Achieving bestseller status is a dream many indie authors feel inspired to pursue. Gaining a bestseller title from prestigious publications such as Wall Street Journal or USA TODAY not only gives an author an accolade for their title, but it can also change the path of their career. However, the process of earning the title can be more demanding—and more costly—than you might expect. To gain perspective on just what a list-making run entails, it helps to walk in the shoes of someone who has done it many times before.

Renee Rose is a multi-time USA TODAY bestselling author and the author of the new release Write To Riches: 7 Practical Steps to Manifesting Abundance from Your Books. Her past five co-authored titles made the USA TODAY Bestsellers list, and she’s recently had a list hit with a solo title.

Rose’s latest new release made the USA TODAY list without a marketing push, accumulating four thousand auto buys on the first day. Rose began her bestseller career making the USA TODAY list with multi-author anthologies, climbing her way up a self-described ladder of success in order to make the list on her own.

“The first five or six times were anthology list runs. The first time was to get my letters [make a bestseller list], and the other anthology runs were to help other people get theirs,” Rose says. She’d recommend the path to other authors, though it does come with some risk. “Ninety-nine-cent anthology runs are a great way to start because you can split the cost with other authors, and we always made the money back. We’ve made the list with as little as three thousand dollars; however, we also missed it with three thousand.”

Once she had several anthology titles under her belt, Rose focused on building her brand by making a list with her co-author, without enticing readers with a discounted book.

“Another bar to climb was hitting the list on a full-price book. My co-author and I spent big, more than a thousand dollars a day in Facebook ads, but we didn’t need to bring that nervous energy,” Rose notes. “We had a frantic energy to it, which I don’t think helps—thinking, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got to hit now, and we’ve got to spend more.’ When you bring that energy to it, you’re not embodying a bestseller. You’re muscling into the energy and forcing it to come.”

Rose insists that being in the right frame of mind and having a positive attitude is far more important to any sale than any marketing campaign or promotions could be.

“You can’t bring in a fearful energy that you’re not good enough and that you’re not going to make it. The one book we did a USAT [USA TODAY] run on that didn’t hit had that negativity,” she says. “Believe in your books, because if you believe in your books, you’ll be willing to invest the money and take the risk. You don’t want to have the thought, ‘I want to hide in the closet and hope I make the list.’ If you believe in your book, you’ll act accordingly, and when you believe, others will too. The readers will pick up on the energy you’re putting out.”

Rose notes that her experiences going for a solo title USA TODAY run was different than making a run with a group of authors or even with her co-author. She states that her success came not from a big advertising spend but a change in mindset. 

“The first time I had a BookBub for a solo title, the sale wasn’t going well, so I pulled back on spending and doubled down on love,” she says. “I checked in with my book and asked what it wanted, and the book said, ‘I want you to already believe I’m a bestseller.’ I was holding back my love, thinking that the book might not be good enough to hit a list. But then I opened up and told the book, ‘You’re amazing the way you are. I love you and appreciate you, and I’d like you to hit the list.’ That’s when I made the list with four thousand sales.”

The feelings you have around your book and your sale, however, are what Rose emphasizes are most important. 

“Ask your book what it needs to hit the list. If it says nothing, to sit back and believe, then do it. If it tells you to book newsletter swaps and post every day, it might need some help. And don’t book promotions with that sick feeling of, ‘Oh, this is a lot of money to spend.’ That’ll weigh you down. You could push hard on one release and sit back on the rest,” Rose says. “Alternate action; sometimes you have to push big, and sometimes you coast. It’s that inner knowing. Trying energy is different than bringing in money energy. You have to be all in.”

For practical advice, Rose says that paying attention to multiple areas helps with the longevity of a list-making run. “Book every promotion you can. I’ve given that advice so many times, and no one takes it. Book promotions you don’t even think will work, and make sure to push every platform equally.”

Mental health should also be a priority during a list-making run, according to Rose. Take time for self-care and self-love, and know that what you’re offering to readers has value and is important to the world. Thinking of yourself and your book as inadequate will only cause the sale to struggle.

“Be an invitation instead of yanking readers in,” Rose says. “You can always feel the desperation in a push—a hunger, but not in a good way. Reverse the flow and pull the success in. Be in a state of receiving love from readers instead of a state of giving something to the world that readers don’t want.”

Rose doesn’t believe in gatekeeping; that is, she doesn’t believe authors should gatekeep themselves or others when it comes to making a list. She believes every way to earn a USA TODAY title is valid, no matter if it’s with a solo author title or in a group anthology. Instead, she encourages authors to believe in themselves and to remove the self-imposed hurdles we are all apt to put on ourselves.

“A short story can hit the USAT [USA TODAY] list just like a full-length novel can,” Rose says. “You should be just as proud as making the list with a multi-author anthology as you are a solo title. They’re all equal.”

This is the second and final story in a series of articles exploring techniques for reaching bestseller status as a self-published author.

Picture of Megan Linski-Fox

Megan Linski-Fox

Megan Linski lives in Michigan. She is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author and the author of more than fifty novels. She has over fifteen years of experience writing books alongside working as a journalist and editor. She graduated from the University of Iowa, where she studied Creative Writing. ​ Megan advocates for the rights of the disabled, and is an activist for mental health awareness. She co-writes the Hidden Legends Universe with Alicia Rades. She also writes under the pen name of Natalie Erin for the Creatures of the Lands series, co-authored by Krisen Lison.

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