Ten Things That May Surprise You
By Dee Power and Brian Hill
writing our book, The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories
From Authors and the Editors, Agents and Behind Them,"(Dearborn
Trade, 2005), we wanted to find out what separates the publishing
industry elite, the bestselling authors, from all the thousands
and thousands of writers who aspire to someday make the bestseller
lists. We interviewed 24 of today’s most popular authors,
some of whom have endured on the bestseller lists for decades. As
a group, these authors have sold more than half a billion books.
It turns out that writing talent is not the only separating factor;
in fact it may not even be the most important factor.
There Is No Single Profile For A Bestselling Author
authors are seldom the top graduates from prestigious university
writing programs. Writing may have been a second or third career
for them, and the publishing industry values authors who bring life
experience to their work, in fiction or nonfiction. Bestselling
authors span all age groups, many different professions and varied
educational backgrounds. There is no single profile for what a bestselling
author looks like.
Perseverance Is Key
all bestselling authors faced the same struggles early in their
careers that less successful, even unpublished authors, face. Immediate
success is rare. One distinction of bestselling authors is that
they do not get as discouraged by lack of early success. They persevere.
Their desire to succeed is enormous. Bestselling authors often have
to demonstrate the patience and stamina to write a number of books
before achieving notable success.
They Write, And Write And Write….
productivity, the writing output, of bestselling authors is much
greater than the average writer’s. They have the discipline
to get up each day and produce high quality work. They don’t
wait for the muse to tap them on the shoulder. Some authors’
annual literary production is phenomenal, such as Nora Roberts who
often comes out with two extremely popular books each year—year
after year. Or Catherine Coulter, who has produced more than fifty
bestsellers so far in her career.
Promotion Is Constant
authors never stop promoting their books, no matter how successful
they get. Many still market at the grass roots level, not just through
national TV or radio interviews. They take the time to visit and
meet individual bookstore managers at both chain stores and independents.
They never relax and believe they have “made it.”
Marketing Is An Important Factor
if they have never taken a business course in college, they have
an innate sense of marketing concepts such as brand building and
product differentiation. They closely watch trends in the literary
marketplace. They understand what it is about their books that readers
respond favorably to. They take a strategic approach to their careers
and they realize that much more goes into being a successful author
than the writing itself.
They Like To Write And Write And Write …
would rather write than do anything else. It’s not just that
successful authors are more disciplined, though that is part of
it; they simply enjoy writing more than other writers do. Many aspiring
authors enjoy the idea of writing, not the hard work itself. Bestselling
authors seem to thrive on the hard work, and they work much harder
than we might suppose.
Fans Are An Important Asset
authors listen closely to what their readers say, and try very hard
to meet or exceed their fans’ expectations, but they do not
necessarily pay close attention to what reviewers or book critics
say. They don’t even necessarily expect good reviews. Word
of mouth support from readers and booksellers is more important
to them than reviews.
The More Success The More Pressure
authors face more pressure as they get more successful. As they
rise to the top, there are increasing demands on their time. Top
authors lead three very different lives. First, the quiet, solitary
scholarly life of being a writer. Then participating in the team
effort within the publishing house to make the book the best book
it can be. This involves learning how to take advice from and collaborate
with the professionals within the publishing house. Finally, the
author must participate in the very public life of trying to sell
books to the mass audience. They have to master all three lives
if they intend to continue to achieve bestseller status. Added pressure
comes from the fact that the publishing house expects that an author’s
sales will increase with each successive book.
They Faced A Key Turning Point
no denying that luck and timing play a vastly important role in
literary success. Most bestselling authors had a key turning point
in their career, a time when someone influential in the publishing
industry got behind their career and helped them get to the next
level. In other words, they found someone who championed their work
in the marketplace. This person might have been an agent, an editor,
or could have been a member of the media who first introduced this
author’s work to thousands of potential readers. The scary
part is that the author has no control over when—or whether—this
favorable turning point will occur.
authors are keenly aware how fortunate they are to have arrived
at the top of their profession. They sincerely appreciate their
loyal readers. They recognize that they have been chosen to receive
a strikingly rare, special distinction by a bustling, competitive
marketplace. The success, fame and financial rewards that have come
to them are often beyond the most extravagant dreams they had when
they first sat down to write a book.
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