Ray Bradbury’s Writing Secret Revealed

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, science-fiction aficionado of the 20th century, produced an astonishing array of fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery stories.

But his success didn’t happen immediately.  While he eventually sold more than eight million copies of his novels and short stories, Bradbury actually struggled for years to support his family before making any meaningful progress.

Of course, we all know that learning to write well takes a considerable amount of time and commitment.  But surely there’s a way to avoid the unnecessarily arduous experiences that Bradbury suffered?

Fortunately, before he died in 2012, Bradbury recorded the secret of his breakthrough, the moment he stumbled upon the elusive force he needed to power his writing.

I’ll show you Bradbury’s inspiring recording in a moment.  But first, let’s take a brief look back to where his remarkable journey all began.

A $15 Sale Began His Odyssey…

When Bradbury submitted short stories for the magazine Weird Tales, a fantasy and horror magazine, his work was rejected.  Even his first paid piece, ‘Pendulum’ earned a mere $15 when published in the Super Science Stories magazine in 1941.

But eventually his work begin to sell.  And I mean REALLY sell.

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray BradburyDuring the 70 years beyond that first success, he poured out an immense body of work, including bestsellers The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Towering above them all was Fahrenheit 451, his 1953 science-fiction classic in which he envisaged a world where books were outlawed, and gave it that title because that is the temperature at which book-paper ignites.

Bradbury joked at the time that there were worse crimes than burning books.  One of them, he said, was not reading them.  He needn’t have worried.  According to Publisher’s Weekly, Farenheit 451 continues to sell over 7,000 copies a week.

So how did he attract such a massive readership?

Ray Bradbury’s Writing Secret Revealed

In the following 3 minute video, Ray Bradbury talks about this ‘inner genius’ in vivid but simple terms, and explains how he eventually prevailed:

“I realized that after 10 years of writing, I’d finally written something beautiful.  I turned a corner into my interior self. I wasn’t writing exterior stuff.  I wasn’t writing for the right or the left or the in between. I was writing for me.”

Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s crucial revelation was that writers need to follow the path of their instincts and enthusiasms to the place where their inner genius dwells.

In fact, he also wrote about this at some length in his exuberant manual for writers, called Zen in the Art of Writing.

How To Replicate Ray Bradbury’s Success:

1.  Write from your instincts

What are your insatiable fascinations?

Fahrenheit 451 took Ray Bradbury nine days to write.  A classic of the 20th century, in just nine days.  In truth, this extraordinary feat was partly enabled by years of practice – he wrote every day for nearly 70 years.  But just as importantly, it was possible because he wrote about what instinctively fascinated himHe trusted his intuition… and built a global audience of millions.

Make no mistake, this doesn’t just apply to the fantasy genre either, but rather to all genres – right across the board from Paranormal Fiction to Romance.

2.  Persist

Whenever the muse refuses to appear, or my confidence fades, I stop for a while and think of Ray Bradbury.  It reminds me to stay the course, to keep on with what attracts and excites me, and that all it really needs beyond that is the gift of persistence.

This is an emotional issue.  Are you writing about what fascinates you?  Or are you chasing a trend?  Do you suffer self-doubt?  Please do leave a comment.

Jonathan Gunson

Article written by Jonathan Gunson

Author / CEO Bestseller Labs

 

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Comments

  • February 13, 2013 at 8:40am

    Thank you for the inspiring clip, Jonathan. That sure was an ‘Ah ha!’ moment for me as I dive into the writing of the sequel to my novel — which is very entertaining, but in a shallow sort of way. I am going to go and find ‘The lake’, and some of his previous work and study the difference.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 9:35am

      Karen.
      Fortunately Ray Bradbury isn’t saying “Do what you love and the money will flow.” That verges on the meaningless for me. Instead we are looking at years of hard work in an area of high interest – even obsession – at something he grew increasingly good at. Do what WORKS within your interests is the key.

      Standing by for news of your book sequel.

      ~Jonathan

      • February 13, 2013 at 12:42pm

        Hi

        Very interesting and thank you for this!

        I agree and disagree, although who am I to disagree with a master. He is a hero of mine. One of the first writers I ever read when I was a child! The moment I saw his name, I was drawn to the article.

        However, I don’t know if he is completely correct when he says you should just write what comes from within. Sometimes the product may be very good, but the audience may be harder to find!

        I have written several, moderately successful Medical Thrillers. When it came to writing my second last book, I thought about writing another classic Medical Thriller, but then decided to write the book I really wanted to write instead. Another medical thriller, but more emotional, more meaningful, …slightly different…I wanted to write the book that ‘came from within’, so I did. The result is a good book. Some people love it. But very few people have bought it. ( ‘The Sleeping Truth’ ASIN: B00B0FCWV4 on Amazon) Not because it is not a good book. But rather, because the audience is not so receptive to that type of book, and also the audience is perhaps not really there…

        I learned from the lesson. My last book was written with an audience in mind. Before I started I thought : who will read it? I published my new book last week, and it has been well received so far. Amazon considers it a “Hot New Release!” (‘Haunted From Within : ASIN B00B90UTD8) I hope also that it is a good book, but I think it will probably be more successful that the previous one, even if it is not better, simply because the audience will be more receptive to it, it is easier to reach, and it is a larger audience.

        Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps in five years time, ‘The Sleeping Truth’ will have sold more. In summary, the lesson I learned was that you should write from your heart, but before you start, try to chose a book to write that will have an audience who may potentially want to read it!

        I hope this makes sense…

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          February 13, 2013 at 7:12pm

          Ian

          We can be sure that even though Ray Bradbury wrote from his ‘inner voice’, there won’t have been anything ‘vague’ about it.

