A lot of fiction authors think writing a powerful story is all that’s necessary to become a bestselling author. The truth is that while making your story a powerful one is important, it’s not what sells your books. There are tons of great novels out there, and few of them are bestsellers. In this article, I’ll provide you with four ideas on how to turn your story into bestselling material.
The best way to figure out how to sell more books is to consider how your readers buy books. Do they base their book-buying habits off of reviews in newspapers? Do they go to bookstores and browse the shelves of their favorite genre to see which books catch their eye?
From all the people I’ve talked to and all the research I’ve examined, most people buy books based off of referrals from friends or acquaintances. If true, then your goal is to get your readers to talk about your book.
In my opinion, word-of-mouth is the best way to make more book sales. [click to tweet]
The Million-Dollar Question
The question I often like to ask authors is this: How can you write your story in such a way that will guarantee your readers will tell their friends and family about your book?
I have two strategies that work for me, but the reality is my techniques don’t work for everyone, including my beautiful bride Beth. So I reached out to authors to see if there were other ways and, thankfully, there are.
Here are the four ways I’ve discovered on how to get your readers to talk about your book.
#1: Controversy: Example: The Da Vinci Code
I call this the “Dan Brown Factor.” Though his craft of writing is not my favorite, I still love reading his books because he often writes on controversial topics. Anyone who reads a controversial book will usually hate it or love it. They’ll say, “That book really opened my eyes, you should read it,” or “That book was the worst book I ever read. Don’t read it.” Either way, they’ll tell their friends about it and will likely get them curious.
You have to be careful, though. If you choose this method to get more readers, the best way is to do it is to dispel a myth people want dispelled and back it up with real facts.
For example, saying God exists won’t impress your readers. Showing indisputable scientific proof of God’s existence, as I did in my thriller The Torah Codes, raises enough eyebrows for the readers to tell their friends to read the book. The myth I dispelled was: “There is no God.” The Torah Codes has been a bestseller on Amazon.com since December 2011. So if you can change a person’s viewpoint or outlook with your story, I’d say you’ve got a winner.
By the way, be clear on what is and what isn’t controversial. Human trafficking is not controversial. Everyone thinks that’s wrong. On the other hand, if you show indisputable proof that planes cannot demolish towers without breaking the laws of physics, then that is controversial.
Prompt: How can you dispel a myth people want dispelled and back it up with real facts?
#2: A Major Twist: Example: The Sixth Sense
When I think of movies like The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense, I think of how I’d like to see them at least twice. Why? Because the surprise twist makes me want to see how the new information fits with the earlier scenes. Such surprises when well done and not annoying (like “It was all a dream”) will get your readers eager to tell their friends about your book. Your readers will want to see if their friends catch the surprise twist before it’s revealed in the story. I used this technique for one of my books written under a pen name. In the reviews, several of the readers talk about how much they enjoyed the surprise ending. A major twist in your story can do the job of getting your readers eager to share your book with their friends.
Prompt: What major twist can you put in the ending of your story?
#3: Insight: Example: Amadeus
Discovering the truth about celebrities and careers can be fascinating. Just when we think we know who Norma Jeane Mortenson (Marilyn Monroe) or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were, films or biographies can reveal unexpected aspects of their lives. Similarly, discovering what it means to be a special agent in the FBI or a fireman in New York can also surprise us. When we find out just how many unsung heroes there are in our nation, we often want to share our discovery with our friends.
Prompt: What insight can you provide to your readers?
#4: Inspiration: Example: Pay It Forward
When a book or movie inspires us to act, it has essentially changed our lives. We alter our routine to spend the time necessary on whatever task the book or movie inspired us to perform. In the movie Pay It Forward, we witnessed random acts of kindness, which have the required payment of performing random acts of kindness to others. The idea of everyone lending a hand to strangers is heartwarming. After Beth and I saw the film, we encouraged everyone we knew to see the film.
Prompt: What call to action can you include in your story?
Write a Series of What People Want
These four tips – controversy, a major twist, an insight, and inspiration – aren’t the only ways to create bestsellers. In fact, when interviewing a few major self-published authors (in fiction and nonfiction), I discovered the real key to success is putting out a series of books. But the books won’t sell unless you write what people want to read.
Most authors will write the story they wish to tell, which is not necessarily a story people wish to read. A few marketing-minded writers I know will first determine what readers desperately want before writing a single word. I’ve found that such a method can destroy the pleasure of writing. Instead, find the sweet spot.
- Decide what kind of stories you want to write.
- Of those story types, determine which ones readers want to read most. You can figure out what readers want by noticing how popular similar books are.
- Once you’ve determined the genre or story type to write, develop a series. Many authors seem to have success after the fifth book.
As a random example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s fifth book ever written was The Return of the King, the last book in The Lord of the Rings series. After The Return of the King was published in 1955, Tolkien’s books became popular in the 1960s.
If you can create controversy, slip in a major twist in the plot, provide new insight into celebrities and careers, or inspire the reader to act, you’re likely to get your readers talking about your books to their friends. Word-of-mouth sells books best.
ABOUT EZRA BARANY
After learning about codes in the Bible, Ezra Barany produced his bestselling award-winning thriller, THE TORAH CODES. Ezra has helped several of his clients become bestselling authors with his unique method of finding the right title for one’s book. A former physics teacher, Ezra lives in Oakland with his beloved wife and two cats working on a sequel, THE 36 RIGHTEOUS, A SERIAL KILLER’S HIT LIST. Ezra, not the cats. © 2014 All rights reserved.