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This post originally appeared on the Collective World Careers newsletter.
Today, we’re talking to internationally best-selling author Brianna Wiest about her journey as a writer navigating social media, creating momentum, and selling 1 million books.
101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think was published seven years ago but found widespread popularity more recently. People often assume that success is an instant event when it really is more of a gradual climb to the top, and 101 Essays is proof of this. Could you tell us a bit about your journey over the past seven years?
One of my absolute favorite things about that book, and this journey as a whole, is that it was truly passed from one person to the next. Often, you’ll see a book spike in sales when it first comes out because of all the marketing and campaigning an author and their publisher will do, but the magic is really a perennial seller, an evergreen. A book that sells because a person had such a deep and meaningful experience with it and want the people in their lives to have it too.
BookTok has clearly been a big fan of your books, especially The Mountain Is You and 101 Essays. What was that like to see your books quite literally all over TikTok?
Totally surreal. I absolutely never get used to it, it’s incredible every time another video pops up on my FYP.
Before TikTok, what were your main marketing avenues? How did you get the word out about your books?
I think it was mostly Instagram. I didn’t know this at the time, but one element of 101 Essays at least that really worked well in my favor is that the cover is very neutral, it fits with a lot of different aesthetics, and so I think a lot of people bought it for that reason alone, it just looked appealing in some way. No, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think in this case, it was helpful. Other than that, I really believe what matters most is maintaining an authenticity — it’s not about how you make someone buy a product, but how you create something people naturally desire. And I think a lot of that is a matter of just writing what you’d need to read.
What does the writing routine of an international bestseller look like?
It’s changed over the years. At the beginning, when I was working heavily in news writing, I would write multiple articles per day. I think that experience was important because it strengthened my creative muscles, and then I was able to kind of keep the momentum going. Back then, I believed strongly in waking up and just writing, first thing. No hesitation, no overthinking — just flow. I still believe that “writer’s block” is just not knowing what you want to say, or trying to say it in a way that’s too far removed from how you naturally think or speak. If you address those two issues — you have a clear point to make, and are ready to share it in a way that’s authentic to you — you’re golden. These days, I mostly just write when I feel like it.
What is the biggest piece of advice you’d give someone just starting out their writing career?
I would say that there is a difference between being a career author — as in, it’s a job that pays the mortgage — and being an author because you feel called to it. Sometimes those two things can overlap, but sometimes they don’t. It’s worth your time to really meditate on which you want, because if it is the former, you need to build an audience who enjoys what you do, and your metrics matter — a lot. If it’s the latter, you’re on a spirit-led journey to be a medium for other human beings, in my opinion. Whether you entertain, enlighten, heal, inspire or make people laugh with your writing, you touch lives in one way or another. If you can find a way to do both at once? Legendary.
Now that you’ve hit the one million, what other goals are you aspiring for as an author?
To write for the pure love of it. I think that’s how real magic is made.