          He will also have been fully aware of the market requirements. ‘Do what you love and the money will flow’ doesn’t work in the raw sense. It requires some measure of common sense as well, which doesn’t need to reduce the level of creativity. Discipline, a schedule and eye on the market – these things benefit and artist and writer just as much as anyone else.

          ~Jonathan

    • February 13, 2013 at 11:22pm

      I wrote my latest novel The Gift of Stoppage Time with all the emotion I had and it’s barely selling. Now I’m onto a book about an asteroid and a model and a vampire! Kidding…it does feel good when you write with your heart and soul. The words just flow (I did not intend for that to rhyme!).

      I just read The Zen of Writing…great book!

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        February 14, 2013 at 11:20pm

        Mark
        ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’ – a timeless work as you’ll have discovered.
        ~Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 9:01am

    Jon,

    Thanks for reminding everyone of such story. The question I will ask is that – has anyone been ever wrong following what the heart say and what the heart what?

    Let all know that Rome isn’t build in a day and as such, nothing has ever been achieved without waiting for the fruits of laboring to ripe. Writing about what we want is something but is anyone ready to persist even when nobody is seeing what you are doing? Write about what you love and persist in doing what you love – such is my one cents to fellow authors.

    Good to be here again Jon to have another insightful post.

    Regards

    Mayor A Lan

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 9:45am

      Mayor. Thanks – Ray Bradbury makes it all so clear. When he said “They’re stupid – they don’t recognise your genius..” I found that particularly apt and very amusing.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 9:02am

    Thanks again Jonathan – your posts always inspire me. I write for myself and although my sales are nothing to write home about, I always write what gives me my jollies and one day I believe I will find my niche.

    Keep up the good work.

    Geof

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 9:38am

      Can be a long haul Geof, but persist we must. Besides we can claim something that very few can do in life. We know who we are: We are writers. Think about it…
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 9:22am

    Thanks for this great post and an inspiring clip. I find writing the wonderful story the easy part, but getting it to stand above the crowd the hard part. Yesterday I went into a book store before going to see a movie (Flight, which is not your usual airline disaster movie – now that’s a great story!). I browsed the Sci-fi/Fantasy section out of curiosity. Many of the covers ‘looked the same’ in a strange way (all legacy published books); many of the back cover blurbs sounded the same – and yet these books all jostled for shelf space, even though many of the plots sounded the same. Do readers really just want reruns of old themes?

    I write MG adventure and historical romance. I market like crazy for MG and struggle with sales. I have also won several book awards and nominations in that genre. I do absolutely NOTHING to market the historical romance and enjoy climbing sales. It’s a mystery to me.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 9:50am

      Fiona.
      Readers certainly do want reruns of old themes. It’s the same reason TV shows can often be so formulaic. They work, because we all react to the same things – a familiar story structure, with familiar lessons and morals that run deep.
      Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 9:53am

    Very succinct Jonathan. Just what aspiring writers need to keep them going. Rejection is part of the process, but so is keeping on writing until you find your groove. The deeper connection with his writing that Ray found is clearly what led to his growth as a successful author.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 9:57am

      Peter.

      Find your groove yes. Then sales, and ever more sales.

      ~Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:01am

    Jonathan, Let’s start out by noting that you do practice as you preach. Bradbury’s awakening to the force of his inner ‘audience’ applies perhaps to most if not all creative work. Nevertheless, it is a sense, a feeling to be wary of also. Falling in love with a passage within anything that you are writing is a good sign to delete it. Subject matter, or storyline are different matters – here you must follow that inner voice. I am on the verge of self publishing a thriller and I shall be watching out for your advices as a hawk over a small furry creature. Mike Coony, Ireland

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 10:15am

      Mike
      Sharp insight there re being wary of ‘falling love with a passage’. Time for the delete key indeed… otherwise known as ‘burning your darlings.’ Re your impending thiller – tremendously exciting!
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:18am

    Nicely inspiring. These success stories all boil down to three things and two of them are hard work and commitment. The other one is ‘know your audience’. He found his in short story writing with sci-fi magazines.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 10:59am

      Louise. Re ‘Know your audience.’ There’s lessons in there.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:31am

    Hah, luv how he waddles through his messy house, totally pants-less.
    The archetype of today’s digital creative working from home ;)

    I want to believe the same – that if you connect to a deeper side within yourself, you can bring out that raw human emotion that connects with people from all above the planet.

    I think it takes authentic vulnerability to achieve that – you need to open yourself up and be willing to totally pour yourself in.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 11:03am

      Mars
      Re ‘Pants-less’. This I like in particular. Bradbury quite clearly couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of appearances or other superficial things. Extremely comfortable in his own skin – very secure with who he is. Akin to Peter Jackson our movie director here in New Zealand. Knows exactly who he is – and the creativity pours out of him. Not quite there myself yet. Working on it.
      Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 11:13am

    Thanks for this Jonathan. Ray Bradbury always has been a tremendous inspiration.
    I would strongly recommend his book ‘Zen in the art of writing’ for getting you back to the writing desk in difficult times. It details his life as a writer and is choc-a-block with wonderful advice for any writer.
    By the way, may i ask what wordpress theme you are using here. Is it ‘Standard’?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 11:19am

      Titus.
      I designed this WordPress theme in Photoshop as an entire image, then handed it to a coder who put it together perfectly for me. (So it’s a ‘custom’ piece.)
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 12:18pm

    Jonathan,

    I loved that post! I write about what fascinates me. I have to admit that seeing my work in print caused my stomach to lurch a bit, but as I hear feedback from readers I am encouraged. It was hard for me to “promote” myself in anyway, because I dislike pridefulness so much. My editor gave me some great advice. He told me that there is a difference in promoting myself and my stories. That made it easier. I have my first book signing at a small bookstore in Northern Virginia next month. It’s a start!

