Podcast: Scott Sigler On How To Be A NY Times Best-Selling Author

It’s great to learn from authors who have ‘made it’ in traditional publishing but who have got there through unconventional means.

Scott Sigler is the NY Times best-selling author of ‘Infected‘ and ‘Contagious‘ and his new book ‘Ancestor‘ is out on June 22 with Crown Publishing. Before being published, Scott podcasted his novels for free building up a huge fan base for his writing which attracted an agent and publisher. He still podcasts weekly now.

In this podcast, you will learn:

  • How Scott’s writing and publishing career has unfolded. He spent 11-12 years trying to get published the traditional way, getting rejections at first and then publishers didn’t know which genre to put his books in. He discovered podcasting in 2005 and was one of the first people to put out a podcast novel. (Tee Morris also did this at the same time).
  • On cross genre writing. Scott writes hard science horror but is also described as a thriller writer/ sci-fi. It is hard for publishers to put books in a genre if it is not obvious, but there is a place for multiple markets these days. Just be aware of author branding.
  • Recommendations on becoming a NY Times bestselling author. Write every day, write the best story you can. Edit heavily so you produce the best work. Get your content out online and start building an audience. The days of ‘being discovered’ are gone. You need to build an audience and bring that audience to a publisher.
  • Publishers and agents are picking up people with platforms and audiences already. Scott is with an agent who finds people online, he also represents Sh*t my Dad Says.
  • How to balance writing and promotion. There is no balance! It is hard work to write and podcast every week but Scott is dedicated to building a fan base who spread the word about his writing. Scott’s writing schedule has been modified to ensure he has material to podcast weekly. When he started podcasting, he was working a full-time job but already had 4 complete novels ready to go. It is a reality that 99% of authors have to work very hard to make a writing career and make their book stand out. You have to be a full time writer AND a full-time marketer now.
  • Podcasting is still the most effective method to get your writing out there, but it is also the most work. It establishes your personality and your brand as well as well as your writing. Audio connection is important for story in all cultures. It is extremely powerful and makes for lifelong fans, but it is a tremendous amount of work in terms of recording. You could also blog your book in text format. But you have to get it out there. Example David Wellington Monster Island.
  • Self-publishing/podcasting will not compromise your publishing ambitions. The publishing industry is desperate for books that have proven sales so it will help you to get your work out there. (Scott’s book Ancestor was originally small press published and podcast before being picked up by Crown and re-released)
  • On piracy vs obscurity. Stop worrying about it and get your work out there! It’s a cost/benefit ratio. Example given is Cory Doctorow who gives his work away for free. Obscurity is the enemy of book sales, not piracy. It’s a way to get fans. You are competing with video games, TV, movies and millions of other books in the entertainment industry. You have to get people trying out your stuff somehow.
  • On Scott’s blended publishing model. Crown publishes Scott as a modern day horror/ thriller writer vs his other book The Rookie being “Star Wars meets Any Given Sunday meets The Godfather”. It didn’t fit the brand Crown have for him. So he put The Rookie out as a limited edition, self-published small print run and makes money in 2 different ways – through the trad published novels and the self-publishing. This may well be the model of publishing that people move to as if you have an audience, you can sell straight to them. (Clearly, you have to build an audience first!)
  • Ancestor is a blockbuster movie in book format. A biotech company creates a creature that will provide organs to humans for transplantation. But instead of a docile herd animal, they create a 650 pound extraordinarily hungry predator! Ancestor is out in the US on June 22.
  • Scott has also created an awesome book trailer that is just like a movie trailer. Trailers are a great way to get attention from readers but also can be a way to attract a movie deal itself. Visual culture and YouTube is so ingrained in culture that a book trailer can convert people who might not go to bookstores into buyers. Trailers are also ‘evergreen’ marketing and get views daily. This is so much better than print advertising so it is worth spending time and effort on.

All the Ancestor information is here, plus you can find out more about Scott as well as listen to some of his podcasts/audiobooks. Scott is also on Twitter @scottsigler

Here is the transcript in PDF format => Transcript Scott Sigler

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  1. says

    Scott’s first podcast, Earthcore, was my introduction to the medium a few years ago, and I haven’t looked back. One of the other advantages of podcasting is that the visually impaired can listen to a book, which opens up another group of readers that would likely have never had access to the novel in braille.

  2. says

    Okay, I’ve always admired Scott’s attitude and “indie spirit” in that he goes out there and makes stuff and does stuff, and didn’t wait for “permission” to create and share, but Ancestor sounds really really cool. So I may be upgrading to not just fan of what he’s done, but fan of the work itself.

    I’ve also been very ambivalent about book trailers in general. But then I found a cool one that changed my mind, and what Scott says makes a lot of sense. I think I’ll definitely do a book trailer in the future. Not now, since I don’t have the funds to make one to the level that I want, but… in the future it’s definitely something on my radar now.

    Great interview!

    Also, Scott makes me tired. He’s a machine.

    • says

      I agree! I want to output as much as Scott – the guys works damn hard. It actually made me happy to know that hard work pays off though. If you persist over the years, and give out there, eventually it will happen (whatever ‘it’ means for you!)

      • says

        Totally agree! Though Scott always makes me want to take a nap. Which is funny cause I’m normally really hyper. I just see how much he does and I think: “Holy crap, who can do all that?!?” He’s like a superhero of awesome.

