So, how do you become a best-selling author? Well, you write a great book, loads of people buy it and you hit the best-seller list, right?
Wrong. There are lots of best selling novels that aren’t really all that great, and there are lots of great novels that aren’t best sellers, so that can’t be it.
Come to think of it, how do authors manage to sell any books at all?
Imagine Mr Debut Novelist. He’s been working hard and has written his first novel – well done – and he’s managed to secure himself an agent (no easy thing) and now he has a publisher (amazing). The book is published to no fanfare and no marketing at all. It’s one of a zillion other books published that year and Mr Novelist begins his online campaign using his website, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging etc.
Wow. This is fantastic. The novel floats to the surface and bobs there for a while. There’s a quote from a best-selling author! There’s a nomination! There are a couple of good reviews in national publications! Real life proper bookshops buy some copies in!
But that’s not enough. Readers glance over those reviews because they’ve never heard of Mr Debut Novelist. The bookshops stick their copies in the A-Z shelves, spine out, where no one will find them unless they’re specifically looking (which they’re not, because they’ve never heard of Mr Novelist, remember). So people buy, but there’s no mass stampede at Waterstones, no clogged servers at Amazon. People aren’t jabbing at their Kindles or hurrying out to the bookshop.
So what is it that gets people worked up? What is it that brings a certain author’s name to the public eye? How do they become known? I really am intrigued by the ability of some novelists to shift huge numbers of their books – particularly debut authors who become instant hits.
Is it word of mouth? Is it advertising? Is it witchcraft? Is it a combination of those things, all mixed in with a sprinkle of pixie dust and a fistful of luck?
So, Audrey, Steig, Tom, don’t walk away. We’re looking at you. C’mon. Fess up. Is it alchemy?