I had expected last week’s post to be the last in this series, but after posting Part 3, a couple of articles came to my attention that I wanted to share because they summarize, reinforce, and expand on the information I presented in Parts 1-3.
In the first article, Edward Robertson offers some interesting thoughts and advice that makes a lot of sense for pricing your ebooks. I offer it without further comment.
I had considered doing a post at some point on why mega-bestsellers become that way. I was going to ask you to think about what makes books like The DaVinci Code, the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games series, the Twilight series, and others, stand out from the crowd. Is it some mix of pure luck, coincidental timing, and great writing? What makes a novel endure over time?
It would be interesting to travel ahead in time fifty to a hundred years to discover which of today’s current hit novels have stood the test of time, which have been deemed “literature,” which have passed into obscurity, and what the then current bestsellers are like.
Did writers such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Shakespeare, H. G. Wells have a clue that their works would not only survive as long as they have, but we adapted over and over again? Would they be surprised to see their works made into movies? Would Victor Hugo have thought that Les Misérables would one day become a celebrated musical?
Bestselling indie author Robert Bidinotto offers his perspective on how to write books that could one day joins the ranks of enduring bestsellers, and I must say that I’ve never heard it put so well.
His advice is both an encouragement and a discouragement to would-be writers. Certainly it’s okay to write and self-publish, but if you expect your book to do really well on sales, you need more than good writing and a good marketing plan. Consider your basic story premise along with the plot, execution, and characters to determine whether it has the potential to stand out from the crowd.
We cannot stress enough the importance of memorable characters. While not all of Bidinotto’s examples feature characters you can readily name–unless you’ve read the books–most of them do. [NOTE: At the end of this post, I’ve listed the books that his one-line synopses are for.)
How many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have we seen time and again (including TWO current TV series)? Yet we never tire of seeing these characters. While interesting characters alone do not make for great novels, a story that begins with an interesting character is far more likely to grab a reader’s attention. I mentioned in an earlier blog post (on story openings) that some publishers likely turned down Harry Potter because the first book does not open with Harry. It opens with the Dursleys, and Harry is barely mentioned in the first chapter.
Here’s an interesting post on that topic.
Of course, no one worries now about that (or why) Harry Potter nearly failed, but you should heeds the reasons for rejection. If your characters AND the story aren’t different enough or special enough, your chances of a major success are likely limited. A great story idea OR great characters won’t cut it. You need a great story AND great characters, something so compelling that your readers won’t be able to stop talking about it–in good ways.
ANSWERS TO ROBERT BIDINOTTO’S STORY LINES (even if many of them are obvious)–
Hunger Games [HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins]
A society living inside a huge underground silo [WOOL by Hugh Howey]
A hulking, ex-Army vigilante drifter [JACK REACHER books by Lee Child]
An ape-man who lives in the jungle [TARZAN by Edgar Rice Burroughs]
An arrogant London private detective with an encyclopedic memory and dazzling powers of observation, induction, and deduction [the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle]
A hunt for a giant man-eating shark [JAWS by Peter Benchley]
A hunt for a giant ship-killing white whale [MOBY DICK by Herman Melville]
A park where cloned dinosaurs roam [JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton]
A magical baseball field in a cornfield, where the ghosts of legendary players return [SHOELESS JOE (not “Field of Dreams” which was the movie title) by W. P. Kinsella]
A WWII German assassination plot against Churchill [COME FROM AWAY: THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE CHURCHILL-1941 by J. F. Leahy]
A contract killer’s quest to assassinate Charles DeGaulle [THE KILL LIST by Frederick Forsyth]
An Australian girl torn between two lovers — one, a young Catholic priest [THE THORN BIRDS by Colleen McCullough]
A willful young woman in the Civil War torn between a gentleman who represents the Old South, and a dashing rogue who represents the emerging postwar era [GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell]
A boy wizard in a school for wizards [the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling]
A small group of Allied commandos who must take out two giant German guns poised to decimate their navy [THE GUNS OF NAVARONE by Alistair McLean]
A Soviet nuclear sub commander’s desperate quest to escape to the West with his vessel [THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy]
A female bail bondsman who gets into wacky adventures [the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich]