How to Write a Bestselling Book

How to Write a Bestselling Book

Writing a successful book takes talent, perseverance and strategic planning. While no formula guarantees a book will be a chart-topping hit, following a smart process improves your odds of writing and publishing a bestseller.

Choose a Compelling Topic

Focus your book on a topic that intrigues you and connects with readers’ interests. Assess if your concept has bestseller potential by evaluating if:

  • It targets a large base of engaged readers
  • It taps into current trends and mass appeal
  • It provides value, solves problems, entertains or educates
  • It’s a fresh take on a popular genre or theme
  • It shares insider experience readers crave
  • It gives you a platform to define your personal brand

Determine if your idea has a built-in target audience before devoting months to writing. Research the competition and demand for books on your topic. The most marketable concepts fill an unmet need.

Outline Thoroughly

After research, create a book outline mapping out organized sections and chapter headers. Outlining thoroughly before drafting enables:

  • Figuring out the complete narrative arc and structure
  • Identifying any holes in the concept that need development
  • Gauging whether you have enough material and content
  • Creating a writing schedule by assigning target word counts and deadlines

The outline acts as your content roadmap. Approach outlining methodically to set your writing up for success.

Write a Compelling Synopsis

Distill your book down to a short, engaging synopsis. This summary selling your story will be used for:

  • Catching the interest of potential publishers and agents
  • Providing jacket or online book descriptions
  • Intriguing book reviewers considering a read
  • Getting book bloggers and media interested in featuring you
  • Summarizing the concept when pitching your book

Keep synopses around 150-250 words or fewer. Lead with your central hook, introduce the main character/conflict, set the key narrative elements, and end leaving readers wanting more.

Develop Your Characters

For fiction, craft multidimensional characters readers emotionally bond with. Outline backstories, motivations, flaws, strengths and arcs for each main character. Readers invest in relatable, realistic characters facing adversity.

For non-fiction, focus on establishing yourself as an authoritative voice readers can trust. Share your credentials, passion for the topic, and insight you bring from education or experience. Readers want experts.

Know Your Target Reader

Envision your ideal reader throughout the writing process:

  • What demographic details define them – age, gender, income level, location?
  • What values and interests do they have?
  • What problems or needs compel them?
  • What tone and language resonates with them?
  • Where do they consume content and spend time?
  • Why would they care about your book concept?

Keep your target reader top of mind to craft content precisely answering their wants and needs.

Choose Your Book Format

Consider if your concept aligns best to traditional print or digital:

Print – Pursue a print publisher if your book:

  • Requires high production value with illustrations, photos, complex formatting
  • Matches established genres and series printed publishers release
  • Would sell better in brick-and-mortar stores than online only
  • Needs marketing across trade publications, catalogs and media

Digital – Self-publish an ebook if your book:

  • Has a niche or experimental concept print publishers may reject
  • Taps into popular online genres like short serials and fan fiction
  • Appeals to modern “digital native” audiences accustomed to ebooks
  • Fits with your capabilities to personally market and sell online

If unsure, you can release print and digital editions. Evaluate pros and cons.

Research Comparable Books

Study current and past books similar to your concept:

  • Who is the author? Take note of their credentials and platform.
  • What hooks and angles did their book take?
  • What formats and writing style did they use? First person? Interviews?
  • How did they structure their book? Number of chapters? Sections?
  • What about their title and cover connected with readers?
  • Did they have any successful marketing gimmicks?
  • What reviews and feedback did readers leave?

Deconstructing comparable bestsellers in your genre reveals what resonates most with your target readership.

Craft Attention-Grabbing Chapters

Tight chapter construction keeps pages turning. Ways to end chapters engagingly include:

  • Cliffhangers leaving tense uncertainty
  • Teasers alluding to surprises in the next chapter
  • Reveals after building suspense and intrigue
  • Resolutions to small conflicts that lead into new questions
  • Moving scenes or conversations between key characters
  • Introduction of complications or new story factors

Nail chapter pacing, scene endings and pivoting storylines readers can’t wait to see play out.

Show, Don’t Tell

Transport readers into scenes using vivid sensory details – sights, sounds, textures, scents. Allow characters’ conversations and actions to reveal personality and motives rather than simply describing them.

Telling summarizes while showing immerses readers in experiencing the moment with characters. Deep point-of-view perspective pulls readers into the events happening right then. For example:

  • Telling: Jane was furious at her coworker’s betrayal.
  • Showing: “You lied to my face!” Jane screamed, slamming her palm down on the desk.

