You Can Be A Best-Selling Author

Author Michael John Sullivan offers up advice in how to publish your best-selling novel

E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is raking in well over a million bucks for the author. It’s a story that features a woman being dominated and is considered “reading porn” for females. It’s not a complicated plot idea – heck, you can see this almost any late night on cable in some story form.

      Sounds easy to write? Many purists have told me the writing is below average. Perhaps it’s the way the story is told, how the characters seem to reacd her predominately female audience? Should be a simple formula to follow, right? Well, in the emerging market of digital publishing, it is easier for an author to get published today. The problem is having your work stand out among the millions of other books that are out there. Could you be the next best-selling author? Sounds far fetched? Why? Why not you?

        I can certainly give you a glimpse into both self publishing and traditional publishing. My first novel, Necessary Heartbreak, was originally self-published with IUniverse in 2008. You have the option to pay for editing and a book cover. I decided against it, utilizing my own editor and designer. But it came with a hefty price. The story was 175 pages long and when I look back at it today it turns my stomach. The story idea was terrific but the execution was not.

      I subsequently revised the novel, added more depth to the characters and the plot, and Simon and Schuster bought the rights in 2010. The story was re-released as Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness. I juiced the story up with another 65 pages. Today, I wish I had been given more time to add more to the plot.

       What I learned from the experience of publishing my first novel is that it’s best to be patient with your work – have it critiqued by a group of avid readers who will give you honest opinions about every aspect of the story.

        The success of the revised story has yet to be determined since the sequel, Everybody’s Daughter, was just released. I decided to go with an independent publisher, Fiction Studio Books. There were many reasons why I made this choice but the most important one was control over pricing.

        Currently, Simon & Schuster has Necessary Heartbreak priced at $11.99 for the Kindle, higher than most e-books. I’ve priced Everybody’s Daughter at $3.47. In fact, it’s FREE this weekend, July 7th and 8th, if you want to read it on your Kindle, computer or phone. By doing this FREE promotion, it allows us as authors to reach a bigger audience and create “buzz” about the novel.

         In this very competitive market, Amazon.com is the biggest player and it’s wise to utilize their reach with the reading public.

         Are you still interested in being an author? Do you have a best-selling story to tell? Then why wait? Write. Revise. Write again. Revise again. Write some more. Revise. And revise again. And again.

         Show your manuscript to a reading group. Drop your ego too, during this oh-so-important constructive critique phase. If you don’t, your story will suffer.

         Then explore your options – finding an agent is helpful if you decide to go the traditional route. Utilize Google to research agents in your genre. You’ll get some additional important feedback from possible agents.

         Of course, you can take the same journey I did – first self-publish or find an independent publisher.

          But, remember this – NEVER give up on your dream. I waited two decades before exploring mine and got jostled around like many authors with rejection letters from editors and agents. Believe in yourself. I did.

          If you have any questions, feel free to comment here or I can be reached at my website. Happy writing!

