How I Sell So Many Books
Let's get real. We're entertainers, we authors. We're part of the entertainment industry. I don't consider myself an artist. I consider myself a standup storyteller who has taken to the page instead of the microphone. It is extremely important that I keep this in mind if I want to sell books.
How does it play out, that I'm an entertainer who wants to sell books/entertainment to you? For one, I need to think of juggling–the constant movement and craft of keeping your eyes on what I'm doing. I do this with plot. Next, I need to engage your eyes in my craft: I do this with characterizations, drawing up real characters that you care about. Whether it's the fourteen year old victim of white slavery or the lawyer or cop who's in something way over their prior experience level, I need to give you a viewpoint or a playoff character that you want to follow. You must want to know what happens to him or her or my story won't move you.
Next, I must clothe myself in the garb you want someone to wear onstage. I do this by dressing up my descriptions and narrative in language that captures your eye. This is done by giving you the view of the world that through my eye or my character's eye gives a unique view and an enchanting view. Even hard-boiled detectives can enchant with their world view when viewing a decomposing body. (“The twisted smile suggested he actually enjoyed his death. Or maybe it was just muscle contracture brought on by rigor mortis. I couldn't tell, and such is the ambiguity of death without a witness nearby.”) (Yes, I just made this up as an example and you may use it in your own story with my blessing, should it fit.)
Finally I, a thriller-writer, need to scare the hell out of you if I want you–and I do–to keep turning pages. So there must be something or someone important to you at risk. This is about craft and it's akin to making you like someone, getting you invested in someone and then setting their bed on fire.
Having done all this, I'm going to entertain you. If I do it well enough you might tell someone else about the experience. Which is how the big sellers get sold.
Word of mouth.
There is no substitute.