Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Good Story, Good Art . . . and Luck

Let's talk a little about three of the many components you need to write something that sells.  That is in itself something of a contradiction in terms since, if I wanted to be honest, I would have to admit very little of my writings have sold much.

So let me rephrase my opening statement;  Let's talk a little about my theories on three of the many components needed in order to write something that sells.  Take the theories as you like.  Accepting them as genuine, viable concepts.  Or take'em as nothing more than BS and throw'em in the toilet bowl and flush.

(Hmmm . . . I believe I can hear the disturbing sounds of flushing now across the entire globe.)

One;  Ultimately you need to write an excellent story.  What a reader is basically looking for is a story that they can sink their teeth into.  That gets their imagination fired up.  One that presses all kinds of emotional buttons internally.  Without a story that plucks the strings of at least one or two of these emotional buttons, the writer has failed and the reader is going to find something/someone else.

Notice I said ' . . . at least one or two of these emotional buttons.'  The perfect writer who has composed the perfect story SMACKS ALL of the emotional buttons.  But who the hell is the perfect writer?  When was the last time you've read the 'Perfect' story?  If you're like me, you have to admit that piece of pleasantry has been rather rare in one's life.  And getting more rare as we age.

Which, in my opinion, explains why a lot of mediocre writers become multi-national best sellers.  Somehow . . . someway . . . readers found one or two of their buttons were pressed in reading a certain writer who, for many reasons,  others of various habits think is a writer not worthy to read at all. 

You can name writers whom you love . . . and writers whom you despise.  Your list and my list may or may not have any resemblances to'em.   Two writers come instantly to mind and both sell GAZILLIONS of books each year.

And so it goes.

The second necessity for a writer is good artwork for your efforts.  In order to get the reader to cough up the price for your creation something has to catch their eye.  Lots of readers go for the artwork (be it as the cover or a traditional print cover or the cover as an ebook).  From there they may journey on to read the descriptive blurb about what's inside.  But the journey begins with the visual stimulation.

In many respects the artwork acts like a surreal mirror reflecting what the story inside the cover is going to be.  Like the story itself, the cover must activate the imagination of the reader; offering the reader the possibilities that not only the story will stimulate the imagination, but it holds the promise of perhaps stimulating the other five senses as well.

Traditionally publishers took care of the artwork.  A mistake, if you ask me.  A mistake in the sense that many publishers have no clue what good art for a cover should look like.  Some publishers are even down right pernicious when it comes to artist, willing to slap any ole' photo onto a cover and then trying to make up for the mistake by inserting large bold print across it in an effort to make it look 'Modern.'

I have always thought it was incumbent on a writer to have a very large say in both the composition of the artwork and in its approval for being the composition accepted by the publisher.  Unfortunately I suspect at least in the traditional publisher world the writer has very little say in the matter.

Finally comes the third, and most mysterious, component of all.  Luck. 

Pure, unadulterated, serendipitous LUCK.

Think of all the mega-produced books/series that have been whipped up by major publishers which have fallen flat on their faces and died horrible deaths from readers who had little, if any, interest in them.  Now think of books/series which have come out nowhere . . . literately nowhere . . . and stormed the citadels of the reading public like the hordes of Mongolian horsemen of Genghis Khan.

(Can anyone say the name,  Harry Potter?)

Sheer luck.  Inexplicable.  Unexpected.  Stunning to behold.

As far as I am concerned all the pundits who have said, "Work hard and you make your on luck" must have been on a drug overdose when they uttered such balderdash.  I haven't met a writer yet who doesn't work hard writing their material.  Yes, some writers are better salesmen when it comes to pushing their material out to the general public.  But I suspect that's more attributable to the amount of money a writer is willing to spend out of his own pocket to buy the promotional material he needs than anything else.

Writing a bad novel, as the pundits say, takes every bit as much time as writing a Pultizer prize winner.

But Luck just comes along.  It drifts in like a low lying fog late at night.  One moment its not there.  The next it suddenly has engulfed everything in sight with a white, surreal, envelope of translucence.

What are the factors which induces Luck to appear?  No one knows.

Above are the three covers I am going to use on my Agnastas Hoolia serial novel I'm writing.  I think the story line is excellent.  I think the artwork is more than just adequate.  I think it is award-winning (always open for debate, of course).  So I think I can safely say I have two of the three attributes needed to become successful.

But Luck?  What about Lady Luck?

Gosh.  I wish the hell I could bank on that persnickety woman to show up.  But I can't.  All I can do is cross my fingers and hope.

(Oh, by the way . . . look at my last blog and you can read the first chapter of the Agnastas Hoolia novel.  You tell me if the story is good or not)

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