On Becoming a Best-Selling Author: The Paradox of Finding Success

Jun 29, 2024 by S. R. Watts

In my efforts to become a best-selling author, I have read dozens of books and hundreds of articles written by experts on marketing one’s novel. While the advice varies from author to author, there seems to be a general consensus surrounding the nature of finding success in today’s literary market. An asset that one must possess if they hope to sell millions of books to reach the New York Times Best-Sellers List. That asset, ladies and gentlemen, is a platform.

Put simply, a platform is an author’s ability to attract a following and influence said following to buy their book. Most experts agree that essential tools, such as a website and a social media presence, are needed to gain a successful platform. However, getting people to follow you through such channels is another thing entirely. Again, the advice on how to draw in an online following varies, and every author interview I have read where they discuss how they built their platform leaves me baffled on the many ways one can go about attracting attention to their books. 

I did manage to see through all the noise and confusion that there are two general ways to draw attention to one’s platform. The first and simplest is to release a new book, one that gets people talking as they read it and share it with others they come into contact with. Still, with all the books saturating the market due to how easy it is to self-publish, every author is trying this method as their first resort, which means there is competition for the attention of readers. Usually, the only titles that can seem to rise above the clamor are the ones that bear the name of an already prolific author, such as J.K. Rowling or Steven King.

The second way I found that people have tried to draw people to their platform is to create channels of popular socail media channels where they create free content that users can engage with and share with others online. Once they have a significant following, they will then release their books, advertising it to those who follow them on sites like Instagram or TikTok first hoping that the report they have built with them will convince them to buy their book. This strategy has the most potential to succeed, but it still has two major drawbacks. First, the time and resources needed to invest in such a campaign can be more than an author can give, especially if he has other obligations that keep him from doing this. The second is related to the fact that everyone is trying to build a following on social media these days, and if you don’t already have a substantial following it can be hard to get the social media algorithms to give you the exposure you need to be successful. 

So, the sad truth is the process of breaking out in the book industry is quite simply a paradox. You can’t sell many books if you don’t have a lot of exposure, and you can’t get the exposure you need if society deems you unworthy of it due to your lack of prominence or prestige. And, for an author, the only way they can get that prominence and prestige is to offer the public a book that they would love to read. It’s almost as if the system was designed to deprive new authors of ever having a chance of breaking out and having their work seen by the world.

But that is not to say that there is never any hope. Yes, the industry may seem a bit daunting now, but an author who truly believes in their work will always find a way to make it stand out above the crowd. All it takes is persistence and the willingness to get out of your comfort zone as you try new strategies to market your work. Plus, the market shifts and changes all the time, meaning that what’s popular today might not be popular tomorrow, so the stories you are working on now might have a place in pop culture in the years to come. So don’t be discouraged. Keep writing. Keep planning, Keep dreaming. The future is full of good things for those who are willing to go the distance.