Friday, July 8, 2016

How to Generate Best-Selling Ideas for Your Book or Novel

How to Generate Best-Selling Ideas for Your Book or Novel by Brian Scott

There's nothing mysterious about coming up with ideas for your book. Within a page or two, you'll have more ideas than you know what to do with. Your ideas start with YOU. When you think about what you enjoy, about your past experiences and your knowledge, you're guaranteed a regular fountain of ideas. Let's turn on the fountain.

1. Idea Generator One: What Are You Good At?
Make a list of 20 things you're good at. Don't think too hard about this. Maybe you're good at buying presents for people—you've got a knack for choosing just the right gift. Maybe you're a good cook, or a good parent, or a good swimmer or a good tennis player. Or maybe you used to be good at one or more of these things. For example: I grew up with horses, and owned horses for many years. I'm good with horses, and a good rider. If I saw a gap in the market for a horse book, I'd feel comfortable writing the book.

You get the idea. List at least 20 things that you're good at, or have been good at in the past. For example, if you know you're an excellent gardener, even though you now live an apartment, list "gardening.”

2. Idea Generator Two: Tap into Your Past Experiences
Experiences sell. If you've been abducted by little green men from Mars, it's a book. If you're a bigamist, it's a book. People have written books about their illnesses (see from challenge to opportunity below), their addictions, and their pets. Browse through the bestseller lists to see what personal experiences people are writing about.

Here's where you walk down memory lane. If you're in your twenties, it'll be a short stroll. If you're in your forties or older, it will be a hike. Don't get bogged down with this, list 20 experiences you've had that spring to mind.

The easiest way to come up with experiences is to work backwards through the stages of your life, or through decades. Again, don't take a long time over this. Set yourself a time limit --- ten minutes is enough.

3. Idea Generator Three: Tap into Your Knowledge
What do you know? Start by making a list of all the subjects you were good at in school. Then list all the jobs you've had – yes, part time work counts.

Also list:
Your hobbies. Are you a keen Chihuahua breeder? Do you quilt? Take photographs?

Your current job. What are you learning in your job that other people would pay to learn?

The places you've lived. Your hometown may be boring to you, but guide books sell well.

Your family tree. What special knowledge do your nearest and dearest have that you could write about?

Spend around ten minutes writing down as many subjects as you have knowledge about.

4. Idea Generator Four: What Do You Enjoy Most in Life?
Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson freely admits that she cooks because she loves to eat. Nigella has turned her love of food into a career. She regularly produces bestselling books. (Her chocolate recipes are brilliant.) What do you love? People have written about garage sales, cosmetics, cars, vacations. If you love something, chances are that thousands or maybe millions of others will love it too.

Watch the newspapers and take note of current trends. Or better yet, listen to what your children are talking about, or asking you to buy for them. Children tend to be well up on what's happening.

Remember that it will take around 5-8 months for your book to reach the bookstores. Therefore, the currently hot topics on the bestselling lists may be old news before your book is in the stores. This doesn't mean, of course, that you can't write on perennial favorites like money, sex and exercise. These topics never go out of popularity, and a new twist on one of these is always a sure bet.

The idea of writing about what you enjoy is that you will be bringing passion and enthusiasm to your topic. Enthusiasm is a must.

5. Idea Generator Five: From Challenge to Opportunity
You face challenges every day. Most are minor, some are major challenges. If you've ever faced a large challenge, or if you're facing one right now, then consider that the things you learn could help other people. Whatever your challenge is -- whether it's moving house or confronting a life-threatening illness -- other people face the same challenges, and in those challenges lie the seeds of books.

Make a list of 20 challenges you've faced in your life. Anything catastrophic qualifies: losing your job, facing bankruptcy, the betrayal of a spouse. If you've had a quiet life, then make a list of challenges that the people you know have faced.

Additional challenges you can consider include any habit you've broken, from congenital lateness to overeating.