    I like Bradbury’s example of perseverance! I learned so much writing my first book. I can see the improvement in the sequel I’m working on now. My goal is to continue to grow and learn and make the most of every moment I’m given. I want to be a good steward of my talent and develop it through hard and thoughtful work.

    Thanks again for the post!
    Dawn

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 7:16pm

      Dawn.
      Authors certainly need to ‘promote’. But clever indeed to draw a distinction between yourself and your writing in promotion – simple but masterful.
      ~ Jonathan

    • February 14, 2013 at 1:32am

      As historical fiction writer, I am somewhat constrained to writing for a particular audience. The trend nowadays seems to be “marquee” novels.

      I’m bucking the trend by writing my first novel based on a remarkable19th century North Carolina slave woman.

      Is that a draw? Or is the “Roots” era passé?

      I have no idea, but I still intend to write it because, from the first word of her autobiography (the only US female slave narrative in existence), Harriet insisted.

      “My Name is Harriet” will be from my heart. My hope is it touches the hearts of others.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        February 15, 2013 at 12:33am

        Darlene.
        Your character is ‘talking’ to you, maybe even arguing the point? A sure sign that you’re on the right creative track. And no, your work won’t be passé. From your description it’s unique, and will stand out. In fact it’s highly promotable, in similar way to Rebecca Skloot’s book about Henrietta Lacks – ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’. I’ve put together a blog post about Rebecca’s book, and her book trailer: http://bestsellerlabs.com/the-best-book-trailer-ive-seen-in-years/
        ~ Jonathan

  • Nicole says:
    February 13, 2013 at 12:52pm

    This was worth listening to.
    Thanks

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 19, 2013 at 9:05pm

      Nicole
      You’re welcome. We’re fortunate to have so much of Ray Bradbury on video.
      ~Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 12:58pm

    Very interesting interview.

    I think the main point for me was when Ray said he was writing for ‘me’ not left, or right or others….he was writing from something deep and true to himself.
    I think it’s much easier to write about something you feel passionately about, rather than to ‘make money’.
    If all you focus on is the adoration (not!) or money you might receive, you will be disappointed.
    I wrote 12 books, with a main-stream publisher, in a niche market, that I’m extremely interested in.
    I live and breathe my subject.
    Enjoying what you do brings success….

    In Peace
    Mary

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 7:22pm

      Mary. There’s no question that writing exclusively for money is a road full of cracks and potholes. There has to be a high degree of creativity in the work – readers can spot cynicism a mile away.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 12:58pm

    Hi Jonathon,
    I enjoyed your post as always and I agree with RB totally. A writer needs total dedication if they are to find and keep their success, so if you’re not writing about the things you love then it’s just going to be a chore. I took up writing as a career because I become bored easily so knew it was crucial for me to choose a career that I loved.

    I have a fascination for the paranormal and spiritual development so my series encompasses all of that. It’s a slow process to get sales moving, but again I feel the important thing is to enjoy the journey. I think readers can sense when writing comes from an authentic place and obviously Ray Bradbury had a pure heart when it came to writing, god love him.
    Thanks for this piece of inspiration.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 7:23pm

      You’re welcome Dee. Keep on Madam. PS. Your site is very attractive.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 1:09pm

    Loved the video! We do have to be persistent if we want to succeed. And it does help to win a few contests or get something published (no matter how little) along the way. It feeds your soul and keeps you going. Janet

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 7:30pm

      Janet
      Wins of any type are the ‘juice’ we need at a certain moments to avoid self doubt, or loss of enthusiam. A great day’s word count for example, or the storyline suddenly falling into place. Nevertheless ‘commitment’ and ‘press on’ are any writer’s power attributes, although frequently falling off the horse seems to be par for the course – to mix my metaphors.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 1:09pm

    Thank you for this brilliant, brilliant post. I SO needed to hear this today. What perfect timing :)

    Awesome stuff, Jonathan :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 15, 2013 at 2:49am

      Works for me too Melissa.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 1:15pm

    If Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 9 days he didn’t eat or sleep! Wow! That is amazing but after a number of years of writing and learning and listening and rethinking and deciding not to listen to some, I believe his idea is correct for me. I write what interests me, in a style which I have had seep in from great historical writers, and I am finally taking responsibility for my own writing by listening to my inner ear. I am writing for me. If I sell a few copies, that’s okay, too.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 7:38pm

      Elaine

      Farenheit 451 was written on a hire typewriter at one dime per half hour. Ray Bradbury went to the UCLA library for some peace and quiet to write, and discovered the hire typewriters in the basement. Farenheit 451 cost $9.80 in dimes to write

      ~Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 1:22pm

    I have been writing every day for almost 25 years. Most of those years, it’s been newspaper or magazine copy. It’s only been in the past 14 months that I’ve started writing novels. I’m on my third. And yes, I write what fascinates me. I write fantasy. It’s set in the modern day, in my own backyard practically. There are snippets of people I know in my stories. And I enjoy what I’m doing. This is much more fun than writing non-fiction, but don’t tell my editors! Ha!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 7:40pm

      Charmain
      Those years of hard writing are clearly serving you well, re discipline.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 2:54pm

    Short. To the point. Everything comes back to determination and little something else. Here – the inner feelings.

