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How to Write a Bestselling Fiction Book with Pierce Brown

“Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where stays.”

I hear from readers ALL THE TIME who want to know how to write a book, and how to get their book published.

But it stops at a dream for most people. The excuses come always out:

  • “I’ll get around to writing my book eventually”
  • “Now’s just not the right time”
  • “I’m not the best writer”

Pierce Brown is the exception to the rule. Instead of just dreaming about writing a book, he actually did it.

In fact, he’s written four published books, including the critically acclaimed New York Times fiction bestseller Red Rising. Universal Pictures even secured the rights for a film adaption.

BONUS: I love reading. Here are the 18 books which changed my life

Most impressive of all? He’s achieved all this success at only 29-years-old! Damn.

To learn more, I recently spoke to Pierce about the path to becoming a bestselling author, how he failed with six other books, and lots more.

For aspiring authors out there, Pierce’s advice is GOLD.

My favorite takeaway: Success isn’t as easy as you’re led to believe. You have to go through failure before you “make it.”

In this post, I’ll share 7 steps to writing a book from Pierce Brown.

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7 Steps: How to Write a Book

  1. Be persistent
  2. Find your voice
  3. Write for yourself
  4. Create benchmarks
  5. Take control of your time
  6. Seek feedback from the right people
  7. Connect with fans

1. Be persistent

“It’s a really emotional thing getting your shit rejected.”

Imagine sinking dozens of hours into writing a book… only to get rejected.


And again.

And again.

Pierce’s first big hit Red Rising was published three years after he wrote finished it. In fact, he was just about to quit writing before he finally landed a publishing deal.

Before Red Rising was published, he was rejected by 120 agents. Plus, six other books he wrote were turned down.

Persistence pays off because success often comes slowly.

Every creative has to go through a period of rejection and self doubt to become successful.

During these low points is where you grow the most. Often times, you learn by failing.

Persistence prepares you for long term success. If his first book was a resounding success, Pierce believes he wouldn’t then have been prepared (or even able) to follow up with duplicate successes.

2. Find your voice

Why did Pierce’s first six books fail to land him a publishing deal?

“I didn’t have my voice.”

Just as every business needs a unique angle, every writer needs to find their own voice.

99% of writing is “meh.” It’s boring, it doesn’t entertain, and we don’t learn anything new.

But the 1% of books which are successful stand out partly because the writer knows their shit. They know how to use their unique voice, experience, and talents to sell and market their book.

Embrace your uniqueness.

To stand out, you need your own voice.

3. Write for yourself

Almost every day, I get asked questions like, “What kind of business should I be starting?”

Answer #1: I have a 10-minute podcast episode to answer this exact question. Cha-ching. 💰

Answer #2: Create a business you’ll be happy to work on for the next 10-15 years.

Like businesses, books take a ton of time, dedication, and failure to complete.

If you’re writing something you’re not passionate about just because you think it’ll sell, you’ll burn out. One of the MOST important strategies for how to write a book is writing something you enjoy.

The primary person you should be trying to please when you’re writing a book is yourself.

Sometimes doubt will creep in. The best thing you can do in that situation is think: “What would I enjoy reading myself?”

When he’s fully focused on writing, Pierce will often go stay in a cabin for three to four weeks straight to make sure he’s crafting the book he wants to read himself.

Write for yourself and then everything else will fall into place.

4. Create benchmarks

Big, overwhelming tasks often fail.

In other words, “trying harder” doesn’t work past a certain point.

One of the secrets of famous authors is to break down their big goals into smaller, more achievable tasks.

I mean, how the hell does someone NOT panic and feel overwhelmed when writing a 797-page book? You could spend a whole day writing 4,000 words and feel like you’ve made only a fraction of progress.

Chasing big goals without a plan is stupid. (Click to Tweet)

How to write a book with Pierce Brown

In my own life and company, here’s how I tend to break down my goals:

  • Create a yearly goals (personal, health, and professional)
  • Break yearly goals down into monthly goals
  • Set weekly tasks to accomplish monthly goal
  • Put time aside for these tasks in my calendar

You can use a similar philosophy writing a book.

Break down your big goal into smaller, bite size chunks. Let’s say you’re writing a book for the first time. You want to release your first killer fiction book in 12 months:

  • Yearly goal: 100,000 words
  • Monthly goal: 8,000-8,500 words
  • Weekly goal: 2,000 words
  • Block out time in your calendar to write 2,000 words per week

Smaller, more achievable goals is how someone like Tim Ferriss writes epic books every few years.

Think of it like a puzzle. Each block of time you put aside in your calendar you’ll be putting in gets you closer to your big picture goal.

All of a sudden, you’ve gone from the big, scary goal of “write 100,000 words” to the more manageable weekly goal of 2,000 words per week.

Much more manageable. 💪

5. Take control of your time

“I don’t have time” is one of my least favorite excuses.

If you really want something, you make time for it.

Becoming a full-time writer isn’t a legitimate path for many people (especially if you’re starting out and don’t have a book yet).

At the beginning of your career, you’ll have to fit writing around your day job or other commitments. Sacrifice is the name of the game.

