The Single, Most Important Secret to Becoming a Successful Author

by | Jun 29, 2010 | Book Marketing Basics

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When I published Sidney Sheldon’s first novel, it cost him over a quarter of a million dollars because he earned that much money writing TV dramas – he wrote and directed all of the I Dream of Jeannie shows – as well as movies and musicals. He put aside those pursuits to write The Naked Face, which sold 12,000 copies. His next novel, The Other Side of Midnight, made him famous and his name became a household word. Midnight sold over 30,000 copies in hardcover, which made it a best seller in those days, and over six million copies in paperback, which then and now is a phenomenon.

As the years passed, Sidney became so successful that his editor would travel to wherever he happened to be to read and offer suggestions on his new novel. This time he was living on an estate outside of Rome and I dutifully flew there to see him. The mansion was filled with renaissance furniture and giant poplars could be seen in the fields beyond. But there was one item that stood out as the most important fixture in that luxurious setting. It was a plain steel cabinet. When Sidney opened it, I saw that it was filled with cardboard boxes of manuscripts numbered one to ten, each a revised version of the novel he was writing.

What made Sidney and other writers like him so special was that he was a perfectionist. He wrote and rewrote and revised again until he was satisfied that the book he was writing was as good as it could be. And only then would he hand it over to his editor for comment and FURTHER REVISION.

Tip submitted by Hillel Black, free lance editor of over 20 NY Times best sellers and member of the Consulting Editors Alliance. Visit

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  1. Jessie Mac

    I devoured Sidney Sheldon books in my teens so it was a pleasant surprise to see his name again and finding out that he wrote ‘I dream of Jeannie’ which I watched too and enjoyed.

    It’s good to know that how he revised again and again; and is a perfectionist.

    Thanks for the post, Hillel.

  2. baby cribs

    I adore Sidney Sheldon. I think all of her books released are all in my book shelves. I really love what she writes. They are all amazing book.

  3. Gary Ryan

    I’ve come to really enjoy the revision process. I just finished going through my new book for the third time and I made significant improvements, condensing some areas and expanding on others. Tomorrow I will start over again from page one.


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