How to Write a Bestselling Book This Year — The Definitive Resource List and How-To Guide

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If you want to write a bestselling book, don’t reinvent the wheel.

I get at least a dozen email a week from friends who want to write books.

After three #1 bestsellers from 2007 to 2012, and publishing in 35+ countries, I’ve tried a lot. Having experimented with everything from “traditional” (Random House) to Amazon Publishing, from BitTorrent Bundles to self-publishing audiobooks, I’ve developed strong opinions about…

- What works and what doesn’t.
– What sucks and what doesn’t.
– What makes the most money and what doesn’t.

This post is intended to answer all of the most common questions I get, including:
– “Should I publish traditionally or self-publish?”
– “How does a first-time author get a 7-figure book advance?”
– “How do I get a good agent or publisher? Do I even need an agent?”
– “What does the ‘bestseller list’ really mean? How do you get on one?”
– “What are your top marketing tips if I have little or no budget?”
– “What are the biggest wastes of time? The things to avoid?”
– And so on… Read More

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The Odd (And Effective) Routines of Famous Minds like Beethoven, Maya Angelou, and Francis Bacon

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Wine is part of my creative process. How I use it has been influenced by other writers. Why reinvent the wheel?

Sometimes, peculiar routines are the key to sanity… and productivity.

For years, I wrote from 11pm-4am or so, fueled by carefully timed yerba mate tea, Malbec, and Casino Royale left on repeat in my peripheral vision.

But who am I? Let’s explore the odd and effective routines of several creative icons: Maya Angelou (author), Francis Bacon (painter), W.H. Auden (poet), and Ludwig van Beethoven (composer).

Here’s an appetizer, before we get to the full routines:

Maya Angelou rented a “tiny, mean” hotel or motel room to do her writing;
Francis Bacon preferred to work with a hangover;
W.H. Auden took Benzedrine the way many people take a multivitamin; and
Beethoven counted out 60 coffee beans (exactly!) each morning, and developed his compositions through walking and obsessive bathing.

Enjoy the detailed profiles below.

All were excerpted from one of my favorite books–Daily Rituals: How Artists Work–which contains nearly 200 routines of some of the greatest minds of the last four hundred years: famous novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians… Read More

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The Ugly New York Times Bestseller — The Creative Process in Action

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(Photo: photosteve101)

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”
– Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
– Mark Twain

Writing isn’t a clean process.

In general, attempting to be creative isn’t a clean process. It’s filthy. I wish I could poo diamonds, but — alas — I am not built for such miracles. Instead, I plod and stumble my way through revisions, hacking at mental cobwebs and killing inner demons. Eventually, enough caffeine and wine permitting, I might look down and see something that doesn’t make me gag.

To give you an idea, below are some hand edits of the Introduction to The 4-Hour Chef, which–much improvement later–hit the NYT and WSJ bestseller lists in November of 2012. As I write this, it’s hovering around #180 on Amazon. Keep in mind that the below is after 5-10 drafts:

Download a full-size PDF of my edits here

Even this simple blog post, as one example, was revised and rewritten 14 times. The iteration pays off — it ended up getting 700+ comments. Conversely, one-take wonders usually get burned at the stake, and rightly so.

“Revising,” “iterating” (in start-up speak), “editing”…no matter what you call it, it’s tweaking something bad or mediocre until it finally works. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

This applies to much more than writing. Ernest would no doubt agree that my first attempt at a blog was shittier than shitty. Here are the “before” pics from 2007. Note that my friend Ramit Sethi and others had equally hideous “rough drafts” of their sites. It’s par for the course… Read More

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Tim Ferriss Interviews Neil Strauss, 7x New York Times Bestselling Author, on the Creative Process

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Did you enjoy this sample of creativeLIVE content?

If so, you’ll love my extended interview of author Neil Strauss on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. Click below to stream or you can find it on iTunes (see #15):

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A Few Thoughts on Content Creation, Monetization, and Strategy

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(Photo credit: Shewatchedthesky)

This is short post on content creation and monetization.