When you've finished brainstorming, you'll have dozens of book ideas. Winnow out the non-starters. Don't delete them, move them to another computer file. Call it "odds and ends" or "snippets."


Brian Scott is founder of Book Proposal Writing ( ), a free website that teaches you write a book proposal

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Practical Tips on Writing a Book

Practical Tips on Writing a Book from Sylvia Boorstein, Author of Happiness is An Inside Job and It’s Easier Than You Think

When I settle into writing, i.e. proposal signed, accepted, etc., I…

  1. Do not open email until 5pm on any weekday or other day when I expect to be writing much of the day.

  1. Do not read other people’s work on the same subject. That might be hard for you, since you are collecting research data, but I say very little about what other people have said or thought. They’ve already said or thought it.

  1. I am VERY selective about having other people read it as I go along other than my editor, and that only when I have enough written to feel secure that I have found my voice.

  1. When I do not like how what I’m writing is sounding, I quit. I leave the computer. I do something else, like cook soup. I “hear” what I am about to type before I type it and if it is not sounding like me naturally talking, I know I am not clear or balanced enough to go on.

  1. I do not write from the beginning to the end. I write in the order that particular parts take form in my mind and I enjoy mulling them over… I mull and mull and imagine I am explaining them to someone and then I write them down. I have the order in mind, so I write whatever part is bubbling energetically in my mind, print it out (always) and begin a stack on THE BOOK on a corner of my desk into which I can add pieces (in their proper order) as they get written and so I have a visible proof at all times that something is happening.

  1. I take the due date for the first draft EXTREMELY seriously, like everything depends on that day. It makes the project energetically alive for me, like a James Bond five-minutes-and-fifty-two-seconds until the whole world blows up movie and even if the draft is finished a week early I push the SEND button just after 12AM on the day it is due. Theatrical, I know, but I learned it from a friend of mine whom I admire as being a fine writer who prides himself on doing that.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

P.D. James: 5 Bits of Writing Advice

P.D. James: 5 Bits of Writing Advice

P.D. James lives in the pantheon of the great writers of crime fiction. She is most famous for the creation of Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, who appears in over a dozen novels. One can read her books for both their diabolically clever plots and their cunning insights into human nature. And she possesses a literary finesse rare among genre writers.

5 Bits of Writing Advice
1.   Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.

2.   Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.

3.   Don't just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.

4.   Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.

5.   Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer—however happy, however tragic—is ever wasted.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Literary Terms You Should Know

Purple prose: Authors oft-utilizing egregiously eloquent, ornate prose possessed of sterling caliber and astronomical romanticism may indubitably find themselves indicted for their "purple prose." There’s a time and a place for eloquence and SAT words, but it definitely isn’t every time and every place. Any text referring to eyes as "orbs" without any sort of irony is automatically guilty of this linguistic sometimes-offense. No matter what. No exceptions. Also, every romance novel ever written. Even if a long-lost manuscript attributed to Bukowski ever materialized and proved a romance novel, it would still be made of purple prose.

Monday, March 7, 2016

All About Glosses, or Brief Definitions

All About Glosses, or Brief Definitions
by Mark Nichol

One of my pet peeves as an editor (and editors are notoriously peevish, and we only become more so with experience) is the presentation of glosses. A gloss, in language, is a brief definition or explanation of an unfamiliar term or concept. (The previous sentence includes a gloss of the word gloss, though a fairly long one; they often consist of a single word, or several at most.)

Two of the more familiar definitions of gloss as a noun can be described as “a concealment of truth” (virtually antonymic to the meaning under discussion here) and “an act of putting a positive spin on something,” which is related to the connotation of deceit; the sense of gloss as “explanation,” however, is more akin to the idea of providing a sheen with a clear view to what’s underneath, as in “lip gloss” or “high-gloss paint.”

