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We attended a talk on “Tricks on How to Make a Living as an Author,” by David Farland. He gave great advice like write stories that win awards and become bestsellers. Okay maybe he had a few other suggestions too, but those were two of them. If only it was that easy. :)
But Farland did give his personal insights on what makes a bestselling novel that I thought I’d share. He said he looked at a list of the bestselling novels of all time and identified four commonalities.
1. Immersive, interesting setting. Most of the bestselling novels make the reader feel transported to another place and/or time. For me this could be overdone and come off as a little self-indulgent like in the series The Wheel of Time (someday I’ll blog about this).
2. Wide audience appeal . A lot of bestsellers have a story line that appeals to a lot of people with a diverse cast, strong male and female leads with old and young characters. A little ethnic diversity doesn’t hurt either if done respectfully.
However, Farland also recognized that sometimes it is wise to target a specific audience especially if you are an avid reader of that genre or subgenre.
3. Highly emotional. Most of the bestselling novels evoked a strong emotional response from readers. Personally, I believe that stories tap into that emotional side of us, and emotional payoff is essential to a great story.
4. Lengthy. A lot of bestsellers are very long, longer than publishers and agents recommend. Most likely because it takes a lot of pages to create a strong story with a detailed, realistic setting.
So that is what makes a bestseller according to David Farland (I'd add romance or a romantic subplot to his list). I have to say that a lot of blockbuster novels and movies that I love fit these points: Harry Potter, Les Miserables (threw that in for you Melanie), Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc, so there may be something to it. Although a lot of stories even those that aren’t best sellers also fit these four criteria.
I wish I knew the list of books he based this analysis on, but I did a little googling and I found some lists for the bestselling books of all time here and here. And because I’m an avid fantasy reader, here’s the list for the bestselling sci-fi and fantasy writers
So what do you think? Is David Farland right? What do you think are the keys to producing a bestselling novel?