Below is an e-mail I received from a friend of a friend. My answers to him are inline after “TIM”, and I’ve elaborated on a few.

The e-mail itself is also a great example of a thoughtful approach to a busy person (me). I bolded one key phrase.

For those who want to explore further, here are two related posts:

How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself
Tim Ferriss Scam! Practical Tactics for Dealing with Haters

Now, let’s read that e-mail… Read More

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How a First-Time Author Got a 7-Figure Book Deal

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John Roman Romaniello
This man was paid $1,000,000+ for a book…and he’s dressed like a cow. Pic from a 4-Hour Chef sidebar that sadly had to be cut due to space constraints.

[This is a companion post to "How to (Really) Make $1,000,000 Selling E-Books – Real-World Case Studies"]

This guest post by John Romaniello will explain exactly how a first-time author can get a 7-figure book advance, as he did. He’ll also explain how he got Arnold Schwarzenegger to write the foreword to his book (!!!), which you can read here.

This post demonstrates how to sell yourself effectively and–more importantly–how to be yourself effectively.  I’ve added my own recommendations in brackets after “TIM”.  In a few instances, I’ve also corroborated specifics (e.g. dollar amounts mid-negotiation) from sources other than John, as he rightly didn’t want to earn bad blood.

Before we get started, a few statistics:

  • Less than 6% of all reported deals get an advance of more than $100k (as of 2011, and it’s gone down since)
  • On average, fewer than 100 Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers in any year sell more than 100,000 copies, and usually only one or two top 1 million sold.

In 2009, John “Roman” Romaniello might have been another casualty of these sobering stats. He launched his blog in 2009 with 0 readers.  Roman had effectively no Internet presence. By 2011, he was ranked as one of the top 100 most influential people in health & fitness, sharing space with Jillian Michaels and Dr. Oz.  He used that platform to help him build a company that has grossed as much as $240,000+ per month, with a six-figure net.  We’ll cover a lot of how he did all this and more.

But here’s the punchline: Roman’s first book deal for Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha (with a co-author, much more on this later) fetched more than $1,000,000 in advance.  

This is practically unheard of, unless you’re a president. So, how did he do it? This post explores the answers and tactics… Read More

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How to (Really) Make $1,000,000 Selling E-Books – Real-World Case Studies

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Who will be the JK Rowling of self-publishing? Better still: who will be the legions who make an extra $1,000-$1,000,000 per year? (Photo: The Telegraph, UK)

This is a guest post by Ryan Buckley and the team at Scripted. I have added my own tools and recommendations after “TIM” throughout the piece.

Enter Ryan Buckley and Team

Barry Eisler writes thrillers about a half-Japanese, half-American freelance assassin named John Rain. John Rain is the consummate anti-hero, a whiskey swilling, jazz-loving former CIA agent battling crippling paranoia as he adventures around the globe. Readers love John Rain, so much so that they’ve landed Barry Eisler and seven of his John Rain books on the New York Times Bestseller list. [TIM: Here's how the different bestseller lists work.]

Having conquered all that needs to be conquered in the world of commercial publishing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Eisler’s publisher offered him $500,000 deal for a new two-book deal.

The surprise was that Eisler turned down the deal and decided to tackle self-publishing instead.  In a freewheeling discussion with self-publishing expert Joe Konrath, Eisler says:

“I know it’ll seem crazy to a lot of people, but based on what’s happening in the industry, and based on the kind of experience writers like you are having in self-publishing, I think I can do better in the long term on my own.”

We asked Eisler for a current update, and he told us that this month (March 2013), he expects to sell 8,000 copies of his 10 self-published novels and stories, which are priced $1-5 each. Despite self-publishing his first story only two years ago, it appears he’s made the right decision. With roughly $300,000 in royalties per year, he already beat his publisher’s offer… Read More

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