There are stories, and there are bestsellers, and we all know which one we’d rather put our name to. Aspiring writers, you may want to pay attention to this: Edmund Wee, Publisher and CEO of Epigram Books, tells us what readers really want.
#1. Sex sells
Surprise, surprise. But readers don’t just want to read about what goes on between the sheets – they also like an action-packed plot. “For a book to be commercially viable, it needs to have sex and action,” says Edmund Wee. “And typically, genre fiction such as romance, crime and thrillers tend to do well on the market.” In other words, scale back on your ambition, especially if you’re a newbie. Pick a genre, and execute it well (with some sexy scenes).
#2. You need a memorable hero
Think Elizabeth Bennett, Harry Potter, and Christian Grey. Bestsellers do well with a larger than life protagonist who can live on outside of the novels. Take Nancy Drew – even people who have not read a single mystery in the series would have heard of the intrepid female detective. It’s not enough to just have a good plot – you need a hero who will ideally stand the test of time and whom people will relate to and remember.
#3. Make sure you have a great cover
This is even more important in the Singapore context. Edmund points out that unlike the West, local authors aren’t as well-known. “People will buy Harper Lee’s next book regardless of its cover,” he explains. “Whereas in Singapore, not only are the authors not as famous, they are competing against the world.” With no big names to instinctively turn to, customers gravitate towards what is aesthetically pleasing, so your book cover needs to be visually striking and have an attention-grabbing title.
#4. Don’t cut corners
Writing a great book is only the first step. You need to put money behind your work and not cut corners in terms of how it’s presented. The little details matter, says Edmund. Money needs to be pumped into quality paper, the size of the book, and of course, effective marketing. A bestseller needs to look like a bestseller, and that’s really about the sum of its parts.
This article was first published in the July’17 issue of Her World.