Why Authors Should Rethink Becoming a Bestseller

Almost every day I hear from authors who want me to help them make their book a New York Times bestseller.

Most of these people are looking for silver bullet type advice.

My first question back is always this… “Why?”

“Why do you want to be a bestseller?”

There is normally a pause and then some sort of scattered response like:

If I am on the bestsellers list then…

-I’ll get the attention of national media.
-All these opportunities will start the flow in.

On occasion someone will say that it’s not the list so much but it’s what the list represents that matters (number of people actually reading the book). I like these people. : )

Regardless of which perspective you fall into I want you to be honest for a moment. Without going to Google, tell me 4 of the top 10 bestsellers last week. Or the week before that. Can you? I bet your answer is no. Most people, especially the general public, have no idea which books are hitting the lists. FYI… They don’t care. In fact, there are many one hit wonders that hit the lists this week and are gone next week, never to be heard from again.

But that’s not really my point here.

There IS indeed value in having a bestselling book but let me debunk a few myths for you.

1. Just because your book hits the NYT list does not mean the media will come knocking at your door begging you to be on TV. It might give you a greater chance at landing a media hit with proactive outreach saying that your book is a bestseller but hitting the list alone won’t do it. However, if your book has legit staying power and stays on the list for multiple weeks… then people might start to take notice.

2. Same goes for opportunities. A lot of authors think that by simply making a list that the flood gates of opportunity will open. That’s untrue as well. Now, like media, if you use your bestseller status in your marketing to position yourself with more authority… chances are you can increase your impact and conversions on other things like speaking gigs, etc. But again, that is something that benefits are found in from proactive effort (not passive inbound activity).

Now, here’s the really important part…

Your goal shouldn’t be to just have a bestselling book. Your goal should be to build a bestselling platform. (Tweet That)

When you have a platform that can propel your book to bestseller status that means you have tapped a significant tribe of followers. And when you have that, all the other things that you thought landing on the NYT’s list would bring will start materialize. Why? Because you made a list? No. Because you’re making an impact to a wider audience? Yes.

So ask yourself… “Why do I want to be a have a bestselling book?” Is it for the accolades or the impact?

It’s a subtle but significant distinction. The difference, however, will make the difference between your short term and long term success.

How to Find a Literary Agent to Represent You (And Not Get Rejected)

If you are an author looking to get published traditionally, you will most likely need a literary agent to represent you.

Why do I need an agent?

1. Because most publishers don’t accept unsolicited proposals or manuscripts. Agents have access. Publishers use agents to help filter out which books / authors have a better chance at succeeding.

2. An agent will usually negotiate a far better publishing agreement than you will on your own (higher advance, better terms, etc.).

3. If there is ever an issue between you and your publisher, your agent can help resolve it… usually faster and better.

But how do I find an agent to represent me?

Here are a few ways…

Start with Other Authors – Do you know someone who is traditionally published? If so, ask them who their literary agent is. Better yet, ask them to make an introduction / recommendation for you. Relationships matter and one of the fastest paths to success is by someone an agent already knows helping you to get your foot in the door.

Do Some Research – Google is your friend. Simply search for literary agents who represent the type of book you are writing. But here’s where many fail. Don’t just go through and email blast every agent you can find. Instead, go to their website, read up on the books and authors they represent, read their “About” page and try to make sure they are a fit for you. Then when you reach out do so in a customized way that lets them know you are a fan of who they are, not just for what you want them to do for you.

Use the Guides – There are several writing and literary agent guides out there such as this “Guide to Literary Agents” book. Just be careful on any guide because information changes and it can go out of date pretty quick. You can usually find everything you need by asking another author, doing general searches on Google or simply looking up “literary agent for ___insert name of book you like in similar genre of yours here___.”

Write a Killer Query Letter & Proposal

Once you have found a few agents that you think are a fit, draft a query letter to send. What is a query letter? Here’s the 411 and how to write one. Also read Rachelle Gardner’s “The Top 10 Query Mistakes” post. Good stuff.

You also will want to make sure that you have a killer book proposal ready so that you can send that once an agent responds favorably. What’s a book proposal and how do you write one that will land a deal? Check out Michael Hyatt’s excellent proposal / query writing guides here. They are some of the best resources with examples that I have seen.

If you need help actually writing or editing your proposal, don’t be afraid to hire an editor or someone experienced in drafting proposals. It doesn’t make you less of a writer to get help, it makes you smart. : ) There are plenty of resources out there such as DraftLab (I have not worked with them directly but have heard good things).

But I Keep Getting Rejected!

