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

…okay, but mostly work

Cyndy Etler | Teen Coach | Author


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.

But more vital than all of this is what readers are saying: “I’m calling in sick because I can’t put your book down.” Or “I started reading it on my phone. Now it’s four hours later, I haven’t moved, and my hand is a claw from holding my phone up.”

And still, with all that, The Times hasn’t come calling. Why not? Because I didn’t know then what I’m telling you now. Because instead, I bought that old rag about “If you build it.” It took a long time, and a lot of research, for the truth to finally hit me: “They” don’t just “come.” It doesn’t work like that.

How it does work, I’ve learned, is with work, luck, or money. Let’s break that down in reverse, starting with money.

How to Become a Bestseller with Money

If you’ve got beaucoup bucks for a publicist, there’s a chance of getting your traditionally published book on the list … but it will costs you tens of thousands of dollars and you’ll get a…



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.