October 26, 2009

What Makes a Book a Best-Seller?

While a big promotion budget helps, it does NOT guarantee a best-seller.

Creating a compelling character who faces obstacles and grows as a result is essential, but doesn't mean you'll rise to the top. Excellent books sink without a trace all the time.

Working your tush off by speaking at schools, conferences, book festivals, etc. will mean more books sold, but probably won't be enough to rocket you to best-seller status.

So, what's a writer to do?

Write the best damn book you can. That means digging deep, facing emotional truths, paying attention to structure, revising till it hurts and then revising some more. Do all those things and more. If you do all those things, you may be fortunate enough to have your book published. If so, celebrate. You've come a long way, baby. Then? Let it go.

That's right. It's not up to you anymore. Sure, you'd better be out there promoting and letting people know your book exists. Write articles. Get on the blog-o-sphere. Do interviews.

But the ultimate success of your book is in your reader's hands now.

What makes a best-seller? This: The moment your reader puts your book down, s/he is compelled to tell someone else to pick it up. When this happens, your book will gain traction organically. And if it happens often enough, you may just find yourself sitting pretty on a best-seller list.

Which books have you read that you felt compelled to share?

Here are three children's books and three adult books that compelled me to tell someone else to pick them up the moment I put them down . . .

Children's Books:

1) A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
2) Rules by Cynthia Lord
3) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Adult Books:

1) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
2) The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
3) The Help by Katheryn Stockett

I found out about these books through reviews in magazines, on blogs, with a YouTube video sent by a friend via e-mail, on the shelf of a favorite indie bookstore, via an article written for Writer's Digest Magazine. I felt compelled to pass these books on because I was riveted by the stories, utterly emotionally involved. I laughed or cried or shook my head in wonder and wanted to share those feelings with friends.

What are your top three books? What drew you to them in the first place? And why were you compelled to pass them on?


Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective and much appreciated. I am thinking that your remarks hold true for many creative endeavors where a public audience is involved.

Wild About Words said...

Thanks for the comment. Indeed, it can hold true for many creative endeavors.