10. Build a Time Machine that Also Travels Around the World. Kind of like a T.A.R.D.I.S. I cannot express the importance of this step enough (see point number 7 in Chasing the Unicorn) and next week I promise to post a handy ‘How to Build a Time Machine’ guide. Without a time machine it is next to impossible to have a best-selling novel. For instance, did you know that The Little Prince, first published in 1943, has sold over 200 million copies? The Little Prince is a sweet and moving tale written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He was actually kind of important to the war effort so when you go back in time and steal his story don’t like, kill him or anything. But definitely steal his story and publish it and then come back to the future and bask in the luxurious wealth and fame of having sold 200 million copies of anything. Plus Stephen King. He would very much appreciate the irony of someone coming back in time to steal his stories/murder him and also steal his stories to make themselves rich in the process.
9. Mash two stories together. Throw in some zombies/vampires/werewolves/supernatural creature of your choosing. For instance, take a successful pre-existing book like Jane Eyre and smush it together with a horde of ravening zombies. But don’t actually do that because it’s been done. A bunch. By more than one person.
8. Be a scientist. This usually but not always also means being a dude. Often also means having some kind of wealthy background/financial security to have gone to school for a thousand years to become a scientist. Go on a lot of TV shows. Be funny. Get your own show. Develop the ability to translate science-y things from math into snappy sound-bites. Write all the things.
7. Speaking of science, use statistical stylometry to write a book. This is a for-real thing!
Scientists have developed an algorithm which can analyse a book and predict with 84 per cent accuracy whether or not it will be a commercial success.
A technique called statistical stylometry, which mathematically examines the use of words and grammar, was found to be “surprisingly effective” in determining how popular a book would be.
The group of computer scientists from Stony Brook University in New York said that a range of factors determine whether or not a book will enjoy success, including “interestingness”, novelty, style of writing, and how engaging the storyline is, but admit that external factors such as luck can also play a role.
6. Actually have already written a bunch of best-selling books. It’s much easier to write a best-seller when you’ve already written a bunch of best-sellers and people recognize your name. See James Patterson, Gillian Flynn, John Green, etc.
5. Write a book that someone makes into a TV show. Better yet, write a series of books that someone makes into a TV show. Well, hello, Game of Thrones, fancy meeting you here! Step right up, Walking Dead! How d’you do, True Blood? The absolute best ever is to have an UNFINISHED series that gets adapted into television so that fans of the show will lose their minds when the a new book comes out because the season finale ended on a cliffhanger and they need to know what happens next.
4. Write a book that someone makes into a movie. This is a great strategy because you will have sold a decent number of books before your story was made into a movie but once it is an actual movie, your publisher will re-package the book with photos of actors from the movie that people like and know and they will buy your re-issued book like lemmings and OK, probably never read it but give a copy to their nieces or pretend to have read it at Book Club but who cares? You will now have a best-seller instead of a good-seller. Bonus points for having the film adapted twice, once by a fantastic non-American director and once by a usually reliable American director who remakes the non-American movie shot-by-shot but with American actors and in English because apparently Americans cannot read sub-titles. See: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Let the Right One In.
3. Be a rich white lady. Have a ‘spiritual awakening.’ Travel to places. Be utterly insensitive to the people who already live in the places you visit. Pretend they didn’t exist before you got there. Write about becoming one of them but also, more awesome than them because you are a rich white lady.
2. Be already famous. This is a super important pro-tip. Being already famous will boost your books sales enormously. You can write whatever you want if you’re already famous. You can “write” a memoir (we all know you hired a ghost-writer) (sidebar: I would love to be your ghost-writer for a reasonable fee, famous person), a cook-book, weird fiction or a funny thing. The key is to already be a person people know from other things.
1. Hugging the Narwhal Accomplish steps 2, 3, (you don’t have to be a lady but it helps if you are white) and 6. So be a famous, rich, best-selling author. You could also have achieved steps 4 and 5. Famous, rich, best-selling author whose books have been adapted into films and TV. Actually you don’t even need the best-selling author bit but should already be famous. Write a children’s book that debuts as a best-seller. Write an adorable children’s book. Write an adorable children’s book that is wonderfully illustrated and whimsical but with an essential life lesson as subtext. You could call your book, for instance, something cute like Hugging the Narwhal (copyright patent pending trademark). Make sure the character is eye-catchingly, unforgettably, lovably drawn. Slap that character on EVERYTHING: T-shirts, onesies, baby clothes, hats, pajamas, tote bags, stickers that stick onto things that don’t already have the adorable character on it. Adapt adorable character into plush toys, collectible toys, expand the character’s universe so that all their friends are also made into toys that are highly collectible. Have your successful instantly recognizable character feature in its own animated series. Sell that animated series around the world. Adapt it into every language. Make Blu-ray specials, sell them in boxed sets. Make a movie adaptation; make sure adorable animated characters are voiced by very famous people. Embroil yourself in a legal battle over copyright of famous adorable character. Saturate the market place so thoroughly with your character that people get sick of it and stop buying your character-related items. Go to sleep for 20 years. Wake up then re-release ALL the things which will now be “retro” and “vintage” and “classic” and in high demand by people who liked your thing when they were little but now have kids of their own. Update and re-define your character. Release ALL NEW animated series, toys, clothes, etc. Rinse and repeat once a generation, thus ensuring your legacy of ruling as best-selling author for all time. Just don’t be surprised when someone in a time machine shows up to murder you/steal all your stories.
*Illustration by Connor Bennett. New drawings coming soon!