Maybe you’ve done all that above but you keep getting those nifty rejection letters in the mail (or email). It’s not easy to get picked but keep in mind that most agents are getting queries and submissions from likely hundreds of authors each week. They simply can’t work with them all so unfortunately they have to decline most. That doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad or that you have no future as an author, it just means that you must have persistence if you really want to go the traditional route. We’ve all heard the stories of authors getting rejected dozens of times only to go on and eventually become bestsellers. I personally know several multiple bestselling authors who were rejected dozens of times at first by agents and then by publishers but they didn’t give up and you shouldn’t either. Expect rejection but keep going.

Remember though, relationships are key. If you can get another author to recommend you to his/her agent or even his/her publisher, you’re chances of success will improve dramatically. I see it every day.

P.S., Don’t forget that self-publishing is a viable option now. You can start your publishing journey self published or if you have gone the traditional route and it’s just not working out for you (after a valiant attempt)… you don’t have to wait to be picked. You can pick yourself and blaze your own trail. I’ll write more about self-publishing in a future post.

3 Ways to Sell More (Ideas, Books, Products, etc)

If you want to increase your influence, sooner or later you are going to need to SELL something.

For some that is a product or service. For others it’s simply an idea.

Selling isn’t just the physical act of exchanging money, it’s also persuading someone of the merits of something.

Pitching your book idea to an agent…
Inviting people to join your email list…
Recruiting volunteers…
Getting people to support / follow your vision…
Launching that product…
Asking for a raise at work…
Convincing your kids to eat their veggies…

Like it or not, we’re all in sales.

Let’s be honest though, do you cringe a little bit when you hear the word “SELL”?

Most of us do. Selling has become a dirty little word that often evokes a love / hate relationship. We know we need to sell but we don’t want to be thought of as “salesy.”

Can you relate?

So how do we overcome that? Here are 3 ways…

1. Believe In It – If you truly believe in your product, service, or idea and you know that it will be of benefit to others then you owe it to them and yourself to share it. Sharing it doesn’t mean you have to give it away for free. It simply means that if you have value to share, you should and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Your confidence (or lack thereof) contributes to your  level of success.

2. Don’t Let the Negative Voices Stop You – No matter what you do in life, you will face obstacles. For those with something meaningful to say or sell, often an obstacles comes in the form of negative voices… sometimes it’s our own doubts and fears but it’s also those people who you can’t please no matter what. The moment you start to put a price tag on something you will undoubtedly get a few who object to you “selling.” You can’t let them stop you. Trust me. Those people are the people who want everything for free but are likely not putting anything you say into practice. The people who pay are those who are more engaged, who have invested and who want to participate at a deeper level so they can get some form of return. Those are the people you want to listen to and they are far more numerous than you might think.

3. Give Value – This may seem obvious but the best way to sell is to be a giver. Put relationships before opportunities. Be helpful. Build your tribe by providing value. People will want to buy your product or follow your ideas in exchange. The more you give, the more you get but make sure that your primary motives are rooted in the giving.

P.S., Sure, there are strategies and tools that can help us sell (such as this Five-Part Framework for Writing Better Sales Copy by Ray Edwards on Jeff Goins blog) but for this post I wanted to focus on something far more important… your mindset. How you approach the sell determines a great deal of its outcome.

4 Ways to Stop Wasting Time on Social Media

Most of us have been there…

You jump on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a minute, start to scroll and before you know it… 20 minutes have passed and you’ve accomplished basically nothing (other than perhaps seeing some great LOL CAT photos or visuals of what your friends had for lunch).

I’m not a social media hater. I love it. I think that social media is a fantastic resources to help people build and/or reinforce relationships (online and off). It’s also a great vehicle to help ideas get shared in a exponential way.

But like all things, with the good also comes the opportunity for bad.

Social media can sometimes act like a black hole sucking away our time and productivity, however that only happens if we let it.

Here are 4 ways to stop wasting time on social media:

1. Approach It Intentionally – If you don’t have a goal then you have no direction and without direction you end up just spinning your wheels. Same goes for social media. Take some time to think, I mean really think, about how you can utilize it more effectively. I’m not just talking about the business side either. What if you simply choose to be more positive in your posts to uplift others or use social to drop in and encourage friends throughout the day. Beyond just connecting, social enables us the ability to lead by example in many ways.

2. Set a Timer – Seriously. As you plot out your day, give yourself X minutes to engage on social media. Maybe 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at night and on some days… 10 minutes in the afternoon. Notice though that I did not say “check” social media. I said “engage.” Social media does not work when it’s one sided. It’s social because it should be interactive, two way conversations, etc. It’s about relationships, not transactions.

