What could be more wonderful for a cowboy author than the feat of climbing all the way to the top of the Western bestseller charts? It’s a difficult job—but someone has to be number one, right? When I first started helping authors sell their books, there was a certain author who used to hold the top spot (and many other chart positions) for months. He was the top dog. This very talented author would release a book every thirty days and… it would reach the very top of the bestseller chart. We—myself and fledgling Western authors—would marvel at his top successes, but how was it done? How did he manage to turn out hit after hit after hit?
In the beginning stages, it comes down to you, me and them. That’s the answer. You, as the writer, create a Western adventure that readers will want to read. Me—I put the book in the position of being seen; and then there’s them—yes, those good folks who see, purchase and read the books. Those are the people we are most interested in hearing from. They call all the shots.
I think it’s a misconception that writers have, thinking their own taste will match that of the reader. This has proven to be a mistake time and time again. The reader marches to his own drum. The reader buys what the reader wants to buy—and no amount of prophesizing, bullying and/or advertising can make the reader do something they don’t want to do. Remember, any salesman worth his salt knows that when you make a sale—you’re helping the other person, who will in turn help you. All of this obsessive, high-powered selling that authors try to do is ridiculous. Give the reader what the reader wants, and in return, the reader will purchase your books.
Now, I understand some authors just want to write what they want to write and design the cover they want to see on the book. That’s fine. But for those who are looking for a great success, looking to sell a lot of books, looking to be a bestseller—you’ve got to get down to the brass tacks. The reader calls the shots.
That great author who so inspired my work had the knack for understanding what readers wanted. By studying his work, I could see that he approached covers with an eye toward the reader who so adores Western novels. He approached using titles that could have easily been used for a Western motion picture. He came up with names, series titles—the works—the man was a genius. But what happened to him?
He became so aware of the Western readership that he thought he could influence readers to buy what they didn’t want. Poor choice after poor choice was made. Bad covers, second rate titles, sloppy writing. He was hit by the need for greed—and, consequently, out went the readers’ needs, out went the need to please those silent partners who read the books, and in came the callous, green greed. His run of successes was over. He was no more.
And in came Paul L. Thompson. So far, we have had eighty-one successes together. Millions of pages read. He was followed by… well, you name them! Cherokee Parks, Robert Hanlon, C. Wayne Winkle, Mike Mackessy, Mark Baugher, William H. Joiner, Jr., James Scott, Randall Dale—heck, I can’t keep reading them off. But the point is: When you’re looking to sell books, don’t forget that your best friend is the reader, and that reader can become more and more enamoured… or drop you like a hot stone if you give them reason to.
You may even find that you enjoy the process of pleasing readers with books more than writing ’em! It’s a good feeling when you hit the top. Now, if you have any questions, send me a note through the form below. Always happy to hear from you!