3 Bestsellers Secrets

By Keri-Rae Barnum for New Shelves on March 31, 2022

Everyone wants to become a bestselling author

It may not be your top priority, but I’m willing to bet you would be thrilled if it happened.

Hitting bestseller status is not only validating as a writer, but it’s a great way to spike your revenue as an author. Bonus points if you have a backlist of titles, because hitting bestseller with one book can increase your sales on your other titles as well.

There are several bestseller lists to aim for ranging from the relatively ease of a category bestseller on Amazon to heavy hitters like the New York Times. And yes, indie authors make the bestseller lists every day not only on Amazon but also on Barnes & Noble, USA Today and even the New York Times.

In this article we are going delve into the secrets of how authors can optimize their chances of landing that coveted title: Bestseller.

First Stop: Reality Check

I love to encourage authors, but I also want them to think realistically. So before we get into the fun stuff, let’s have a quick reality check.

Reality check #1: Bestsellers don’t just happen.

I work with a wide range of authors, and even though well-known authors may make hitting a bestseller list look effortless, it’s anything but. It takes a lot of hard work to get your book on just about any bestseller list. It doesn’t (typically) just happen. You will have to put effort into your marketing campaign and push for that bestseller if you want it.

Reality Check #2: A bestseller is never guaranteed.

Not every fantastic book becomes a bestseller. Many of them do, and you have an excellent opportunity to make a bestseller list. However, if your book doesn’t make USA Today or even the Amazon bestseller list, it does not mean your book is not great. It might simply mean you are in an area with a lot of competition. A bestseller is never guaranteed, even when you do everything right.

3 Bestseller Secrets

Now, to the good stuff. My top 3 secrets that will give you the best shot of hitting a bestseller list.

Bestseller Secret #1: PLANNING

The best plans start with intelligent strategy. If you don’t plan for your book to become number one, it won’t happen.

  • Research: Research books that are currently hitting bestseller lists, what’s driving sales and how your book fits in.
    • What Sells? You can do this research from the get-go when planning to write your book. If you want to become a bestseller, write what sells. Writing something geared to be a bestseller from the start sets you up for success.
    • Know Your Comps! You need to know who is writing books like yours, who they are writing for, and how well they sell. If you want your book to sell, emulate those authors. Consider covers that have the same look and feel as theirs and call to the same audience. Make sure you are using some of the same marketing strategies. Don’t copy other authors but take all the good things they are doing and learn from them.
    • Bestseller Lists. All the bestsellers’ lists have varied nuances and different rules. Amazon updates the bestseller list every hour, so you can hit the bestseller list and be off it the next hour. USA Today calculates sales from Monday through Sunday and publishes their bestseller lists on Thursday. So again, research the list you are hoping to hit, so you can target your campaign to reach that list.
    • Finally, research current events, trends, and holidays. Download a free National Book and Holiday Calendar and find a holiday to tie your book into. Research what’s going on in the world or what is trending on social media and tie in to that. Tying your campaign to what is already trending can bring in easy sales because people are probably already searching and buying books on these topics.
  • Distribution: Make sure your book is available in all the right places. If you’re aiming for an Amazon bestseller, Amazon is the only place that counts. But, if you are aiming for a bigger list, like USA Today, at least 10% of your sales must come from outside Amazon, so you will want your book to be available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes and bookstores via Ingram. Set your goals, research your distribution and plan accordingly.
  • Timing: There is a strategy and planning to the best time to shoot for a bestseller list.
    • Midweek is typically the best time to run a promotion, unless you are trying for a weekly list like USA Today.
    • Promote near a holiday but not on a holiday! People are typically busy with family on the actual holiday and if your book is best in print, people must order it before the holiday.
    • Try for the “off-season.” Traditional publishers tend to push new releases and big marketing campaigns hard in the spring and early fall, so summer is a fantastic time to run your campaign. Tip: July and August are great times to plan and execute a bestseller campaign.

Best Seller Secret # 2: OPTIMIZATION

Every single click to your sales page is an opportunity. You have the chance to make a sale and move towards the bestsellers list, but you also have the opportunity of selling your other books and increasing your email list for future sales.

How do you make the most of every ounce of your effort and every marketing dollar spent?

  • Categories: How do you make the most of a sale so that you rank number one in the category? On Amazon, take advantage of the various niche categories available to you. Don’t cheat the system and place your children’s book about dolphins in Book Making and Binding but do chose appropriate categories where your book can shine, like Children’s Mammal Books.
  • Lead Magnet: Consider how you can capture reader’s email addresses so that you can contact them about your following books or your bestselling campaigns.
  • Sales Page: Have you done everything you can to hook your reader and tempt them to click the Buy button?
  • Author Profiles: Make sure you optimize your author profiles, like Author Central, to gain long-term fans. Give readers a way to find out you are fantastic, and your books are too. 🙂
  • Pricing: Optimizing your book for sales, includes pricing to sell.

Best Seller Secret #3: MARKETING

If your book can not be seen, it cannot be bought. So, we need to get it seen by as many people as possible.

  • Ad Stacking: Concentrate your ads and run them in several places, all at the same time. Ad opportunities include:
    • Amazon
    • Barnes & Noble
    • Kobo
    • BookBub
    • Social media
  • Discount Newsletters: BookBub is the most well know discount newsletter, and it’s enormous. If you get a featured discount deal with BookBub, they will email your book out to thousands of eBook readers. It’s very competitive, and less than 10% of books submitted for the feature deal are selected. Whether or not you are chosen for a BookBub deal, consider stacking with other discount newsletters.
  • Your Own Newsletter: Remember your lead magnet? This is why it’s important. You build your newsletter following, and then you have access to fans who love your work. You now have a tremendous opportunity to make your own discount newsletter or book launch announcement to drive sales.
  • Social Media: Getting your book out on social media is a great place to generate interest in your book and grow your email list. Putting part of your marketing budget behind social media ads is also an awesome way to get people from outside Amazon to come to your Amazon sales page. Amazon algorithms reward the outside traffic, which means they end up showing your book to their browsers even more.

Hitting a bestseller list is not easy, but it is achievable.

Just remember our 3 bestseller secrets.

  1. Planning
  2. Optimization
  3. Marketing

If you focus on these three things, you have just as much of a chance of hitting bestseller as anybody else. Set your goals, plan your campaign and watch great things – maybe even a bestseller list – happen.

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