Someone on one of the social media creative writing groups I belong to posted, “Why in the world would anyone like Harry Potter? …How do you create a book or characters that people will love?”
It’s all about hard work, timing, and the fickle predilections of a fad. You can be a good writer with a good idea and never succeed because it just isn’t what the readership is looking for at the time. You can also be a good writer with a good idea that resonates with readers that, with their favorable reviews, may engage others, and your works become a hit.
J. K. Rowling’s success wasn’t overnight, it took years of effort to finally make it. Rowling worked on Harry Potter for five years, getting feedback, rewriting, more feedback, more rewriting, until she got something she was happy with. It still wasn’t easy, she had to get it published. When publishers refused to read it unless she got an agent she got one. Even after that, she was rejected by 12 publishers until one decided to print. Then came promoting it. Fortunately for ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ it connected with young people through its protagonist. The character of Harry resonated with adolescents through fantasy and plain good storytelling in a way they understood. The more the word spread about this book, the more excitement was generated about it, the more books flew off the shelves in sales. J. K. Rowling had a hit in little time after publishing, but also, after 7 long years of hard work. It could have just as easily, as many have learned on their own, never have amounted to anything. It could have ended up in the “Bargain Book” section after its first edition. There’s no way to predict what the public wants.
But there are ways to improve your chances by,
1. Make a good product (yeah, unless you’re doing this for fun, or obscurity, your book is a product). Edit, edit, EDIT! NOTHING IS SACRED! You, your family, and your friends may think your work is a masterpiece as is but unless they plan to purchase every single book published it’s the general public you have to convince (people can distinguish between something readable from crap).
2. Try to be original, fresh. If there are too many books about zombies, and you like writing about zombies, how can you make your “zombie story” different? (Or, here’s an idea, give up writing on zombies and find something different.)
3. Learn to promote your product (GET THE WORD OUT! People aren’t going to randomly flock to you just because YOU think YOU’RE great).
4. DON’T GIVE UP! The one thing that is common among successful writers is that THEY DIDN’T GIVE UP. QUITTERS NEVER WIN!
So, do you think you have the next “Best Selling” phenomenon? I know I hope I do with my work in progress. The difference may be all in the effort we put in and what readers are looking for.
-A. M. Holmes