Break the Rules to Become a Best Seller

I’ve been turning our attention to nonfiction authors, featuring guest posts from authors and marketers who have great insights on how nonfiction writers can market and promote their books. Often these tips are entirely appropriate for fiction writers as well. Today’s guest post is from Rob Eager, author consultant and founder of Wildfire Marketing.

The publishing industry is going through an incredible amount of chaos and transformation. Some of this change is good, such as new technology, lower prices, and easier ways for people to get access to information. In contrast, some changes are bad, such as Borders Bookstores filing for bankruptcy, publishers working with lower budgets and less staff, and authors finding it harder than ever to land new publishing contracts.

In the midst of this change, the rules for becoming a best seller are also getting rewritten. For example, if you asked most publishers ten years ago to explain their marketing strategy for creating a best seller, they would probably emphasize the following five activities:

  1.  Secure numerous national-level TV and radio interviews.
  2. Urge the author buy 5,000-10,000 of his own book directly from various retailers.
  3. Schedule a whirlwind speaking tour in major cities across America.
  4. Place expensive advertisements in major magazines and newspapers.
  5. Set up as many bookstore signings as possible.

They Don’t Work Any Longer

These ideas no longer hold sway. Gone are the days of boring bookstore signings and pricey print ads. In addition, national media has lost much of its power as more programs cater to specific niche audiences. In contrast, we now live in an era where the author has more power than ever before.

For example, I helped a client hit the New York Times best-seller list twice without doing any of the five old rules listed above. Instead, she succeeded by breaking the rules, building her own platform, and making personal connections with thousands of readers. Here are the results of the marketing strategy we conducted:

  1. Created a free resource that was featured for 21 days on more than 350 radio stations.
  2. Hosted a 6-week online webcast that garnered more than 20,000 views per week.
  3. Captured exciting success stories and promoted them both online and offline.
  4. Utilized the power of viral video to create a catchy book trailer and helpful author videos that received over 25,000 views in 30 days.
  5. Attracted more than 100,000 unique visitors to the author’s website.

By utilizing a modern marketing strategy, the author sold more than 100,000 copies and hit the New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists. Even better, all of this success cost a lot less than a publisher’s typical marketing budget.

What are you doing to build your reader base? Are you relying on antiquated methods that are outdated and ineffective? Add at least one new marketing activity this week that relies on distributing free value via the Internet. For example, you could develop a free resource, start an e-newsletter, create behind-the-scenes videos, capture customer testimonials, produce a webcast, etc. If you have legitimate value to provide people, the old barriers that hindered distribution no longer exist. Take advantage of the new opportunities that are available and break the rules to become a best seller.


Rob Eagar is the founder of WildFire Marketing, a consulting practice that helps authors, businesses, and non-profit organizations spread their message like wildfire. He has consulted with numerous publishing houses, non-profits, and trained over 400 authors, including several New York Times bestsellers. Rob is the author of “Sell Your Book Like Wildfire,” which is considered the bible of book marketing. Follow Rob on Twitter here.


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  1. This is a great post. I’m a fiction writer and I’m trying to build my platform. I have a Facebook fan page, a blog, twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and a whole lot more. I talk about my book and post excerpts from it whenever I can. I can’t imagine how to generate the kind of following you mentioned. How do you do that. I spend a lot of time posting and spreading the word about my book, but I’ve only managed a little over a thousand fans on my Facebook page. That took me about two months to do. How did this person attract 100,000 visitors to his website?

    1. Vashti,

      Glad you enjoyed my post. It took my client over 10 years to build a following large enough to attract 100,000 visitors to her website. But, she remained persistent and never stopped providing value to her audience. Consistency is just as important to marketing as the tactics you use. You can read more details about this client in my book, “Sell Your Book Like Wildfire.”



  2. Infotainment it was!Loved the article and was inspired a lot.I would like to ask a few more questions.
    1. How to attract traffic to your website?
    2.How to find out the sources which would cater to your readers?
    3.Where to offer your free trailer?
    Thanks once more.
    Kajari Guha

  3. Kajari,

    Per your questions:
    1. The secret to attracting more website traffic is to position yourself as an object of interest to other people. You must give people something worth talking on a regular basis, such as counterintuitive or contrarian articles, a quirky personality with witty comments, or being the first to share interesting news.

    2. To find sources of readers for your book, ask yourself:
    a. What results does my book create for people?
    b. Who needs those results the most?
    c. Where do those types of people congregate in large numbers?

    3. Put your free book trailer on your website, blog, and social media pages, and e-newsletters. Make it easy for people to find.

    I go into a lot more detail on all of these topics in my book, “Sell Your Book Like Wildfire.”



  4. Great insight, I’m new to publishing so its good to see the old vs. new context and realize that maybe I have some things right in terms of where I’m headed. However, I don’t have any viral capacity — I have youtube videos but they don’t have much attention. I guess it takes time.

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