Wednesday, 20 March 2013


I've spent the past two and a half years trying to work out what makes one book sell and not another, and ...


... I can, with confidence, disclose the results of my research: it's fairy dust.

Of course, it helps for your book to be well-written and gripping, and preferably one of a series. An enticing cover and blurb won't hurt. Many writers are enjoying modest success, making money and pleasing readers; but what is that extra something that fires people to tell their friends, post on Facebook or start forum discussions on Amazon? What makes people so obsessed with your characters that they write fanfic about them? I don't know, and interestingly, neither do the authors it happens to. 

Take Hugh Howey, the latest indie phenomenon. He didn't promote Wool at all. It started life as a short story, published on KDP and left to twiddle its thumbs while Hugh concentrated on selling his full length novels. The short story sold surprisingly well, and eager readers asked for more. The rest is history. Hugh is a shrewd guy, able to work out what he wants and hold out for it; he also comes across as both nice and engaging, with a good relationship with his fans. But he admits he never expected Wool's success. I can remember him saying a year or so ago on Kboards that he was doing quite well, but wasn't in Amanda Hocking's league. He probably is now.

You can read Hugh's analysis here. This is how he begins:

I wonder if lottery winners get emails asking for advice on how to win the next one [...] Every week, I get a handful of emails from aspiring authors asking for advice. They want to know how I found success with my writing, and I find myself admitting that luck played the biggest part.

For more on this topic, read Hugh Howey and the Bestseller Myth.


  1. Hugh Howey's success is very interesting to watch, isn't it? He's a terrific writer, which I think has a lot to do with it. I wonder where he'll be a year from now... :)

  2. Even richer and famouser, I bet. And no doubt still mixing with the rest of us on Kboards :o)

  3. What an interesting account he gives of his own success and isn't it refreshing to read someone who doesn't suggest you spend forever twittering and facebooking, but rather get on with the writing and engage with people who like your work.

  4. Yes - and I think it's true that we all have to strive to find what works for us. I couldn't stay up all night drinking Red Bull and writing like Amanda Hocking...

  5. Fingers crossed that the fairy dust happens to you! You've got all the other ingredients for a runaway success.

  6. ...and I know a fairy...

    *hopeful look*

  7. Improving your odds with hard work sound like a winner.

    I think being good looking and possing for pictures in front of a book case are also helpful.

    Or at least so I have been told.

  8. One does what one can, Russell :o)

  9. An interesting post, Lexi, as always. Sensible too, despite the fairy dust. The link to Hugh's advice helps also.

    I must admit I don't like staying inside on sunny days, I've done it, of course, most writers do, but a sunny day in England is becoming as rare as that flying pig I keep hearing about.

  10. Are you suggesting my fairy dust theory isn't sensible, Anna? And after all that research I did.

    Bet you can't come up with a better explanation.

  11. If I do, it could be worthy of a novel. Note - novel.

  12. This is terrific. "I gambled like I was drunk" has to be my favourite bit of advice. So many blog posts talk about what we should be doing and people get hung up on doing things the 'right way'. My gut seems smarter than my head sometimes :)