How did you become a good writer in 2022? | How do I become a bestselling writer?: Happy to answer this but be aware, my writing abilities are quite limited. I am an essayist, an article writer of short, pithy, vignettes. That’s it.
I cannot write novels (like Quorans Graeme Shimmin, Cristina Hartmann, Aman Anand, Clifford Meyer) or extremely persuasive pieces (Jon Mixon, Gary Teal, Marcus Geduld), nor can I distill massively complex issues to a single truth (Erica Friedman, Robert Frost, Alon Amit, Oliver Emberton). To name a few.
But, for my writing style, this is what has helped me:
- Write your book
- Send a query letter to publishers/agents
- Once they show interest, send sample chapters
- Once they are reviewed, send full manuscript if asked.
- Sign your contract
- Wait for the book to come out
How do I become a bestselling writer?
Do you know that a debut author in India gets an advance of just ₹40000 ($565) if he gets published by one of the major publishers in the country?
Do you know that as a debut author, you’ll just be paid about 7% in royalties?
Do you know that most of the publishing contracts in India are sales based (i.e you sell 2000 books first and then only we’ll start paying you royalties)?
Okay, let’s tackle it with my own example:
Had Secret of the Himalayan Treasure got published by one of the biggie publishing houses, this is what I’d have made—
- A 7% royalty on the book priced at just ₹249-
- That is just ₹17.43/ copy of SOTHT sold.
- Rest would be eaten up by the distributors, retailers, and publishers.
- If I manage to sell those 2000 copies (which in India is enough to get you in Bestselling charts)
- ₹17.43 x 2000 = ₹34,860 ($493)
- Couple that with the ₹40000 advance—
- I’d have made just ₹74,860 ($1058) in about 6 months or a year.
I managed to breach that barrier within the first 2 months of self-publishing my book (which was about a year ago), and I couldn’t have been happier with a decision that I’ve made.
Truth is, most authors (even after being backed by top publishing houses) fail to break that 2000 sale mark simply because when you’ve a big publisher behind your back, you won’t put anything in marketing yourself.
There are ‘n’ number of factors which can make or break your book.
I’ll list down the factors which I think, made me a Bestselling Author—
- The Story
- If you’re an entrepreneur who is selling a product that sucks, no matter how much glorified your marketing strategy is, it’ll fall.
- As a novelist (fiction), your story is your product. If the story sucks, or is a cliche, word of mouth will kill your book.
- Word of Mouth
- I’m not saying that Secret of the Himalayan Treasure is the greatest story that there ever was. Even Gangs of Bombay is better than it.
- But when the Indian readers are being plagued by those horrible rom-coms, an adventure thriller about a Treasure Hunt for the greatest mystery guarded by the oldest secret society in the world, served as a breath of fresh air.
- Word of Mouth made my book. I repeat, Word of Mouth made my book.
- Had the readers known that it sucked, they’d have killed it and not suggested the book to their friends in colleges and workplaces.
- Being a self-published author, I had to do the selling part, and trust me when I say this— Selling your book is much harder than writing your book.
- If you’re not willing to leverage the connectivity of social media… your books won’t fly.
- Almost 60–70% of my readers come from Quora.
- The rest come from the recommendations from the guys who’ve read the book.
- I’ve barely spent 500 bucks on Instagram ads… and they didn’t do anything for me.
- Innovative book trailers, giveaways, shoutouts etc. everything are okay, but nothing matches the might of those genuine followers on Quora, who practically motivated me to write the book in the first place.
- Cheap thrills won’t get you far—
- Fake reviews, paid reviews etc. won’t help as reader can call a spade a spade easily.
- Organic sales, while it takes time, is the best way to go.
- Writing content that would sell—
- It is paramount.
- Repeat it after me, it is paramount.
- Craft your prose like Shakespeare in 21st Century, and see it biting the dust.
- Research and know what the readers like—
- Incredibly fast starts.
- Less exaggerations and descriptions.
- More dialogue.
- Insane action.
- Mindf*ck twists.
- Intense original stories.
- Researched material.
- Ask 90% of the readers of Secret of the Himalayan Treasure and Gangs of Bombay, and they’ll tell you that the pace of the first 5–6 chapters is insanely fast.
- Because new readers (which primarily form my readerbase) don’t want to get told about how intricately you can describe an ancient temple.
- Get to the treasure inside that temple already.
- Get to the chasing assassins and blood already.
- Get to the point and don’t beat around the bush.
- Build a following for your writing online
- You know how my pitch to publishers start?
- I have over 46000 followers for my writing on American Q&A site Quora and over 15 million views.
- I have already self-published a novel which spent time in Amazon India’s Top 10 Selling Titles.
- I have been writing for over 4 years now.
- If you’re pitching with a follower count and conveying that you’re serious about your writing, they’ll believe you.
- One of the biggest Indian publishers responded to my Query about SOTHT a few days ago. However, it was already ready for printing by then, so it didn’t work out.
- You know how my pitch to publishers start?
- Once you’re working on the above points, honestly, no one can stop you from being a Bestseller.
