Want to know how to write a bestseller and top the charts in any genre — or simply become a more successful author? This article will show you how. A former literary agent and former AAR member shares seven secrets for authors of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books.
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If you want to know…
How to Write a Bestseller
The information I’m about to share with you will probably make you very happy. However, there’s also a chance that it will make you irritated.
That’s because I’m going to tell you something that you might not want to hear, something that might shock you: Learning how to write a bestselling book often has a lot less to do with talent than most authors realize.
Yes, talent is overrated.
And that’s not just my opinion.
If you want to know how to write a bestseller, you need a writer’s education. I’m not talking about some literary, high-brow, ivory tower world of academia and MFAs (although I’m not bashing the literary establishment). I’m talking about a practical, down-to-earth, reality-based, how to write a bestseller education. And that type of education is made up of seven simple parts.
Which one(s) do you need to add to your repertoire?
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How to Write a Bestseller – 7 Steps
Part 1: How to Write a Bestseller
It’s difficult to learn how to write a bestselling book without reading a lot… but I don’t just mean reading bestselling authors in your genre that you admire. You should also read bestselling authors in your genre that you don’t like. And, you should read bestselling authors in other genres.
And you need to read consciously. When you’re reading purely for pleasure, you can permit yourself to get lost in a author’s story or style. However, when you’re reading for business (how to write a bestseller), you should also be studying the context of what you’re reading.
Pay attention to what you’re thinking and feeling when you read. Look “behind the curtain” where the author is busy pulling his/her strings. Try to deconstruct what’s happening, and why. When you feel something, try to figure out what you’re feeling, and why you’re feeling it.
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Part 2: How to Write a Bestseller
Writing, Writing, Writing
Are you surprised?
This should be obvious as well, but some writers think they can learn how to write a bestselling book without paying their dues.
In other words, you can’t learn how to write a bestseller without spending countless hours writing. I’m talking pure volume here.
A good idea for a bestselling book isn’t the same as a good idea for a bestselling book in the hands of an experienced writer.
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Part 3: How to Write a Bestseller
One of the biggest mistakes that writers make is measuring themselves (mainly) by how much writing they’ve done. That’s because it’s not just volume that matters, but quality. And the best way to improve the quality of your writing is rewriting. Unfortunately, hard work alone doesn’t always lead to extraordinary results. It has to be the right hard work.
In other words, if you want to learn how to write a bestselling book, you have to design your “writing time” to your specific needs. For example, most writers spend most (or all) of their writing time doing one thing: writing. And they spend very little (or no time at all) rewriting. Some writers do this for ten years, write ten books during that time, and never get published (because they didn’t write ten good books, they wrote ten first drafts).
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Part 4: How to Write a Bestseller
Studying the Craft of Writing
Most writers understand that they need to spend time studying the craft of writing, but I want to encourage you to do more… and expand your range of study to new areas.
Read books that might not seem (at first) to apply to you like books on humor, suspense, story, mystery, horror, romance, etc.
If you want to learn how to write a bestselling book, start by having a more eclectic approach in what you study. This will make your writing richer, no matter what genre you’re in.
If you’re a novelist (or if you’re writing memoir), make sure you read Donald Maass’s The Breakout Novel and Robert McKee’s Story. They will simultaneously intimidate and excite you. When the dust settles, you’ll be a better writer.
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Part 5: How to Write a Bestseller
Studying the Business of Writing
If you consider yourself a “creative artist” you might resist this idea or be intimidated by it.
Check out this one simple resource to help you get more educated and stay plugged in: Publishers Marketplace.
If you want to become a bestselling author, it will show you deals being done, who’s doing them, and more. Tens of thousands of publishing professionals are part of this community that has a free newsletter you can get (and a paid option with access to everything).
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Part 6: How to Write a Bestseller
One of the best shortcuts to learning how to write a bestselling book is case studies… learning how other bestselling authors became successful. Writing books, proposals, and query letters takes a lot of time. Don’t experiment. Take advantage of those who’ve gone before you.
For example, let’s say you need to write a query letter to get a literary agent. You might have read a book or two about query letters, but you’ll write a much better query letter if you have a case study to look at first. In other words, a before and after example of a query letter that eventually led to success… with a detailed explanation of the changes that were made, and why.
Case studies let you see what you would have done differently than the subject, and figure out why. This process of focusing on different scenarios and evaluating different solutions is powerful. That’s why the “case method” is used by top universities around the world like Harvard and Yale.
Studying theory in itself is great, but it’s much more beneficial to see that theory applied in real-life situations that resulted in success. Guessing is for the amateur. Case studies are for the professional writer who wants to learn how to write a bestseller.
If you’re a member of my online community, make sure you browse my audio library and listen to the case study interviews there with many authors, some of them New York Times bestsellers. If you’re not yet a member, click here to become a member and get instant access at my new Mark Malatesta website.
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Part 7: How to Write a Bestseller
Coaching and/or Consulting
If you’ve already done a lot of things listed above, or if you want to reach your publishing goals faster, consider coaching or consulting as well. If you want to be a successful author, getting help can literally save you years of wasted time and lots of money working with editors and/or publishing companies that don’t get you where you want to go.
Virtually every bestselling author has had some type of coaching, for good reason. If you want to be a more successful author, you’ll inevitably need help to see those things that you simply can’t see alone. And you’ll need help to overcome things those things that you can see, but can’t overcome alone (or don’t know how).
Coaching and consulting is about discovering smart shortcuts, having someone experienced on your side who’s already “been there and done that”, and (for some people) being held accountable. The new year is a great time to commit (or recommit) to your writing, but you’re much more likely to follow through and be successful if you have a clear plan and the right support.
If you want that type of support to help you reach your goals this year, click here to learn more about registering for an introductory coaching call with me.
And click here to see authors I’ve already helped to get literary agents and publishers… but don’t just read about their success — visualize yourself getting the same results.
Remember, getting publishing
isn’t luck… it’s a decision.
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No one can guarantee you’ll learn how to write a bestselling book, but this 7-part process is as close as you’ll get to a proven formula. These are the things that you can actually control (unlike natural talent or ability, if there even is such a thing).
Focus on them.
Make sure you’re dividing up your time properly based on what you really need… instead of what you want (don’t neglect one of the areas above that you know you should be focusing on). If you want to become a more successful author and/or learn how to write a bestseller, you need to treat your writing more like a business than a hobby.
I don’t mean to take the romance out of your writing experience. But a balanced, writer’s education is the key to help you become more successful.
And that’s pretty romantic in my book,
P.S. – I highly recommend the book Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin (Senior Editor at Large, FORTUNE).