The Secret Formula to Creating a Bestselling Book

Share on Google+90Tweet about this on Twitter112Share on Facebook83Share on LinkedIn33Pin on Pinterest304Buffer this pagePrint this page


The Secret Formula to Creating a Bestselling BookWriting a book is one thing, promoting it is a whole different animal. But what if you could, right out of the gate, know exactly what to do to create an outstanding, well-received book that was promoted in such a way that it sold better than you expected? Sound like a dream?

Well, certainly nothing is without risk but in working and speaking with thousands of authors, I have found that there are certain things that work every time – and others that don’t. There is a formula for success, and though varying degrees of it may be modified to better serve your audience and genre, most of the things that propel books to success are the same across the board.

In July, I was honored to speak at Romance Writers of America and you know, of all the genres out there romance (especially contemporary) is possibly the toughest one.

Why? Because it’s so cluttered.

During that event most of the speakers and attendees buzzed about a list of items I’ll share with you below. But these aren’t just exclusive to the romance market, they can be applied anywhere.

The fact is, there are certain things that work very well in book promotion and creating a bestselling book. So well in fact that they can help push book sales in a way that might surprise you. Let’s have a look:

The Secret Formula to Creating a Bestselling Book
Stay on Top of Changes

Before we even dig in here it’s important to remember that things do change so when you implement a strategy you want to monitor it. Most things in marketing aren’t “set it and forget it.” Keep an eye on changes to the campaigns you are running and also stay in touch with what’s going on in general.

I will typically follow author blogs, marketing blogs, and publishing blogs. Compare and contrast what you find. When I was at RWA I would listen with interest when I heard an author talk about a particular successful strategy, but when I heard it a few times from different authors my interest would increase. That’s the start of a trend, something you need to pay attention to.


With social media changing formulas for exposure, it’s becoming harder to get seen in social, that’s why now, more than ever, you’ve got to have a newsletter. Start building your list early because in the next year or two you’re going to see a big boost towards paid exposure in social media.

Facebook has done it, G+ is ramping up to do ads, and soon we’ll see Twitter and Instagram going the way of paid exposure. While none of these sites will go into a 100% paid format, you will see a sharp decline in engagement if you have a free account.

Upgrade your Ethical Bribe

There was a time when giving away a chapter of your book was a great thing, not so much anymore. You really need to make your ethical bribe interesting enough to get folks to sign up for it.

Don’t give them something they can get elsewhere without having to give up their email. Sample chapters can be read on Amazon, for example. Checklists, tool kits, all of those are great. If you’re a fiction author consider a monthly drawing for a gift card.

There’s a system called Rafflecopter we use that will take names and signups and randomly pick a winner for you. It’s a pretty sweet system actually.

Multiple Books

I see this over and over that authors with more than one book always do better than authors just pushing a single title. This means that you can no longer just publish one book and hope for the best, you have to promote multiple titles.

I know it sounds like a lot of work to write and promote multiple titles, but bear with me, because the next point will expand on that idea.

Shorter is the New Long

Not every book you put out needs to be a full-length tome. Sometimes 10,000 or 20,000 words is more than enough to get the message across. Keeping books shorter allows you to write more, and lets you bundle them into sets for a variety of promotional purposes.

Audio Books

If you haven’t looked into audio books you might want to. It had authors all abuzz at the Romance Writers event I mentioned earlier. Turns out, audio books are the new black and a strong, rising market to reach readers.

Turning your book into audio is pretty easy, check out ACX via Amazon and sign up. You can also find audio talent there. Typically a book will take about 8-10 hours to complete and cost you $300 per finished hour.

Always Have Something for Free

One of the biggest things I learned at Romance Writers was the power of free. Having one thing for free, all the time, is important. When you have multiple books of course this is easier, but as you build your library you’ll find that rotating free days between your books can really benefit your sales across the board.

By having one book for free, I don’t mean that it’s the same book that’s always free. But I think having rotating freebies is a great idea.