Masterful showing puts readers into the story.

Develop an Unforgettable Style

Your writing voice and style should:

  • Sound authentic to who you are. Readers connect with genuine personality and passion.
  • Resonate with your target readers’ preferences. Adapt vocabulary and tone to your audience.
  • Immerse readers in your worldview. Unique perspectives interest. Clichés bore.
  • Have an authoritative stamp if non-fiction. Credentials and word choice convey expertise.
  • Be accessible enough for your genre. Literary fiction tolerates complexity. Pulp genres favor clarity.
  • Stand apart in the market. Avoid mimicking the style of bestselling competitors too closely.

It takes practice strengthening your writing voice. But a memorable style holds readers’ attention.

Edit Meticulously

Invest time reworking content:

First draft – Get words on paper.

Second draft – Clarify structure and storyline coherence.

Third draft – Tighten prose, polish transitions, enhance imagery.

Final draft – Refine book until confident every line and scene pops.

Editing thoroughly ensures no weak writing or plot holes make it to print. Read chapters aloud catching awkward phrasing. Delete unnecessary passages that slow pacing. Be your own toughest critic.

Create Cliffhanger Chapter Endings

Ways to hook readers anxiously into the next chapter:

  • An unexpected visitor arrives or call comes
  • Shocking news gets revealed
  • A secret comes to light
  • A dramatic argument reaches a breaking point
  • Danger suddenly intensifies
  • A mystifying question gets posed
  • A new obstacle arises as progress seemed made
  • A plan unravels or twist occurs

Leave readers begging to know what happens next. Crafty chapter endings propel pages.

Research Publishing Options

When your manuscript nears completion, explore publishing paths:

Traditional Publishing – The “Big Five” traditional publishers (Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette) offer advances, big print runs, wider distribution and marketing. But landing a traditional publishing deal is competitive, taking persistence and exceptional writing.

Independent Presses – Respected independents like W.W. Norton, Graywolf and Coffee House appeal more open to emerging authors. Advances and print runs are smaller but retainments are higher.

Self-Publishing – Services like Amazon Kindle Direct, IngramSpark and Draft2Digital let you publish and sell books yourself digitally and in print. You control rights and creative vision keeping higher profits, but must personally handle marketing.

Weigh approaches against your goals. Partnering with the right publisher provides advantages but requires giving up some creative control and royalties.

Hire a Book Editor

Professional editors polish manuscripts for publication. Good editors:

  • Tighten and clarify writing that’s wordy or disjointed
  • Ensure continuity, character arcs and plot flow logically
  • Fix grammar mistakes and awkward phrasing
  • Suggest additions and cuts to improve pacing and development
  • Verify facts, citations and quotes are accurate
  • Format manuscripts professionally for submission

Quality editing removes issues undermining writing. Expect fees from $500-$5,000 based on project length and edits required.

Design an Eye-Catching Cover

A book’s cover makes a vital first impression on browsers. Study what comps and bestsellers in your genre use:

  • Bold, creatively designed titles/author names
  • Intriguing imagery symbolizing key themes
  • Stylistic color schemes and graphics

Hire a professional designer unless you have artistic chops. Author-made covers scream amateur. Spend time perfecting this make-or-break branding component.

Develop a Launch Plan

Maximize new release buzz with an engaging launch plan:

  • Release first chapters or excerpts as “sneak peeks” in advance to build anticipation
  • Schedule a blog tour for guest posts on receptive book sites
  • Line up podcast and radio interviews releasing around launch date
  • Host an online launch party with giveaways and live Q&As
  • Run Facebook and Goodreads ads targeting your book’s genre
  • Ask fans to post reviews and social shares on launch day

Rally readers when your book releases to drive momentum for bestseller status.

Secure Advance Reviews

Early positive reviews help convince readers to buy once released. Ways to obtain advance reviews:

  • Send free review copies to key book reviewers offering positive feedback
  • Provide free advance reader copies through Goodreads Giveaways
  • Ask established “ARC review” teams in your genre to read early copies
  • Request reviews from book bloggers interested in exclusive access
  • Approach bookstagrammers and booktubers open to reviewing pre-releases

Reviews provide social proof of your book’s merit. Make the request process easy for potential reviewers.

