I'm going to give you five (5) suggestions to making your novel a best seller. Are they proven? Yes. Will they work every time? More than likely. Are they expensive to execute? That depends.
First, with tongue in cheek, there are some "questionable" methods to getting your book on the best seller list. These methods include such items as buying 500-700 copies of your book each day for a week. A rather expensive method, but it does work — at least, temporarily. There are other methods but they mostly involve having someone, either friends or a business, buy copies. And it always involves money. Your money.
So now let's discuss better ways to get your book noticed.
Book Cover. If you have a professional book cover, one that doesn't look like something your six-year old drew or your high-school daughter created for graphics class, will attract the buyer's eye. There are many great graphic artists out on the web who are willing to share their works. Price? It can be anywhere from free to a couple hundred dollars. Many are willing to work with you in the price range of $50-$95, well within the means of most authors. Below are two book covers: amateur and professional.
Can you guess which one is which? The novel is about a young Amish man testing his beliefs.
Back Page Blurb. If you've caught the reader's eye, the next thing they do is pick up the book, flip it over and read the blurb. If all you reveal is a little about the inside, you've lost the sale. This is where you pique the reader with an exciting tidbit about the novel and make them want more. Which is better?
Hargrove is an investigator who takes on cases that are unusual. Val wants him to find her husband. OR Hargrove knows he can't refuse the case when he see her walk in the office. Disappointed, he discovers she wants him to find her husband.
Which grabs your attention more?
First Page. If you've tempted the peruser of your book this far, they'll open the book and read the first paragraph, if not the first couple of pages. You only have a few seconds to hook that reader with your novel. Back in 1950 an author could ramble on for 10 to 50 pages before getting to the nitty-gritty. Today, you have to do that with the first paragraph. Some readers will allow the first page but if you can nab them with that first paragraph, you'll have a possible sale. If you've mastered the art of the back page blurb, the first paragraph should be easy, but you're not out of the woods. Read on.
Edits. Make sure your book is edited by a professional editor — not your mom or English teacher, unless they also do it as a profession. Friends and relatives are great beta-readers but they are not editors. They aren't going to notice incorrect grammar, convoluted sentences, weak plot points, passive voice and so much more. Readers expect a great read, short-changing them — they'll remember. I can't stress how much proper editing will enhance your novel.
Story. With tongue in cheek, tell a great story with a fabulous plot. Try to be different, making sure to add enough twists to the tale to keep the reader wanting more, turning pages, not wanting to put the book down. How is that done? One working method is to end a chapter with a cliff-hanger that forces them to want to read the beginning of the next chapter — and, of course, you put in a twist to keep them reading. It is not about chopping a chapter in the middle. Cliff-hangers are an art that needs a subtle introduction so the reader doesn't realize they've been lead on.
I'm sure somebody is going to scream "What about marketing?" That is a given and a critical aspect to a best seller … BUT, it is not a guarantee. You can do the best marketing in the world and still not have a best seller. Why? Think of it in this aspect — the snake-oil salesman. He sold several bottles of questionable medicinal liquids — and then he skipped town. An author can hawk with great marketing skills a poorly written book and get some sales, but word of mouth can kill it very quickly. If the author gets the first 5 items listed above aligned properly, the possibility of a best seller is definitely within the reach with great marketing.
There are a lot of issues in making a novel a best seller, but if you follow the above five, it is a good start in the right direction.
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~ COMMENTS ~
As you said, there are no guarantees. You can write a terrific book and still have low sales. But the first step has to be to have a good book, and next have professionals design and edit it.
Maybe a professional to market it, too, would help.
I have to agree with you. I think people these days go to marketing on social media as their main source of moving books, but without the elements you discussed the greatest marketing plan in the world would fail.
Just love the new cover and so glad you used it. You've got some valuable points in this... let's not even go to marketing because I have so many thoughts on it, and am not sure if any of it even works. Sigh.