I’ll say this right up front:
The title of this post is complete nonsense
I could have used similar words on the cover of my book on craft to attract those who believe there’s some secret ingredient to bestselling fiction, but I didn’t.
Because, first, I like to think I have a little integrity. And second, the truth is, nobody can tell you how to write a bestseller.
I don’t care if they’ve sold a gazillion books themselves, there is no person on this planet who can tell you how to write something that will rocket to the bestseller lists.
Not even the big New York publishers know how to get their books on the bestseller lists. If they did, every book they published would be there.
I decided to write this post because I was searching the Internet one day and stumbled across a writer’s website that had an article with a title very similar to the one above. So I took a look at the post and, yes, the author had included some good advice, but none of it really had anything to do with writing a bestseller. He had simply used that word to get your eyes on the page.
So I used the same trick here to make a point.
And I’ll bet your adrenalin rose just a little when you saw it, right?
But here’s the thing…
EVERYONE WANTS TO WRITE A BESTSELLER,
BUT MOST AUTHORS NEVER WILL
Because it’s completely out of your control.
If you sit down to write a “bestseller,” you are taking a wrong-headed approach to writing. Writing great fiction has nothing to do with writing bestsellers. Bestsellers are, by and large, flukes. Right place, right time. And not all bestsellers are created equal.
I can name a dozen of my friends who do everything right and should be on the bestseller lists, and authors who are and don’t belong there.
When I wrote Trial Junkies, I just wanted to write a great book. I had no idea it would go on to be an indie bestseller. Sure, it was something I hoped for, but I certainly wasn’t rubbing my hands together in anticipation of mega-sales. I just wrote the book I wanted to read and decided to let fate take care of the rest.
So don’t put all your energy into trying to write a bestseller. You should simply write the best book you can possibly write. A book you’re so excited about that you don’t care if you ever make a dime off of it.
I spent many years writing stuff that I knew would never sell. In fact, I didn’t even try to sell it, because I knew it wasn’t good enough. But I kept at it for several years. I wrote story fragments and screenplays and teleplays and partial novels and while I knew what I was producing was not quite there yet, I also knew, with great certainty, that it would be one day.
Sure, I had dreams of being Stephen King or Dean Koontz. We all do. But the reality is that most writers never make it to the lists, yet they still manage to have wonderful careers.
Should you forget about your dreams?
No. Sometimes they’re all you have.
But any thoughts of bestsellerdom should be relegated to the back part of the brain. You have a story to write. And that’s all you should be thinking about.
If you publish it and it manages to reach one of the bestseller lists, that’s just gravy.
So there is no How to write a bestseller.
And don’t ever be fooled by anyone who claims to know the secret. That particular brand of fairy dust just doesn’t exist.