5 Things You Need to Do to Transform Your Book from Average to Bestseller
You know as well as we do that there is not a concrete “bestseller” formula that will catapult your novel to the top of the NYT Bestseller list. The things that make a novel a bestseller are different for every book and for every author. For example, your chances of writing the next bestseller are bigger if you are:
- Already a bestselling author, in which case, you don’t need to be reading this.
- Well known among your sub-genre and have an established platform of fans, in which case, you do need to be reading this.
But, nothing will catapult your debut novel into the bestselling list like good marketing, a great story, captivating characters, and great writing. And we mean it – debut novels are notorious for proofreading errors, discontinuity mistakes and plot holes. Yes, even traditionally published debut novels have final errors. It happens.
What we are focusing on today is how to turn your book from average to bestseller, and with that intention in mind, we have gathered the things you need to do – even if you’re writing non-fiction, even if you already do have an established platform of fans who are ready to buy your book. In fact, maybe you need to do these things because you don’t want to disappoint the horde of fans, who are not very forgiving if a blogger’s first book doesn’t live up to the hype. So, let’s begin!
1. Think cast, not protagonist
You want to write the book that will touch the hearts of so many people that they will rave about it via word of mouth and on social media? Think in terms of cast instead of only focusing on your protagonist.
A very common mistake that authors make these days is focusing on a single character – the protagonist – and his or her journey. As a result, the other characters appear to be only in the story to serve a momentary purpose and have no depth. You’ve read them too: the best friend who barely appears in the story, the inexplicable love interest who’s got nothing else but an incredibly beautiful physical appearance, and other characters who leave no mark on the readers. Focusing on a cast of characters, developing them, their backstories and personalities throughout the book will leave a mark, and that’s what will make your readers fully engaged in the story.
2. Engage the senses
For some writers, engaging the senses is a writing skill that comes naturally to them. Other writers are stumped when they try to write a scene and include this on purpose. If you belong in the second group, you need to go through your scenes. There are a few signs that you are not engaging the senses.
The first sign is your protagonist not smelling, touching – feeling texture, or feeling warmth or cold in the scene. The second sign is that even when they do, you’re telling rather than showing, “She smelled his perfume” instead of “A curious scent enveloped her senses, making her close her eyes and breathe in.” To be precise, in the second sentence, we don’t tell it’s his perfume she smells, her emotional reaction (closing her eyes and breathing in) is what shows us that the woman either likes the scent very much, or the scent reminds her of someone (a former lover?). This leads us to the third sign that you’re not engaging the senses – your protagonist, robotically, doesn’t have any kind of emotional reaction to the outside stimuli.
3. Purple prose will be your ruin
First time writers think that they need to reach an imaginary level of style that will match the style of bestselling authors – which makes you wonder when was the last time they read a novel that was a bestseller. Each writer has his or her own writing style. Some bestsellers are written with an astounding amount of purple prose; others are written in a simple style. But, the one link they have between them is that both novels are masterfully written. The purple prose and the simple style are masterfully done.
If you’re going for purple prose just so that you “could be like all the other bestselling authors,” you will only show two things (even if they are not true):
- You’re not used to writing in purple prose and your book is too heavy to read.
- You’re trying way too hard and simply don’t have the skill to write like this.
So, write naturally. Enhance a little. Edit and proofread. A well-written, engaging story will become a bestseller regardless of purple prose.
4. Simple language will also be your ruin
Opposite of purple prose, overly simple language will also be your ruin. Of course, a lot of successful authors will tell you not to use overcomplicated sentences and to be clear and precise. Yes, do be clear and precise, but not at the cost of your own writing style. Stay true to it. You shouldn’t go for wordiness and for purple prose, but you also shouldn’t encumber yourself to write in a simple style. Short sentences, easy to follow descriptions, simple language instead of variety…it doesn’t sound like it will make a bestselling book, does it?
The best thing to do is to find a balance. Like in the previous section about purple prose, write in a way that feels natural to you, and try to enhance your writing during the editing process without overdoing it. And speaking of enhancing…
5. Enhance the dialogue
Witty exchanges, characters saying the most unexpected things, profound philosophies, you can enhance your dialogue in many different ways. Here are, however, a few tips that are always helpful:
- When people speak, they usually use contractions (think I’m instead of I am).
- Avoid real life dialogue: erase hellos, goodbyes, and irrelevant dialogue.
- Make every word count, and if there is double meaning into the words your characters say, even better.
- Don’t have your characters talk about how long they’ve known each other and what they’ve been through unless they are relaying the story to a stranger.
- If your characters are conversing about the problem at hand, have them reach a solution sooner rather than later.
- Avoid characters thinking about doing something or announcing that they’ll do something, unless it’s important that they announce it. Otherwise, just have them do it.
These are only a few of the ways that you can enhance dialogue. There are many more, and if (upon review) it looks as if some of the dialogue in your book is stilted, then you need to comb through it and make it as entertaining as you can – even when your characters are serious.