How did I achieve Bestseller Status?

My head is still spinning from discovering My book Killer's Craft, was sitting at number 3 on the bestseller shelf in Waterstones. This was alongside some highly respected writers. How did I find myself there is a question I am still asking. The answer is, I am not entirely sure. However, in the interests of helping others I will try and work it out. Join me in my quest. 

I think the answer partly lies In the fact that I am quite a social person, and fairly confident. The story starts about 10 months ago when I went into my local Waterstones bookshop. For those outwith the UK, this is a large bookshop chain. I asked if I could hold a book launch for my first book, Killer's Countdown. This was despite the fact that I had nothing to show them other than a photo of the cover on my mobile phone. I must have been persuasive because the manager agreed to take a risk on a debut author and agreed. I then invited people to come along to the launch. Over a hundred people came on the night and we had a blast. Waterstones then continued to promote the book giving it space in the window, on crime tables, and at the front of the store. The book caught readers attention and imagination and continued to sell well. 

Other Waterstones in Scotland then stocked the book. I spent a few heady days going to local branches and taking photos of my book on the shelves. Exciting times for a new author.

These were shared on social media and my friends and followers enjoyed seeing them. They were shared by others and the book sold well. The Dundee branch of Waterstones were delighted with the way sales were going, as was I.

By the time the second book Killer's Craft came out there were many people waiting for it. Again the book launch was packed, with standing room only. Karen Wilson of GingerSnaps Images took professional photos. Again I shared them on social media and they were in turn shared by others. Waterstones continued to give the book exposure with my own table at the front of the store and in areas with high footfall. I have built up a good relationship with the staff in Waterstones and they have been supportive and helpful every step of the way. 

I have also done a lot of visits to local libraries and to fetes and fairs. Of course you sell books at these events but it is also about reaching out to the community. It is about interacting with others in a real way. Those attending may not buy your book on the day but they know about it and may buy in the future. You cannot underestimate the power of exposure. It is said that someone has to see a product at least six times before they buy into it. 

However, everything I did was not about promoting the book. Social media is called that for a reason. It. Is about building up relationships. It is about being friendly and encouraging to others. It is about sharing something of yourself and allowing people to get to know you. It is also about supporting other authors, celebrating their successes and supporting them when things are not going well. 

I think the covers have also helped to sell the books. These were professionally designed by Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics. I am sure you will agree, Cathy has got the branding spot on. The covers are striking and stand out on any shelf. Many people have commented on the fact that they wanted to read the book just by seeing the cover alone. 

My advice to all authors is to give it a go. Approach a bookshop and ask them if they would like you to do a book launch or a book signing. Build up relationships with them. Be friendly and talk to people but not just about books. In other words be yourself but at the same time be passionate about what you do.  

I hope following my journey has helped you today, or will help you in the future. Believe in yourself and what you do. Follow your dreams as you never know where they may lead. 

About the Author

Wendy lives, and writes, in Dundee Scotland. Her first book, Killer's Countdown, was published in November, 2014. The second book in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Killer's Craft, will be released on 20th July, 2015. You can find out more on her:



Mari Biella said…
Congratulations, Wendy! Seeing your book up there must be so exciting. Good advice, too, about approaching bookstores - which I might try, if I lived in an English-speaking country!
Wendy H. Jones said…
Thank you Mari. I agree that can be an issue if your book is in English.
Dennis Hamley said…
Wendy, I am prostrate with admiration and envy. I've neve had much luck in approaching bookshops directly. In fact when I first came to Oxford and approached the independent bookstore just up the road I was given an immediate brush-off which still rankles. Was it something I said? Surely not: they didn't give me time to say anything.
Chris Longmuir said…
I'm absolutely delighted you're doing so well, Wendy, particularly as I know you had a difficult debate with yourself on whether to publish your books independently. I bet you're glad you took the plunge now. And I'm full of admiration of your marketing skills. I'm afraid natural Scottish reticence gets in the way of mine. Great post.
Jan Needle said…
Fantastic, Wendy. Amazed at you tenacity and time-input. (Jealous, too). I'm like Chris, except mine's not Scottish reticence, it's my very own bone-idle-ism!
Bill Kirton said…
Great news Wendy. Maybe I should move to Dundee. For years (literally), I've been emailing, phoning and actually going into the Aberdeen branch to try to see the manager face to face. She made soothing noises now and then but nothing ever came of it. Maybe it's time to try again, especially since, as you know, Cathy Helm's in the process of rebranding my Jack Carston series. Your post brings hope.
glitter noir said…
Great post, Wendy. And great story. I have just one wish: that you'd clarified whether the print copies were self-published and in what way: on demand? I'd also like to see a follow-up post applying what you've learned to Ebooklandia.

The bookstore part resonated with me because I worked in a great indie bookstore in Atlanta for nearly a decade. And, as the fiction section manager, I met scores of authors. They all wanted the same thing, of course: top shelf placement and recommendations. But they went about it in different ways. Most were aggressively self-aggrandizing, expressing no interest in me or the other staff. They got nowhere. The few who 'broke through' treated us like people and showing real interest in our store and our lives. What a difference!
glitter noir said…
Bill, get to the manager by getting to the staff. Talk with them, show up with donuts, charm them--they'll do the rest. Study the tactics of the greatest hustler of all: Jacqueline Susann.
madwippitt said…
Wooohoooo! Way to go!
Lydia Bennet said…
Congratulations, Wendy! I was excited to see my second crime novel in WHSMith, in their charts in airport and station shops - however Waterstones, who used to be quite keen to let us sell our books, suddenly changed policy and became much sniffier, so you did well to get yours in there - and to get so many to the launch - a hundred is amazing, from one town. We all heard that Waterstones head office had in particular told branches not to let self-pub authors hold signings, which is a shame as when I did them I sold quite a lot. Maybe it's individual branch managers who are deciding these things now.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Thank you everyone. I agree I have been very fortunate. I think the managers of individual stores have a lot more leeway now, Lydia,Manichaeism worked in my favour. Bill it may be worth trying Aberdeen again.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Typo and even I have no clue what Inaws saying. I think I've just invented a new word
laura said…
Many Congratulations!

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