How to Write a Best Seller
If you want to write a best seller, you are among a vast and enthusiastic, yet largely disappointed crowd. It has been said that everybody has at least one story in them. It has also been said that this story probably should stay put in most cases. If you still want to give it your best shot there are a number of important hints and tips to consider.
If your motivation to write a best seller comes largely from a desire to make a lot of money then you should be pragmatic in terms of the amount of time invested and the probable profit. Now it is almost impossible to predict how well a published book will sell. It should be remembered that there are many other ways to earn money, if financial gain is the end goal. You might be better off just doing something easier.
If you have a burning passion to tell a story and your goals are clearly outlined then go for it.
Be Well Read
Most publishers will ask a writer, “What authors do you like to read?” It is amazing how often people try to write books without having a strong background in reading. If this is the case for you, by all means start writing as soon as you want, but it pays to learn the techniques of the successful authors first.
John Birmingham stated that as a child he used to hand copy large chunks of text from his favourite authors as a way of learning their craft and discovering how to tell a good story.
A successful author does not have to possess the largest vocabulary. Plain, easy to read, concise writing is also popular and a skill to develop. As you read, try to absorb the different styles of the great authors and select the ones that work well for you.
What Would You Like To Read
This might sound a little daft on the surface. Usually what you are writing about is the very thing that most interests you. Some people however will only write about topics that they feel expert in. For example, you might only feel equipped to write about the field that you are employed in or have a large experience of.
It pays to remember that, if you are new to a subject matter you will see it from a different angle to someone who spends their entire life neck deep in it. Therefore, you will provide a fresh perspective and your readers can easily relate to you.
Best sellers are books that entertain. Even if your subject matter is technical or relatively dry, if it is written in an amusing or self-abasing fashion, people are more likely to stay interested.
Appeal to the Masses
You might write the best book ever on ‘How to Parallel Park a Car”, but if no one really cares, then you have no customers willing to trade their money for your words. You might think differently to most people and have a unique world view, but you still need to present this in a way that people want to read.
Spend some time thinking about what people enjoy or what people struggle with and write directly to their needs. Observe current trends and talk to people. Usually you can tell what is important to people based on how they spend their time and money.
People often read as an escape from reality, this is true even of non-fiction. How can you write your best seller in such a way that you deliver this escape?
How does your best seller read? Is it easy to get into? Have you formatted the text in a simple and attractive fashion? Do you use overly technical words which slow down the speed of reading?
You can’t judge a book by its cover. What nonsense, everybody judges a book by its cover. Generally speaking you need to buy the book before you read it. If this is the case, then the cover is vitally important in order to make the initial sale. If your book is any good, you will then pick up referred customers through word of mouth and positive reviews.
Make your book stand out from the one next to it, use larger or more colourful font if you have to. Use graphics appropriately. If you have a publisher, then they will help you with all of this and in fact you might not have much say in it. If you publish independently or online, speak to an artistic friend or employ a graphics designer. Spend the time and money getting this stage right.
Write Short Articles
If you are a little daunted by the idea of writing a best seller from scratch, you might like to start by writing short articles. For many people, this may be in the form of a blog. You might find after a year or two of consistent writing you have enough good material to convert these thoughts into a stand-alone book.
Sift through your short articles or blog entries and group them into different topics, these will be the basis for your different chapters. You will need to rework your articles and make them fit and flow nicely together. This is a lot easier than starting with no material behind you.
Become an Expert
In the process of writing articles or blog entries you will spend time researching and thinking about a specific topic. As a result you can convert yourself into an expert on the matter without the need for the more traditional and formalized education models.
If different websites, users, magazines, television programs or newspapers pick up on your area of expertise then you gain a perceived validity to any potential readers of your best seller. Don’t be afraid to approach current experts or famous people and ask them for advice or interviews. Often these people are happy for the attention and get a kick out of telling you their story and experiences. You can learn a lot from someone who has made the mistakes you no longer have to.
Do Something Different and Write About It
There are many examples of people who have used their own life as an experiment and then successfully written about it.
Linda Cockburn decided to live for six months eating and drinking only what she grew and harvested on her suburban property. She wrote about her experiences and published Living the Good Life.
Mark Boyle decided to live without money for a year and ended up writing The Money-less Man : A Year of Freeconomic Living.
Sebastian Terry wrote a bucket list after one of his friends died and set about achieving each item on his list. He writes about this is his book 100 Things.
You might decide to write a book about writing your best seller, that way you would end up with two different texts to publish once you’re finished.
Buy Yourself Lots of Copies
If you are already financially wealthy and are seeking to kick start your book sales, then you might like to purchase a couple of thousand copies yourself. This might create enough of a micro spike in sales that a snowball effect develops whereby you actually have legitimate purchases of your best seller.
Think about the hundreds of thousands of people who bought The Da Vinci Code simply because it was selling so well and appeared on all the popular best seller lists.
Often one of the hardest parts about writing a best selling fiction book is coming up with natural sounding dialogue. If your characters are a different age or gender or background to yourself, then they are not going to speak the way you do.
Listening to the way other people speak in public is a great way to model how your own characters are going to speak.
I was at a beach sitting in my car shortly after sunset when a group of inebriated teens arrived on the scene. I listened with interest to,
“You idiot Neal” as a bottle of beer was dropped on Amy’s foot.
You nearly always need to take your cue from reality when writing fiction.
Describe Don't Tell
The beauty of books is that the reader forms their own visual picture of the scene. This connects the reader intimately to your best seller. Each reader will have a slightly different experience of your work.
For this reason, don’t overdo the writing and explain in every last detail the setting or emotion. This creates space for the reader to exercise their own creativity. It is far better to describe what is happening then tell. For example, ‘salty tears fell on the floor’ is better than ‘Sally was so sad that she cried’.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Before you launch into your great best seller do a little research. Has somebody else already had this idea? Does this book already exist? Am I breaking new ground?
Whilst humans are habitual beings who like the familiar, when it comes to writing a bit of variety is a good thing. What sets your book apart from the next? What do you have to offer that can add to someone else's experience.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media. If you can gently create some interest in your book a small chain reaction might occur exposing your work to an audience you never dreamt of.
Have some people write reviews for your book and post these on the net. Don’t be afraid to approach organisers of writer’s festivals or conferences and offer your time for free.
Make Sure You are Having Fun
Writing is a long and often frustrating process. The rest of life can feel like it is getting in the way. It is important to make sure you are still having fun. It can help to re-examine your goals regularly to ensure you are still on track. If you happen to change track, that is fine, but be aware of it and make sure you are not wasting your precious time.