One problem with language glosses is that they invite the use of scare quotes, or gratuitous quotation marks that frame a word or phrase to provide emphasis. (That last phrase is a gloss of “scare quotes.” Also, understand that the quotes here, in turn, are not scare quotes but, rather, valid markers of a phrase I want to call out for attention, like a word italicized to emphasize that the word itself, not the thing, is under discussion.)

Note the unnecessary use of scare quotes in the following sentence (formatted as single quotation marks because the sample sentence is framed in double quotes):

“The trend of cross-border reproductive care, or ‘medical tourism,’ is popular in Europe.”

But there’s another, equally egregious issue: The gloss precedes the term. In addition to omitting the scare quotes, introduce the term, then gloss it, not the other way around:

“The trend of medical tourism, or cross-border reproductive care, is popular in Europe.”

Scare quotes are extraneous when introducing slang, too. Look at this sentence:

“I realized she was speaking Singaporean English, or ‘Singlish.’”

The scare quotes are condescending, as if the writer is holding the reader’s hand, patting it, and saying, “There, there, dear. I’ll protect you from any scary words you haven’t seen before. See? There’s one up ahead right now.”

And, again, why explain the term before the reader reads it? Let the reader dance on the precipice of danger for an instant:

“I realized she was speaking Singlish, or Singaporean English.”

Worse yet when glosses are concerned is the absence of appositive punctuation, as here:

“They built the domed snow houses or igloos most people associate with Eskimos.”

Never mind that igloos is not exactly an exotic term, and that the definition precedes it; the lack of internal punctuation implies that the object is “domed snow houses or (domed) igloos.” In fact, the object is “domed snow houses,” followed by the appositive term igloos.

(An appositive is a term equivalent in meaning to another one, as in “the writer Melville” or “the country of Morocco” or “the runner-up, Smith.” Note that common appositives are set off from proper ones with commas only if they’re restrictive, or can apply only to a specific corresponding noun. There — there’s another gloss right there.)

Notice that the first two examples in this post correctly set the gloss off from the defined term with a brace of commas. The correct form of the third example follows:

“They built the igloos, or domed snow houses, most people associate with Eskimos.”

The bottom line: Put a shine on your glosses by placing them after the defined term and framing them within commas (or parentheses or em dashes, if either seems more appropriate).

Thursday, March 3, 2016



What IS a best-selling author?

You have to answer that in your own mind.

Technically, it's any book that makes it into the Top 100 list at ANY online or offline bookstore.

However, what does it mean to you?

Is it someone who sells 300-500 books in a day through online bookstores like and makes the top 10?

Is it only the person who makes it to #1?

Is it the person who sells their book from their own website and makes $10,000 in a few months?

Or does it have to be a specific list... like the New York Times best seller list?

What does it mean to you?

It's a tough call. But you CAN have it all.

Selling your book through an online or offline bookstore will mean less money for you upfront, but will provide you far more leverage in the long run.

Selling your book from your own website and taking your own orders will mean far more money in the bank for you initially, but you'll have to work a little harder on the back-end to get the recognition you deserve.

Both ways work. Neither way is right. It's really what's right for you.

Let's talk about the steps necessary to make your book a bestseller whether you want to do it through an online bookstore or from your own website.

1) Pick the specific day you want to become a best seller.

Focusing on a specific day is what provides you the leverage to sell a large amount of books quickly. Selling 500 books over 6 months is not as impressive as selling 500 books in one or two days.

2) Create your "what's in it for me?" offer.

Your book is a valuable resource for your clients. But selling it alone puts it up against all the other books already on the market for your subject. I don't like those odds.

What you need is something "extra" -- something that really let's the perspective buyer know that you want to help them.

If you were to sell your book (for let's say $20) and then offered everyone who purchased your book on the specific day you decided on in step 1 around $200 in bonuses from experts... do you think they'd be more likely to buy? And buy on that day?

Of course they would.

