Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How do some authors sell 100 million books are more?

The Style section of the Washington Post today (Wednesday, December 21, 2016) has a long article about selling books, “Publishing’s 100 million book club: The secret to the success of writers such as Rowling, King and Coelho”.  The online version title starts with “meet the writers…”

Several aspects to this scale of commercial success seem significant.  One is that these writers simply have fans, and aggressively cater to them.  Another is that they have a sense of “what other people want” (to follow some old Writer’s Digest advice).  It’s interesting that they are willing to make their heroes somewhat flawed and vulnerable.  That’s in comparison with my own manuscript (“Angel’s Brother) where there are two heroes, one a middle aged man pretty much in mid-summer of life, and the other a college student who seems a bit like Smallville’s “Clark Kent”, or at least someone who seems much closer to “perfection” than others.  (Some other lead characters that I like are the teen pianist Ephram from WB’s “Everwood”, the young filmmaker Danny in the film “Judas Kiss” or both protagonists of “The Dark Place”, or maybe someone like Cobb in “Inception”.  Some writers have ghostwriters who write for them (without recognition).  But that makes me wonder what it would be like to write for a soap opera.

In the trade publishing business, remaining on the mid-list is no good, and big publishers of fiction often wonder if big selling first novels can lead to track records.
I recall reading Dean Koontz, “Midnight”, in the early 1990s, with a conspiracy theory of “monster” takeover appropriate for the technology known in the 80s.  The world hasn’t gone that way.
One of the biggest problems with big political thrillers is that history often doesn’t go in the direction fiction authors expect.  Irving Wallace’s “The Plot”, which I had read in the Army in 1969, never got off the ground as a promised movie (despite the outstanding setup of major international characters in the opening chapters, one of whom made obesity into a virtue) because the Soviet Union fell apart sooner than expected.

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