Many people write novels to express their most profound emotions, to tell a captivating story that has some deep meaning, to create characters that come alive, to enrich the lives of their readers.
Unfortunately, these are the worst reasons to write a novel, unless you’re only interested in selling your book to immediate family members, your closest friends and six random people who bought it by mistake and lost the receipt.
But if you want to make real money writing novels, you’ll have to appeal to the broadest possible base of readers. Your best bet is to go scattershot and attempt to attract every demographic by combining all the elements that appeal to most readers.
This is not rocket science.
Young adult fiction sells well, although I rarely see young adults reading and I suspect the teenagers I pass on the street wearing cell phone ear plugs are not listening to audio books of Dead Souls, a novel by an unsuccessful writer who simply lacked the talent to create nonsensical plots, one-dimensional characters, gratuitous sex and likable vampires. As a result, the book is not a best-seller.
In addition to young adult fiction, romance novels, mysteries, thrillers, sci-fi and erotic literature also sell briskly, so if you can combine all those genres, you’ll make a bundle.
First off, keep in mind that women buy more books than men, so if you’re a male writer, you might want to use a pseudonym. Female readers are attracted to books written by women with first names like Delilah or Mona or Constance. Your fake last name should imply sexiness. But be subtle. Two alluring last names might be Delight or Pleasure.
Who wouldn’t buy a book by someone named Constance Delight or Mona Pleasure?
Plotting is the most important element in writing best-selling fiction. Keep it moving at a frenetic pace and don’t worry if it makes any sense. If it appears to be exciting and there’s lots of lurid sex, grotesque murders and glaringly obvious red herrings, believability is the last of your worries. Don’t concern yourself about loose ends. Nobody will notice.
Don’t write descriptive passages that are more than 50 words long. Readers don’t care what a house looks like, and long blocks of typeface scare them. Endless narrative passages are only good if they involve passionate sex. When writing hot sex scenes, always make sure the reader will immediately know it’s a sex scene by italicizing certain words such as “moan,” “groan,” “hard,” “thrust,” “tongue,” and “thighs.” Otherwise, stick to dialogue. Readers like dialogue because they can zip down the page faster. Writers like dialogue because it doesn’t involve as much typing, although indenting can become tiresome.
Very important — make sure the book is thick. Get your publisher to use a reasonably large typeface; end chapters at the top of the page; and include lots of unnecessary punctuation, like ellipses and five or six exclamation points at the end of every other sentence. You might even want to consider adding 15 or 20 blank pages at the end. Nobody will notice until they get there. People are not going to spend $27.95 on a thin book. Is Animal Farm a best-seller? No. Why? Not enough pages.
To minimize the amount of work you need to do, keep chapters short. Those blank pages between the text of the old chapter and the start of a new one can add up. If you have 90 chapters, that’s 90 pages you don’t have to write anything on. Besides, most readers feel a sense of accomplishment when they can say they’re up to Chapter 37, even though they’ve only read 5,000 words to get there.
If you’ve gotten bad reviews, edit them to your advantage before putting them on your cover. For example, if a reviewer says, “This book is ridiculous, a jumble of total nonsense, bursting with pathetic, dimwitted attempts at badly written sex scenes that are the author’s inane idea of passion,” you quote it as, “Bursting with passion.”
One final word: Needless to say, in today’s book market, vampires are an absolute necessity, though hideous post-apocalyptic creatures, zombies and deeply troubled werewolves can work, as long as they look like the guy in the Calvin Klein jockey shorts ads. This might require some thought, which is a drawback, because thought only gets in the way of writing bestsellers. For most best-selling writers, thinking just slows them down.
Typing fast is much more important.
About the Author:
A former Playboy magazine editor and columnist, John Blumenthal is the author of the novel, “Three and a Half Virgins.” Other published books includfe The Official Hollywood Handbook, The Tinseltown Murders, The Case of the Hardboiled Dicks, Hollywood High: The History of America’s Most Famous Public School, Love’s Reckless Rash (co-author) and the novels What’s Wrong with Dorfman? and Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour, both BookSense76 Picks. His work has appeared in such publications as TV Guide, Esquire, Punch, Playboy, Today’s Health, The Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com, Publishers Weekly and The Huffington Post.
He has also written for television and is the co-author of the movies Blue Streak and Short Time.
john_blumenthal (On Twitter)