This is the step where you stop thinking about you and start thinking about the group of people you want to help by writing this book in the first place. Think of everything you can possibly offer to add value to your book and build a powerful arsenal of tools and resources.

When the potential buyer asks, "What's in it for me?" (which they always do)... give them TONS of answers.

3) Use the 12-step method to create a promotional sales letter.

Now that you've answered the "What's in it for me?" question, use the 12-step process to build a sales letter site for your book that explains it to the potential buyer.

They have a problem in their life. Your book is going to give them a solution for their problem... and a whole lot of "extras" if they buy on the specific day you've selected.

Tell them – using the proven 12-step process.

4) Leverage the relationships you've built.

Now, simply go back to the experts who provided you the bonus items for your book promotion, let them know the day you have picked as your bestseller day and ASK them if they would help you promote it on that day.


Don't be stingy. These are experts who have earned the right to be called an expert. You are asking them for a favor. Be generous enough to let them read your book first.

If you can afford it, send them a physical copy. If you can't, email them a digital copy with a short, concise explanation of what you are doing.

Pick a specific day to target your focused effort. Give an overwhelming amount of bonus reasons for people to buy your book on that day; and then leverage the relationships with experts to get them to help you promote your book.

Why would they want to? Some will want to give back for the success they've earned. Some will want to because by doing so their bonus item is getting in more people's hands (and their bonus item promotes them).

What will these experts use to help promote your book?

You guessed it... the "list" of their current clients.

Authors 25, 50 or 100 years ago would buy out their own first printing to make it appear their book was popular. Many "best sellers" used this tactic to get the Best Seller status so publishers would contract with them for future titles.

Tricky? Maybe. Successful? Absolutely.

Now it's your turn.

Now that you know HOW to become a best seller, let's address where to become a best seller.

Right now the 2 most popular bookstores for running best seller campaigns are and (Barnes and Noble).

To get your book listed in you can either:

Purchase the $149.95 option from for Global Distribution. This will get you listed in all major online and offline bookstores or go to and do it yourself.

If you take the "do it your self" route at Amazon, be sure to join's Advantage Program. They will walk you through the process of signing up and getting your book listed in their store.

If you want to get listed in Barnes and Noble (online or offline), then visit will make both of these a simple process because you'll already have an ISBN and you can order just a few books initially to get started with and/or Barnes and Noble.

Let's talk through a few examples of how the Best Selling promotion may work:

1.) Leveraging experts

We've already covered this one.

If I was writing the Pet Name book, I could find experts who are currently providing products and services to pet enthusiasts. Ask for bonuses and/or content from them. Then let them know the day I'm going to promote it and ask for their help.

I would provide them a digital or physical copy of the book to review. I would also ask what I could do to assist them. I've got to make it worth their while to help me.

2.) Leveraging businesses

Rather than relying on 1 sale at a time from individual readers, I could approach businesses that sell pet-related products and see if I could get a licensing agreement with them where they buy a large quantity of books at one time.

I could sell 500 books to 500 different readers or I could sell 500 books to 1 or 2 pet stores.

3.) Leveraging home town support

If it's a localized subject – like a travel guide to North Carolina beaches – you could focus on specific businesses along the North Carolina coast to promote your book.

You could also contact local radio and/or TV stations to get publicity for your book promotion.

The biggest key to your best selling book promotion... don't just go through the motions. Make It An EVENT! And have FUN with it.

Learn how to become a published author! Download Brian's free e-book, Book Writing for Fun and Profit, at Visit Brian's blog, Book Publishing News

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Practical Tip on Writing a Book from John Schwartz

John Schwartz
Author of Short: Walking Tall When You’re Not Tall at All
Advice from a Newsweek editor I worked with in the ’80s, Nancy Cooper. Roughly my age, but so much smarter and more worldly and sophisticated. I was worried about writing the opening story of the nation section. And she sent me a note that read: ”You just start working and you keep working til it’s done. That’s all there is to it; no mystery.”