    Thanks for all the interesting articles.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 15, 2013 at 12:47am

      ‘Determination’ is the word Peaches. Close relative of ‘persistence’.
      ~Jonathan

  • Diane says:
    February 13, 2013 at 3:23pm

    Thanks for the affirming clip about Ray Bradbury. Makes me realize the power of daily writing practice that reveals what fascinates me and helps me trust my intuition. Of course, the reminder of forging forward in spite of rejection helps too!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 15, 2013 at 12:46am

      Diane
      Re the power of daily writing practice… “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” ― Ray Bradbury
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 3:23pm

    I think it not only applies in the fiction world, but in the non-fiction too – write about what inspires you, interests you, engages you and most of all motivates YOU.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 10:22pm

      Linda. ‘What motivates you.’ Good point re fiction / non fiction, although the path can often be clearer with non-fiction.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 3:31pm

    Jonathan,
    Thanks for this post, sometimes I get caught up in the pace of progress. This was a perfect reminder of where I am in the process.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 15, 2013 at 12:40am

      Jim. I see from your blog that you’re just over the 50% mark with your Van Stone sequel. Push on – let me know when the light at the end of the tunnel is visible.
      ~Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 4:50pm

    Wow! Thanks so much for this clip and your intuitive descriptions of how to write about what is stirring inside! In writing my first book, this encourages me to trust my instincts and GO FOR IT!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 7:46pm

      Thanks Karyn.

  • February 13, 2013 at 5:06pm

    I agree…write about what your heart won’t let you off the hook. I published my first book at 73. Non-fiction. “Discovering a Dynamic Marriage.” A lifetime of learning in the arena I spent my life’s work…marriage and family. I had no idea how much work it would be and continues to be. But I am on a mission to bring awareness to the mostly invisible collateral damage resulting from our “divorce culture” – a half century of a 50% divorce rate.I’m on a mission. Ray Bradbury is right on, shorts or boxers be damned! Thanks for this. Inspires me with renewed energy to persevere!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 7:45pm

      Joy.
      You’re on an admirable mission with your writing – no question. Commitment is the word yes? (Writing or marriage.)
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 7:52pm

    Thank you Jonathan.

    This came at just the right time for me. I’ve just arrived home and opened the envelope with my royalty payment inside. Wow! that was one of the biggest downers I’ve ever experienced.

    Now that I have seen the video of Ray Bradbury and his invaluable comments, I’m spurred on. He is an excellent example to follow for all writers. I would love to think that there are those out there, who think of me and all the other struggling authors out there with the same respect!

    Once again

    Thank you

    Regards to all

    James Alexander

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 4:22am

      James.
      Yes, we must keep on irrespective us writers. It’s one of the main reasons I posted this article and video. We are alone most of the time, so need feedback and a lift. Kites fly against the wind, yes?
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 9:34pm

    This is a great article. But ah ha! Bradbury came along in the age when publishing to magazines and newspapers was the way to go. I wholeheartedly believe that one should write the stories that are burning inside them.

    But in this day and age it seems, and perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems that only certain genres are getting any attention in this digital age. If one is not writing paranormal, erotica, vampire, fantasy or murder mystery, they seem to stand very little of a chance. My limited success in the mid90′s was due to having an agent who introduced my short stories the the Editor of the now out of print Story Magazine. I often wonder how the literary lions of yesterday would fare if they were coming on the scene today. People seem to have a propensity today to disdain “serious” or “literary” work. It seems that readers and others are more interested in a character’s actions than the why or any delving into the psych of the character.

    Maybe Norman Mailer woud have made it today (just thinking off the top of my head) But what about Updike or William Styron, or Kerouac, or Ginsberg, William Burroughs and a host of either Beat or literary writers. How would they get discovered in this digital age?

    Perhaps Forums and Blogs are the new ways of discoverability. Maybe they are the replacements for those little obscure magazines that launched writers in the past. But I think most of these entities are dedicated to the popular genres.

    Write from the heart? Yes. But be prepared for the long journey.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 10:16pm

      Charles

      ‘Writing from the heart’ as you describe is vital for genre fiction too – just as for ‘literature’. In fact the fiction genres sci-fi, fantasy, horror and mystery formed the larger part of Bradbury’s work. He did not live amongst the rarified high towers and bell jars of literature, and yet, we see the innner voice at large!

      Furthermore, the quality of books hasn’t declined either. It’s true that there’s a far larger mass of trash at the lowest levels, but there have always been ‘penny dreadfuls’, and overall the total number of books being read is dramatically increasing.

      We also hear more about ‘get rich quick’ authors which tends to color impressions.) But the percentage of ‘good book’ readers versus ‘trash’ readers remains the same or so I hear.

      And the Updikes of this world are as sought after as ever.

      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:07pm

    I write from my instincts, listening to my characters and asking them questions as I go along..

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 13, 2013 at 10:19pm

      George. I have the same experience. At a certain point our characters start to talk to us increasingly, and start to argue the point – means we’re getting it right.
      ~Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:12pm

    I continually suffer from self-doubt and wonder why I am writing! But every morning I get up and I’m ready to go again! My writing – altho’ I hope it sells – is my passion. So somewhere down the track, the parents of the children I write for will understand. If not – I’ll continue to write anyway!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 12:29am

      Keep pushing on Maureen. It’s what I’m doing too.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:29pm

    Thanks Jon for that special interview. I need to get in touch with my emotions to give more depth to my fiction writing. But I especially loved the comment about editors not appreciating your genius. I’ll remember that!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 12:05am

      Ann Marie. Your genius is appreciated, even though I’m not officially an editor.
      ~Jonathan

  • Bill says:
    February 13, 2013 at 10:58pm

    Thanks for sharing that video clip!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 12:15am

      Bill.
      You have a kindred spirit. Re all of those garish, noisy, ‘light up’ types of things you see at Christmas – they probably wake the inner child. Your sparkly sprinkly things post hit the spot. http://billkasal.com/sparkly-sprinkly-things
      ~Jonathan

  • February 13, 2013 at 11:53pm

    I have loved Ray Ray since I was a teenager in the sixties..yes he was an amazing sci fi guy but my favorite was Dandelion Wine. His ability to weave the magical with the REAL was truly a gift and something I aspire to in my work every day.

