How to Become a Bestseller with Money, Luck, or Work

…okay, but mostly work

Cyndy Etler | Teen Coach | Author
8 min readApr 17, 2021


Tattoos on the back of an arm. The words “hard work” appear on a hammer with a skull underneath.
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

If you build it, they will come” is the biggest crock of shit ever foisted. The second biggest is my own mental script: “If I write it, The New York Times bestseller list will come.”

*EHNT* Wrong answer.

How do I know? Because if that mess was true, my first title, Dead Inside, would have been topping that list. Seriously. It ticks all the boxes:

  • It’s a near statistical impossibility for a self-published book to get picked up by a New York publisher. Dead Inside was originally self-pubbed. It’s now with a New York publisher.
  • An unknown writer snagging a blurb from a famous author is a utopian dream. Mega-bestseller Ellen Hopkins blurbed my book when it was a Word document.
  • Kirkus Reviews, the grand dame of book review bodies, is notoriously crabby. Kirkus gave Dead Inside a killer review.
  • It was singled out for recognition by the big, taste-making library publications: Junior Library Guild, School Library Journal and Children’s Book Council, among others.
  • Big media has been all up in its grill. The cover reveal was on Bustle. It was covered in VICE. I appeared on CBS’s The Doctors.



Cyndy Etler | Teen Coach | Author

Locked up & homeless as a teen. Now teaching resiliency & hope with my YA memoirs & teen coaching. Seen on CNN, HuffPost, NPR, CBS, ABC.