6 Ways to Write a Bestseller (And Build Your Brand)
When you think about building your brand, what comes to mind? Flashy graphics? A gripping mission statement? Social media followers?
While all of those things are incredibly important, there’s one old-school, yet powerful brand-building tactic: Write a best-selling book.
Sounds good, but exactly how do you do that? To tackle this question, I interviewed Wall Street Journal best-selling author Nick Nanton. I also set about collecting points of wisdom from other best-seller books, to convey how writing a book can truly build your brand. Here are six strategies my research revealed that can turn your book into a certified bestseller.
1. Stand out from the crowd.
Standing out doesn’t apply just to business. You need to write something very different from what’s being written by the competition. It’s fine to write in the same genre, but if you’re basically writing just another version of a book that already exists, you may want to rethink your strategy.
Nanton explained: “Tell your story from a point of view that you’ve experienced firsthand. This is your unique selling proposition, and it’s the single biggest reason why someone should buy your book."
So the lesson here is, don’t add to the noise.
- Consider what unique value your book adds to the world.
- Include those unique, valuable nuggets that readers can receive only from you.
- When pitching and promoting the book, always come back what sets it -- and you -- apart.
2. Send out advance copies.
Best-selling authors think larger than themselves. So they tap into those who are bigger and better known than they. Nanton told me about how he was able to write his first book by partnering with self-help guru Jack Canfield:
“I knew how impactful a book with Jack would be," Nanton said. "I mailed him an iPad, with a video inside making my case. Jack finally took me up on the offer and we worked together, writing The Success Secret, which has been one of my most successful book launches to date.”
In this way, Nanton certainly thought outside the box, got creative and found it paid off.
Similarly, before the launch of The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss sent out a whopping 1,000 advance copies to readers, asking them to leave a review on Amazon. Within 24 hours of the launch, he had 140 ratings, and within three months, he had 1,200.
- Make a list of at least 100 influencers who could benefit from the book.
- Work with your publisher to send the book to those influencers.
- Include a personalized letter to each person about why you included the book.
3. Create a community.
As many entrepreneurs have learned the hard way, you have to earn your way into the conversation. As Nanton told me: “When I was a kid, I wanted to know more about music, and I could read books, but I really wanted to speak with people. I tried calling music publishers, and most of the time I got shut down by the gatekeeper.
"That’s the lesson I learned early -- you have to earn your way into the conversation.”
So, how can you build trust? Build a community. People deeply want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to feel that they’re part of something bigger and more important than their individual lives. If you can create a community around your book, the odds of its becoming a bestseller dramatically increase.
Look no further than David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, to see what building a passionate community looks like.
- Before your book publishes, come up with at least three ways you can create a community around your book.
- Regularly invite your readers to be part of that community via email, social media, your blog, podcast and other formats.
- Consistently engage your readers in the community.
4. Know your readers.
One of the easiest ways to write a bestseller is to write for your audience. You shouldn’t be writing for everybody.
Rather, write for the group you know the best. Deliver an incredible book that will resonate deeply with your audience members and their struggles. Write passionately about the world you know.
Outspoken and popular entrepreneur/speaker Gary Vaynerchuk says, “I'm pretty good at sticking to what I know. You don't see me social-commentating on healthcare or presidential debates. I talk about what I know because I'm petrified of being wrong.”
- Before writing your book, poll your audience members about what struggles they encounter.
- When you write your book, speak directly to those struggles. You may even want to include some stories.
- Present your book as the answer to these problems.
5. Think bigger. Much bigger.
Consider creating something much bigger than just a book. A book is great, but to really get momentum, you may want a much larger vision. Write a book, but use it to build a business.
For example, if you’re writing about fitness, you could also create fitness videos on YouTube, start a Facebook Fitness group and share fitness photos on Instagram. By stacking all this valuable content, you create buzz online and momentum around your book.
A book, in conjunction with other online content, establishes you in people’s minds as the person to come to about a particular topic. This has reshaped the direction of my company Metapress, where we’ve previously focused on online media alone.
Nanton described his own experience in gaining credibility from writing his book: “People that produce television, write major articles, hire speakers -- they want to be able to validate why they turned to you for expertise," Nanton said. "They have two choices: They can promote that you can 'Come see John Doe from down the street,' or, 'You can come see an international best-selling author.”
In other words, a bestselling book transforms you from John Doe into a sought-after expert.
For more advice, check out Michael Hyatt's book Platform and how he subsequently created an entire business around helping people build their own platform.
- Choose at least three additional mediums that you’re comfortable using.
- Develop a plan for how you’ll create additional materials related to your book using those particular mediums.
- Cross-promote everything across every medium for maximum impact.
6. Think about marketing your book early.
Nanton suggested creating a sense of urgency in your promotions when it’s time to market: “If you can’t provide enough reasons to make the audience buy when you’re top of mind, it’ll probably never happen. When you’re preparing for a launch, make sure you provide overwhelming motivation not just to buy, but to buy today.”
In addition, if you want your book to sell, you'll have to hustle before it’s even released.
- At least six months before launch date, consider how to get maximum exposure for your book.
- Map out a plan of specific actions you’ll take to make this marketing plan reality. Include specific time lines.
- Continue implementing the action plan for months after the book releases.
As Nanton told me, “When you have a book, it’s your entry into the conversation.” A book automatically gets you into people’s conversations. When it comes to branding, few things are more valuable than crafting a best-selling book. Yes, you have to do a lot of work to get it onto a bestseller list.
"But it’s worth it. Commit to the hard work. Reap the benefits.