Be Everywhere

Sometimes I’ll have authors who say “should I really be on this site?” to which I say: yes – be everywhere. It was pretty clear that most of the bigger, bestselling authors subscribe to this.

While I don’t advocate being on every social networking site (because who has time to manage all of that?) there are a lot of sites that you can list your book on that require nothing but the time it takes to post the listing.

Free eBook sites, for example are a good resource. Here are a few:

But also blogs, in general. I have spoken to authors who will turn down offers to be featured on someone’s website, or reviewed by a blogger who isn’t “big enough.” I think this is a mistake.

Accept invitations gracefully. They may not all be the right fit and you can determine that for yourself, but 99% of them will probably be a great/additional way to get your book out there.

Street Teams & Super Fans

Now, more than ever, it’s really, really important to engage your fans. At the event the term “street teams” was thrown out a lot, but both super fans and street teams mean the same thing: getting fans to help you sell books.

How do you do this? First, you need to make them feel important. Make them feel as though they matter greatly to the success of the book (because they do).

Offer them specials, incentives, deals and other things that are exclusive to them. Remind them (often) that they are really important to you and offer them free “swag” to share with their friends (other readers)

One of the authors at Romance Writers talked about how she has a reader who owns a hair salon business and she sent her sample books, bookmarks and other swag to put in her shop. This went over so well, the reader keeps asking for more stuff for her salon.

Get creative with your street teams, and if you need help with something, ask them. You’d be surprised how quickly reader/author bonds are formed, and how most readers who love you are willing to go the extra mile to help out.

They say that success leaves clues, and I believe this is 100% correct. Following what successful authors do is a big key to creating your own rock star marketing plan.

And while there are no guarantees, there are pathways that can lead you to better places, a stronger readership, and bigger sales.

Penny Sansevieri
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She is the author of twelve books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon and Red Hot Internet Publicity.
Penny Sansevieri
Penny Sansevieri
Share on Google+90Tweet about this on Twitter112Share on Facebook83Share on LinkedIn33Pin on Pinterest304Buffer this pagePrint this page
Send to Kindle

What do you think about this post?


  1. Hi Penny, such an in-depth article on creating a bestseller. I have to agree 100% with you on what you said about building an email list. The sooner we built our audience the better. With social media, the engagement is bound to decline with free accounts. that’s where the moeny is for these big companies. They want us to boost a post every time we want to show it to a larger audience. having an email list so9lves this problem.

    I have used Rafflecopter for hosting giveaways and I absolutely love it. Ethical bribe works msot of the time. I love to giveaway my audiobook for free in exchange of their email address. It’s perhaps the best gift you can offer to your customers who have already purchased your print/digital version.

    Having multiple books also helps a ton. It’s similar to opening a physical shop and having a lot of items. If you have less items in your shop, you will make less money. The expenditure remains the same in both cases. So, why not create too many books which will offer too many options for a reader?

    Audio books does cost a but when you outsource but if you can record your own audiobooks, it doesn’t cost a penny. most people undermine their voice and talent.

    The power of free is much more effective than any other promotion. When you offer a chocolate for 1 cent, may be a few hundred people will buy. but when you offer it for free, you will have thousands of interested people in your stall. The same is the case with Books. Although I use Kindle countdown deals sometimes but I always prefer using the FREE PROMO deals. I can reach thousands of readers within a day instead of a few hundred with kindle countdown deals. It makes a big difference. Our books spreads like wildfire via word of mouth. I have in fact written a chapter about “The Power Of Free” in my upcoming book, “The Art Of Book Marketing”.

    Somebody has rightly said, Book stores are a lousy place to sell books. If we go out to a brick and mortar store or a salon as you mentioned, we have absolutely ZERO competitors. There are no other books to compete. Chances are that our books will sell much better in these places. Authors need to be everywhere they can, specially in places where people have to wait in a line.

    Penny, loved your article and I have also started following you on Twitter.