Michael John Sullivan is an author living in New York. His second novel, Everybody’s Daughter, was published by Fiction Studio Books. The Kindle version of Everybody’s Daughter is FREE on July 7th and 8th. He can also be reached at michaeljohnsullivan.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Heidi Angell July 06, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Michael, interesting article. The message is definitely true. One should follow their dream! I got an agent, and in the mean time self-published a couple of small books. After almost two years of my agent shopping my story around, I have been delving more and more into self-publishing. It is a lot of work, but you learn so very much in the process! Of course, if I got a contract offer tomorrow that was worth the paper it was printed on, I would take it in a heartbeat! But if after two years an agent can't get me a contract, I will publish it on my own. I won't stop following my dream just because no one took a chance on my story! It is important for us to stick together and remind one another that we can do it. Thanks for the reminder!
Michael John Sullivan July 06, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Heidi, I know of several authors who could not get a traditional publisher's contract. They have gone on to be very successful in self-publishing their work. Keep believing! My inbox is filled with rejection letters :) Keep the faith.
Marianne Little July 06, 2012 at 07:41 AM
Ok Michael I will try again! This is my fourth attempt at replying! I found no problem having my biographies and family histories/genealogies published but Everybody's Daughter made me rethink my first fictional. I am thinking now that it needs to be a trilogy! Never having faced rejection, I am glad you brought it up! I will let you and others tear my fiction apart but only because Everybody's Daughter shook my life! I want a book with that much drama between the characters! Thank you for showing the rest of us what makes a fine book! Next time tell ne in advance when they go on sale for free! Now I have to hustle!! Shalom and blessings, Marianne
Marianne Little July 06, 2012 at 08:44 AM
I left you another message about reminding me next time you put your book on the free section of Amazon where I can spread the word better! Glad that circumstance led me to you! Rather interesting all the way around as I found my favorite author since Hemingway and discovered I really wanted to write fiction rather than often boring history. Historically correct fiction lets you add conversation to your characters!! Shalom, blessings and virtual Chocolate, Marianne
Michael John Sullivan July 06, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Marianne and for your support. Keep writing!
Jason Molinet July 07, 2012 at 04:12 AM
I bought the book when it came out. Now I have the Kindle version too. Thanks Mike.
Michael John Sullivan July 07, 2012 at 09:07 AM
Thanks Jason for your support. Hopefully, we can inspire more Long Islanders to write their own stories.
John A. Torres July 07, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Thanks for sharing Mike! Important message and good insights.
Joe Dowd (Editor) July 09, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Mike: Thanks. Good stuff. Do you know of writer's group on Long Island looking to read an epic novel and love story spanning 100 years of FDNY history, all through the eyes of one family? Because I know somebody who has just such a novel. He'd be interested in a little help, because his magnum opus needs to get published before he dies. Seriously.
Michael John Sullivan July 10, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Thanks John for stopping by to read the article. I don't know of any Joe. I've tried in the past to find some reputable groups but have been unsiuccessful.
Kristen Ferrari July 10, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Hi Michael, You offer great insight about self-publishing and e-publishing. I love your suggestion to leave the ego out. That is probably the best advice of course up there with never give up. Long Island Writers Guild is a group of local writers, some published, some hoping to be. It gives writers the opportunity to read their work and be critiqued. Anyone interested can google Long Island Writers Guild for the calender. Michael, I'm looking forward to reading your work!
Michael John Sullivan July 10, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Kristen, thanks so much for stopping by and giving everyone a heads up on the group. It would be nice to join a group. Hope to meet you there!
C. Becket July 28, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Long Island Romance Writers is another great local group that has a mix of published, multi-published and yet to be published authors. lirw (dot) org -- they meet monthly at various libraries and provide education, workshops and critiques/ support from other writers.
Michael John Sullivan July 29, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Yes, romance writers do support each other. Thanks for sharing.
Eileen Coles July 29, 2012 at 02:30 AM
I dated Roberta Gellis' son Mark for a while back in the early 1980s back when they lived in Albertson. She was friends with Ann McCaffrey who lived in Sea Cliff before she moved to Ireland, and this long time fantasy and science fiction geek was floored to discover she was also on a first name basis with Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mercedes Lackey, Diana Paxson, etc. Roberta was considered to be a high calibre historical romance writer (especially in that she thoroughly researched the historical aspects of her novels) but she was getting very sick and tired of "the formula" being imposed on her by the publisher, specifically the need to always have protagonists that were nobility or royalty. She actually yearned to break into science fiction/fantasy but even she with her seriously proven writing chops and industry connections could not seem to do it until she began collaborating with some of the aforementioned authors. As we were having conversations about her restiveness under "the formula" she asked permission to write me into her next book, which she insisted was going to be about the "just plain folks" of medieval history. I'd met Mark at a fencing class, and she was utterly fascinated by my tendency to carry a knife (a habit my ex-Marine current husband got me into, since we were attending college in the wild and wooly Bronx). So if anyone out there has a copy of "The Rope Dancer"... well, for what it's worth, the protagonist is based on me. :)
Eileen Coles July 29, 2012 at 02:32 AM
BTW Michael you will want to let prospective authors know that the first thing they should do with any work of theirs that they consider ready for publication is copyright it. This should be done whether you have an agent or not, whether you have a contract or an acceptance letter or not. Copyright your stuff. C.Y.A.
Michael John Sullivan July 29, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Is this the book you are speaking about? http://www.amazon.com/Rope-Dancer-Casablanca-Classics-ebook/dp/B007PUT2WA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1343529098&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Rope+Dancer
Michael John Sullivan July 29, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Yes, copyrighting all of your material is very important and easy to do.
Eileen Coles July 29, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Yep, that's the one. The Carys character is based on me.
Michael John Sullivan July 29, 2012 at 02:56 AM
How interesting! Now, I have to read it. :)
Eileen Coles July 29, 2012 at 03:09 AM
And there is one educational comment that needs to be made about a certain humorous interlude in the book... let's just say fencing is a sport. Even women who are not ladies tend to perspire after two hours working out with a sabre. *grin*
Eileen Coles July 29, 2012 at 03:22 AM
I read it about two years later while stationed in Germany... I'd totally forgotten about it by then, and the secretary in our office was a big Roberta Gellis fan. It was a very strange experience reading a book knowing that the protagonist was someone else's perception. I basically had to read it twice, once to see it stand on it's own (which it did very well) and once to kind of wrap my head around what she was doing with the character that was supposed to be me. Ultimately I was amused, and rather glad that I was in a way able to help her break out of her publisher's rigidity.
Eileen Coles July 29, 2012 at 03:32 AM
This picture of me in our fencing class was taken by Mark Gellis. I was all about being Miss Left Handed Sabre Thang in those days, LOL! Roberta told me the reason she made the character into a rope dancer was that there was no historical evidence for female sword fighters for the time period in question; and additionally the publisher was having a total spazz attack at the very thought of one of their female protagonists wielding weapons and being able to fight. This broke the precious formula, oh noooooo!! :) So she had to make do with another more historically accurate solution that they could not complain about. https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/s720x720/581951_344204742302586_813038693_n.jpg
Michael John Sullivan July 30, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Well, it's nice that you were able to inspire her in some ways. Thanks so much for sharing the inside information.


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