• Bill

Hardbacks and Best Sellers

Updated: Aug 13

Because Baby Doe is edging towards delivery as a tangible, baby, book, I was stumbling around the web looking for what I might learn about marketing. The first thing I learned is that publicity comes before marketing, like six months before one’s book appears. Next I learned that one can hire a publicist (minimally thousands of dollars) to help construct a plan for a book launch. The people who arbitrate whether a book will become a best seller (reviewers, bloggers, TV and radio, bookstores, book groups) have schedules that fill up months in advance with bookings of eager publishers, authors, and publicists.

But wait, all the above mainly applies to hardback books. Why is that? And why in this age of print on demand paperbacks, ebooks, and audiobooks are the more expensive and ponderous hardbacks still produced?


More research.

Four common answers: 1. Publishers make more money on big selling hardbacks. 2. The reviewers and critics see hardbacks as books that are taken more seriously. 3. Some folks, usually of the more affluent castes, prefer to see hardbacks lined up on their extensive bookshelves. 4. Publishers (and maybe authors) get two bites of the apple. After the hardback sales die down, out comes the jazzy paperback, cheaper, with a keen new cover page and some fresh buzz = more overall sales.


But it will cost me more money to bring out a my opus as a hybrid hardback. True as that is, and committed to paperbacks as I am, how can my bookette become a best seller?

Nobody knows for sure, but there are some ingredients that are helpful. We’ll get to those in a bit.


First, how is a bestseller defined? More research.

Answer: it depends on how much a book (and not just any book, what kind of book) has sold. Next question: according to whom? Over what period of time? Amazon, Barnes and Noble, New York Times and many others list best-selling books: hardbacks, paperbacks, ebooks, audiobooks, self-published books fiction and non-fiction. These categories are broken down further. (To continue the metaphor, “farther” would seem more appropriate, but further sounds better).

The commonly stated requirements for a best seller (or at least a very good book) are these:

· Education in literature and the craft of writing.

· Perseverance

· Excellent supportive teachers

· Time

· Creativity

· Expertise in niches that will interest readers

· Talent

· Important friends in the biz.

· Money to pay for the education above as well as for the developmental editors, line editors, proof readers, publicists, and marketing talent.

· Chutzpah

· And as everybody, everybody, says, the most important requirement is luck.

But nobody has all of that, and if they do, and their book is outstanding, it still may not sell. Be not dismayed. You, with (almost) none of the requirements can still write a best seller, on Amazon no less. Here’s how.

Brent Underwood is a guy who works for Brass Check marketing company. A few years ago, his “experiment” was to take a photograph of his foot, and create a self-published book containing only one page. That page had a photograph of his foot. As did the book cover. You can be a best seller in any number of categories. Brent chose “transpersonal.”

Three copies sold in hours, two to Brent and one to a friend. This earned him best seller status on Amazon only in that rarely used category (but his book cover only needed to display “Amazon Bestseller”).

I checked the current status. “Putting My Foot Down” is still for sale on Amazon. The paperback is $7.07, but now with 77% off, and the ebook is $1.99. The book cover still proudly displays, “Amazon Best Seller.” However now the book is 60 pages. In the fattened-up version, Brent describes his scam. 71% of his reviews are 5 stars. I couldn’t find out how many books have sold in the years since the publication became a bestseller.

My takeaway moral: Being exceptional in any one of the bullet points above may be enough to forgo all the others. Brent wins for creativity, and now I’m going back and adding chutzpah to the list above.


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