You don’t have to rely on luck to become a best-selling author.
The reason most books don’t sell more than 250 copies isn’t simply that most authors are unlucky (even though they might think that).
Chances are, they received bad advice or didn’t prioritize what actually moves the needle when it comes to selling their book.
Because the truth is even successful authors need to create and execute book marketing plans to generate those crazy sales numbers.
There isn’t a silver bullet.
But there are proven principles and strategies behind selling books.
And you can harness those powers to give yourself the best shot at becoming a best-selling author.
That’s exactly what I’ll show you how to do in this step-by-step guide.
I used everything I’m about to show you to help my book, Publish. Promote. Profit., become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Not only that, but my team and I use them to help authors like you become best-selling authors in their industry.
What Does Being a Best-Selling Author Actually Mean?
Most aspiring authors immediately ask how many book sales it takes to become a best seller.
But that’s a dangerous question…
Because being a “best-selling author” is somewhat subjective. It comes down to what list(s) you’re chasing and your ultimate goals with your book.
This means someone might succeed at becoming a best seller by getting ranked in their target Amazon category and others might consider everything but the New York Times best-seller list a failure.
So, before we go any further, try to define what success actually means with your book.
What does being a “best-selling author” actually mean to you?
There are certainly book sales involved in the answer to that question, but the specific number completely depends on your situation.
With that in mind, how many book sales do you actually need to make the lists?
The answer completely depends on the list, and not all lists are alike.
The New York Times, for instance, is a curated list that doesn’t take into account actual book sales. Sales help, obviously, but there’s not a specific number that guarantees you a spot. Your fate is in the hands of whoever determines which books make the list.
Other lists like Wall Street Journal, Barnes & Noble, and USA Today, are sales focused and more straightforward.
A general rule of thumb for these is between 5,000 and 7,000 sales in the first week.
I know this because we’ve helped 25 different authors make the Wall Street Journal Best Seller list in the past 12 months.
What about Amazon?
The answer depends on your book’s category. In some categories, you can land on the best seller list with a few dozen book sales in a day.
Others are way more competitive.
And on top of that, Amazon updates its lists every hour. So, you may only be a “best seller” on Amazon in your category for a single hour.
Some people consider this a bestselling author–I usually don’t.
How Much Does a Best Selling Author Make?
There isn’t a general answer to this question because becoming a best-selling author has wide-reaching benefits.
Outside of strictly book sales, being a best-selling author adds instant credibility to your name and makes people want to hire you. That means you can make much more money from speaking engagements, product sales, and services.
Then, there’s the fact that most best-selling authors don’t make much money from book sales–their income comes from the opportunities their books create.
For instance, if you opt for traditional publishing, you’ll make about 5% in royalties.
So, if you sell 30,000 books at $24.99, you can expect to make around $37,485. Not bad, but it’s not a living wage unless you; ‘re selling hundreds of thousands of books each and every year.
If you opt for self-publishing, the marketing you’ll have to do to get sales will usually outweigh your book revenue. And that doesn’t make sense unless you know this beforehand and use your book in something like a free plus shipping funnel.
That’s exactly what I did.
Getting Publish. Promote. Profit. onto the WSJ bestseller list meant I could market myself as an expert in my field. I used the book to build my authority to get speaking engagements, provide a service, or sell courses.
Those high-ticket items created my 7 figure business, not the book sales. But the book sales fueled my pipeline for the bigger sales.
So, best-selling authors can make anywhere from a few thousand to several million dollars per year depending on their business as a whole.
How to Become a Best-Selling Author: Your 5-Step Plan
Step 1: Write Your Book
There’s no way around it.
To be a best-selling author, you must write.
But it’s not enough to write any run-of-the-mill book and expect it to top the best-seller list. Your book must be spectacular.
It needs to give such valuable insight that your audience eats it up and wonders what they did before absorbing the knowledge in your book.
But how do you create a book that has best-seller potential?
The following tips will help you write a book that your audience can’t put down.
Offer a Specific Solution
Dan Kennedy, the highly successful founder of Magnetic Marketing, once said something that stuck with me:
“Nobody buys a drill because they want to drill. They buy a drill because they want a hole.”
