Before moving to the topic directly, let’s know about some facts. Here are some real book sales numbers based on extrapolation sales graph from various publishers:
- 90% of books published in India sell <2,000 copies/year.
- 9% of books sell between 2,000-10,000 copies.
- <1% sell >10,000 copies (True “bestsellers”).
If you’re looking at sheer numbers alone, the most quantitatively accurate data will come from Nielsen-Bookscan, which covers online sellers like Amazon and Flipkart and physical booksellers like Crossword. Even so, industry estimates suggest that Bookscan covers about 60 to 70% of the trade book market. So it’s not a comprehensive figure, but it should give you a fair idea of how many copies a book has sold in a year. Bookscan doesn’t release numbers here in India unless you subscribe to its services, but get your hands on Bookseller magazine, which prints fortnightly numbers from Bookscan from across the world, for some benchmarks.
Amazon rankings are based on their own site sales. Considering that it accounts for as much as 40% to 50% of sales for most books, and sometimes even more (unlike mass-market books that are available even in the smallest of stores) – it can be a reasonably accurate measure of how well a book has done in India. Remember, reviews are not taken into consideration in the rankings – it’s pure sales.
The third, that of individual booksellers, is a more limited dataset, for obvious reasons. But it’s also a reflection of the customers that frequent the bookseller. For example, Bahrison’s fiction list quoted above suggests an overwhelming preference for literary titles, with six of the top ten books in that category.
We interviewed the author of Hacker 404 Happiness not found to know what makes a book bestseller and how to replicate this strategy. The main thirteen points are explained below through which you can make your next book a bestselling.
1.) Read a lot before starting writing.
We must read a lot (a lot means more than 500 books) before we start writing. Reading enhances our thinking level and writing capability. There is lots of difference between a writer and a powerful writer. Consider a simple scenario, you want to say –
“I saw her for the first time, her smile was beautiful and I fall in love…”
A writer will write exactly like this. This may work well but not that much. But, If you write the same thing in a different way then it will be a different story and can make your audience listen to you more.
“That day I saw her for the first time. The way she smiled I felt it more beautiful like a butterfly on flower… like drops in shower… there was happiness everywhere… I thought Like I am in love but was not sure.”
2.) Write a lot before you plan to publish
Writing is hard work. It is hard work when you have to write even when you don’t have anything to write and the ‘inspiration’ is lacking. Write every day five pages of your story whichever it is. The next day edit it and continue. And after a chapter is over, edit it all over again. Read it over and over. Maybe it is all crap and then u have to burn it. It’s a long process. I got the first paragraph of my book “Hacker 404 Happiness not found” after writing almost 700 pages. After writing several drafts and editing it again and again will bring your final manuscript. All you need to do now is to settle down in a cosy corner and start hitting furiously on your laptop’s keyboard.
If you’re a writer, great. Start writing and don’t stop. It sounds like a no-brainer but writers are often their own worst enemy. They agonize over each word in an attempt to perfect each line and can take a year to write 10,000 words.
Instead, write and keep writing. Get all your thoughts down before you start taking them to the next level.
3.) Write a book that matters to your readers
Just writing something with a lot of sex in it- preferably between young people and characters using at least some vulgar words all based on the lines of any old Bollywood movie plotline won’t take you a long way. You probably guessed it by now- I’m talking about the likes of Chetan Bhagat. Middle school children will sit with their friends and turn to the pages with the steamy scenes and giggle, while college students will carry your books around in their bags and occasionally take them out to show people that they read. It’s sad that utter nonsense sells while so many good authors end up selling less than 5000 copies.
I would, therefore, suggest you try to be a truly good writer than being a bestseller. We all have at least one story in us, just find that story and write it down. When readers will relate themselves with your story, it will automatically become the best seller.
There is nothing worse than seeing a great book start tanking because it wasn’t believable and critics are just that: critical. If you’re writing about the captain of a popular cruise liner, you better know to call the vessel a ship and not a boat. A small misstep like that will make your book scream, “The author has no idea that s/he is talking about.
