FREE KINDLE FOR PC

FREE KINDLE FOR PC
So you can read my books

Thursday, December 20, 2012

WANT TO KNOW HOW TO WRITE A BESTSELLER?

{Victor's Mother courtesy of the fabulous Leonora Roy}
 
Struggling authors will be the most rabid readers of James Hall’s new book, “Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the 20th Century’s Biggest Bestsellers,” and they may well learn from it.

I know I am struggling to understand it and the yearning that inspired it.

Hall, a creative-writing professor and crime novelist,

teaches a course on “megabestsellers,” books that have sold in the “multiple millions”

and that have gone on selling for decades after they were originally published.

Would you call Dan Brown a “good writer?”

 Yet many very successful novelists are not: Stieg Larsson some would say is not.

 A book doesn’t have to be especially well-written, plausible or original to be a bestseller.

The characters don’t have to be particularly interesting, as John Grisham proves again and again. In fact, if there is one trait that all of the bestsellers Hall considers absolutely share:

 A lot of people like them.

Duh!

Yet, advertising and begging cannot make someone like you.  I know.  Cate Blanchett remains immune to my charm!

At least half the books on any given week’s bestseller list are there to the immense surprise and puzzlement of their publishers.

So why does the public fall in love with some crappy books but not others?

Most bestsellers combine familiar elements in less familiar ways —

the recipe for successful genre fiction.

“Gone With the Wind” transported the career-woman melodramas of its time into a historical romance.

“The Godfather” is a family saga grafted onto a gangster story.

The sensational historical-religious conspiracy theory at the center of “The Da Vinci Code” had already appeared in a nonfiction bestseller:

Brown’s brainstorm was to change the delivery mechanism to a fast-paced thriller.

Lesson:
YOU HAVE TO BE THE FIRST TO TWIST THE FAMILIAR IN AN UNFAMILIAR WAY.

50 SHADES OF GREY has spawned a tidal wave of erotica, none of whose titles have caught on in a wild-fire way.  THERE IS ONLY ONE FIRST.

E. L. James emerged from the word-of-mouth factory that is Twilight fandom,

and as a result her books introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to a genre they didn’t know existed,

much as Stephenie Meyers had introduced them to the vampire romance novel a few years before.

Lesson:
YOU CANNOT CONTROL WORD OF MOUTH;

YOU CAN ONLY BE PREPARED TO RIDE THE WAVE

SHOULD YOU FIND YOURSELF ATOP IT.

(Have several books already written before you publish the first.)

The one predictive factor that readers consistently rely on is brand loyalty:

an author who has done it once, they assume, is likely to do it again.

That’s why the most consistent aspect of the bestseller lists is the reappearance of the same names, over and over.

Last Lesson:
WRITE THE BOOK YOU WOULD ENJOY READING.

Your heart will be in it, and it will show. 

Your time will have been spent with a smile on your face.  And is that such a bad thing?


14 comments:

  1. Gail:
    And to the mercy of timing and of the right person mentioning you to the right media outlet.

    Sometimes we must simply pick our dream, draw our swords, and fight with all we have with no sure promise of victory -- only the certainty that to give up is to fail ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've stuck with that last one from the very beginning. That's why I started writing in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Alex:
    You have your dream in your heart and in your writing, and it shows. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Soooo many good things in this post Roalnd. And sooo many bad Southern accents in that trailer. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Now how can you go wrong with a title like that? I hear your advice good sir.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That was inspiring, Roland. Your post made me feel better about being a writer. (there is no master plan. . .)

    Life always throws in a few curves, when you think you've got 'it' under control. I concentrate on being a survivor, improving my skills, and learning as I go. You help with that by sharing your expertise on this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fantastic advice! It definitely shows through when an author loves the story they've written. I know it made all the difference for me.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm not sure if my book will be a bestseller, but I can at least say I enjoyed writing it. Your post is full of wonderful advice and I applaud you and your success. Just wanted to also wish you the happiest of holidays!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Loved this! Added a link to it from post today. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. E.J.:
    Thanks. And, aaargh! those accents are atrocious and from the setting, it seems they are trying to say the story happens in Louisiana which makes those accents even worse!

    Michael:
    Ttitles are crucial, whether in posts or in books! I'm happy you liked what I wrote. :-)

    D.G.:
    Your support means more than I can say. We are all fellow soldiers in an ancient war, helping one another as we go.

    Heather:
    Loving our story can keep us at it when the middle hump comes to drag us down, right?

    The Desert Rocks:
    My success is having great friends like you and the others who commented today. Great sales on your book!

    Candy:
    Thanks so much for adding a link to this on your post. I worked all day and now am on first call on the eve of Doomsday!

    Ann:
    Thank you so much. Good to have you as a friend! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I like that last piece of advice, Roland, and I follow it to the letter. As long as I enjoy what I'm writing, I'm content -- and there will always be an editor or publisher out there who shares my taste in storytelling. I just have to find 'em!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think the last one is the most important. I have to write the story that is inside me. If no one else likes it, that's ok.

    ReplyDelete