What It Takes to Write a #1 Best Seller
Hundreds of thousands of new
books are published every year.
self-published and sell less than 500 copies in their first
year (and fewer each year afterward). Less than 10% will
get picked up by a major publisher, less than 1/10th
of a percent will ever make a best seller list, and less
than 1/1000th of a percent will ever hit the #1 position on
any best seller list.
So how does an author get "lucky"
enough to have a #1 best seller? Ask Glenn Shepard that question and he'll answer it
with this quote from Thomas Jefferson:
"I'm a great believer in luck. The harder I work,
the more luck I have."
Glenn self published his first three books in the nineties.
Then in 2005,
John Wiley & Sons
in New York City came calling.
Wiley is a 200
year old giant in the publishing industry. In the
1800's, they published such literary legends as Edgar Allen
Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hans Christian
Andersen, and Charles Dickens.
Today, they're the world's largest publisher of
medical, scientific, academic, and business books. They have
also published 490 authors that are
every Nobel prize category (Literature, Economics, Medicine,
Physics, Chemistry, and Peace).
They also own the
series, J.K. Lasser tax and financial guides, Webster's New
World™ dictionaries, CliffsNotes™ study guides, Frommer's™
travel guides, and Betty Crocker® and Weight Watchers®
So how does a self-published author in
Tennessee get "lucky" enough to be discovered by a giant publisher in New York City? Back to the
Thomas Jefferson quote:
"The harder I work, the more luck I
Wiley was looking for an author to write a book on
how to manage problem employees, and Glenn was racking up
the miles doing 150 seminars a year on how to manage problem
But it wasn't a given.
Even though an executive
editor at Wiley sought Glenn out, he still had to submit a
book proposal and convince a publishing committee to choose
his over thousands of others. To help with his proposal, the
executive editor at Wiley sent Glenn the proposal from another author
he had discovered and published. That author was Larry
Winget, and the book was
Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a
his after Larry's, Glenn's 4,000 word proposal earned the
approval of the publishing committee. He then made this
promise to his executive editor:
"I won't be the best
writing or best selling author you've ever signed, but I
will be the most dependable."
turned out to be much easier said than done. The manuscript had to be
at least 60,000 words, and Wiley allowed only four months to get it
completed. This meant it had to be done while Glenn was on
the speaking circuit full time.
In order to keep his
promise, he wrote non-stop from 4:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every
day that he wasn't speaking, including weekends and
holidays. On seminar days, he wrote from 4:00 a.m. till 7:00
a.m., did his seminar, travelled to the next city, and then
wrote till 9:00 p.m. every night.
His first book with
How to Manage Problem Employees.
It was not a best-seller, but sold well enough that they
offered him a second publishing deal.
His second book with
How to Make Performance
Evaluations Really Work.
It was also not a best-seller, but sold well enough that
they offered him a third publishing deal.
third book with
Wiley was How to be the Employee Your
Company Can't Live Without. For this one, he
got the CEO of Office Depot, Staples, Cessna, Ruby Tuesday,
1-800 Flowers, and Famous Dave's to endorse the book
before it went to print.
And how does one get
to have the CEOs of six of America's best known companies
endorse your book? Wiley tells its authors to spend 25% of
their time writing the book, and 75% of their time marketing
it. So again, back to the Thomas Jefferson quote:
harder I work, the more luck I have."
Glenn sent his
finished manuscript to 68 CEOs, asking them to endorse it.
He was turned down, or never
heard back, from 62 of them. That would have been
discouraging, but he had another role model he looked to for
— Thomas Edison.
Edison failed 10,000 times when
trying to invent the light bulb, so Glenn figured he was
ahead of the curve. In the end, it didn't matter how many
times he failed. What mattered was that he succeeded in
getting the endorsements of six CEOs, and that became the
centerpiece of the marketing campaign for the book.
After months and months of marketing and promotion, and with
a little help from fellow author Mark Victor Hansen ("Chicken
Soup for the Soul"), Glenn was locked and
loaded when the book was ready for release.
the last minute, along came an 800 Pound Gorilla nobody saw
coming – Hollywood.
Timing is everything in
the publishing industry. Nothing is ever left to chance.
Books are always released on Tuesdays, and blockbuster
movies are released right before long holiday weekends.
When Glenn's new
book was ready for release, the competition at the top of
the charts was even stiffer than it normally is. A book titled
Vinci Code” was being made into a movie with
Tom Hanks, another titled “Marley and Me”
was being made into a movie with Jennifer Anniston and Owen
Wilson, and another titled “Eat, Pray, Love”
was later made into a movie with Julia Roberts.
When asked how a then-unknown
author in Tennessee can compete with the power
of Hollywood, Glenn goes back to the Thomas
"The harder I work, the more luck I have."
He pulled out all the stops,
and reached out to every author, publicist, and promoter he
could find. He did non-stop radio interviews, sent
promotional copies to book reviewers at every major
newspaper in the U.S., and even went on a book signing tour
at his own expense, driving from Miami to Minneapolis.
The result was that his sixth book achieved what over
99.9999% of all books ever written will never achieve
became a #1 Best Seller.
When asked by a reporter how it feels to see your book
top the charts, Glenn answered:
"Anyone who says
grown men don't cry has never had a #1 best seller. Writing
a book is like giving birth. You put your heart and soul in
to it. It's an extension of you. it's your baby. To know
that the world loves your baby is the greatest feeling on
Glenn's books have been
published in seven languages around the world. The following
is a partial list of his international publishers and
As of 2017, he had written 647 published articles, 13 DVD
programs, and recorded over 300 CDs through his
Managers, supervisors, business owners, and HR Directors
in 23 countries now subscribe to his weekly newsletter,
"Work Is Not for Sissies".