Saturday, January 7, 2012

What's Hot and What's Not


I read a book a while ago by Donald Mass called "Writing The Breakout Novel". It was a great book with fantastic information, but he said something in it that surprised and really stuck with me. He said, (not verbatim) that it isn't marketing that makes a book a bestseller, it's word of mouth. I've often pondered this statement and, in a way, I can see how he's right. It appears certain books have won the lottery of popularity and become what seems like an overnight sensation. Are they good books? Absolutely. The best books I've ever read? No. For every hot, best seller, I can think of 4 others that are just as good but never got the notoriety they deserved. So what makes these books such a success?

Take the Twilight phenomenon. The book was published by a small publishing company and it was Stephanie Meyer's first book she'd ever written. She had a literary agent who sold her book to Little Brown.

Compare that book to the Shack. This book was also swept up in the fantastic read spot light. Millions of copies sold and this book was originally self-published.

Compare that to the newest and hottest read, everyone I know is toting a copy (my two kids each have their own so they wouldn't have to share), The Hunger Games. This book was published by a larger company, Scholastic Press.

Each of these books are vastly different than the other, from genre to publishing company. In fact, the only thing similar about them is the that they're over-whelmingly popular.

So what does this tell me? Two things: First, write a great book. Second, getting your novel swept up in the gotta-read-it frenzy is part luck, and just like Donald Mass says, word of mouth. So I guess there's hope for us all :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what it takes to write a national bestseller.

Have a great Saturday!

Melynda Price

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with your "lottery of popularity" comment, Melynda! I can remember when The Firm first came out in paperback years ago. I was working at a bookstore and we'd often run out of the book and, rather than send customers away empty-handed, I'd offer them the latest Scott Turow novel. Ridley Pearson had also written a legal thriller at the time and it was awesome, so I'd tout that as well. No takers; ever. They wanted what they wanted, the "it" book of the moment, and that was that. No diss to John Grisham, who I love, but that always said to me that lots of readers aren't so much about what's inside the book as being seen with the book, and only the book, that everyone is "suddenly" talking about. And being able to talk about it with their friends, in-laws, whatever. Don't get me wrong; I loved the "Dragon Tatoo" books as much as anybody, but I can also name a dozen or more books that have superior plotting, characterization, pacing, whatever. so, yeah, there is definitely a lottery mentality about all that. All I wanna know is, where do I buy a ticket??!?!