5.) Get one blurb that counts.
Keep off the Grass had just one blurb — Ruskin Bond.
“A racy and entertaining account of a romp through an ever-changing yet timeless India… wild, witty and wicked!” — Ruskin Bond.
Johnny Gone Down had blurbs from everyone from media — Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, CNN IBN — to celebrity blurbs like these.
“An amazing journey. Wonderful characters who keep you hooked till the very end.” — Raju Hirani, Director Munnabhai/ 3 Idiots.
“One incredible adventure. What a read!” — Ajay Devgan, Actor.
The result, no difference. If at all, I think to Keep off the Grass took off faster than Johnny though Johnny will remain my deeper-felt novel among the two. One effective blurb from someone with a loyal, passionate following is all it takes to establish credibility. Don’t go after numbers.
6.) Waste time on social media & your website, because it helps
Don’t forget to market yourself as you prepare to launch your book. People are naturally curious animals and they want to learn more about you; who you are, what you look like. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words and you’ll have to shed the camera-shy persona you may have struggled with and get you to face out there. So having a website and a strong social media presence is a must.
7.) Hire a PR agency
I’ve gotten great press for my novel “Hacker 404 Happiness not found” and it’s never moved the needle. The book didn’t budge in Amazon rankings the same week they all appeared. There’s a role for the press, of course, and I recommend it. But know what the role is. It’s for vanity not sales. Vanity matters. Now, your aunt in Surat finally knows why you’ve spent years in a dungeon. And your girlfriend realizes why your socks never match. But only you can decide what you should pay for vanity. These are two publicists I recommend who’ll get you your money’s worth (in five seconds of fame, not sales).
8.) Price your book smartly
Insanely low price works like a wonder. School and the college-going audience would not be able to afford highly-priced books. Also, no one wants to spend on costly books of new writers.
9.) Guerrilla Marketing of Book
Your book is done. It’s live online and in bookstores. But your work is not done. It’s time to make sure your book stays in the spotlight. In the podcast, “Marketing Your Way To A #1 Amazon Bestseller With Rachel Abbott,” writer Joanna Penn notes that Ms Abbot had to adjust her marketing plan after the book barely sold initially, including expanding her presence on social media.
A book making the bestselling list may be the pinnacle of a writer’s career, or it may only be the beginning. However, there’s no denying that the accomplishment is a major milestone… and one that is achievable with hard work and diligence. All the best!
10.) Create a solid launch plan
Once you write the book for the appropriate target audience, a lot of marketing goes into making the book a bestseller. You have to remember that if you are writing for a traditional publisher, you earn 5-10% royalty; with self-publishing, you bake the cake and eat it too. You need a proper launch program well in advance so that everything goes right.
11.) Designing cover
The first impression is the last impression. A buyer can make his mind to buy a book just by looking at its cover. If cover attracts him in first sight, there are 86% chances that he will buy the book immediately.
12.) Pay attention to reviews
As your book launches, pay careful attention to reviews. While some people just choose to be negative, many reviewers simply want to be helpful.
Monitor your reviews and plan to adjust as necessary. Sometimes, a constructive review can point out something as simple as a formatting issue-while it doesn’t impact the quality of your manuscript, something like that can prove disruptive to the flow of a book.
If you have an ebook uploaded to Amazon, it’s easy to fix and upload a clean file.
13.) Hire experts to help
You may be the cleanest, most proficient writer in the world. But one of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is to assume they can edit their own work.
Nobody should be so foolish. Nobody can edit their own work; they are simply too close to the material to see all the errors.
There is an emergence of grammar software, but don’t make the mistake of relying on this to edit your work. This is one instance where great programming simply can’t replace the human mind.
If you can afford it, have a couple of editors look at your manuscript. Having a couple of sets of eyes looking over your book will only help smooth out any rocky points.
If you forget everything above, don’t worry for an instant. Just remember this point – Write a book that matters. Everything else is dust as the Buddha would say, a castle in the sand that’ll be swept away by the next wave. Just let your words resound in eternity.