(reblogged from Writer Unboxed)
If I had a dime for each time an author has asked me this question, I wouldn’t need to be a bestseller myself to be rich. Until recently though, my answer has always been a disappointing, “I have no idea.” Or, “There’s nothing anyone can do.”
Then I had a fascinating conversation with the team over at Greenleaf Book Group, an independent publisher and book distributor. Greenleaf not only helps develop ideas into books which they then publish, promote and distribute they also also work with qualifying authors to make that bestseller list dream come true. And they’re successful at it.
What I learned was so eye-opening that I’ve invited Greenleaf marketing associate Magdalene Thomas to talk with me about strategies for reaching those bestseller lists in a Q&A here on Writer Unboxed. Magdalene’s work planning and executing strategic marketing campaigns with independent authors has resulted in numerous bestseller placements.
Welcome, Magdalene. Let’s dive in!
SB: When I heard that there are actually steps authors can take to help their books hit bestseller lists, I had to hit the universal reset button. Is it true?
MT: Yes, there really are steps that certain authors with the serious goal of becoming bestsellers can take. They primarily involve controlling volume and velocity of sales.
SB: That sounds so easy. What’s the rub?
Every time I develop a marketing campaign for one of the many authors I work with, I ask: “What are your goals for this book?” Nine times out of ten, their response is some iteration of “I want to have a best seller.”
As someone who is acutely aware of the realities of placing on a best-seller list, I have to take a deep breath before I respond. Hitting a bestseller list is the ultimate validation of an author’s time, emotion, energy and ideas. Yet planning for this takes resources and the outcome is not guaranteed. So even though I can help my authors take the necessary steps, I also have to help them set expectations and encourage them to set more realistic goals.
There is a time and place for marketing campaigns focusing on high-level bestseller lists such as The New York Times. That type of campaign is not right for every book and author. Luckily there are also other types of bestseller campaigns that are more accessible, like on Amazon. It’s important for authors to assess which if any of these are best given their specific situations.
SB: What situations lend themselves to working toward placement on national bestseller lists like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal?
A push for placement on a third-party best-seller list like The New York Times works best if you have an existing audience that is primed to purchase your book as it hits shelves.
These best-seller lists are determined by sales numbers within a period of seven days, along with a few other proprietary factors like the balance of brick-and-mortar versus online sales. If you want to contend for a coveted spot, you’ll need to sell thousands of books in a single week. That concentration and volume of sales is really only achievable if you have a huge audience already in front of you that is chomping at the bit to read your work when it publishes. This means many months or even years of communicating with your audience in advance so they are poised to hit “purchase” when it’s time.