By Olga Vezeris
Back when I worked on staff for major publishers, much of my work was focused on trying to find bestsellers. But what does that word really mean? Yes, it’s any book that sells a great many copies in a bookstore or on the internet, and is seen and talked about in the media. Just as important, though, it’s a book written so well that people want to read it, regardless of how well it has sold.
It’s that special book you have trouble putting down and can’t resist talking about to everyone. That singular experience is the mark of a book that has truly “sold” itself, because it has reached people by word of mouth and captivated them.
With some thought, you can translate the elements of a bestseller into your own book.
Be Your Own Book Reviewer
Think carefully about the last book you admired so passionately. What made it sing for you and why? Here’s an exercise. Pretend you are a book reviewer and, with a gimlet eye, really analyze what you are reading. Figure out exactly what makes a book so compelling and focus on using the same characteristics in your work.
We’ve all read cringe-worthy books that are simply hollow imitations of another. The author’s vision and personality do not come through in character or plot or—in the case of non-fiction—as an authoritative, informative voice. To write a book that sells, you need to enhance your own voice. Do not imitate anyone. Let readers discover the personality that is yours alone.
The “Why” and “What”
Details, details, details. Writing is a daunting proposition, but if you break down the process and take one bit at a time, it’s not so fearsome.
In fiction, the two major elements are plot and character. Think about the last novel you read. What grabbed you the most? If it was the plot, was it a slow, careful, internal unfolding of a story or one filled with tension and action that built until a heart-pounding end? What was the mood of the plot? What were the tiny details that made the written picture come alive?
If the characters grabbed you most, again ask why. Characters are well drawn through continuing detail, not just how they look or dress. It is the way they stand, move and react to myriad situations and settings.
Try this exercise: take a TV or movie character and describe him or her down to the minutest detail. Write it down. Try to understand who this person truly is and why.
You Are the Author
Always tell your story in your own way. Simply because a famous author has a particular style or plot idea, do not simply mimic him or her because of a bestseller book. The only things you should be copying are the reasons why a book grabs your heart and mind.
Enjoy showing readers who you are and they will enjoy your work.
That is what is meant by a book that sells.