New Author? Simple Steps to Success

Tips for new authors by bestselling novelist Christine Nolfi.Recently I enjoyed a delightful conversation with a debut novelist that reminded me of the steps required to succeed in publishing.

If you’re new to the process, take a deep breath. Believe me, many writers publish a first book without a clear understanding of the tasks undertaken to reach visibility. I was among them. A traditional deal didn’t materialize, my critique partners suggested I publish Treasure Me independently, and I was off to the races.

If you’ve done your homework (and I hope you have) the bulk of your time pre-publication was spent learning to tell a story in a compelling fashion and familiarizing yourself with reader expectations for the genre in which you write. And it goes without saying great cover art is a must.

Now you’ve set your story on the world stage. Here are a few tips:

Forget Free. If you have nothing else to sell, what’s the point? Free books on Amazon or other sites rarely offer a quick avenue to reviews. Too many books are now given away, and eReaders are chock full. Sadly, many readers equate freebies with low quality unless you’ve built a backlist with impressive review scores.

One Reader Then Another. Here’s the exception to the rule, above. Every writing career begins with a small group of avid fans. I know a New York Times bestselling author with a mailing list of thousands and 800 core fans. The minute she sends out a mailer announcing a new release, she’s assured hundreds of immediate downloads or paperback purchases. Needless to say, her core readership (not to mention her mailing list in total) continues to grow.

How to begin building a fan base? Join a book club in your area and, in person, offer your book for free in trade for an honest review. Contact other regional clubs, and make the same offer. On Goodreads, take the time to become friends with a handful of readers in your genre, send direct message, and ask if they’ll review.

A freebie on Amazon may result in thousands of downloads then radio silence. Cultivating 50 true relationships may result in 48 reviews—and readers interested in joining your mailing list for news on future releases and promotions. Trust me, it is that simple.

If you’d like pointers on a serious review push, read Reviews Sell Books.

Write Fast—And Well. Have you begun work on your second novel? Please do. Bibliophiles don’t wish to fall in love with a single work. They want to discover a new author with a healthy backlist they can spend months savoring. As you pick up fans for your debut, dazzle them with sneak peeks of book two on your blog or through email.

One, Two, Three—Begin! Once you’ve published your third novel, the real fun begins. If your books are page-turners, offering your debut at a steep discount (or free) will spur sales of your newer releases. Periodically I offer backlist titles for 99-cents, and enjoy weeks of additional purchases rippling through my other works. This is how working novelists pay the bills.

By the way, take care not to discount a new release too quickly. Consider waiting a minimum of four months. If your core readers purchased at full-price, how will they feel if the work is on discount a few weeks after publication? Cheated, no doubt—and when you publish the following book, they might refrain from buying. You will have taught them to hold out for a lower price.

Use Free Creatively. You’ll find oodles of blog posts on the necessity of free books but, frankly, I don’t agree with the strategy. A well-written and beautifully plotted novel takes months of work. Why give it away? Write a short story and offer it free. Or write several. Connect with other authors in your genre and publish an anthology free or at a discount. I continue to gain new fans whenever readers stumble across Her Books Presents: Book Club Picks, Cooking With Our Characters and Lost Love Letters: An Indie Chicks Anthology.

Photo © Dreamstime

About Christine Nolfi

I owned a small public relations firm in Cleveland, Ohio, but closed it fifteen years ago after I traveled to the Philippines and adopted a sibling group of four children. I've been writing novels fulltime since 2004. If you enjoyed this post today, please follow me and subscribe to my blog.


  1. What an excellent article, Christine. There is nothing better than first-hand experience when it comes to offering advice to new writers venturing into the world of publishing for the first time.

  2. This is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you!

  3. This is timely information. Thanks!

  4. Claire Banschbach says:

    Great advice for a newly published author like myself. It’s quite a daunting task.

  5. Excellent insights on building a fan base. I’ve been looking for some pointers, and I wholeheartedly agree with the issue of freebies. The other thing I would add is to make sure that your works are properly edited. The number of low cost books with serious grammatical issues or major weaknesses in story make many readers turn off from new writers because of quality issues.

    • Christine Nolfi says:

      Janelle, I wholeheartedly agree. A professional presentation–proper editing, formatting, cover art–is critical to a book’s success.

      Wishing you all the best with your publishing career!

  6. Great post Christine!

  7. Very helpful advice for all of us who write, new and old alike.

  8. This is a refreshing twist on the current advice I’ve seen. It makes sense to cultivate readers who will come back, not just ‘numbers’

    • Christine Nolfi says:

      Tracy, I’ve never understood the “numbers only” approach. Cultivating and keeping a growing reader base will assure your success. Good luck!

  9. Kimberly J Fuller says:

    This article is a breath of fresh air! I find that building a fan base is far more difficult than I ever imagined. But I’m pressing onward. :0)

  10. This is an excellent article, very simple and infomative. Thank you for your time and advice.

  11. Thank you for taking the time to share these pointers for new authors, Christine. There is so much information out there, often conflicting. It’s good to learn first-hand from someone who has been there.

    • Christine Nolfi says:

      The amount of information about book marketing can be overwhelming, Cheri. The trick? Learn to pick and choose to find the tactics that work best for your career.

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