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How to write a best seller

How to write so that you achieve the action and response you want

On one of the discussion groups I participate in we’ve been talking about writing and selling.

Firmware replied:

> So enlighten us. How would we have recognized THE DA VINCI CODE,
> which really is a preposterous book, as a bestseller when it first
> started circulating in MS?

I’m a real student and believer in the science and psychology of communications, whether they be written oral, and visual. Words trigger interest and even action. Some words are more powerful and effective than others.

Write a check for $1000. How many words on the check? And you know what happens so it’s a reliable repeat action. We’ve built an entire economic system based on a promise to pay for value received. It’s really quite remarkable what a few well written words can do.

Words can motivate.

Look at the Declaration of Independence. Look at what a few carefully constructed words can do. Can you guess how many draft versions it took for Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to get it right?

You can learn how to write to produce action. You can test the words until they produce the response you seek.

Turns out that Dan Brown was one of my clients in the pre- Da Vinci Code days. I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements of the prequel, Angels and Demons. (Go and look if you have a copy!)

I and my family (two teenage girls mind you and a dietitian wife) loved that book because it’s a thought provoking book and a good action packed thriller. Preposterous? Fact or fiction, who cares? It’s a good book and it’s fun to read. That’s why it sells. It’s so enjoyable and provocative to read that stimulates discussion in the marketplace of ideas.

For any book an author writes that’s what will create and drive interest and sales. That’s the excellence in your writing that you need to instill and you’re not done until it happens.

But Dan was a poor starving writer of many books before he wrote the blockbuster. He and his wife Blythe worked very hard to achieve success. They worked and reworked those early writings till they had what it took to get the right publisher to take on their project.

I believe that you can design and even engineer results based on what you write. I see it in all the creative works produced by my clients day in day out. That’s what speechwriters do for politicians.

You have to pay attention to the people you are trying to motivate and please. You have to have a goal of triggering a certain action. You help the people you can help the most. You educate the people you can educate the most. You entertain the people you can entertain the most.

You do the very best you can. You don’t write and publish and then try to sell. This of course is what many authors do.

You write, test, test, test, and only when you know the action you get do you then seek to publish and sell.

You write and then revise, revise, revise and improve, improve and improve till you get the action you want when people look at what you’ve written.

You go the distance to where the snowball you’ve been pushing up the hill begins to move on it’s own.

You have to identify the pool of people you are aiming to please. If it’s cookbooks, it’s people who cook. If it’s science fiction, it’s people who read science fiction. If it’s top literary agents, then it’s top literary agents.

If you write a book and show it to 20 people in the right pool of people and ten of them truly rave about it, and it results in 60 people asking for it (since each convinced 3 other people they had to read it), then maybe it’s time to show it to ten agents.

But if you show it to 20 people, and you get a lukewarm response, then maybe you need to revise it and improve it till you get the raving response you need.

That’s how you recognize that you’re in the right position to publish and have a reasonable confidence of success.

Look at the story by Lynn Neary on NPR July 31, 2008 about Brunonia Barry launched her self-published novel, The Lace Reader, into the big leagues.

Pretty good illustration of the principles in my article The Magic of Business. Look at what she did with her first writings. Look at the effect her books had on the people they wanted to reach.

The interview indicates that they knew what they had to do. They sought to please their readers in the book clubs and the booksellers. Then they saw the agents fighting over the book, and even the publishing companies in the bidding war over the rights to the book.

You can set this as your goal and believe that you can do this. You have to hone you craft and writing skills, and also focus on taking your writings to the right people once you find out that your writing has the effect needs to have on people in the market place.

The beauty of testing in it the microcosm of wherever you are is that you can get the feedback you need and then revise, revise, revise till it really sings.

Then you can test it and test it and test it again so you prove reliably that it does indeed produce the action you want people to take when they read it.

And in a nation of 330 million people, the potential is huge.

And if you translate it into Chinese, there’s another 300 million waiting for you across the Pacific.

You start local and aim global.

The beauty of the opportunity of being alive today is that you get to try.

Posted on Monday, August 4th, 2008 at 8:56 am In
action, attitude, book sales, excellence, influence, self improvement, writing