If I could tell you the secret of writing a successful book, would you like to know what it is?
There is actually a secret, and it’s pretty neat.
What’s more, it works on all genres and subgenres, and will even help you break the genre barrier and reach beyond, which is where you want to be if you hope to sell in big numbers.
A recent discussion that cropped up on Google Plus, and one that often appears among writers, was about a certain book that people love to hate.
I won’t mention it by name in order to protect the innocent filmmakers involved, but it rhymes with highlight and features sparkly vampires.
I read it a while back along with a bunch of other successful books including The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games, all of which racked up ridiculous sales numbers.
The reason I read them, other than to appease the people telling me I should (hint hint), was to try and understand why they were so popular.
The comment that sparked the discussion on Google Plus claimed that the sparkly vampire book was badly written – a subjective remark at best, and way off the mark at worst.
To some extent I can see where the comment was coming from. The novel didn’t work for me either, but I was hardly its target audience, and that’s not a reason to say it was badly written.
Having broken it (and others) down, I found it more or less structurally perfect and technically fine. What it lacked, if anything, was originality. Other big sellers contained quite a few original elements, so the secret wasn’t there.
And I suspect that’s where this particular comment originated.
The book rhyming with highlight followed a standard formula in an emerging subgenre, while doing little more than tweaking the known tropes.
In the end it gave its readers exactly what they wanted and expected.
In short, it didn’t do anything special from a story standpoint, so the secret wasn’t there either.
So what was the secret?
Here’s a question. What would you do if you could apply that secret to your own writing, without:
- compromising your integrity as a writer
- giving up on originality
- dumbing down or nullifying your brilliant ideas?
What would you do if I said the secret was simple and could be applied to almost any story?
Take a look at any book that’s sold millions of copies, read it, and then take a look at that book’s audience. What do you see?
You see people who:
- recommend the book to their friends
- discuss the book online and off
- look for other books by that same author.
In short, you see fans. Lots of fans. Why do books find fans?
Because fans care about your characters and what happens to them.
It’s as simple as that.
Make your audience care and they’ll tell their friends, discuss it online, and even look for more of your stories. They’ll become fans, and you’ll become successful.
You don’t even have to alienate your niche market to do it.
It’s obviously not as easy as it sounds or everyone would be selling millions of books, but the more people you can make care about your characters and what happens to them, the more successful you’ll become as a writer – assuming you judge success by sales numbers.
If not, forget you read this post and keep on doing what you’re doing.
If you want to sell books though… well, now you know what it takes.
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