3 Simple Mistakes That Can Kill Your Chances Of Having A Bestseller

By Jonathan Gunson
June 18th 2012

Twilight Books Mistakes are all part of the process in an author’s career, and I’ve certainly made my fair share of them over the years.  Some proved to be valuable learning experiences, but others were so fundamental that they actually held me back.

I’d like to share three of these mistakes with you today, in the hope that you can avoid the inevitable trials and tribulations that they cause.


Mistake #1 – Picking A Fiction Genre Because You Think There’s Money In It

“I’m going to write about Teenage Vampires!”  Why?  “Because they’re so popular. I want to be like Stephenie Meyer, she made a fortune from ‘Twilight’ …”

There’s grave danger in this, because if the subject has never been an interest of yours then it’s extremely hard to be convincing.  You may also run the risk of copying something very trashy.  Choose instead to write for a genre because it’s something you really enjoy and are passionate about.  (If that happens to be vampires, then that’s fine, although I suspect the days of that fiction sub-genre may be drawing to a close.)

Never underestimate how much difference this can make to your work.  Passion for a genre – or lack of it – always shows through.  When you write for a genre you’re genuinely interested in, your characters will be more colourful, your stories will be more addictive, and the world you create for your readers will be more vibrant.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can fake this.  It happens deep down at a subconscious level as you write, and readers have a ‘sixth sense’ for these things.

Example of an author with a genuine passion for a genre:  Joanna Penn

My fellow author Joanna Penn is a religious scholar, with an Oxford degree in the subject, and has written two books PENTECOST and PROPHECY, with a third one in the pipeline.Joanna Penn Books

She is obsessed with her genre (the arcane thriller) and moved to England to surround herself with the culture while writing her books.

This burning interest shines through, and readers sense it immediately – in the stories, the characters, the settings, everything.  As a result, the books receive rave reviews on Amazon and other forums, which further drive the success of her novels.

Follow Joanna’s example and choose a genre because YOU are really interested in it, not just because you think there’s money to be made there.

Mistake #2 – Failing To Write For A Specific Genre

Success as an author – I’m talking about real, life-changing, besteller success – only comes when you’re able to build a unique author BRAND.

If you want to join the ranks of famous authors, you need to become known for something unique.  The more that readers can mentally ‘place you’ as an author, the more inclined they will be to rave about your books.  (And remember, word-of-mouth recommendation is the holy grail when it comes to book sales…)

Raymond E. Feist writes fantasy.  Danielle Steel writes romance.  John Grisham writes legal thrillers.  Ruth Rendell writes crime mysteries.  Mary Higgins Clark writes suspense novels.   By sticking to their chosen genre and focusing all their creative energy in it, each has built their own amazing author brand, and become world-famous in the process.

So what’s your author ‘elevator pitch’?  In a sentence, how would you describe to a potential reader the type of books you write?

“Oh I write a bit of this, a bit of that” isn’t going to cut it.  You need to start building a strong, unique author brand, and you can take a big step in that direction by picking a genre you really like, and focusing all your time and energy into it.

Now, having said that, the fact is you don’t HAVE to write in just one genre, but as you can see, if you do it will massively raise your chances of success.

Mistake #3 – You Aren’t Truly Committed To Being An Author

‘Word-smithing’ is creative hard labor, so you need a driving force to keep going.

The magic happens when it becomes your VOCATION – when it’s who you are.

So make a decision to have a full time affair with your muse.  If for the moment you cannot do this because of circumstances beyond your control, then obsessively fit it in whenever you can.  Decide that you have no intention of keeping it as a hobby on Sunday afternoon.

Above all, create something of which you can be justifiably proud.


This means writing to express, rather than to impress.  And it means writing from the heart.

The writing must come from you, not be a slavish imitation of another.  There’s no doubt that copying is a great way to learn ‘how’.  But eventually your uniqueness must appear.

Dare to be the original, eccentric, quirky, unique individual you truly are, and you’ll stand out as a tower of strength — a welcome lighthouse amongst the sputtering lamplights of imitators.

Jonathan Gunson
Article by Jonathan Gunson
Author / CEO Bestseller Labs

Are you making any of these 3 mistakes?  Have you made other author mistakes or have an experience to share?  Please do leave a comment below.

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