Self-Published Book Awards and Best Seller Status

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
* Want to be a Best Seller?
* A Reminder
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“the internet’s and high tech’s steep and brutal downsides—political polarization for profit, the knowing encouragement of internet addiction, the destruction of childhood, a nation that has grown shallower and less able to think….” Peggy Noonan in “Artificial Intelligence in the Garden of Eden” in The Wall Street Journal

“Hubris is one of the great renewable resources.” P. J. O’Rourke

Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

Yesterday my wife forwarded me URL that outlines the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. I will not be entering, but I thought I’d forward it on to you in case you’re interested.

Note: the deadline for entry is May 1, so slightly over a week away.

Note: the entry fee is $125 for the first entry. I didn’t read beyond that.

The link with all the pertinent information is

If you decide to enter, good luck.

Want to be a Best Seller?

If you’re a pure fiction writer—by which I mean if you can be happy enough just sitting alone in a room making shtuff up—good for you. Welcome to the club.

But if you’d like to make an actual living as a self-published author, there are two essential steps, and from what I’ve seen, there is no way around them.

  • Learn marketing
  • Do marketing

Consider James Patterson: He never grounds the reader in the setting, he seldom if ever invokes the five physical senses of the POV character, and tension is all but non-existent in his novels, yet he’s a bestselling author.

You, on the other hand, can write circles around Patterson and barely make coffee money. The difference? Patterson spent years working for the major advertising and marketing firm J. Walter Thompson Company in New York City. Tada!

It harms my pride too much to derive from those facts that craft doesn’t matter, but as much as I hate to say it, I’m pretty sure marketing matters more.

If I had it all to do over again, I would do exactly what I’m doing right now with regard to the actual writing:

  • I would attempt to adhere to Heinlein’s Rules, especially Rule 3,
  • I would write into the dark, trusting my creative subconscious and reporting the story as it unfolds and as my characters and I race through it together; and in that I would
    • ground the reader at the beginning of every major scene, invoking the POV characters physical and emotional senses whenever possible,
    • use pacing relevant to the scene and reader expectations for that genre, and
    • end every chapter and major scene with a cliffhanger.
  • Finally, I would also continue to study the works of masterful fiction writers to learn “how they did that” and then apply what I learned.

Doing those three major things—adhering to Heinlein’s Rules, WITD without doubting and double-checking myself, and learning/applying craft techniques as I go—would enable me to get hours and days and months and years of practice that writers who are mired in the myths will never get because they’re too busy hovering over one work instead of writing.

But in addition to doing what’s proven successful for me and for most major long-term professional fiction writers, I would also do my level best to develop an interest in marketing—at least enough to stay awake during even a single university class on the subject, a level of tolerance I do not currently possess—and then I would go earn at least an associate’s degree and preferably a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Marketing.

Because folks, that’s where the sales are, and that is where the bestseller status is hiding.

Now, there are Marketing programs in many university systems, and there are probably free classes (even free university classes) via the Internet, and there are many, many valid books on marketing available to you.

I suggest you get started. And good luck.

A Reminder

I will post results from the ongoing Bradbury Challenge tomorrow as promised. Those of you who are involved in the challenge, get your title, word count and genre in to be before I go live with the Journal tomorrow morning.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “This Fiction Business: A Review” at I’ve been meaning to list this for awhile. Check it out.

See “What Really Killed Hank Williams Senior” at A good homage to a truly great writer. I recommend a subscription to Garry’s newsletter.

See “Becoming a Brand Name” at

See “Artificial Intelligence in the Garden of Eden” at

See “Character Type & Trope Thesaurus Entry: Hero” at After my note on characters a few days ago. Note: I do not endorse using any “builders” of any kind as regards your writing.

See “90% of My Skills Are Now Worth $0” at Whatever.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 820

Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)

Day 11… 0323 words. Total words to date…… 19819
Day 12… 2445 words. Total words to date…… 22264
Day 13… 3184 words. Total words to date…… 25448

Total fiction words for April……… 17276
Total fiction words for 2023………… 83464
Total nonfiction words for April… 16850
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 79110
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 162574

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

2 thoughts on “Self-Published Book Awards and Best Seller Status”

  1. Thanks for posting my review, Harvey.

    You make a fair point about learning marketing. I’ve learned I have to set some time aside to ACTUALLY market and collect emails. Not every second can be allocated towards writing and craft. I want to make an effort to support and share the work of other indie writers as well. It doesn’t hurt.

    Side note: I’m failing the short story challenge it seems….but I’m restarting and have already made strides to hit my target for the week. For the writer who may read this, you will have moments where the writing just isn’t happening. Life will sometimes throw a wrench in your plans (like a recent ER visit in my case) and steal your time. Just take a moment to pause, reassess, and start again. No harm done.

    • Thanks, Frank. Of course, “every moment” can’t be spent writing. More’s the pity. Most people who call themselves professional writers don’t spend more than an hour a day writing, if that. (I really don’t get that.) If I could, I would literally write in every moment. I’d love to live in my characters’ world 24/7.

      Re supporting and sharing the work of other writers, my characters are often found (in their story) reading a novel (title) by another real writer. I figure just in case the reader might look it up. Can’t hurt. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say.

      On the marketing stuff, I do recommend it, but I don’t personally set aside any time to do marketing. I just don’t really care. Of course, part of that’s my age (child of the ’60s), and part of it is just my attitude. My heirs, should they decide to put a little effort into marketing, will rake in stacks of money. And if they don’t, they won’t, and I won’t really care because I won’t be here.

      But yes, I agree with your advice re challenges and goals. If you don’t hit it, shrug, it resets tomorrow or next week or next year anyway. Think of the words/stories you have that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t tried the challenge at all. That said, if a writer is currently not overstressed about something (death, major move, etc.) s/he should be able to chisel out time in the week to spend a few hours wriitng a short story.

      It all boils down to math. There are 24 hours in a day, and you sleep a set number of those. If you have a regular job, some hours are dedicated to that. It’s up to each of us how we allocate/spend the remaining hours.

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