There has been much focus this month on the meaning of a New York Times bestseller and how rampant cheating is in the industry since a compelling article in Forbes earlier this month on how to buy your way onto the New York Times bestseller lists.

Yes, it’s true.  The wealthy with a quarter million dollars burning a hole in their pocket, can buy this credential.  But the unfortunate truth is, when you cheat, it’s evident to everyone that you’re a cheater.

So my advice to anyone who’s contemplating the “buy your credentials” approach to stop and think of the damage you can do to yourself.  Ben Johnson, getting caught for drug dopping the day after winning gold in the Olympics, created irreparable harm from which he’s never recovered.

So what does it take to legitimately put a book on New York Times? It’s a question I often get asked by my students in my “How to Become a Bestselling Author” course.

Well it takes 2 things:

First, you need a really great book – and there’s no skimping here.  Yes you can cheat and put a metaphorical piece of crap on the lists buy throwing enough money at it, but again, the damage to your reputation will be irreparable.  So please don’t do it.

Second, you need a really great marketing strategy with a publicity team behind you.  This is where you want to be playing with a reputable mainstream publishing house, because the minimum budget you’re likely looking at for this is probably $100,000 USD.

Seem unattainable?

Well let’s break this down into an achievable goal, step by step.

Just like in any sport, playing in the major leagues is attainable, but there’s a predictable path you need to move along, the same is true for writers.  You need to show you can perform well in the minor leagues and then the big mainstream publishing houses notice you, see you’re worth taking a risk on, and pick you up.   It’s that simple.

So a lot of what I teach in my on-line programs, is showing you how to be an exquisite player, so that it’s a no-brainier for the big mainstream publisher to pick you up.

While there are many strategies that work, the most common strategy that shows success is as follows:

1. Establish a branding and presence around yourself (e.g. what problem do you solve for others?)

2. Begin growing a following by being in the conversation (typically takes 2 to 3 months to get into conversation in an area)

3. Self-publish a book and put it on the Amazon.com bestseller lists (I teach this, and done properly it typically takes about 6 months).

4.  Use this campaign and credential to further grow your following.

5. On your next books, work with agent to approach the mainstream publishers to pick you up.