Build Your Author Platform

An author platform spotlights you as an industry expert. Ways to elevate your authority include:

  • Launch an author website with professional bio and press kit downloads
  • Start an email list for sharing news with fans
  • Build social media followings sharing your writing and expertise
  • Offer guest articles and interviews to niche websites
  • Speak at in-person and virtual events related to your book’s genre
  • Network actively with fellow authors in your space

Recognition as an authority boosts book sales. Publishers assess platforms determining marketing potential. Expand your reach.

Optimize Your Book Page Listings

Ensure readers find your book by optimizing:

  • Amazon Page – Include a detailed plot summary, author bio, categories/keywords. Link to your website. Request reviews.
  • Goodreads Page – Add quotes, excerpts, updates and links to expanded book details.
  • Barnes & Noble Page – Post background, summaries, author details. Link to social profiles.
  • Your Website – Share sample chapters, photos, press mentions, ordering links, and contact forms to capture readers.

Complete author and book profiles improve visibility when readers search for your title.

Plan an Ongoing Content Strategy

Keep interacting with readers after launching by:

  • Publishing behind-the-scenes insights into the writing process
  • Sharing cut passages and unused ideas that didn’t make the book
  • Recommending similar books and authors your readers may enjoy
  • Responding to reader questions and feedback
  • Offering previews and reading suggestions related to future books
  • Posting motivational advice and stories for aspiring authors

Ongoing value earns reader loyalty beyond initial book sales.

Guest Post Strategically

Landing guest posts on industry blogs expands your book’s reach:

  • Pitch your book concept or excerpt to blogs read by your target audience
  • Offer to write posts around themes related to your book for tie-in
  • Convert interviews into shareable Q&As
  • Provide special giveaways or content exclusive to site readers
  • Link prominently to your book sales page

Securing placements on authoritative sites boosts visibility during and after launch.

Build Referral Partnerships

Partner with relevant brands and creators to tap into each other’s audiences:

  • Swap endorsements praising each other’s books
  • Coordinate giveaways promoting both of your works
  • Give each other affiliate codes to share
  • Write guest posts for each other’s sites
  • Advertise in each other’s email newsletters
  • Co-host book release parties or virtual events together

Joint promotions with respected peers expand reach to pre-qualified audiences.

Pursue Speaking Opportunities

Position yourself as an expert by pitching book-related talks:

  • Contact bookstores and libraries about author events
  • Look for relevant conferences, conventions and expos seeking speakers
  • Propose webinars or virtual summits related to the book’s genre
  • Reach out to associations, business groups and colleges
  • Convert talks into shareable video and podcast episodes

Speaking expands your authority and brand exposure. Convert listeners into book buyers.

Continue Creating Content

Support your book with ongoing content creation:

  • Release companion journals, workbooks and study guides
  • Record educational audio courses expanding your teachings
  • Host regular live video Q&As to engage readers
  • Start a podcast interviewing people related to your book
  • Write a spinoff book or series expanding the universe

Regular releases keep you top of mind after your book hype subsides. New projects maximize existing audiences.

Track Performance

Watch key book metrics to assess traction:

  • Sales Velocity – Steady new purchases needed for bestseller status
  • Reviews – Volume of ratings/reviews indicates word of mouth
  • Category Rank – Climbing the lists for your genre
  • Audience Feedback – Goodreads commentary and reactions
  • Mentions – Increased brand searches and citing
  • Media Interest – Interview requests as your book gains notoriety

Adapt efforts based on whether metrics rise or stall after launch. Momentum begets more success.

Keep Improving Your Craft

Continuously strengthen writing skills by:

  • Reading bestsellers both classic and contemporary
  • Studying story structure and plotting intensives
  • Enrolling in creative writing continuing education classes
  • Attending seminars, workshops and writer’s conferences
  • Joining critique groups and mastermind collectives
  • Entering writing contests and awards programs
  • Setting goals for sales, reviews, or productivity metrics

Writing excellence demands lifelong learning. Surround yourself with others devoted to perfecting their craft.


Birthing a successful book takes creativity, perseverance and savvy planning. Ensure your concept fills high reader demand. Structure an engaging narrative and unforgettable characters. Hone your signature writing voice through endless practice. Partner with supportive publishers and market aggressively to launch with a splash. While not guaranteed, following a smart process maximizes your odds of hitting the bestseller charts.

The journey will challenge you but few accomplishments compare to sharing your ideas on the page. Stay true to your unique creative vision. With passion and persistence, your book has the power to inspire lives.






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