Don’t think about mass appeal. Instead, think about what specific problem you can solve: what is the ultimate pain that my target audience faces? And more than that, what solution will fix that pain?
While writing your book, ask yourself how you incorporate the pain point and solutions.
Decide on a Specific Audience
Your book doesn’t need mass appeal to become a best-seller. It is more important that it appeals to your target audience.
One popular way to decide this is to create a reader profile. Who specifically is that person who is likely to pick up and read your book?
Your book will not solve every issue in your audience’s life. But, I’m guessing there is a specific problem that people in your niche face daily.
Can you create the new best resource that solves that pain point for them?
You can also tap into client emotions, such as frustration or fears. For example, someone may pick up a weight loss book because they’re frustrated that they can’t lose weight.
However, they may also have a more profound fear that they won’t grow old enough to play with their grandkids.
The point of this is that you’re uncovering the identity of your ideal client.
Write Content That Lasts
If you’re putting in the effort to write and create a book, you want that book to generate your income for years to come.
You do not want it to have a small spike in sales during the launch that ultimately doesn’t move the needle for your business again.
To combat that possibility, ensure that you’re writing evergreen content.
Instead of writing about current trends or news topics, write a book that solves a problem that people deal with no matter what year.
For instance, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is in circulation even though it was published in 1936. Almost a century after publication, its wisdom is still relevant today.
Don’t Use Your First Draft
The sad reality is that the first draft probably isn’t as good as you think.
The bar is set pretty high in the world of best-sellers, and most first-time authors get too eager to start selling their books before it’s truly ready to be seen by a mass audience.
Instead of rushing your book, take time to edit, edit, and edit some more to make your book practically perfect.
Have Someone Write for You
You’re a busy entrepreneur.
Your job is running your business, not writing.
And that means you’re highly likely to continually put off writing your book even though you know writing one will massively benefit your brand and your business.
But if you hire a good ghostwriter, you can get your book done in a matter of months with only a few hours of work per week.
And that means you can ensure you have this powerful business-building tool without having to neglect your day-to-day responsibilities.
Step 2: Create a Winning Book Marketing Plan
You can’t expect your book to sell itself–you need a rock-solid book marketing plan from the outset.
So you don’t have to throw things at the wall and see if they stick. Instead, you work from a proven plan with a great marketing foundation.
That way, when launching your book officially, you know what areas to concentrate on, and you won’t fall victim to shiny object syndrome.
Below are some of the most effective marketing strategies I know, and I have a more in-depth list you can read by clicking here.
1. Target The Most Specific Category
The category you pick on Amazon is a big deal. If your book is in the wrong category you’ll miss out on consistent sales.
That’s why I recommend picking the most specific and descriptive category you can find that fits the content of your book.
Your book may fall under the Business category, but then you compete against millions of other books.
However, a book on Real Estate Law is much more narrow, and it’s more likely your book will become a best-selling in that category.
Specific categories, by nature, are generally lower in competition and have a more refined audience.
2. Build Your Platform
If you don’t already have one, make sure you take the time to create a website that can collect emails.
Your website doesn’t have to be flashy in the beginning — it can simply be a landing page with a countdown to your new book and a place to enter an email address for an update when it launches.
The important thing is that a website makes you seem more authoritative and allows interested readers a place to learn more about you.
You do not have to rely on inconsistent social media algorithms if you give people a place to reach you directly.
3. Begin Speaking & Networking (Even Before Your Book Is Done)
Even before launching your book, concentrate your efforts on attending conventions or events, booking speaking gigs, or appearing on podcasts.
Now you might be wondering, is this necessary if you don’t even have a book yet to sell?
The answer is definitely yes. Putting yourself out there generates buzz and allows you to talk about your expertise and advertise your future book. You can then use your website to collect emails (and maybe pre-orders) to sell books before even officially launching.
Plus, it becomes social proof to position yourself as an authority further whenever a potential reader sees you more and more in various media outlets.
