How You Might Be Able To Turn Your Self-Published Novel Into A Best-Seller

Source: Goodreads

The newest space film to hit the cinemas, The Martian, which is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Matt Damon, seems like any other run of the mill Hollywood blockbuster at first glance. So I was very surprised to read in the Sydney Morning Herald that The Martian started out as a humble blog, became a self-published novel, and gained a publishing and film deal in the space of 18 months.

It sounds like an impossible dream for most self-published authors, doesn’t it? Well, it probably is, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are still ways for authors to make a comfortable living from their writing and the easiest way to go about it may result in a hit, just like The Martian.

Kevin Kelly argues that anyone who produces works of art only needs 1000 True Fans to make a living. The actual number of fans required for each artist is different, but the basic idea is that if you have enough True Fans who will buy every book that you ever publish and champion everything that you ever do, you can still make a decent salary from writing without becoming a best-seller.

So, how do you find True Fans? By communicating with them! When Andy Weir first began writing The Martian he had around 3000 fans on his personal blog. Since Weir is a self-confessed space nerd and wrote about scientific space stuff his blog attracted other space nerds. Some of his fans helped with the scientific facts, which made the novel as accurate as possible. A lot of his fans said they wanted to read The Martian on Kindle rather than online, so he published it on Amazon for them. In turn, they purchased the book and told everyone how much they enjoyed it, which helped it become a best-seller on Amazon and attracted the attention of Random House and Fox. In other words, he found his True Fans and gave them what they wanted.

Andy Weir became a millionaire by connecting with his True Fans. Your True Fans will only be a small percentage of your actual fan base, but they are the people you should focus the majority of your online and social media efforts on. These are the people who will honestly tell what was great, or how you can make improvements. They will provide you with endless encouragement and support and they will sing your praises to everyone they know. Your True Fans will do everything in their power to make your latest novel a best-seller, but until then, connecting with them will inspire you to keep on writing and provide you with a comfortable living. Make sure you remember to make time for them.

Editing to add that the first step to writing a best-seller is to write a very good book and to focus on your writing as your number one priority. That’s always step one as the very clever author Terry Tyler pointed out in her comment below, then you can focus on social media and marketing.

Update: 06/11/15 This post has been re-posted as a standard blog post

11 thoughts on “How You Might Be Able To Turn Your Self-Published Novel Into A Best-Seller

  1. Communication is all! Having said that, if you were personallly keeping up with 1000 people, I don’t know how you’d find the time to write anything!! But seriously, the principle is the right one. It also helps to have written a stonker of a book, of course – that’s what is so often forgotten in these days of marketing. That the book does actually have to be very, very good!!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re always a step ahead of me Terry! I’m planning at least one post on the importance of original ideas and lots and lots of editing for authors, but I’m editing to add a caveat on this post too. You communicate with lots more than 1000 people on Twitter and your blog every day! We definitely can’t chat one on one with every single person all of the time but there are lots of ways to engage with people with social media. I’m definitely guilty of spending too much time on Twitter though!!


  2. All great advice, thanks Jade and Terry, but as a new writer who aspires to write a best seller one day, I’m sure it takes a while to build up the number of ‘ true fans’. Many of my followers on Twitter, for example, are other writers. Though they may be extremely encouraging they won’t buy my book. Actually building the true fans is the biggest hurdle after writing that stonker of a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Rosa,

      Sorry about the late reply, I’ve been up to my neck in uni assignments and I wanted to sit down and write you a long reply because I know that it can be tough building up an audience for new writers. For example, Andy Weir began blogging in 2009 and published ‘The Martian’ on Amazon in 2012 and that’s quite a fast timeline compared to most self-published authors, so please don’t get disheartened! Keep writing and doing all you can to make your books the best that they can be and make sure you do spend the time to really connect with as many people as you can on social media. It’s all well and good to post your own links, but spend some time reading and commenting on what other people are doing too.


  3. Giving people what they want in your writing IS communicating with them. I think that’s what the focus on social media marketing tends to forget. Andy connected with the people on his blog on a fundamental, visceral level through the content. And for many of those people, he said things more elegantly and expressed ideas more successfully than they could. They had epiphanies – light bulb moments – because of the way he wrote. Communication is a two way street, but it is not always a tit-for-tat, completely reciprocal experience because – revolutionary idea, I know – some people do it better than others. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly right, Paula 🙂 I think the number one thing that people would ask of their favourite authors is for more books and that used to be enough. In the digital world it’s important to find that balance between focusing on writing but also finding time to engage with fans because that’s what they have come to expect. We’re moving from a one sided conversation with traditional publishing to a much more participatory culture which demands two way conversations, even if just through reviews or tweeting about a book. It can be a tough balancing act!


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