    If our characters and their trials and joys do not move us…well then..The characters in my novel True, woke me in the night, told what they needed to say or be and had meetings without me…I would be scribing away..look down at the paragraph and be shocked, saying out loud “oh no, is that what you are going to do?”

    Our true inner genius comes mentally, spiritually, and emotionally just like ” The Secret” we must feel it before it manifests and the same goes for writing the heart and soul dictate the beauty and transversely also the fear and terror we impart to our readers…Thank you Jonathan, for your inspiration and faith in us.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 12:07am

      Melinda – I have yet to read Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. So I looked it up on Amazon. Will definitely read it. Thank you
      ~Jonathan

  • February 14, 2013 at 12:27am

    I love ray Bradbury.
    The problem is that I write when I think: “This, I have to write: I have to tell.”
    Regardless . . .
    Take care
    Rio

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 9:36am

      Write regardless Rio.
      ~Jonathan

  • Pauline says:
    February 14, 2013 at 1:21am

    Hi Jonathan,
    This was a great story to watch. Gave me the encouragement to know that as my first book is coming out in about 6 weeks. I wrote with feeling and going with my gut.
    Also, to have the determination to never give up, was great to hear.
    Thanks for the video.
    Pauline

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 3:30am

      Onwards Pauline.
      Start talking to promotional sources now, well before you launch.
      ~Jonathan

  • February 14, 2013 at 3:04am

    Hi Jonathan, and think you for the insightful article and video of Mr. Bradbury’s words. I think is is so right on the money on that, If you don’t have the passion for what you write, the result will be lackluster at best. You have to follow your own path, whatever it may be. I am working on my debut novel that is set both in present day Nevada and Old West 1871 Nevada. It is a passion of mine because it is set in my old hometown that has quite a colorful history I have been doing painstaking research to get the history just right. I want to be as accurate and precise as I can be to the town’s history. I am so excited that my debut novel will be about this town! It will be a ghost story/mystery. I hope I can do the story justice. :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 3:25am

      Rebecca

      With your book’s present day and historical Nevada connection, you have an extraordinary opportunity to promote your book, and it needs to start way ahead of launching it. They say the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago, and the same applies with books. So many authors leave it until launch day to start promotion which is way too late. Building the supporter base needs to begin right away – no panic, but right at the early stages of writing the book. (There’s still plenty of time in your case.)

      Ghosts? So much the better. You have a surfeit of publicity opportunities since the book is set in a real location. Inform the local historical society. Hold a talk for them, and they’ll love you for it – if you can bear standing up before a crowd! Above all, collect everyone’s email address, wherever you go in town, and keep them up to date with progress and news snippets related to your book and the town – actual locations are great. Talk to the local book stores to prepare them, they’ll be interested and the local magazines and newpapers in your town, online and offline. (Better than TV & Radio.) I can assure you that they will be very interested.

      Here is an article that will help about how publicity works.

      http://bestsellerlabs.com/how-to-attract-nationwide-publicity-for-your-book/

      It’s the first article I wrote for this blog.

      ~Jonathan

  • February 14, 2013 at 3:41am

    Thanks for this inspiring little post, and I can tell from the response, that I am not alone.
    I did have the chance to meet Ray Bradbury, shortly after he wrote his last collection of short stories – at a book signing in Ann Arbor, Michigan – at Border’s no less. My son now has the signed book. What impressed me about him was his humanity, and lack of pretense.

    And I did read his short story, The Lake, and found it singularly affecting. But there were so many others (The Fog Horn, Boys! Grow giant Mushrooms in your Basement, and the whole collection in Golden Apples of the Sun). And it’s true, what he said about writing for yourself. For there is little as shallow as writing something for the masses, be it successful or not. And little as profoundly moving as putting out something that touches deeply that which makes us what we are.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 4:13am

      Timothy
      Fortunate you are to have met Ray Bradbury. There seems to have been a ‘golden glow’ surrounding him. I expect it flowed from his appealing humility, as you identify so beautifully. I hope your writing goes well.
      Enviously yours.
      ~Jonathan

  • February 14, 2013 at 8:51am

    Thanks Jonathan for that truely inspiring video. I like the way Ray writes every day and doesn’t let a lack of interest in his work (in the early years) put him off. Undiscovered genius was lurking he was right! I am onto my second book based on the work I do with suicide prevention and depression, and having a passion for it certainly helps, as does speaking from the heart. Whether it translates to selling a lot of books (and saving lives in the process) remains to be seen. Anyway I am further encouraged to write a few sentences every day as I go about my work, and not just moan about being too busy to write. If I tap in regularly to your emails it also gets me motivated. So many thanks for that. Reminds us that successful authors started off like us newbies – people who love putting words together, who have the determination and courage to keep at it!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 9:33am

      Sylvia
      A noble cause indeed. I’m still in the trenches too – probably always will be. New project under way, complex, has to be ‘fitted in’. Know where you’re coming from.
      ~Jonathan

  • February 14, 2013 at 10:54am

    Jonathan,

    As a young writer studying towards a creative writing degree I found this article struck a chord. Each time I put pen to paper I believe that I write from within, if anything I find it difficult to distance myself from my work and each attempt at stepping away has left me with words that consequently hold less meaning. Ray Bradbury’s video raised questions that every writer is inevitably confronted with, the notion of readership, the purpose and motivations behind writing and the conflicting struggle between writing what we feel and writing what we hope will sell.

