What You Need to Know to Create a Best-selling Book
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Five years ago, I decided that it was time to write my first book. It was the story of how a single dad of five led his kids, his business and himself from disaster to success. At that time, I hadn't written even a single word on the topic. Writing a book seemed like an overwhelming task and I didn't even know where to begin. What kind of book should it be? A self-help, memoir, parenting, leadership or business book? Should I self-publish or try to get a traditional publisher or was there another option? I researched and found 10 individuals who were either experts, consultants or had published books. I got 20 opinions on what to do.
I have recently completed the long and arduous journey of writing a book. Leader of the Pack, a self-published book memoir, even reached No. 1 in self-help, new releases on Amazon. Now I get to brag about having a bestselling book and share how I made it happen. So, here are some the techniques I learned along the way that you'll need to create your best-selling book:
Content is king
Before you decide to write a book, think about what the reader will get out of it. Tell your story to friends, family and on social media. See the reaction. I raised five kids on my own as a single-dad for 20 years, had a five-year divorce, a Supreme Court case and ran my own business with 100+ employees and had to reinvent that twice to survive. When I told people my story, I frequently heard, "you need to write a book." If you are not hearing that, change your approach -- or maybe realize your book isn't worthy. It's better to know this before you begin.
Start building a powerful and visible personal brand even before you begin writing your book, because it is going to be the most valuable asset you have to evaluate your audience, find your voice, sell your book, get reviews and get noticed by the press. I started building a powerful and visible personal brand years before I began writing my book and about a year before my book was done, I started preparing my audience for the content of my book. About 120 days before the release, I started telling my audience specifically about the book.
Writing blogs relevant to your personal brand and book topic is the best way to find your unique voice, understand what exactly you are trying to say to the world and how your message resonates with your audience. Thoughts in your brain look entirely different when you write them down knowing other people will now read them. It is unlikely you will find success as a book author if you haven't written a few dozen blogs first.
Seek professional help
Get help with your brand, messaging and your voice from experts. Since I was writing about single-fatherhood of five little kids, divorce, ex-wives and struggling businesses, how I crafted my words was crucial. I didn't want to sound like an angry man or a superhero, and my branding expert was crucial in this process.
Ghost writers are real
If, after writing 25 blogs, you still aren't good enough at crafting your message, hire a professional writer who has written in your subject area before. There is no shame in that. You don't even have to list them as a co-author if you agree not to in advance.
Agents and publishers
I prepared an official book proposal, which includes an author's bio, marketing plan, table of contents, summary of each chapter and a sample chapter -- all before I wrote the book. I submitted it to a dozen agents, and one well-known agent accepted it. I was thrilled.
The agent submitted my book to many of the big publishing houses and smaller ones. I got rejection after rejection with a similar response: "You have a big personal brand, but we don't know where your book fits."
Eventually, a smaller publisher took my book and after going through six months of work with them, they decided my book wasn't working for them for "legal" reasons and canceled the contract. I was less than thrilled.
Self-publishing to success
Self-publishing is the best way to go for most first-time authors. There are many self-publishing platforms to use and you should research them carefully. I published my first edition with Bookbaby. But after learning the ropes, I published my second edition through Amazon Createspace for the paperback and Kindle Direct Publishing for the e-book. I had good experiences with them all. Bookbaby is more expensive to use but does most of the work for you. Createspace is less-expensive to print books and gives you all the control over your book you could ever want including the ability to quickly update the book itself and pricing. The best part of self-publishing is you keep more of the money from the sales. And since, you will be doing most of the book promoting anyway, why even bother with a traditional publisher?
Promote, promote, promote
Time to use that powerful and visible personal brand to promote your book. As soon as you know when your book is going to publish, you should start using all your social channels to get the word out. Email blasts, live video, requesting appearances on podcasts, and just telling everyone you know are all techniques you need to employ. Reach out to local bookstores and set up book signings timed to the release. Look for venues that are relevant to your book topic and see if they will let you speak to their audience. Be relentless and expect that it will take many weeks and months to continuously promote your book to get it to the top of the charts. This is as hard a task as it was to write the book.
Amazon book reviews
It is common knowledge that more reviews you get on Amazon, the more your book gets promoted by the Amazon algorithm and is likely to sell more. Some say the magic number is 50 and some say it's 100. If you promote your book well, you will get some reviews organically - meaning readers will submit reviews on their own. But if you want to reach the 50 or 100 marks, you will have to solicit reviews one by one, repeatedly. Use that personal brand and personally ask people to buy and review your book. I spent time each day reaching out to anyone I thought would enjoy the book, and because I have a large social following, I was able to add an average of three reviews per day in the first month of release. This is a process you should continue through the life of the book.
Have a party
Plan to have a book launch party timed near the release of your book. It's a fabulous way to generate interest in your book, get the attention of the press, and get a direct feel for how people view you and your book. This will be promotion money well spent and if you are able, look for a sponsor. My book party had over 75 people attend, I gave away 100 books, and I'm still having people contact me about the party and my book. The party also created a personal relationship with the attendees, giving you the opportunity to directly ask for book reviews. Finally, you have worked your ass off to get to this spot, and the party is a well-deserved reward for your efforts.
You can see now that writing a book and getting it to be a bestseller is not an easy task. It requires creative thinking, excellent writing skills, personal brand building and a truckload of hard work. But anyone can do it -- you just have to ask yourself one question: "How bad do I want it?!"