Going Professional | Beginning Your Journey to Publication

Hi everyone! My name is Dorothy Renee, but you can call me Dot. My goal is to become a professional published writer and to have my book appear on the New York Times Bestseller List someday. In order to begin my journey to professionalism, I have created social media accounts on both Instagram and Twitter. Is there a specific way to become a “professional” author? Do you have to be published? Do you have to do this and only this for a living?

Questions for you beloooow! ↓
How do you get publishers to take you seriously?
What should/shouldn’t you share on a professional social media?
How do you attract readers to your books?
Why do you think books with what people would consider “unique” ideas don’t get as many reads as books that follow a certain formula?

Welcome, Dot!

To get on the NY Times Bestseller List you will almost certainly have to do so with a book that is traditionally published.

You become a professional author when you treat writing as a profession, and you produce books that are of professional quality and make them for sale. You can do this via traditional publishing or self publishing, but as mentioned, if your goal is the NY Times Bestseller List, you need to focus on trad.

No, you don’t have to do this and only this for a living. In fact, only a teeny tiny percentage of writers would EVER be able to do this for a living, unless they either have a spouse with a steady job (and insurance) or are willing to live as a starving artist forever.

  1. You educate yourself about the industry, query a professional-quality manuscript, and treat all negotiations and interactions as if they were business interactions – because they are.

  2. Well, this is a question open to debate. Some would say don’t put anything controversial out there, but there are some VERY popular writers who are uber political, use constant bad language, and who are happy to wade into shitstorms of controversy.

Ultimately, I think you need to think about your BRAND. What is appropriate for your brand? If you write sweet romances or children’s books, I’d say dropping f-bombs in every post is inappropriate.

The most important thing to understand, though, is that social media is SOCIAL. It’s not for marketing. People will not follow you and read your posts and share them and interact with you if it’s all about you and your books. Be an interesting person; don’t troll; be generous with your sharing of and interacting with other people’s posts.

Honestly, I think the only thing that’s truly out of bounds is being an asshole. You can e controversial – just don’t be an ass about it.

  1. The million dollar question. Write books people want to read. Define your target reader. Let your target reader know your book exists. Rinse and repeat – a lot. What works to do all that changes frequently, so I’d recommend you find online groups with working writers who are sharing what works and study it (and keep studying it).

  2. People want to read things they believe they will like. They trust the formula. They also trust their friends. Finding people who love your work who will sing your praises to their friends is the secret of great success.

Your subject line, by the way, says “beginning your journey.” Honestly, the first step is to master the craft of novel writing and learn to write a professional-quality manuscript. That can take years and many, many trunked novels. Don’t focus so much on publication that you gloss over the first step.


Hi, is it that hard for self-published books to get on the best-sellers list? Are there a few best-selling self-published authors that regularly make the lists?

If a self-published author’s book sells millions of copies–can that help its chances to get on the best-sellers lists?

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The NYT list is not a list of the bestselling books. It is a ‘curated’ list that the editors prune to keep it reflective of what’s popular in trad publishing (except trad pub conservative books, they’re also discriminated against)

It is almost impossible for indie books to make the list, for this reason. The USA today list is more about actual sales, and they have more indie books on their list.

" The most important bestseller list is The New York Times bestseller list, and they are the worst culprit at this curated elitism. They readily admit that their list is only reflective of books that are selling at a certain number of bookstores and online retailers around the country – but not an actual bestseller list. You know why they have to admit this publicly? They were sued about it . . .

. . . Everyone in publishing has seen this many times. You can see this clearly if you have access to Nielsen Bookscan. which is the database that tracks paid sales covering about 70 to 80 percent of book outlets. I have access . . . and I can see how much the New York Times List varies from the Nielsen report of actual books sold. Anyone in publishing can see this, and it is a known fact . . .

. . . The New York Times still won’t recognize any book that doesn’t come from one of the big New York publishing houses as being fit for their list. That’s why I said it’s a high school clique mentality.

This is why most of the self-published or hybrid published books that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies over the past decade have never appeared on this list. They refuse to recognize them."


@AlecHutson @Chaunalea Hi, to your comments, I certainly don’t intend to write books on Wattpad my whole life, and I do want to become traditionally published someday. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old and minoring in English at college, so I want to hone my craft a little before I write a book intended for traditional publishing, but I do want to do it. Even if I don’t end up on a bestseller list, I do want to be traditionally published and see my book in stores

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Best of luck.

Write a lot, read a lot, and don’t get discouraged. Most writers who are trad published spent years and years honing their craft, submitting books, and getting rejected.

You can do this, these days it is possible. I’ve got one book contracted with a publisher, two with WP Paid Stories and have just started on a Romantic Suspense line i will self-publish. Once my trad-pubbed book comes out, I’ll follow with the self-pubs - you need more than one novel to gain traction unfortunately.
Write, read and work on the quality of your stories and success will come.

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What @AlecHutson wrote is 1000% spot on.

There are many different best seller lists with varying levels of prestige. The NY Times Bestseller List has high prestige externally, but it’s VERY biased against indies. There have been enough shenanigans related to that list that I have lost ALL respect for it.

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Welcome Dot, I’m both a professionally published author and I’ve been on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Personally, I think Goodreads is a better social media presence than Twitter and Instagram. Why? Well, it’s 100% dedicated to books and the other sites are talking about all kind sof things.

Yes you have to “publish” - that goes without saying. Now that may be fiction or non-fiction, self-published or traditionally published, but your best chance for a NYT bestseller probably is with traditional, as bookstore sales are a big part of that, and when self-published you generally aren’t carried by bookstores.

Most publishing deals go through an agent, so it’s they who you have to impress. Here is a good resource to (a) help you find agents and (b) help hone your query.

You should always be “genunie” but you probably shouldn’t speak ill of other authors and/or their books.

Goodreads is a good place to start…but don’t go there trying to sell your book. Go there as a reader first, and let the readers discover you are also a writer.

When it comes to publishing, publishers want a book that is easy to classify (so they can approximate it’s potential against other “comps.” They want “fresh” but not “too fresh.”

I hope this helps.

Yes it is more difficult to hit the New York Times Bestseller list if self-publsihed. Other lists aren’t as hard (USA Today for instance) it all depends on how the list “calculates” the numbers. For the NYT a big component is bookstore sales (from certain bookstores that is not widely known) and most self-published books won’t be carried in bookstores because they use print-on-demand rather than a print-run and warehouse/wholesale model.

There are some authors who have made the NYT and are self-published, but the vast majority are traditionally published.

Bestseller lists are not calculated over “lifetime sales” - they are focused on 1 week’s worth of data. So, there are many, many books that have sold more (over their lifetime) than many New York Times bestsellers (who have had only a single week’s worth of sales.

For instance, one of my books has hit the NYT bestseller list, but I have 7 books that have sold more than it has. Now, part of that is the other books “went on sale” long ago", but even so, if you look at the amount of sales over say 1 year period of each book, my NYT bestseller is far from the title that sold the most copies over its first year.


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