An Insider’s View on How to Become a Bestselling Author

Facilitated by Victorine Lieske

Background

  • There’s no sure-fire way to get on a bestseller list. You can’t buy your way onto a list. But there are strategies that increase your chances.
  • Victorine has identified strategies through trial and error, research, and discussion with other authors.

Strategies

  • Get your book pushed by Amazon. Amazon will recommend books to readers.
    • How do you get Amazon to promote you book? What Victorine has figured out:
  • Amazon tracks how many hits a book gets and how high the sales rate is. With a high sell-through rate, Amazon will start promoting it.
  • Slashing the price (e.g., $0.99) will lead to more sales.
  • When you make a book free on Amazon, you give away thousands of books, which gets you on Amazon’s “Also Bought” lists, so your book gets a lot of advertising. After going back to paid, you’ll sell a lot of books, so the free books will bring you money in the long run.
    • Getting Amazon to promote her book is more effective than her blog posts and video trailers for her books.
  • Get your book on various seller platforms (Amazon is the biggest, but don’t ignore others).
  • Purchase BookBub ads.
    • It’s king for advertising. BookBub sends out book ads based on subscribers’ selected genres. Romantic comedy has more than 2 million subscribers.
    • It’s hard to get ads, but just keep trying. The more mass appeal, the more likely you are to get an ad. BookBub will send you info on how to make your book more appealing.
    • If you get an ad and your book is free, sales won’t count toward getting on bestseller lists. So, charge something.
    • Once you get an ad, plan your marketing/price around the ad.
    • She made $25,000 in sales in the six weeks after a BookBub add.
    • Don’t advertise unless discounting a book. Not very effective when a book is full price. Go from BookBub ad to BookBub ad. Don’t do a lot of small sales because they don’t have the same effect as a BookBub ad. It’s hard to find places that will advertise a book that isn’t discounted.
  • Normal price: $3.99 (had previously set price at $2.99. She didn’t see decreases sales when she increased the price to $3.99, so she’s kept that as her standard.
  • She’ll discount her books to $0.99 or free for one day (more effective than a multiple-day sale).
    • BookBub ads are pricey—her last ad was around $400. Price depends on how much you’re going to list your book for and what genre your book is in. The number of sales was the same when Victorine priced her book for $0.99 and for free (different ads at different times). She made the bestseller list with the $0.99 price but wouldn’t have with the free price. The return on investment is well worth the price of a BookBub ad.
    • Other places to advertise include Ereader News Today.
  • Make sure your book has mass appeal/wide audience.
  • Have a high concept. (Google “high concept defined” for more info.)
    • Describe your book in a few sentences, and ensure your book is something readers will want.
    • Make sure your book blurb reflects the high concept.
    • Write the blurb before writing the book. Let it guide your writing.
  • Concentrate your sales within a one-week period because bestseller lists look at ranking during one-week periods. However, long-term high sales also helps.
  • Don’t put your book up for preorder because preorders don’t help your Amazon ranking. Concentrate your sales to when you release your book.
  • Start an email list.
    • Encourage people to subscribe through offering a free ebook. (She notes this info at the back of each of her books.)
    • Victorine only sends emails when she publishes a new book. She doesn’t want to inundate readers with emails.
  • She uses MailChimp for her emails.
  • Her emails work well—she has high open and click-through rates.
  • Join writers’ groups to stay in the know of what’s working for other authors.
    • Clean Indie Reads group on Facebook.
    • LDS Beta Readers group on Facebook.
    • LDS Fiction Readers and Authors group on Facebook.
  • Make sure your cover, blurb, and genre align. Know what genre you’re writing in, and then make sure your cover and blurb reflect that genre.
    • Make sure your cover is well designed. Covers sell! There are designers in the Clean Indie Reads group. KBoards.com has a section that lists book designers. (LDSPPA is working on a similar section on our site.)
    • Play to your strengths: If you are good at design, typesetting, etc., then do it yourself. Otherwise, it’s worth it to pay for a professional.
    • Make the book blurb as catchy as possible. Get an author who writes in your genre to write your blurb. Or write your blurb and ask other authors who write in your genre to provide feedback.
  • Get feedback before publishing by having beta readers review your writing; 6‑10 readers is a good range. Get readers and other authors who know the genre you’re writing in to be your beta readers.
  • To be successful in a genre, you have to love the genre and read a lot in the genre.
  • Trying to push a book that doesn’t sell well is counterproductive. See what you can learn from the experience and then move on.
  • For first-time authors: Get a second book out as soon as possible. Probably not worth buying ads for a first book. Wait until you have another book out. Many authors find more success when they have more than one book out. Readers will get the first book, like it, and immediately buy the next one.

Miscellaneous Discussion Topics

  • Book revision: She takes a longer time on her chapters, editing as she goes. She reads over what she wrote last time, revises, and then moves forward. She sends a chapter to beta readers when she finishes the chapter. That way, she can catch issues sooner and won’t incorporate the issue in future chapters. After receiving feedback from beta readers, she takes about a month to revise based on their reviews.
  • Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing
    • She turned down a traditional publisher because the amount she was offered was lower than she could earn through self-publishing. If a publisher offers enough, she’s open to traditional publishing.
    • She likes the control possible through self-publishing.
  • For self-published books, Victorine prints hard copies through Create Space.
  • Audiobooks: Another successful option. Victorine sells a couple audiobooks each day.
    • She uses ACX system. She makes more money by paying for the book to be produced rather than doing a royalty share. ACX sets the price. Ebook sales likely drive audiobook sales.
    • She puts out her ebooks as soon as they’re ready. Preparing the audiobooks takes some time, so they come out about six months later.