Do you dream of writing a blockbuster?
But you have no clue how to go about it.
The blank page on the computer stares a hole into your soul, haunting you.
Perhaps you’re writing your first book, and are terrified it’ll flop.
Dismal sales. Indifferent reviews. Crickets on social media.
The fear of pouring your heart into a book and watching it go nowhere stops you dead in your tracks.
The brutal truth is that thousands of books are published every year, and nearly all of them get lost in the noise.
Does that make you wonder if the idea of writing a book is a big fat waste of time?
Not if you have the right system…
The system that worked for me when my book Free Your Fear–Making the Leap to Six Figures became a bestseller in two different categories on Amazon.
If you follow the 10 steps outlined below, you’ll have a fighting shot at how to publish a book that’s a smash hit.
BEFORE YOU START WRITING
#1. Pick Your Topic
This is no time for blindly throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. Be scientific about uncovering a topic that people truly care about.
Head over to Amazon and run searches on a few topics you’re passionate about. Keep your eyes peeled for keywords and themes that pop up repeatedly.
What’s been written? What’s succeeded? What’s fallen flat? If you want your book to make a splash, your best bet is to choose a topic that sits at the intersection of:
- Your strong interest or experience, and
- What readers want to learn
For example, in the past few years, people have been thronging to learn how to build tiny houses. Weird? Maybe. But hey, popular is popular.
And popular means people buying books on the subject.
So if you have expertise in this area, or interest in learning enough about it to write a book, congratulations! You’ve found your topic.
Take verbatim notes on the reviews. Readers will tell you—in their own words—what they want, as well as what they don’t.
Trust your gut when choosing a topic. If it’s popular and personally compelling, you’ve got a winner.
When you pick a topic that resonates with both author and reader, your writing will ooze energy and passion.
#2. Become a Mind Reader
You’ve zeroed in on your topic.
Go back to your Amazon notes. What powerful words and phrases cropped up throughout the reviews? This stuff is a copywriter’s (or author’s) fantasy!
For instance, certain phrases crop up repeatedly in the reviews on a bestselling book on tiny houses and the minimalist lifestyle.
- buy less stuff
- feel weighed down by things
- value experiences over possessions
- simplify your life
- get rid of clutter
- inspiring stories
- decrease stress
- value experiences and memories
- more time and money to travel
You’ve got phrases verbatim from your target readers. Pepper them liberally throughout your book and your marketing.
With a hypnotic opening that echoes the thoughts and feelings of your ideal reader, you’ve begun the seduction process. Your reader falls under the spell of your powerful words. They’ll nod their head and feel deeply understood.
This is why the reviews from Amazon are nothing short of a goldmine.
#3. Stand Out from the Noise
Let’s assume the tiny house niche has a lot of competition. This is great.
Because if there are many books on your topic, it means there is a horde of readers waiting to read your book.
How do you stand head and shoulders above the noise?
Easy. Ask yourself: what’s controversial about tiny houses?
Is a tiny house only about saving money? Perhaps it’s more a statement of independence. Maybe it’s about bucking the norm, pulling up stakes and going off the grid.
Find the unorthodox idea, technique or philosophy nobody else is exploring.
When you find that new angle, put it unabashedly front and center.
STRUCTURING & OUTLINING
#4. Unleash Your Creative Genius
Here comes the fun part. Write whatever comes into your head. Get a little crazy. Heck, get very crazy. Let the writing flow.
Pour ice water on your internal critic.
Watch as new, unexpected ideas and connections come gushing out.
Some writers use mind-mapping software. Here’s one I created using the free MindMup.com software:
Others swear by a whiteboard. Some love word association. I love grabbing an old-school yellow legal pad. Choose whatever you’re most comfortable with.
The medium isn’t important. The creative ideas you unearth are.
With all your ideas collected in one place, you’re ready to build the scaffolding for your book.
#5. Bring Order to Chaos
You’ve got a pile of ideas about tiny houses, but you need to find a cohesive thread. Do any points or concepts group together logically?
Think from the perspective of your reader. They’re reading your book to learn something about tiny houses. Your book needs to teach them to crawl before they can walk or run.
Begin at the beginning and take one step at a time.
Here’s what an example outline might look like:
- History of Tiny Houses
- The Philosophy
- Cultural Values Shift
- The Big “Why”
- Saving Money
- More Experiences, Less Stuff
- Getting Started & Tips
- Setting a Budget
- Finding Experts
- DIY Resources
- Case Studies
- How They Did It
- Where Are They Now?