    I feel that the argument between writing for a market or yourself need not be as black and white as one or the other. As writers, we will of course hope to make a living doing what we love, and to achieve this the audience needs to be kept in mind. However, I think regardless of subject matter it is still possible to connect with your work on some level, and indeed this needs to be the case to create pieces that are honest and genuine, rather than simply constructing words with no heart.

    I very much enjoyed the article,

    Sian

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 10:41pm

      Sian. “I think regardless of subject matter it is still possible to connect with your work on some level..” Agree entirely. I enjoy your insightful comments here.
      ~Jonathna

  • February 14, 2013 at 4:22pm

    Morning, Jon,
    Enjoying your newsletters and am reading Modules 1-7
    Thought I would let you know about something in your list of Literary Hash Tags . (Page 42) Since I have a “work in progress” I thought #wip would be a good one to check out. What comes up is #wipeout. So then I typed “#wip work in progress” and that brought up works in progress but most didn’t look like books. But maybe I’m wrong.
    Anyway, thought I would point that out
    Thanks,
    James w. Nelson

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 10:12pm

      Hi James.
      Try #Wordcount hashtag on Twitter to find other people in the process of writing. That’s just as good as #wip used to be. (The #wip hashtag has been hijacked recently by other interest groups.)
      ~Jonathan
      PS. With similar questions, send me an email mate. I’ll help. (I like to keep the comments here relevant to the blog post.)

  • February 14, 2013 at 4:29pm

    Also, Jon,
    Since I have a work in progress (maybe one more editing) I’m glad for making contact with you and this Twitter study, because this book I would like to launch correctly from the start.
    I have 10 others listed at KDP Amazon. And some are doing OK. But I’d like to do better than just OK–Right?
    thanks again,
    James W. Nelson

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 10:37pm

      James
      That’s the right approach. Like you, I’m developing a project and have no illusions about what lies ahead; a long and winding road. But I’m already putting in place the media connections, relationships with bloggers and developing the support group – almost two years ahead of the launch. Twitter is playing a big part in this.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 14, 2013 at 8:07pm

    Delightful! I have been an author of over 38 published books since 1990, but my inspiration to become an author began in 6th grade (1970) when Ray Bradbury came to speak to my summer school class of gifted students. Thanks for rekindling the fire (pardon the pun).

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 10:24pm

      Connie. A pivotal moment for you back then seeing Ray Bradbury, now reappearing to motivate you. Fascinating. Bradbury’s legacy is far greater then he would ever have dreamed as 30 year old.
      ~Jonathan

  • Fiona C McAndrew says:
    February 14, 2013 at 10:08pm

    What an amazing man and what a legacy to leave. A true inspiration to fellow writers.
    I read this post yesterday morning over breakfast and it brought tears to my eyes. My little girl asked me why I was crying. I explained to her the video and post. I then took the breakfast dishes into the kitchen. While I was out of the room my little girl pressed play on the video, I returned back to to the table and she looked up at me and said “don’t cry mammy, he is with his friend now in heaven”. From the mouths of babes.

    I couldn’t write any other way. It probably comes from having very little formal education and no real training in creative writing. Everything I write comes from my soul. I look around me and there are some exceptionally talented writers, those who can adapt their style to suit, I’m in awe!. Their ability fascinates me. But, where my own writing is concerned, I’m happy in my own little bubble doing my own thing, at my own pace.

    Ray Bradbury, what a guy! I loved the fact he filmed the video in his boxer shorts. Here’s to being human and real and here’s to you Jonathon, for sharing such an inspiring post.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 14, 2013 at 10:58pm

      Fiona
      Re: “…those who can adapt their style to suit, I’m in awe.” Both you and Sian (see her comment above) have hit on the same ‘Art Versus Commerce’ dilemma that taxes the minds of authors. Ray Bradbury is a shining example of balance achieved.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Summer says:
    February 15, 2013 at 7:48am

    Great post, Jonathan, very motivating as I embark on yet another draft of my first novel, a sci-fi/romance. Well okay, second novel: I had a great idea for a children’s book that turned out awful because I worried too much about the market and not enough about the story.

    Then this book came to me and wouldn’t let go. I forced myself to ignore what everyone else thought I should or shouldn’t write and managed to finish the first draft in six monts while working full time and raising a family. It’s not nine days, but I thought it was a pretty respectable accomplishment.

    So while I had to write what I had to write, I also agree with putting your favorite darlings on the chopping block, which is really hard to do when you really love your story. I cut over 20,000 words of my favorite material, sacrificing characters I liked for a story I loved.

    Of course now I have to figure out who my market is. All I need is 8 million readers and I’m good to go!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 15, 2013 at 10:34am

      Summer
      A first draft in six months? Congratulations – that’s well inside the range. But what I like even better is that you stuck to your guns with regard to your story. (I can sense that you just ‘know’.)
      With regard to figuring out which genre your book belongs to, (Sci-Fi? Fantasy?) yes of course you need to decide. But it’s easier to first decide who your ‘audience’ is: Age / male / female / American / foreign / ethnicity / pulp fiction type / literary type / dreamer / practical / happy type / serious type. Who is she / he, that one person? It may not be entirely clear, but going through the exercise will help, and it’s energizing.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Zorodzai says:
    February 15, 2013 at 3:48pm

    Hi from Zimbabwe
    I like the idea and I think it works. When I write what naturally comes to me, I tend to write more words in a day than when I am trying to write what I think other people will like.