  3. says

    Do podcasts work for books other than one read by people who can’t sleep so read and play on their computers all night long? Would it work for novels that have themes other than sci-fi and wolves? My target market is an older group so does anyone have an experience where people are over 30 ( gasp, horror, I know it’s hard to believe but the brain somehow keeps on going). and use podcasts? Not just knowing someone’s grandmother but sufficient numbers to make it worth the effort?

    • says

      Hi Terry,
      I can respond from my perspective as I am 35! I listen to podcasts when I am at the gym, driving, commuting, doing housework/washing up or when I am exhausted and need hammock time. I specifically buy audio programs and download podcasts for this time, mainly from iTunes and Audible.com. I am currently listening to “Writing down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg (have read the book but am enjoying listening as well); Lateral Action series of interviews for creative entrepreneurs, podcast from Mur Lafferty I should be writing for wannabe fiction writers. I also found Scott Sigler because I listened to Infected on free podcast.

      I would say podcasting is MAINLY for over 25s who want to consume in multiple formats. Check out http://www.podiobooks.com/ for other novels that are podcasted.
      There are stacks!

      I hope that helps – I don’t have exact numbers but I started podcasting because I could see the benefit and it certainly helps me.

      • Shelina says

        Agreed, at 36 I’ve found many an author just by looking for audio versions of books at the library, for those long commutes. After listening to Diana Gabaldon’s “Voyager,” I subsequently became a huge fan of her other works and eventually paid list price for every one. It can work. I just don’t know why I didn’t think of it for myself. *Ugh*

        And p.s. “Writing down the Bones” one of my all time favorites.
        Thanks Joanna for the great interview.

  4. says


    I’m so thankful that I stumbled onto YOUR podcast. :) I found it just at the right time.

    In the past, I’ve enjoyed many a podcast and audiobook during all of the various times when my hands aren’t free to read but my mind isn’t really too occupied to not read. I’ve only listened to already published books that can be found in stores, though–never like the works of Sigler and others who publish/who’ve published for the first time on their blogs. It’s really wonderful and intriguing. I know that I enjoy an author reading particularly because it feels like the most authentic telling. After all, I love telling stories because growing up I couldn’t get enough of the great story tellers in my family.

    I agree with Mr. Sigler when he reiterated that obscurity out-weighs the fear of work being passed for future publishing or, even, stolen. I have friends who owe the large pre-sell of their first books (not to mention, their agents and book deals) completely to their consistent, well-thought-out blogging and well-toned social media muscles…not to forget, of course, to the popularity of their blogs with their specific, intended audience. Also, currently, I and two friends (none of us with books on the publish track), have begun sharing our own work online via our respective Tumblrs, Facebooks, and blogs. What started out as a simple writing exercise of letting a word or photo inspire 100 words of writing a day has turned into us each producing short stories of near 1000 words a day. And the response, though small, is wonderful and reassuring. We all write about characters we rarely see out there (me, LGBT characters; they, Lao- and Filipino-Americas characters). And in just a few days, we’ve discovered an audience of a handful of people (and growing) who are very positive and eager for more. And it’s an instant audience giving instant response (even better than college writing classes!). And the response is on a different level than the “Likes” that we’ve received for reblogs of photos or for quick, jokey posts about what’s going on in the world or in our lives (not that we’ll stop those, though). And honestly, I don’t think we’ve had a worry about being stolen from or plagiarized. We’ve just worried about keeping our pact to one another.

    I emailed the link of this podcast to my friends. We may be experimenting with podcasts very soon. Again, happy to have found you. Now of to peruse the rest of your site. :)

    • says

      Hi Jake, thanks so much for your long and considered comment :) I’m so glad you and your fellow writers are gaining a following online. It takes a while but it’s definitely worth it.
      All the best with your podcasting and writing.


  1. […] The Creative Penn: "Scott has also created an awesome book trailer that is just like a movie trailer. Trailers are a great way to get attention from readers but also can be a way to attract a movie deal itself. Visual culture and YouTube is so ingrained in culture that a book trailer can convert people who might not go to bookstores into buyers. Trailers are also ‘evergreen’ marketing and get views daily. This is so much better than print advertising so it is worth spending time and effort on." […]

  2. This Post Based on The Creative Penn Podcast: Scott Sigler On How To Be A NY Times Best-Selling Author « Self-Published Author's Lounge says:

    […] Posted by Ruth Ann Nordin on June 24, 2010 Today’s post is based on a podcast done at The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn when she interviewed Scott Sigler, NY Times Best-Selling author of Infected and Contagious.  (To hear the podcast, click here.) […]

  3. […] thoroughly enjoyed Joanna Penn’s podcast interview with Scott Sigler on ‘How to be a NY Times Best-selling Author’. It was another ‘blow your mind’ moment in terms of shifting my thinking about […]

  4. […] Podcast: Scott Sigler on how to be a NYT bestselling author (via Joanna Penn) […]

  5. […] Scott Sigler on being a NYT bestselling author. I learned that successful authors work bloody hard. Scott is a machine, writing every day, podcasting his novels, networking, promoting and basically getting out there. He is a businessman as well as a great author. I seriously recommend his books , his latest Ancestor is a kind of Jurassic Park/ genetic engineering style thriller. I also learned that writing is a long term career, you’ve got to keep writing. Here’s the interview with Scott Sigler. […]

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