Here’s what you can do to be more visible:
- Reach out to podcasters or social media influencers in your niche for an interview
- Ask nearby bookstores if they do shout-outs or offer events for local authors
- Genuinely engage with possible referrals on LinkedIn. Don’t just ask them for a favor
- Join online or local author groups who are also in the process of launching their book
Step 3: Decide the Best Way to Publish
You have 3 main publishing options: traditional publishing, self-publishing, or hybrid publishing. I do a more thorough deep dive on how to publish your book, but here are the big-picture differences.
|Beneficial for any Bestseller list||Beneficial for Amazon Bestseller list||Beneficial for any Bestseller list|
|Up to you to market yourself||Up to you to market yourself||Have a team market for you|
|Good chance you might see your book in bookstores||Most likely eBook format only||May see your book in bookstores or eBook only|
|Don’t own rights to your book||Completely ownership of your book||Complete ownership of your book|
|Free, and you can get paid regardless of sales||Free, but you don’t get paid unless you make sales||Costs money upfront, but you keep all royalties from sales|
|Can take over a year to publish a book||Publish speed depends on how quickly you write||Can publish a book in a few months|
The method you choose can impact your ability to make a particular bestseller list.
For instance, if you decide to self-publish and have a minimal marketing budget, you may become an Amazon bestseller in your category but it’s almost impossible to make the New York Times (which isn’t really a “best seller” list anyway because it’s not based on sales).
Many authors dream of a traditional publishing deal, but the costs are almost never worth it. You lose the rights to your own book, only make about 5% in royalties, and you still have to market yourself.
Hybrid publishing is easily the best option, in my opinion, for authors who want the best of both worlds and have a budget to work with.
You can have entire marketing and writing teams behind you that help ensure your book reaches its full potential.
And you absolutely can make a best-seller list through hybrid publishing.
In fact, we’ve helped 25 authors make the Wall Street Journal list in the last 12 months alone.
Step 4: Execute a Killer Launch
Now is where your planning comes together: you have your book, you initiated your marketing, and now it’s finally time to launch.
My best suggestion for a successful launch is to hire an expert in this area. The reason is that an expert knows what they’re doing and probably has connections to networks to generate buzz around your new book.
If you want to do it yourself, use the following steps to maximize your launch efforts:
1. Start With a Soft Launch
2-3 weeks before officially launching, find a minimum of 8-10 people willing to give your book 5-star Amazon reviews.
The reason for this is for social proof. When potential readers find your book, they want verification that others have already read and enjoyed it.
Even though it’s just a few reviews, it is just enough proof (at least to start) to confirm that your book is worthwhile.
Keep in mind: these must be legitimate reviews. Do not try to create fake reviews or Amazon may penalize you.
2. Hard Launch Your Book
This is the big launch that involves getting your book in front of millions of eyes. Focus your efforts on the following items:
- Getting speaking engagements on TV, radio, or podcasts: Focus on both niche and general media. Niche media, even if less than 200 people see it, appeals to your exact target audience. With general media, you won’t appeal to everyone. However, being on large outlets like NBC or the local radio builds your authority.
- Putting up ads on websites, blogs, or social media: Target your specific audience to avoid wasting money on ads. This creates more reach for those who may never hear about you otherwise.
- Launch at least 3 press releases: Reach out to varying media outlets that can get you tens of thousands of viewers. You can write your own press release and distribute it to media contacts or journalists.
Step 5: Think of Your Book As a Marketing Asset
The previous steps should get you in a good position to potentially become a bestseller in certain categories.
But writing a best-selling book is pointless if it’s not generating income for your business years after launching.
Remember why you went through the effort to write a book and make it a best seller: to build your authority and set you up as a thought leader in your niche.
Therefore, the final step of becoming a best-selling author involves transitioning your mindset.
Instead of trying to generate more book sales, switch your efforts to using your book as a marketing tool for higher ticket items like consulting, speaking engagements, or products.
After all, selling a couple of $999 coaching services is worth more than a $24.99 book.
My favorite way to do this is to use the free plus shipping book funnel.
This funnel involves giving away your book for free — the reader pays for shipping. By lowering the barrier to entry, you’ll get your book in front of a bigger audience.
Once a reader gets your book and gains valuable insight from your knowledge, you’ve piqued their desire for how you can help them even more.