- Tips From the Pros
This is only a partial example. The point is that your ideas will begin to form a logical, orderly structure, the backbone for a successful outline.
Finally, you must learn, in the words of Stephen King, to “kill your darlings.” Your darlings are ideas and sections that seem intriguing at first blush but don’t gel with the theme of the book.
Cut them ruthlessly.
When you cut the deadweight, your outline truly starts to come to life.
WRITING THE BOOK:
#6. Research, Research, Research
With your mind-map and structured outline, you have a focused research blueprint.
Now’s the time to research the technical data and facts. You’ll save loads of time by avoiding research dead-ends that have nothing to do with your book.
The facts, statistics and concrete examples you dig up are what will give your book a boost of authority.
And authority is what sets bestselling books apart.
#7. Seduce with Stories
When you’re writing to teach and inspire, you’d better bring some storytelling chops.
Because before reading and writing came along, stories were the tools our ancestors used to impart their knowledge, inspiration and wisdom.
Use one of the following storytelling techniques.
- An example from your own life. Have you made the switch to a tiny house? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?
- Interview / quote an expert. You don’t need a formal interview. Even quoting someone with in-depth knowledge of tiny houses is enough. The more experience and expertise they have, the more credible you’ll look.
Remember, success stories are always in fashion.
#8. Win Hearts and Minds
This is where wannabe authors fall flat on their faces.
When we put our work out there, we want everyone to love us and shower us with praise.
But let’s get real. Tiny houses aren’t for everyone.
If you take a strong stance, you’ll polarize people. Accept this fact of life. On the other hand, if you tiptoe around controversy, you’ll slaughter your chances of success.
Readers fall in love with writers who have opinions and the guts to stand by them.
Will some readers dislike what you say? Of course!
But this also means that your tiny house book will resonate more strongly with the right audience. These are the readers who will champion your ideas.
Here are a few examples of books written in an unapologetic tone.
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- The End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson
- The Power of No by James Altucher
Most people are too damn nice.
They don’t want to hurt your feelings. They tell you your writing is brilliant when it’s a pile of garbage.
They do this because they like you. Nobody, save sociopaths, enjoys hurting someone’s feelings.
But there’s a time for relationships and a time for business. (Tip: Your friends and family are fired as editors.)
Writing a book is serious business.
Your editor will help polish rough and rambling words into a sparkling, cohesive piece of prose that leaps off the page and sucks readers in.
A great editor will bring tough love in spades. More importantly, you’ll love them for it.
The editor you hire will ideally:
- Have a portfolio of edited books.
- Have a clear idea of what your book is trying to achieve.
- Give dispassionate feedback.
- Improve the grammar, flow, clarity, and cohesion of your ideas.
- Not be afraid to call you out when your work isn’t up to par.
So go on and pony up the cash to hire an editor who won’t sugarcoat the truth.
#10. Become a PR Powerhouse
It’s a sin to leave marketing to chance. Without attention, even great ideas die.
“If you build it, they will come” makes for a memorable quote, but it’s a recipe for disaster when publishing your book.
You might wonder how you’ll compete with established authors, and publishers with huge marketing budgets and distribution networks.
Thanks to the explosion of digital publishing, the playing field has been forever altered in your favor.
Sure, authors with a track record of success still get hefty advances from behemoth New York publishing houses.
But as an upcoming writer, you have an arsenal of marketing tools at your fingertips.
You’ll find marketing and promotion tactics in Part 2 of this series, but the starting point is this: You must begin to think like a publisher.
How to Write a Blockbuster: What’s Next?
You now know (nearly) everything I have learned about the process of writing a bestselling book.
But all the tips, tricks and inspirational quotes in the world won’t help you—unless you commit to doing the hard work.
The only silver bullet out there is your determination to take consistent action, even if it’s imperfect.
Are you up to the challenge?
Believe me, small, daily actions will obliterate your feelings of confusion, overwhelm and fear.
Each step builds on the last. Trust the process, stay in motion and watch as your momentum, confidence and wins pile up.
If you show up, I promise that the results will come.
Imagine the sense of pride you’ll feel when you can call yourself a bestselling author.
I’m rooting for you. And so are your readers.
Now get to work, and create something incredible.
What challenges have you overcome in writing your bestseller? Share your tips and tricks in the comments.
And if you liked this post, share it on social media.