Five Tips (Minus 4) for Would-be Bestselling Writers


Writing Fiction –

Looked simple enough. Write a mystery novel. Hire an agent. Get published. Find a writer’s retreat in the woods or by the sea, and do nothing but write. As it turns out, that’s a fine piece of fiction all by itself. Makes you wonder how Hemmingway did it. But then, he committed suicide.

Now, in my sixth year as a professional mystery writer, I’ve written and published three mystery/thrillers with a fourth nearing completion—all part of the ongoing Lance Underphal Mystery series. I’ve yet to hire an agent, which in hindsight is a good thing; and doing nothing but writing in the woods or by the sea remains a pipedream—not sure if we’re talkin’ opium or crack, but a pipedream, nonetheless.


Readers Have It Easy –

One of the consequences of writing professionally is the resultant deflowering of my reader naiveté. Peeking behind the publishing curtain, one discovers the Wizard of Oz is more humbug than great and powerful—an unfortunate but necessary insight into writing professionally.

Take it for what it’s worth, once the bestseller illusion evaporates, there’s nothing left but smoke and mirrors. Most readers are unaware that “bestseller” statuses are manufactured as a publisher’s promotional tool. (Oops . . . Ignore that man behind the curtain!)

The deep dark secret (shhh . . . don’t let this one out of the bag) it’s not about money. The true reward is transformational, transcending the mundane capitalist world of fear and greed. A writer becomes the djinn, casting magic spells for the enjoyment of readers.


Taking One for the Team –

While I’m still a voracious reader, I view written works as a source of education and inspiration, rather than reading for the sheer pleasure of it. Additionally, the effort required to find books and/or authors worth the time sets a much higher bar. Sad, perhaps, but worth the sacrifice.

Is writing fiction for a living everything it appears? Hell no. But then, what is?

From what I hear about sausage-making, writing for a living is strikingly similar to watching meat grinders stuff sausage skins. All most folks care about is the finished product.

Still, if you insist . . .


A Tip for Would-be Writers –

In summary, here’s my standard answer to a common interview question, “What advice would you give to would-be writers?”:

If you can do anything else besides writing, do that. If you can’t, learn the craft of writing, and learn the business of publishing and marketing. Then write and keep writing, no matter what.


Your comments are always appreciated.


The cross-genre mystery/thriller/paranormal books, Dark Side of Sunset Pointe, Flight of the Tarantula Hawk, and Grey Daze, are available on Amazon. Cut-Throat Syndrome is due out later this year.

You may also check out the book trailers for Dark Side of Sunset Pointe and Flight of the Tarantula Hawk  On YouTube.

Interested in the inside scoop? With My Back Pages you’ll have subscriber-only access to peeks behind the curtain, new excerpts, giveaways, early releases, beta read opportunities, as well as announcements for upcoming events.

For more on Michael Allan Scott, the mystery writer, his mystery books, and the Lance Underphal mystery series, go to

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Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Michael Allan Scott and a clickable link back to this page.

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