How to Become a Best-Selling Author: 5 Secrets for Success

Whether you are just starting out in the writing field or you are an experienced writer, becoming a best-selling author must have crossed your mind more than once. And who can blame you? This prestigious title can alter an author’s career, as it comes with financial success, increased publishing opportunities, wider readership, and (most importantly) a sense of personal fulfillment. 

But let’s face it, attaining such a title can be challenging. It takes dedication, perseverance, and a few clever strategies along the way–and that’s where we come in. We’ve gathered a collection of invaluable tips on how to become a best-selling author and ensure your books are not just read, but cherished and celebrated everywhere they go. 

how to become a best selling author

What Makes a Book a Best Seller?

Bestselling books are chosen by major publishers and organizations (like Amazon and The New York Times) based on several factors. As you can imagine, the first and foremost one is the sales figures for this book or how many copies were sold. The information about book sales is usually collected from various sources, including bookstores, online retailers, and libraries.

It isn’t, however, only about how many copies are sold, but also when were they sold. The sales that happen in the first few weeks (or sometimes even the first week alone!) of publishing can make or break a book’s success. 

Moreover, some researchers analyzed the New York Times bestseller lists and came up with interesting findings. As it turns out, the criteria for a book to be considered a bestseller can vary by season. For example, in February, selling only 3,000 copies qualifies a book to be considered a bestseller; unlike in December–when people are buying books as holiday gifts–the threshold increases to 10,000 copies. It is also important to note that these sales need to be made in several diverse locations, and not just one or two! 

Why Become a Best-Selling Author?

It goes without saying that becoming a best-selling author can be a transformative experience that comes with many benefits. This esteemed title can transform authors’ careers and have many positive impacts on their professional lives.

Here are some of the compelling reasons why aspiring writers should strive to achieve this distinguished status:

  • Increased visibility, name recognition, and credibility in the writing field. As you become a bestselling author, your work is more in the spotlight and your reputation gets enhanced in the writing community. Moreover, readers start to associate your work with quality and popularity.
  • More opportunities for speaking engagements, collaborations, media presence, and partnerships. Bestselling authors are sought after for interviews, panels, and conferences. As more and more media outlets pay attention to these authors, it can lead to features, articles, and guest appearances.
  • Growing income from various sources such as book sales and media appearances. A bestseller attracts more buyers, resulting in higher sales volume. And royalties won’t come only from book sales but also from adaptations (e.g. film, TV) and translations.
  • Higher impact on your readers and fans, giving you a chance to positively influence others. Bestsellers resonate with a broader audience, and your words will touch more hearts and minds. Influencing readers positively becomes your superpower; whether it’s inspiring, educating, or sparking change, your impact multiplies.
  • Personal satisfaction from achieving such an inspiring goal. Attaining the title of a bestselling author is a dream realized. It represents dedication, creativity, and resilience. The satisfaction of knowing that your work touched lives and left a mark is immeasurable. And besides all that, aspiring writers can draw inspiration from your journey, fueling their own pursuit of greatness.

Can Self-Published Books Make It to the Best-Seller List?

Well, the short answer is yes. However, it might be a lot more challenging since traditionally published authors have been historically dominating the best-selling lists. Still, it’s not impossible as there are famous examples of self-published authors whose books became bestsellers. 

This includes the American novelist Andy Wier, whose self-published, bestselling novel The Martin was adapted into a movie. Moreover, some well-known authors, such as Stephen King and Mark Twain, started as self-published authors before landing major book deals and becoming the bestselling authors we know today.

So whether you are taking the self-publishing route or the traditional publishing one, the tips we are going to mention in this article can improve your chances of having your book on the bestselling list.

Important read: Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing: Which Route Should You Choose?

writing a bestselling book

How to Write a Best-Selling Book

Although there isn’t one universally recognized road to literary accomplishment, there are some tips that can improve the likelihood of your book landing on the bestseller list. These tips are mostly inspired by studying and analyzing the factors that have enabled bestselling authors to achieve such a status. So keep them in mind as you plan your next book, and apply as many of them as you can.

1. Write an Outstanding Book

It goes without saying that the quality of your book content is extremely important. While the other tips we offer in this article can help you become a best-selling author, if the quality of your book isn’t good enough, none of the other tips will help much.