3. Do The Most Important Things First – Social media is an easy escape when we are trying to avoid doing something else that we know we really should be doing. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? How many times have you known you need to do __ but that __ isn’t something you really want to do and you find yourself popping into social instead? Don’t do that and when you find yourself on the verge of doing it, stop and remember that you must do the most important things first. Social can wait till later. Don’t let it be a distraction (or excuse) to you getting important things done.

4. Remember That Not All Time Spent Is Wasted – Perspective makes a big difference doesn’t it? While it may be easy to discount those 20 minutes spent on social as wasted time, what if it’s not? I mean, what if you are using that time to find out what other people are up to so that you can be more invested in them and engage by commenting or responding back? Those interactions build relationships and relationship building has significant value over time.

 What about you? What are some ways you approach social media to make it not a waste of time? Comment below or shoot me a Tweet @danieldecker

How to Overcome The Doubters – Dealing with Those Who Underestimate You

My friend Ben Arment sent out an email recently that was really powerful… not just for authors but for anyone who is pursuing a dream. I asked Ben if I could share it and he obliged. Read his words below..

Want to know something?

One of the best outcomes of pursuing a dream is showing people what you’re capable of.

Until then, they think they’ve got you figured out. They put you in a box based on what you’ve done before. You’re not capable of what you haven’t already achieved, they think.

But the minute you bring your dream to life, it awakens people to your true potential.

And here’s the kicker – no one will ever pay you for what they have no idea you can do. It’s not even on their radar. You can announce that you’re going to do it on twitter, but until you actually deliver it to the world, you’ll be defined by what you’ve already done.

Like right now.

I have no idea that you can write a novel, or produce a feature film, or lead a big church, or host your own television show. I don’t think you can raise a million dollars, or speak at TED, or write a best selling business book, or launch a global brand.

I am completely underestimating you.

So there is some work you’ll have to do for free… for now. It’s work that expresses what you’re capable of but remains unseen by the world. You can’t get paid for it… yet.

The goal is someday.

But for now, you may have to spend two years on that novel without seeing a single dime. You may have to self-fund that short film with a second job. (Now, the rest of the work? That stuff you’ve already proven you can do? You should charge for that.)

But for now, you should spend as much time as you can doing work for free that brings your dream to life… and shows the world an unseen side of your capabilities. This is going to sound cheesy, but “the free work is the key work to unlocking your potential.”

Did you know that Walt Disney paid for the initial drawings of Disney Land with his own money because no one else believed in him at first? (You’re in good company.)

I know some talented individuals who only use their talents for paid opportunities (It’s terribly humiliating to do unpaid work, isn’t it?) So they only deliver the things you’d expect… the things they’ve done in the past… the things you already know they can do.

And they remain the same people they have always been.

Among being a swell guy with really insightful ideas and perspective, Ben is the author of Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love. It’s a book I HIGHLY suggest you pick up and read. But don’t just read it, do what it says. Ben has helped many people realize their dreams and if you follow his lead… your dream could be a reality as well.

In Dream Year Ben guides you, step-by-step, as you identify, plan, and launch your dream career—in just one year.

How This Guy Generated $211,247 from Podcasting Last Month

That was not a typo in the title of this post.

Yes, it did read $211,247 last MONTH… (see the income report here). To be fair, not 100% of the revenue was directly from the podcast (like coaching, affiliate income, etc.) but the overall revenue was basically a result of his amazingly popular podcast.

Who is it? John Lee Dumas from EntrepreneurOnFire (eofire.com)

EntrepreneurOnFire is a business podcast that interviews today’s most inspiring and successful Entrepreneurs 7-days a week. EntrepreneurOnFire is a top 10 business podcast generating over 150,000 unique downloads a month in over 140 countries, and his lineup includes Barbara Corcoran, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, Guy Kawasaki, and hundreds more.

But here’s the kicker…

John didn’t even launch EntrepreneurOnFire until September of 2012. That’s not even a full 2 years ago. In the first 365 days from it launching, EOFire did $84,623.11 in revenue but by September 2013 (just a year after launching), John was generating over $51,000 PER MONTH and has continued to grow and eclipse that monthly (as you can now see from the $211,247 month he had last month).

I don’t know about you but that’s some serious revenue and John has his podcast to thank.

It’s not just about the money…

While I doubt anyone reading this would have an objection to generating that kind of income, the BIGGER perspective is the impact that John is being able to make. With over 150,000 unique downloads per month, John’s message is