We know it’s your dream.
It’s almost every author’s dream…
…to become a bestselling author—to have your name on a list indicating that people wanted to buy your book more than all the other books.
It sounds great, right?
But there’s more to becoming a bestselling author than simply writing and publishing a book.
There are steps you need to take both when writing your book and during the publishing process that will make the difference between landing yourself on a bestseller list and hardly selling books.
As a bestselling author of 6 books, I’ve got some tips to help you become one, too.
Here’s how to become a bestselling author:
- Decide which Bestseller list you want to be on
- Write an amazing book
- Build your author platform
- Market your book ASAP
- Decide between traditional or self-publishing
- Build a launch team
- Create a strong launch plan
- Become a bestselling author
What is a bestseller list?
A bestseller list is created by different publications indicating and recognizing the top selling books of a given time period in any given number of places.
I think you’ve all heard of the New York Time’s Bestsellers list. This is by far the most popular list, but there are many other types of bestseller lists out there today.
How much do first time authors make?
First time authors can make the same royalty rates as experienced authors: 10%-12.5% for traditionally published authors and 60% for self-published authors. First time traditionally published authors make a lower advance, typically only $5,000, that is paid back with book sales.
Ultimately, it comes down to which method you publish with, how many books you sell, and your royalty rate that determines how much you make as a first time author.
Most aspiring authors don’t realize that if you publish traditionally, you have to pay back your advance before you start to earn additional royalties. So if you get a $10,000 advance when you sign your book deal (which is on the high-end for a new author), you have to sell as many copies of your book to pay that off before you start to earn anything else.
So if you make a 10% royalty rate on a book listed at $17.99, you will have to sell about 5,586 books before you start to earn additional income from your book sales.
For self-published authors, you start earning what your book is worth right away (though you do have to pay for your edit, cover designer, and other services out of pocket beforehand). However, your royalty rate is much higher, so you make about 10x as much per book sold as you would with traditional publishing.
Are bestseller lists a lie?
I can’t continue with this blog post without touching on the controversy surrounding bestseller lists—especially the New York Times bestseller list (but all of them are like this).
Most of the bestseller lists you know about or hear about aren’t exactly all they’re cracked up to be.
When we hear or see the term “bestseller list” we automatically think that it encompasses all the books who had the most sales.
That’s what “bestseller” technically translates to.
There’s only one problem.
Bestseller lists (like the New York Times bestseller list) choose their own criteria for what constitutes a “best seller” and they don’t only rely on book sales.
For example, most lists only take into account the number of book sales in a very specific time period and from very specific places—and most of them don’t count online book sales the same as in-store sales.
What does this mean for you and your desire to be on a bestseller list?
While bestseller lists aren’t exactly a “lie,” they don’t paint the whole picture. Someone who sells a lot of books right at launch and then nothing for a while can still make the New York Times bestseller list…even though they might sell far fewer books than someone else who just didn’t have as many sales at once.
Essentially, it means that becoming a New York Times bestseller is a great goal to have, but it doesn’t mean that your book is any better than the millions of others out there.
That being said, many of us love the title of becoming a bestseller, so I’m here to walk you through how to do that in the way that makes the most sense for you.
Benefits of being a bestselling author
Even if most of the popular bestseller lists aren’t necessarily “fair,” there are still some perks to becoming a bestselling author.
Here are some benefits of landing your name on a bestseller list:
- The title. There’s really nothing that has quite as satisfying of a ring to it as “bestselling author” does. It makes you feel good and rightfully so! It’s an accomplishment no matter how it happened and the confidence boost alone is enough of a reason to work hard to reach that goal.
- The credibility. People just take bestselling authors more seriously. Because there’s some sort of proof that your book sold more, people think that means it’s better. When they feel that way about you being a bestselling author, they’re far more likely to respect you, your book, and anything else you put in front of them—like a business.
- It helps you sell more books. Just like I mentioned above, being a bestselling author increases credibility. That means people will buy your book simply because it has that title—even if they’re not quite sure who you are or what’s in your book. It’s a simple way to increase your book sales.
- It’s easier to sell future books. Once you hit bestseller status once, you can then add that title to your future books. Because of the same reason I mentioned in the point above, people are more likely to buy your book because the public perceived a bestseller status as an indicator of a good book.
- You can charge more for non-author gigs. This includes if you want to be a speaker or any other side business connected to your book. Because you have that bestseller status, you can charge more.
How to become a bestselling author
If your heart is set on becoming a bestselling author and reaping all the rewards associated with it, we can help you get there
No matter if you want to become a New York Times bestselling author or an Amazon bestselling author, we’ve got you covered.
#1 – Decide which bestseller list you want to get on
This will ultimately define which path you follow to get published.
Our list above details a couple bestseller lists you can aim to get on, or you can shoot for all of them if you’re really ambitious.
Here at Self-Publishing School, we teach our students how to excel in becoming Amazon bestselling authors in order to gain authority, increase your book’s rankings on the #1 platform for book sales in the world, and ultimately, sell more of their books.
It’s up to you to determine if you want to get on one, two, or even all of the bestseller lists available.
#2 – Write an amazing book
Obviously, your book is important. While there is a lot of strategy involved in becoming a bestselling author, you do have to write a book worthy of selling.
Here’s how you can write an amazing book:
- Decide if you want to write fiction or nonfiction. Both types of books can land on their respective bestseller list. This is a fairly easy decision—just go with the first idea you have.
- Come up with a book idea. This can be made a lot easier with a list of writing prompts like this one right here. Remember that you have to be passionate about your book because if you’re not, your readers will be able to tell. No “bestseller” banner will save you from negative reviews.