It’s MOST important to take control of what time you have:

  • Get up at 5 am and write for a couple of hours before work
  • Commit to writing a few hundred words every evening before you watch Netflix
  • Prep your lunches every Sunday and make the most of your lunch hour at work by writing

If you want to be a successful writer, you’ll have to find time to write — even when you’re tired or want to do something.

To help you find the time, use one of my “getting shit done” strategies and block time in your calendar for most important tasks.

Putting key personal events, goals, and other to-dos in your calendar makes you less likely to skip them.

Remember, writing a book can be lucrative. So if you want to make money writing a book, or make it your full-time job, you have to make sacrifices.

6. Seek feedback from the right people

Before ANY episode of Noah Kagan Presents goes live, I ask my team members and friends what they think.

Honestly, some people will suck up.

Some episodes feel like a “B,” but a friend will tell me it was the best thing they’ve ever heard. (Lies.)

But my closest friends are brutally honest with me. For example, Neville, one of my best friends recently told me an episode I did was shit. “You could have done so much better.”

Feedback helps us grow.

And if you’re writing a book, you need honest feedback from the right people:

  • People who are successful in your industry
  • Friends who know what your best work is like
  • Colleagues who can push you to the next level

While honing his craft, Pierce managed to connect with a few friends who were avid readers and knew what it was like to read a good book. These friends would give feedback push him to make the book even better.

In his early days, Piece would share his work with his parents and close friends, only to receive fake feedback. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever read!”

You have to find the person who’s as passionate about your work as you are.

Once you find that person, do all you can to keep that relationship going. Neville and I have gotten into some heated exchanges over the years, but we know it’s only because we care so much about each other’s work. We push each other to greatness.

No matter what your project is, find people who care. Seek honest (even harsh) feedback that pushes you to grow.

7. Connect with fans

To sell a book you need to connect with the right audience.

When Red Rising was coming out, Pierce attended San Diego Comic-Con, and sat on panels with well-respected sci-fi authors John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss, and Scott Lynch for exposure.

By putting himself out there, Pierce met fans of other authors and gave away free copies of Red Rising to get people hooked on the series.

As more people were exposed to his work, word of mouth started spreading and people attended events just to see Pierce. He was no longer an unknown face in the sci-fi author crowd.

The best way to sell books is to find people who are going to recommend to other people.

You can never start building your network too early.

Once you know the audience for your book, look for influencers and begin to plan ways you could meet them and begin to move in the right circles.

Bonus: Want to learn how to connect with anyone? Check out my interview with Keith Ferrrazzi and learn how to become friends with VIPs, celebrities and famous entrepreneurs.

Want to listen to my full conversation with Pierce Brown and learn how to write a book? Check it out below:

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Challenge: We’re giving away an entire box of New Englander Gutsey bars (these are delicious).

For the chance to win, I wanna know your FAVORITE fiction book of all time. Leave a comment and I’ll pick one lucky winner.

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14 responses to “How to Write a Bestselling Fiction Book with Pierce Brown”

Cameron Robertson
May 10, 2018 at 11:40 pm

Hiya, thanks for writing this post, good tips. My favourite fiction book of all time is Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor, such a compelling study of the possible depravities of human nature which at the same time has its uplifting moments.

Just realised how late I am to the comments party with this, guess I’ve missed out on the Gutsey bars…..

June 7, 2017 at 6:41 am

Great post , thank you for sharing.

June 5, 2017 at 11:10 am

Man, I love showers. Do some of my best thinking in there. But anyway, here’s a game for you: try to see how fast you can take a shower (while still doing a good job of getting clean). Time yourself. That’s one way to make it fun (and fast).

Try not to poke yourself in the eye…

June 2, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Favorite fiction…..I’ll go with Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. It can be somewhat polarizing but I think it’s an incredible book.

June 1, 2017 at 8:28 am

Wheal of Time! by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson

May 31, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Anything/everything by Terry Pratchett (could you really only pick just one of his books?). Brilliant satire.

May 31, 2017 at 4:52 pm

I really like The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown and a non-fiction that is great is The Magic of Thinking big my David J. Schwartz

JD Prater
May 31, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Farewell to Arms by Hemingway

L Choi
May 31, 2017 at 3:08 am

Dune by Frank Herbert. Very much a nostalgia book but still my number one of all time.

May 30, 2017 at 7:21 pm

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

(Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a very very close second!)

Anthony Hill
May 30, 2017 at 4:01 pm

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho ?

Curtis Hemming
May 30, 2017 at 2:43 pm

“Sh?gun” by James Clavell. I have to put in an honourable mention for all the Choose Your Own Adventure book ever made though, lol, since everyone born in the 1980’s secretly loves these books the most…but then they say “Cryptonomicon” to sound hip with the Silicon Valley zeitgeist. 😉

Robert Bahr
May 30, 2017 at 11:10 am

This may be a bit too on the nose, but Golden Son is my favorite fiction book. It’s the only book I’ve re-read multiple times.

Pete M
May 30, 2017 at 9:33 am

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

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