  • February 16, 2013 at 2:19pm

    The takeaway for me from your fine piece is the primacy of ego. Bradbury’s ability to dismiss those who early on rejected him–even though they were right–is why he was able to persist. That, and of course an amazingly fertile imagination.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 16, 2013 at 9:51pm

      Barry – yes, that early stubborness / forcefulness paid off.
      There’s lessons there.
      ~Jonathan

  • Lib says:
    February 16, 2013 at 5:39pm

    At last some helpful advice about writing. Thank you for posting that video clip featuring Ray Bradbury’s inspiring viewpoint. I’ve always wondered how to write a meaningful story. As a reader, the stories that impact me the most are the stories that come from truth, actual emotion, as opposed to what is simply made-up by the writer without any substance. Ray Bradbury’s comments made sense. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 16, 2013 at 9:55pm

      Lib – Inspiring yes. There’s a fine balance between creativity and the practical. This balance is a key part of Bradbury’s inner genius ‘secret’ in my view. It’s more practically useful than ‘do what you love and the money will flow’ which is not particularly useful for the aspiring.
      ~Jonathan

  • Martin says:
    February 17, 2013 at 6:34pm

    The filmmaker Robert Roderiguez wrote to not go to film school because then you will just make other people’s movies. The equivalent could be to not write other people’ s books, or write what you think the audience wants.
    And in this age it should be easier to find and connect with fans of your work than it was in Bradbury’s time, no matter how small the group is. I found 10-12 people who really liked my first book who are reading and editing my next book. My hope is they will help spread the word.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 18, 2013 at 12:50am

      Martin
      “…it should be easier to find and connect with fans of your work than it was in Bradbury’s time.” More true than most are aware. In fact it’s pivotal for writers wanting to sell more books and forms the basis of my Twitter For Authors Course.
      ~Jonathan

  • February 18, 2013 at 1:00am

    Hello Jonathan.

    Don’t know how I missed this one. Good thing I came back looking for a previous article. F451 continues to be a favorite novel of mine, one of my ‘annuals’ that I read every year. It’s an amazing work of art. I may never write something of that stature, but it sure won’t be for a lack of trying.

    That being said, I can’t imagine writing anything other than something that I’d love to read. That’s why I write, period. It’s a joyous process that keeps me sane.

    And yes, I am egotistical enough to believe that my work deserves and audience, but that’s where the work comes in. I’m learning new things every day about the aspects of building my brand, but I don’t let what sales dictate my writing. I firmly believe that if you write well enough, eventually you’ll find an audience. If you stay the course, that is.

    I certainly intend to.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 18, 2013 at 1:14am

      Bard
      “… it sure won’t be for a lack of trying” I like your attitude.
      ~Jonathan

  • Daniel K Munroe says:
    February 18, 2013 at 9:33am

    Hi Jonathan,

    Great clip. And yes, inspirational.

    I followed what to me seems a similar piece of advice when I wrote Super Duty … ‘write the book you’ve always wanted to read but nobody else has written yet.’

    Thanks again for the inspiration. Keep up the great work.

    DKM

  • Beth says:
    February 18, 2013 at 1:39pm

    After watching the video, I now have a “lake” memory that hopefully will add the spark missing from my book! While 8 million copies sold would far surpass anyone’s dream, my hope is that 8 people will take something positive away from my upcoming book!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 18, 2013 at 8:01pm

      Beth
      Let me know when your book is published. (Pleased to have provided some motivation!)
      ~Jonathan

  • February 20, 2013 at 11:31am

    nice video, nice in several ways persistence is the key and coming from the heart is the only real thing one can offer in fiction or fact. I prefer fiction as it more believable than the truth but the elements are interchangeable.

    Good writing is fun with words, fun with ideas. I like a digression to give an insight, not just a list of actions. My editor took out 14,000 words from my 119,000 word novel. He helped me not to digress to much. I’ver read it, editing over thirty times. I must be crazy but its fun every time. I just want to polish and polish and I find every time it gets better in some small way, or in a big way. Going in is a wonderful experience.

    I hope Celibate in Chelsea shares well, it’s meant a lot to me to try to serve Krishna in this way. Hare Krishna.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 20, 2013 at 12:59pm

      John
      Editors are Gods as far as I am concerned. The good ones bring a whole new layer and sharpen the focus. I’ll also add that your views and words are full of shining optimism. Thank you.
      ~Jonathan

  • February 25, 2013 at 12:46am

    Great effort here Jonathan. Thanks for blogging this. It has truly picked me up in one of my duller moments.
    Author L.W. Wedgewood.

  • February 25, 2013 at 2:01am

    Persistence. If you can’t yet write your way out of a paper bag then keep recording your stories on the paper surrounding you.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 25, 2013 at 2:39am

      Absolutely. ~Jonathan

  • February 25, 2013 at 6:10pm

    [...] The finalists have been announced. Congrats and good luck to all. Also, for those who didn’t make it, here’s a little wisdom from Mr. Bradbury. [...]

  • jt says:
    February 28, 2013 at 7:19am

    That’s when I knew that what I had written was…important. There were many moments duiring the process that I found tears rolling down my face, or bursting into laughter. The memories that I had conjured were powerful, and I felt as though they could be equally powerful to anyone else that read them, wether they know me personally or not. So far, that’s been the case. The reviews that I’ve gotten are astounding. I must find a way to better market this thing.

  • March 2, 2013 at 2:08pm

    Thanks for this. It’s inspirational. My two main interests are science fiction and Hollywood/LA culture, particularly the film noir type of narrative. I’ve combined those elements in a few books and stories. For a while, it looked like I was the only one who thought the combination was any good. That’s code for LOTS of rejection. When I took the leap into indie publishing, I found that there are people out there–not a ton of them, but enough to give me a sense of validation–who also found the combination interesting. Sometimes I think I should try to do something different in my writing, but your post has helped me see that I’m on the right track.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      March 2, 2013 at 10:08pm

      An extraordinary, fascinating combination of memes Richard. The uniqueness of your idea appeals, a lighthouse of originality in an ocean of imitators. You’re on the right track, and sticking to it is the essential theme here.
      ~Jonathan

  • [...] Speaking of snappy titles, How to Sell 8 Million Books, caught my attention immediately. The article features Ray Bradbury’s success as a writer. [...]