- Outline your book. One of the best ways I’ve learned how to write a good book is to outline it. When you know where you’re going, everything in between is easier to write, and that means you can focus on writing with quality.
- Write your book. It may take time, but if you follow our process for writing a quality book, you will be proud to have it out into the world. Keep our tips in mind throughout the process and you’ll write a better book, faster.
#3 – Build an author platform
This should happen before you write your book—or during it, if you just decided you want to become an author at all, let alone a bestselling author.
What is an author platform?
Your platform is your audience. In order to sell your book and on a consistent basis (which is key if you want to be a full-time author), people need to
- know you exist and
- that you’re writing books for them to read.
In order to do this, you have to be present on social media, have an author website, and market yourself as an author regularly.
Where you spend your most time and how you go about that marketing will depend on what type of book you’re writing and who your audience.
As an example, if your intended audience is an older generation between the ages of 45-60, they’re more likely to be on Facebook than other social platforms simply because those are Facebook’s demographics.
Here are the demographics for social platforms so you can determine where you’ll focus your efforts:
- Facebook: 54% female, 46% male, 65% between 50-64 years old
- Twitter: 24% women, 23% men, 40% between 18-29 years old
- Instagram: 39% women, 30% men, 72% between 13-17 years old
- Pinterest: 41% women, 16% men, 34% between 40-49 years old
Using these numbers, you can get a better idea of where you should start building up your author platform first.
#4 – Market your book NOW
Yes, before it’s even done.
If you start on your author platform like I mentioned above, you can start marketing by simply creating social posts, videos, and more content related to your book and its contents.
Here are some ideas for marketing your book before it’s done:
- Create social posts with tips and tricks related to your book’s contents
- Update your followers on your book’s progress
- Talk about the process of writing a book
- Voice your challenges with the writing or content itself
- Create countdown posts when it gets closer to time to launch
- Engage with your followers by asking them to comment below—and then have conversations with them
- Reach out for interviews about you and your book
We have more tips for marketing your book right here that will help you grow your following and get your book’s name out here.
#5 – Decide to pursue self-publishing or traditional publishing
This is where your earlier decision of which bestseller list you want to be on comes into play.
If your goal is to become a New York Times bestselling author (which isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but you do you), you’ll have to go the traditional publishing route and commit to spending a
However, if you want to become an Amazon bestselling author, that achievement is right around the corner.
Ultimately, you have to decide which is best for you, traditional or self-publishing?
#6 – Build a large launch team
And make it a good one.
If your goal is to hit bestseller numbers on the first week of your launch, you need a large and dedicated launch team to help make it happen.
What is a launch team?
A launch team is a group of people dedicated to helping you launch your book. They read it, review it on Amazon and other platforms, and participate in promotional activities.
Here’s what to look for in a good launch team:
- They’re actually interested in your book;
- They feel motivated and enthusiastic;
- Eager to participate in promotional tactics;
- They offer new promotional methods
- They have a moderate-sized audience of their own
- They’ve been on a launch team before
Your launch team will be an integral part of whether or not you become a bestselling author—keep that in mind when recruiting volunteers.
Psst! Need a book launch checklist? Check this out: FREE Book Launch Checklist Download
#7 – Create a solid launch plan
We have a very specific process for launching your book to become an Amazon bestseller.
These tactics may not work for if you want to be a NYT’s Bestseller. But they will get you that coveted orange “#1 Bestseller” banner on Amazon, which has relatively the same perks.
Here’s the launch plan we recommend (and you can read the full method right here):
- Price your book for maximum sales
- Host a “soft launch” and nail down your complete launch strategy
- Get book reviews from your launch team
- Reach out to book promotion sites for both paid and free promo
- Stick to a minimalistic launch plan
Again, our full book launch guide can be found right here for you to set up your book launch on Amazon in order to become a bestseller.
#8 Become a bestseller
If only it was that simple.
This last step should really be something along the lines of “mess up, try again, try it all over again, and then hope and pray, and try again” instead of “become a bestseller.”
Because that’s what it usually takes:
Luck, the right marketing, the best launch team, and a lot of hope.
But if you have a system that is proven to make you an Amazon bestseller, then it’s almost guaranteed.
How much do authors make for a bestseller?
The amount bestselling authors make depends on their royalty rate for their books and the amount of books they sell. Traditionally published bestselling authors usually earn a 10% royalty rate, whereas self-published bestselling authors make a 60% royalty rate.
A note on this: if you publish traditionally and had a bestselling book, your second book can earn you a much higher advance because of your proven track record. Second-time authors who had a bestselling first book can earn impressive advances, upwards of $100,000 at times. Remember, those authors still have to sell enough books to “pay back” their advance before earning additional income.
Book price: $17.99
Book rate royalties are from: $17.99
Initial Royalty Rate: 10%
Take-home earnings: $1.79
Books Sold: 3000
Book price: $17.99
Royalty Rate (on retail cost): 60%
Book royalties earnings total: $10.79
Take-home earnings: $6.34
Books Sold: 3000
How many books do you have to sell to become a bestselling author?
There is no set specific number of book sales needed in order to become a bestselling author. After all, it depends on how many books other authors are selling at the same time.
And it also depends on the rules and criteria of that specific bestseller list.
Here’s a guideline you can follow when it comes to other lists:
- New York Times Bestseller list: 9,000 copies
- The Wall Street Journal Bestseller list: 3,000 books
- Amazon Bestseller list: this number depends on current numbers being sold in the categories you listed your book in
Ultimately, we here at Self-Publishing School believe becoming an Amazon bestseller is not only the most attainable goal of becoming a bestseller author, but it also grants the same rewards as the others.