How to write a best selling book

One successful book per year keeps the publishing houses in life.
Media Control agency creates bestselling lists in Germany on the grounds of numerous data, including the exact number of sold exemplars in book stores. They know who byes which books in which part of Germany. Recommendations in radio and in television shows have also a great impact on selling numbers. Christine Westermann is a famous radio host and journalist. What she recommends in her radio show Im Doppelpack (WDR 5) becomes a best seller in book stores.

The German book market is the second largest book market in the world (after the USA). It generates a revenue of more than 9 billion euro – that is more than in the film, music or gaming industry.  More than 87 000 new books were published last year in Germany.  3/4 buyers don’t know which book they will buy when they come into a book store: they read the first two sentence on the back of the book, take 7 books before they decide themselves to buy one – this means that the fist impression is very important.

How does one best selling book come into being? You have one story and an unknown author. What is the recipe for success if there is one? Here are three best selling German authors:

Sebastian Fitzek (best seller author – he writes psycho-thrillers): He sent his first book to 15 publishing houses, 13 have rejected the script, 2 have never responded. Today are all his novels on the best selling list. However, when he wrote his first novel back in 2002
no one could know that. No one wanted to publish a thriller that is set in Germany. “It’s difficult if you want to do something new.” He had to wait for a long time before he finally made it. He was working on his first novel Die Therapie for 5 years, however, he believed in his story and the idea which resulted in his first psycho-thriller. The idea came to him when he was waiting for his girlfriend at the doctors in Berlin. He was waiting and waiting for her and asked himself at  one point “what would I say if someone would ask me what are you waiting for, you are sitting alone here for so long.”
He sent eventually his novel to a well known literature agent who gave him a good tip by asking: “why are you writing in
first person? Why don’t you place the plot in Germany?” After Fitzer has made the changes, his agent tried to sell the book
to the publishing houses. However, they didn’t want it until one of them said, OK, we can try with only 4000 exemplars
and with 0 euro marketing. After a couple of favourable blog enteries and recentions in the internet the novel drew attention of the thriller-fans and become a best seller. This is the recipe  for success. The point is: you should be lucky. Fitzer’s first novel
was sold in 1,2 million exemplars and was translated into 26 languages.

Rebecca Gable (best selling author – historic novels): “I remember, I was sending one chapter to publishers and receiving a standard reply after one year or in a year and a half that the novel doesn’t fit into their program. I received my script back and it was obvious
that it wasn’t even opened.” Rebecca is today popular in Germany as much as Ken Follet or Neil Gordon. She started with crimie-thrillers which were unsuccessful. However, her publishing house was ready to publish her first historic novel and it was the start of
a very successful career. Her recipe: write about that what is surrounding you. Show yourself, don’t try to copy someone else’s success.

Emily Bold (best selling author of romances): she was publishing her e-books by herself, without a publishing house, an agent, or marketing. She sold 300 000 exemplars of her books.  She had to do everything by herself. She is publishing at Amazon.

If an unknown author sends their manuscript to a publishing house, they will most probably not even read it. However, authors manage to find some other ways and networks in order to succeed. They find agents, or some foreign publishing houses try to sell a book to German publishing houses. The later offer some amount of money and authors decide who will publish their book depending on the
offered money.

There isn’t a recipe for success (at least not one) but you can try with this: 1) good agent, a lot of patience and luck; 2) people who are celebrities or have already published some best sellers will sell good (publishing houses prefer such authors); 3) a good agent and an experienced publisher are good to have  4) a story needs to have a soul.

Some of the currently best selling books in Germany:

Timur Velmes: Er ist wieder da (a satirical book about Adolf Hitler)
Giulia Ende: Darm mit Charme (a book about the human colon)

Watch a ARD video which was the source for this post.

Learn German online