  • March 4, 2013 at 5:19am

    Jonathan,
    May I first say what an exceptional human being you are. You remind me of my wife, but just so much better organized. We all cannot be like you, but allowing oneself to be inspired by ‘givers’ is good too. I am inspired.
    Talking about inspiration. It all comes from the same source and can light the spark and fire in any subject material. We tend as writers to gravitate towards what we know or have experienced, and that is who we are. It may not be what is popular at the moment, but it will touch somebody’s heart if it is written with inspiration. That is what we want first as writers, is it not: to be a vehicle for the Source of all Inspiration in inspiring others?
    If we choose the adventure of exposing ourselves to something new, something more ‘popular’, we can still bring inspiration to it. Inspiration will follow us wherever we go once we have committed ourselves to having it as our writing master. That feeling, as a writer, of being a co-creator of something original is priceless and worth more than all the sales in the world. Get that feeling first, and then chase the sales if you need to.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      March 4, 2013 at 8:52pm

      John
      Your words worth a wall poster. “Inspiration will follow us wherever we go once we have committed ourselves to having it as our writing master.”
      ~Jonathan

  • March 25, 2013 at 3:24pm

    I’ve been a life-long fan of Ray B, in fact, and along with HG Wells, Terry Pratchett & Arthur C Clarke, he is one of my sci-fi heroes, but of course, I can’t forget Isaac Asimov. Having written The JET! Trilogy 18 years ago I am still waiting for it to “happen”, but given the tools to work with the modern Internet tends they still haven’t produced (as yet) results. At 70 I am now wondering if it ever will “happen”, but I have to thank you Jonathan for that video, it has put everything into perspective.

    Phil Phoenix.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      March 25, 2013 at 7:56pm

      Phil
      Essentially your books are the key of course, because if enough people like them, word of mouth will begin to spread. But it needs enough sales for that to happen. Your task is to kick-start those sales. A trilogy is perfect because each book sells the others. (I assume they are on the Kindle?) Here’s the article about this: http://bestsellerlabs.com/goodreads-ceo-reveals-how-to-sell-more-books
      ~Jonathan

  • Clare says:
    June 13, 2013 at 4:24pm

    I had the pleasure of meeting Ray Bradbury for breakfast during the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in 1997. I complained to him about all the rejection letters I had gotten. He told me he had over 2,000 rejection letters! What an inspiration that man was to me. Thanks for the video clip.

  • [...] See on bestsellerlabs.com [...]

  • David Grenier says:
    August 3, 2013 at 11:06pm

    You know Jon, I honestly have a hard time not tweeting virtually everything you write on my page.

    Bradbury is one of my favorite authors and as I find my way in my craft I hear his words resounding more and more.

    Thanks again! Keep doing what you’re doing; it’s certainly worth the time you put into it.

    Dave

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 4, 2013 at 1:43am

      David
      We are in synch re Bradbury. He LOVED what he did. Somehow he found a hidden, guaranteed pathway into the flow state, and managed to switch it on every time he sat down to write. Most are afraid instead that ideas won’t come, avoid writing and spend time instead worrying and procrastinating. So I think his real secret was he trusted that something would always transpire if he simply sat down to write. This is mirrored by Meave Binchy – see her in this video: http://bestsellerlabs.com/maeve-binchy-her-writing-secrets-interview/
      ~Jonathan

  • Jonathan Gunson says:
    August 14, 2013 at 10:47pm

    Encouragement writers having a “Why am I doing this?” moment.

    “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
    Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
    Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
    Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
    Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
    The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

    Calvin Coolidge. 30th President of the United States (1923–1929).

    ~Jonathan

  • September 2, 2013 at 5:15am

    Nothing is more emotional or fascinating than leaving the building of ones physical self into the spiritual unknown. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, I was changed. Life had been altered—and I had a story to tell.

    I have now written two books to let that inner altercation out. The first was the ranting of crazed mind, drunk in the spirit. The second is the genius of Einstein:

    Walking Like Einstein, by Scott Allen Taylor

  • March 18, 2014 at 7:43pm

    I love this article. It says exactly how I was feeling and trying to express to a friend of mine. She was trying to tell me who to write for and I was thinking I was writing this memoir about me, not for someone else.

    People can learn from my life experiences so I must write it in a way that tells my story from my heart and not what it can do for someone else. Otherwise it turns into a lecture.

    Thanks so much! You have made my day and I have already shared this on Facebook and Twitter. Woo hoo!

  • Bryan says:
    August 29, 2014 at 5:36am

    I’m sure glad you mentioned this video in the comments of my GP. Loved it! Great way to start the morning and I have not even had my coffee yet.

  • September 11, 2014 at 3:46pm

    I have always wondered about the hows of a circumstance. How did the people move from Missouri to Utah territory. The absolute grit of travel in that time, but also how it was done. No pretty discriptions, nuts and bolts. Wagon trains have been depicted without realism. The people took what was needed or they suffered from need and want. How was it done? Taking a dog walking beside was simple. Chickens, swine, turkeys, books all the things in their lives. Otherwise it was an abandonment. I write about those things and often use my life experiences. I have three books finished in manuscript, but lack the funds to polish and format and Produce the end result. I did a funding on Indiegogo which is going to fail because Indiegogo does not make my novel viewable. Lokks like a scam to some people I am certain. 12 days remain and only 5 donations, even tho I have great perks. I am disillusioned by Indiegogo. Great work Jonathan. Inspiring