Sunday, March 14, 2010

What makes a best-seller?

To amuse myself in long grocery store lines, I often take the time to look at the mass market paperbacks displayed on hanging racks next to the candy and convenience items. I don't read as much as I used to, but I still love picking up a good book, and I read my favorites over and over.

Lately, I've had trouble finding books that draw me in and keep me all through the book. I have to force myself to stop mentally editing the book, remind myself the author does not need a critique, and to just enjoy the story. When I do find one, it isn't a big name author, and it's never a best-seller.

It seems to me that once you become a big name author, people stop critiquing your work, and after two or three years of continual hits, the books just aren't so good anymore.

I know I'm not one to judge. I don't have any books published yet, and while all of my short stories have been accepted on the first or second try, I won't bother to pretend I did them on my own. It may have been my idea, my writing, my editing, my submissions, but without my critique circle I'm sure they'd still be stuffed in a drawer somewhere.

Writers need other writers to write well. I just hope the writers who read this will remember that when they'vbe sold their 10,000,000th copy.


  1. Agreed. I learned everything I know from reading. Most of it when I was a little kid. Perhaps that explains my limited vocabulary and need to write for YA audiences (that's my excuse anyway). Sure, I learnt other stuff from actual instruction but what better way to learn than by seeing the thing you're trying to do in action?

    I think bestsellers largely become bestsellers through sheer luck. They're not always that great. They just happen to get the word of mouth going around the audience they're aimed at and suddenly, *shoom*, Twilight.

  2. "I have to force myself to stop mentally editing the book," you say. I know how that feels. But maybe the fact that you are doing so is an indicator that the author really DID need more of a critique than they were given.

    I've just started reading a novel that is not living up to the cover blurb - in terms of readability, quality of writing, atmosphere, etc. Its faults are not allowing me to simply enjoy the story.

    On the other hand, my Masters degree in Music doesn't stop me enjoying a great concert - but it does mean I need to select my concerts with care.