To ensure that you end up writing an amazing book, here are a few things you should do:

  1. Research: Whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, you have to get your information straight. If your research is done halfway, your readers might not trust you, and this in turn will affect your credibility as an author.
    Many of the best-selling authors have first-hand information on the topic they are discussing in their books. If this isn’t something you possess, then you need to spend a significant amount of time researching what you want to write about before you actually start writing anything.

Important read: 9 Hacks for Perfecting Your Book Research

  1. Check your book outline: You need to make sure that the information in your book flows in a logical order. And that’s why you should outline your book first before you start writing its content. This can help you organize your thoughts, prevent any dead ends, and increase your creativity.

Important read: How to Write a Compelling Story Outline: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Stay relevant and relatable: You want to write a book that people can relate to on a personal level and that’s relevant to their lives. One way to do this is by moving your readers emotionally, which is especially important in fiction. In the case of non-fiction, you can fill your book with relevant data on the latest trends.
  2. Use simple language: Since you want your book to sell as many copies as possible, it needs to be understandable to the average reader. One way to ensure this is by using simple language. You can include some flowery language, of course, especially if you are writing a novel or poetry; just make sure it can be easily comprehended. You can also add some humor to engage your readers and make them interested in what they’re reading.
  3. Enrich your content: Notice here that we said content, not text. Because you can (and should) enrich your book with other elements, such as multimedia. For example, a book with lots of statistics and numbers can definitely benefit from some charts and infographic designs. Or if you are working on an ebook, you can add various interactive elements and book apps to keep your readers hooked and make it stand out from other books on the same topic.

2. Create a Strong Author Platform

Another major step that you need to take before publishing your book is building a strong author platform. In simple terms, an author platform is all about your ability to reach readers through different channels. This means having a strong online presence, including a well-designed author website and active social media platforms.

Some authors use their blogs or YouTube channels to talk about topics they are passionate about or areas they are experts in, attracting like-minded people along the way. This can be very useful if you are writing non-fiction as it shows you are a knowledgeable authority figure on the topic and that you know what you are talking about.

Other authors, on the other hand, might prefer to connect with their audience by posting about relevant topics on social media. Whatever your choice is, make sure you are connecting with your target readers about topics that interest them.

By leveraging your author platform, you will be able to build a fan base even before you publish your planned book. This way, you can guarantee that once your book is published (or even before that), you can market it to your followers and people will be eager to buy it.

3. Remember: Timing Is Crucial

Imagine publishing a book about pandemics in the early 2000s versus publishing the same book in 2020. Chances are, the one published during COVID-19 is more likely to become a bestseller.  

That’s why the time you publish your book can have a huge impact on its success. Even if it is the best book ever written, if the timing isn’t right, not many people might be interested in it. 

It is also worth noting that the publishing industry trends suggest that there are certain times of the year when book sales peak. For example, the holiday season (November and December) as well as the summer months (when people look for beach reads)  witness an increase in book sales every year. 

Bear in mind however that this can change depending on the genre of your book. If you are writing a light romantic novel, then summer can be a great time to publish it for example. If your book is about personal finance or fitness, on the other hand, then maybe consider publishing it before the beginning of the new year, when people are making plans and setting their new-year resolutions to improve their lives, including their finances and health. Or if your book is a horror novel, then getting it out to the public just before Halloween can be great for enjoying increased sales.

One final point to keep in mind if you are a new author is to try your best to avoid publishing at the same time another famous author is publishing. This can especially hurt your book’s chances of success if they are publishing theirs in the same genre as you.

4. Carefully Plan Your Book Launch Campaign

Promoting your book effectively is very important for boosting its sales. Because what good can a book be if no one reads it? That’s why you need to plan your book launch carefully and start long before the book is published. Some even say that you should start creating anticipation for your book 4 to 6 months before its publication!

We have created a step-by-step guide to planning a successful book launch campaign that would attract attention to your book, and you can read all about it in this article. But to give you a brief overview, here’s what you have to do:

  1. Establish a strong online presence: We have already discussed creating a strong author platform in a previous section. Having things like an author website and social media accounts on different platforms where you can reach your target audience can hugely boost your chances of success. 
  2. Create a buzz: Use the various channels available to you to promote your book. Don’t limit yourself to social media and newsletter campaigns only. Instead, you should also try to contact magazines and media outlets to create a buzz around your book. Moreover, you can do interviews with podcasters or video bloggers where you can discuss the topic of your book or why you were inspired to write it.
  3. Organize a launch team: Sending advanced copies to people who can write objective book reviews can help bring attention to your book. These people can be your loyal followers, beta readers, or even family and friends. You can also check book-reviewing websites, such as NetGalley and Edelweiss, or contact reviewers of books similar to yours to objectively review your book.
  4. Make a book trailer: A short video trailer about your book can attract even more readers than you could imagine. Take BookTok, for example, the popular hashtag on TikTok that book lovers follow. According to the World Economic Forum, this hashtag has more than 42 billion views! Posting your book trailer there with this hashtag can be such a powerful way to reach your target audience, especially if you’re writing for young adults.
  5. Write a news release: While you might think that news releases are a bit old-fashioned, they can lead to interviews and mentions in magazines and other online publications, especially when the topic of your book is super catchy. This, in turn, can go a long way in promoting your book and attracting readers.

5. Don’t Give Up

In one of his interviews, New York Times best-selling author Lewis Howes tells the story of how he got to write his bestselling book. It wasn’t his first book, nor his second, but it was definitely his best. Before he got to write such a book, he built a strong platform through his podcast, where he interviewed many famous and outstanding people in various fields. He then used these stories, in addition to his own experience in the athletic field, to write his best-selling book, The School of Greatness

If he had given up after his first book and stopped working on building a strong platform, he wouldn’t have become the bestselling author he is today. So if you get anything out of this story, it should be to keep trying to build a loyal following and provide them with valuable information. Don’t just make your first priority jumping on trends or being popular; instead, focus on how you can offer your audience something that would change their lives for the better after reading it.

bestselling books

A Look at Examples of Best-Selling Books

While it is important to learn the different strategies for becoming a bestselling author, taking inspiration from authors and books that have made it to the bestselling lists can also be highly beneficial. Whether these examples are contemporary, classics, fiction, or non-fiction, seeing the reasons behind their success can help you achieve yours. So let’s take a quick look together at some examples of best-selling books in various fields.

1. A Tale of Two Cities

a tale of two cities book cover

Looking at this all-time bestselling novel by Charles Dickens, one can’t help but wonder how it has held such a place since it was first published in 1959! This comes down to several reasons. For starters, the novel was so relatable when it first appeared as it portrayed the sociopolitical events at the time. But it didn’t stop there; using simple language, it focused on the inner lives of the characters and discussed universal themes (such as love and sacrifice) that made it resonate with the readers. 

2. The Harry Potter Book Series

harry potter series book cover

The success of this book series is undeniable. From the compelling storytelling powers of J.K. Rowling to clever marketing campaigns, it has sold over 500 million copies worldwide, making around 7.7 billion dollars! But the true magic isn’t in these huge sales figures, but in the way Rowling builds her worlds. Her relatable characters transport us to a world of wonder, where friendship, loyalty, identity, and courage are tested against the forces of darkness.

3. The Tipping Poing

the tipping point book cover

When Malcolm Gladwell first published this book in March of 2000, he did a great job at making it relevant to his readers. The book explores how everyday life is influenced by hidden social changes and highlights moments when things suddenly tip significantly. Gladwell uses his captivating storytelling abilities to show how even small factors can create big shifts. The way he represents his fresh ideas and the power of imaginative individuals resonated with his readers, making it a unique road map to change.

4. Tuesdays With Morrie

tuesdays with morrie book cover

As the bestselling memoir of all time, this book has been translated into 45 languages! Mitch Albom, initially a sports writer, turned the conversations he had with his beloved professor and mentor Morrie Schwartz into a memorable, light-hearted book.
In their weekly Tuesday meetings, they discussed everything about life, from family and relationships to career choices and education. And thanks to Morrie’s humor and wisdom, in addition to Mitch’s accessible writing style, this book stayed on the top of The New York best-selling list for 23 weeks straight!

5. Who Moved My Cheese?

who moved my cheese book cover

Upon its release, this book became a New York Times bestseller and remained on the list for nearly five years! The author, Spencer Johnson, did a great job simplifying a theoretical subject (change management) and putting it in the form of an engaging fable. With a little over 90 pages, it’s a quick, impactful read for busy people. And more importantly, its universal theme (dealing with change) is relatable to people across various walks of life because everyone encounters change, whether in personal relationships, careers, or daily routines.

Final Thoughts

Overnight success is nothing but a myth. Becoming a bestselling author can take a lot of time, effort, and dedication. You can start by building a loyal following and offering them the value they deserve, then work hard on your book and make it as relatable to their lives as possible. And if you didn’t hit that bestselling list with your first book, don’t give up just yet; perseverance can sure take you a long way!


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