Authors Can Be Bestsellers – If They Believe

“I don’t expect to be a bestseller.”

“It’s not like I’m ever going to be on Oprah.”

“If only the local paper interviews me I’ll be happy.”

“I just hope to make back my printing costs.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard authors say these words. Have you said them?

Yes, perhaps these authors are aware of the statistics-the half a million books published every year, that most books sell less than 500 copies, and on and on and on.

Who cares what the statistics are? What do they really have to do with your book? Is your book really competing with 500,000 books? Let’s say you write a self-help book-maybe only 20,000 were published this year-that’s still big competition, but it’s smaller than half a million, and if yours is a self-help book about succeeding in business, maybe only 2,000 were written on that topic. Besides, many readers read more than one book on a subject. Just because they read someone else’s book doesn’t mean they won’t also read yours.

Why do most books sell less than 500 copies? Yes, the quality of the book may make a difference, but I’ve seen some really badly written books become bestsellers. It’s all about the promotion. The bottom line is that most books don’t sell many copies because most authors give up after giving little or no effort to promoting their books.

If your only hope is to make back the money you spent to print the book, wouldn’t you be better off just not printing it and leaving the money in the bank? It seems that would be the easiest and safest way to hang onto that money.

So think big. Raise the bar. Shake off the fear and self-doubt. Here are a few ways to raise the bar, to make your book a success, but remember that none of them will work if you don’t work at it yourself.

Build Your Confidence-Get Feedback

One of the biggest mistakes authors make is to publish their books before they are ready. Many authors are shy and afraid to let people read their work. But the more people who read your book and give you feedback, not to mention having it professionally edited and proofread, the better your book will be. If the book is really bad, you will be saved a great deal of embarrassment and money by not publishing it based on the feedback you receive. Feedback also gives you the opportunity to see your book anew through other people’s eyes and to improve it. Best of all, when people tell you they like the book, you will feel good about it. You will build your confidence and that will make you enjoy promoting your book.

Ask “What If?”

“I’ll never get on Oprah,” you think. Okay, admittedly, the chance of getting to promote your book on the Oprah Winfrey Show is small indeed, but someone is going to be on Oprah promoting a book, so why shouldn’t it be you? Push aside all those “It will never happen” thoughts and for just a few minutes, close your eyes and imagine it happening:

Envision yourself sitting in a chair across from Oprah. Imagine what you are wearing and how your suit or dress feels. What do the chairs look like? Are you on a chair facing Oprah or on a couch with other guests? Are you the only guest or part of a panel? Can you feel makeup on your face? Can you feel the heat of the studio lights? Can you sense the presence of the audience? What is Oprah wearing? Can you see Oprah shaking your hand and holding up your book for everyone to see? What is the first question she asks you, and what is your first response? Envision the entire experience.

It feels good to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show, doesn’t it? Envision it again and again, and envision other wonderful experiences, whether it’s being on a radio show, at a book festival, or at a local book signing. Hold those visions. Ask yourself “What If?” about every possibility you can imagine and then envision those possibilities happening.

Connect the Dots

Make a plan, only plan in reverse. Goal setting needs to be big, but you can approach it with baby steps. Just don’t make the steps too small.

A bestseller is defined as selling 35,000 copies. That’s a lot of books, but it’s not a million. Still, many authors have sold tens of millions of copies, even in their own lifetimes, so dream big. You can start with 35,000 copies, but once you reach that number, work toward 100,000 then 250,000 then 1,000,000 then 10,000,000 and so on. But first figure out how to sell those 35,000.

Working backwards can help you figure out your goals in a concrete manner. If your end goal is to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show, how are you going to make it happen? If you never tell anyone about your book and only drop a few copies off at the local bookstore, Oprah’s not going to know about your book, so figure out the dots to connect to get to your goal, whatever it may be.

For example, let’s say you wrote a book about dysfunctional family traits. What could make Oprah take notice of your book? Perhaps if her friend Dr. Phil recommended it to her, she might be interested in having you on the show. But then, how will Dr. Phil find out about it? What follows is all conjecture on my part, but hopefully, the examples will help you figure out your own path.

Let’s assume that Dr. Phil is a member of an organization, something like the American Psychological Association, and the president of the organization recommends your book to Dr. Phil. But how did the president hear about your book? You sent him a personal signed copy after you met him at one of the organization’s meetings. Another member of the association, who happens to be a professor at your local university, invited you. You met the professor because he is a friend of your doctor, who told him about the book. What did you really have to do here? Be brave enough to tell your doctor about your book and then just follow up with all of the opportunities that resulted. See how this works?

Maybe you want to be on Larry King’s show? Larry happens to know someone at the New York Times. One of the book reviewers at the New York Times happens to be old college roommates with a librarian at the Library of Michigan. The librarian happens to be from your hometown and went to school with your cousin, and so on.

Or, perhaps you send the New York Times a copy of your book along with a positive review from the Detroit Free Press. You got the Detroit Free Press review by getting reviewed by your local newspaper and sending the Detroit Free Press a copy of that review with your book.

The point is to connect the dots…to figure out how you can get your book noticed…by using the loftiest goal possible…and then following the dots forwards and backwards…until you get them all to connect…to achieve your goal. Be sure to consider all the possibilities….There might be a dozen ways you can get your book to hit the big time. How it happens doesn’t matter so long as it happens. You have a million opportunities if you just look for them and let others know you’re looking for them.

Baby Steps

You can’t go from fledgling author to Oprah in one day. The Oprah Winfrey Show may be your ultimate goal, but you’ll never get there if you don’t work at it, so everyday do something to reach your goal. Begin by getting your book in stores. Send out a review copy every day. Call a radio station. Call another, and another, and another, one each day. Send out postcards to groups that might result in large volume purchases. Everyday focus on what you can do that day to promote your book and make sure that each success you have leads to another. If you land a spot on a radio show, ask the hosts if they have suggestions for other shows you can be on. If you get an interview, tell the interviewer about another great author you know-making referrals makes friends and friends help other friends. Network, meet people, talk up your book to everyone you meet.

If you don’t raise the bar for yourself, no one else will, and unless you believe you can climb the ladder to success, you will never know what potential your book might have had. Hold to your vision everyday. See yourself succeeding, and you and those you share your vision with will help make that vision a reality.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing you on the New York Times Bestseller list, and the Oprah Winfrey Show, and what’s that-the Nobel Prize for Literature committee just called you? Congratulations!

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.



  1. says

    Yes – I’m about a fortnight into publicity and promotions for my forthcoming book According to Luke, and it felt a bit daunting on day one. But now that I have done so much, and with a few engagements booked, I am feeling the kind of confidence you talk about here, Irene. Thank you.

  2. says

    Based on my past 2 years of promoting my novel and watching the Kindle edition of it climb to a “Bestseller” position in two categories at, I can say that Irene’s article is absolutely spot on in every respect.

    If you’re new to this self-promotion stuff, you may look at Irene’s suggestions and think, “But that would take up so much of my time!” If that’s what you think then you know what? You’re right! If you really want to see your book succeed then be prepared to devote a tremendous amount of time and creative thought to the process. Of course you could hire a PR firm to do it all for you. but, short of that, it’s ALL up to you, the author. Take Irene’s suggetions to heart and read again what she said about “Baby Steps”. And be creative. Think outside the box. Good luck!

  3. says

    Wonderful post! Inspiring post!

    A Henry David Thoreau quote: Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.

    Just as you’ve said so well here. :)