there; that's another conversation. But if you want to learn how to create a bestseller (assuming your book is a well-written story), learn to master marketing layering, building an ad campaign with stacks and stacks of promotion across the Internet, bloggosphere, and book sites.

Another friend of mine who used to manage book stores told me that the running joke in the book industry was, "A bestseller is a book that sells one book a day."

One book isn't much. I'd like to sell more, and I bet you would to.

You may not not become a bestseller, but at least you might sell more and garner the attention your book deserves. Of course books sell books, and the more you publish, they greater attention you'll get. Keep writing, that is always your best marketing plan. And don't forget, publishing success is about luck and so many other points. I can't mention them all in one post. This is just one way to help your promotion become more effective, not a guarantee to bestsellerdom.

What do you think???? I'd love to hear where you are marketing your book(s). You may not create buzz by posting at just one site, but if we as a group can share what sites we use, perhaps we can create a large list that can collectively boost all of our sales. I'm putting together a list of effective marketing sites in my "Author Resources" page. Take a second if you can, and post a comment and share your thoughts. P.S. Try listening to this post with the "Audio" gadget at the top.

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.



  1. No one suddenly becomes a bestseller... they usually toil away in obscurity for years before this happens... that's why you've never heard of em. Great post, Jeff!

    1. @Kelly ~Very true. Again, there are so many things that go into it, it would take a whole series, or book to cover it all. But I hope the info helps in your marketing endeavors. Thanks for reading.

  2. No offense, really now, but how come I never heard of you until now if you are so good? Funny how you'll never see authors like J.K Rowling trying to make money by giving writing tips.

  3. Hi, Bryan. Thanks for reading. I'm not at all surprised that you have not heard of me. And the reason is that I am not "so good". I don't recall saying I was. What I do here at The Writing Bomb is share information that I learn and pass it on to other authors, who like me, are hungry for information about publishing and marketing. When I learn a new trick, strategy, or place to promote, I like to share it. Always have. I offer all of my posts for free. And almost everything in The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe can be found in the archives right here at my blog, and most of my followers know that. The only reason I published the book is because many authors prefer that information in one place. But this post is not about me, or about my book. This post is an explaination about the process publishers go through when releasing a book. This is something many indie authors do not know. I was excited to share this with everyone in hopes that they might find that type of protion helpful and profitable to them. Fortunately, some of the authors who have read The Guide have told me that they made money following this process and THAT EXCITES ME!

    You're right about JK Rowling, too. She has plenty on her plate as do most bestselling authors. Even most bestselling indie authors are too busy to share their writing/publishing experience. That's why I do what I do. I write what I would have liked to know three years ago and I think many of my followers want the same thing I want - free information. I hope my sharing hasn't offended you.

  4. I'm not sure what Bryan's problem is...the whole purpose of a blog is to express personal opinion on any given subject in a way that's easily accessible to everyone.

    In any case, this is a pretty interesting post. I personally don't like the idea of marketing myself or my books though I know it to be a necessary evil. But this is something to think about, saturating the market all at once to push for a surge of sales might be the best (and easiest) way to get that coveted "bestselling" title.

    Ultimately though, I'd like to think writing a quality story should always come first.

  5. I've tried lots of different tactics to get my books up there. Ultimately the one that succeeded for me did so with virtually no promotion. The book even came out of nowhere and wrote itself in a very short time. I expected no success with it whatsoever. Since then I've written 6 sequels and sold thousands of copies of each. My secret? I can only blame it on blind luck.

    But another things that has made an impact on my books doing well is the fact that I've been very prolific. That's what I counsel other writers to do - keep writing. Quality is the top priority (and that includes editing), but behind that a successful author will also have quantity. I used to write 2 - 4 books a year and got nowhere, fast. This year I've already published 8 books and I've got 9, 10, and 11 at various stages in the pipeline. I have over 20 books published and for people that like what they read, it allows them to find other material I've written so they can keep on reading.

    Marketing is handy, but those are blips on the radar. I believe to be successful in the long term the key is to paraphrase Descarters: "I write, therefore I sell"

    And, if you happen to write erotica, consider it a matter of putting Descartes before the whores. :-)

    1. So true, Jason. Thanks again for reading and commenting. I'm working on #7, but I don't count 2 of them!

  6. I will check out your tab for more info, Jeff. I published my first novel last September, and sales have been low, but steady. Then I published a novella, historical romance, which took off, topping off at #180 paid in the Kindle store. It was a great month long run. I've now settled in the mid-thirty-thousands. The only promotion I did for that novella was to sign up for bloghop giveaways and make a few announcements. Sounds easy, right?
    Enter confusion : I published a paranormal romance about three months ago. Despite favorable reviews, this title hasn't enjoyed the fast and wild ride. So far, that is. I've done more marketing for this novel, and will host a giveaway in a few upcoming bloghops. Romance has numerous sub-genres, and breaking into those defined sub-groups takes time and patience. What worked for one book, didn't necessarily work for others... go figure! Ha! Finding effective means to introduce new readers to my name and/or title(s) is something I'm always interested to learn more about. So...thanks!

  7. You are welcome, Nadja. I have the same issue with my second book which has received a great Kirkus review and is better writing imo. And yet, it sells less and hasn't had only an occassional breakout.

  8. This is something many indie authors do not know. I was excited to share this with everyone in hopes that they might find that type of protion helpful and profitable to them. Fortunately, some of the authors who have read.
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