1. I practice
I write for hours, every day. Most of it I’ll never use, but it gets easier, faster, better. First thing I do in AM is exercise my brain with 20 min of writing nonsense. Through practice I’ve honed my voice and I know what feels like me. That is most important; have confidence in your words, your style, your tone. You find it through practice.
2. I learned structure from PowerPoint and business concept writing
Consulting is the art of condensing massive amounts of information into a visual medium. To be effective, PPs must be well-organized. They have main topics, sub-topics, supporting evidence, conclusions, and excellent flow. I learned this structure in consulting and I apply it to my writing. As well as numbers, bold, italics and other visual aids.
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3. I take a hacksaw to sentences, paragraphs, and words
Original sentence: I have a tendency to make sentences overly complicated by adding more and more words until the meaning of the sentence is obfuscated under the weight of so many superfluous words.
Post-edit: I’m verbose.
I edit. I reduce. Tighten. Improve.
4. I copy the best stuff around, make it my own
Some mild plagiarism is common in my more humorous writings. Well, not plagiarism, more like mild flirtation with plagiarism under the guise of “inspired by…”
I read a lot and watch good TV. I copy what interests me. I use similes, like my favorite TV comedy writer Ben Elton, and I pilfer silly words from my favorite humor author, P.G. Wodehouse. I also copy the intimate conversational style of David Sedaris, Bill Bryson and Tina Fey.
5. I am my own audience
If I can make myself laugh, I post it. If I can touch my heart, I post it. If I read it and it sounds like me, I post it. (And I try to put in one LOTR reference in everything I write. For my amusement.)
6. I understand and nurture my creative process
This was very difficult. I took me awhile to realize I needed it. I’d sit and sit but no words would come. Finally, I read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande (written in 1934, but timeless). She discusses psychological blocks that writers face and how to overcome them.
What I learned was in order to write, you have to open your mind and let your unconscious—your creativity –flow freely. I have an organized mind and desire for control so this is difficult. I have found ways to do this now, but only recently. Practice helps.
7. MOST IMPORTANT of all, I observe
Observing comes naturally to me. Because I’m introverted. I’d rather watch the play than act in it. Yes, stuff has happened to me. Yes I have a never-ending string of eccentric people around me who stuff also happens to. But I pay attention, I watch, I listen, I notice things. The obvious, the subtext, and the sub-sub-text. I think my observational abilities are unique.
This answer is incomplete without mentioning there are many many things I struggle with that keep me from being an even better writer.
- I think in tweets, not chapters. I generate a lot of material, but it’s word-based, not concept based. It’s hard to mold my thoughts into anything longer than essays.
- I’m commitment phobic and fickle: I simply cannot commit to the same story, same characters even same concepts day after day after day. Makes me inconsistent.
- I find it insanely hard to get the level of alone time and lack of interruption I need to tap into my creativity.
- The more I find my voice, the more I get bored by it.
- And the mantra that beats like the drums of cave trolls; “What if it isn’t good enough?”
I believe a balanced diet of technical training, practice, and overcoming psychological barriers will improve my – and anyone’s – writing. So that is what I subscribe to.
How can I learn content writing?
In the age of internet, learning content writing is not a very big task. There are several blogs and channels that will easily guide you through the basics of the skills, some of them are:
Apart from just these blogs, there are youtube channels like Neil Patel which provides a lot of information around content writing, digital marketing and similar subjects.
Content writing itself is a vast industry and covers a lot of strategies, procedures and practices to be followed. Therefore, one has to be very clear about their roles and responsibilities as a content writer.
As content writing is not just mere writing but a combination of tactical and strategical processes involved in developing a content so that it ranks higher on search engine results (Google SERP) and drives more traffic.
Some of the skills required for content writing are:
- Keyword Research
- Competitive Analysis
While learning these skills isn’t a very difficult thing to do, but to know the practical use of them, one has to get involved in those practices to observe and experiment, how certain practices can influence the performance of a content.
The above mentioned resources provide some really good information, however the information is very basic. It is same as one reading about riding a bike that actually going and giving a try.
There are several courses that can help you with learning content writing. You can learn professional content writing in just 1 month from courses like IIM SKILLS.
It is a very renowned organization and is quite popular when it comes to content writing training. It is internationally recognized and is recommended by experts and professionals.
Key Highlights of IIM SKILLS Content Writing Course:
- Certification: The 1-month professional content writing course comes with an internationally recognized and highly valuable HubSpot content writing certification.
- Placement Assistance: The students here at IIM SKILLS are provided with 100% placement assistance which means they are given all kinds of support about the possible career opportunities that they can look forward to.
- Suitable for All: The course is made suitable for all as the course modules range for very basics to extreme professional skills which means even a pure beginner can learn from scratch and turn into a professional content writer.
These were some details about the content writing course by IIM SKILLS, which is quite a recommended course for those who want to learn professional content writing and become certified.
Also it has received tremendous response from students so far. Many of the graduates of this course are now working at some of the biggest companies like American Express, Barclays, etc.
There is a lot more to these details, and if you actually want to learn through this course, you might first want to attend the free online live demo sessions on their website and know exactly what to expect from the course.