Does your book have the key elements of a high-interest property in the publishing industry? Will literary agents, editors, and readers be excited to get their hands on it? How can you know in advance if you’ve written a book that will garner serious attention and break out in a big way?
Many of our clients at Writer’s Relief connect with fabulous literary agents and go on to publish great books. With years of experience in the industry, we know what literary agents are looking for. We help our clients prepare their manuscripts and get them into the BEST agents’ hands. We’re also readers who love books as much as you do.
While there are no secret formulas that can guarantee your book will break out and capture the interest of industry insiders, we can let you in on a few essential components that many of the world’s most beloved and popular books have in common.
Seven Key Elements of Best-Selling Stories
Memorable, sympathetic characters. Long after people forget the details of the plot, they still remember the characters. Whether you’re writing a memoir or a novel, the characters who populate your story will be more likely to infatuate readers if they’re “totally relatable” but also “larger than life.” It’s a tough paradox to master; the best writers make it look easy.
A unique voice. Agents and editors talk a lot about an author’s voice. “Voice” is made up of worldview, background, tone, interests, experiences, desires, style, and all the things that make a writer unique. The fresher and more distinctive your voice is, the more people will sit up and take notice.
The setting seen through new eyes. Whatever the setting of your book, make sure that your readers are immersed in a fascinating place. If your story’s world is the suburbs, that’s okay! Just be sure to take readers on a tour of that life through fresh eyes.
A catchy opening. We’ve handled enough writing to know; never submit a story that isn’t interesting and compelling until chapter two. Readers start with chapter one. If the beginning doesn’t grab their attention, no one is going to bother to read further. Make the opening chapter great!
An unexpected—yet right—ending. If readers love your ending, they’ll reach for your next book. So keep them guessing right up until the end, then reward them with a conclusion that feels right (which doesn’t necessarily mean “pat” or “easy”). Even if you’re writing in one of the commercial book genres and are following standard plot points, you should keep your ending unexpected but satisfying.
The perfect choice of words. If storytelling is the “macro” of your book-writing adventures, tinkering with the best wording for your sentences is the “micro.” Attention to detail counts; when you’re being a wordsmith now, and later when you’re choosing the best literary markets.
An “I learned something” factor. Some books and stories teach readers about unfamiliar places, events, and customs. The focal point of your story doesn’t need to be a morality tale. But if the reader feels that, in addition to enjoying a great story, he or she has learned something worthwhile, your book might just become the next word-of-mouth sensation.
One Last Word About Writing A “Wanted” Book…
Whatever genre you’re writing in, these seven must-have elements can help your story rise to the top of the submission pile. Know which elements make a book work for you, then hit your mark. Write the book you want to read—the book that only YOU can write. Keep in mind that every book is different and will have different challenges.
When your book is ready, your next challenge will be researching and developing the smartest, best-targeted submissions to literary agents. If tackling that time-consuming project on your own seems impossibly daunting, Writer’s Relief can help make it easy and manageable.
Looks interesting. Does not say up-front costs. Don’t want to waste your time, nor mine. Thank you!
I am always caught off guard by the instruction of having a catchy opening…getting a reader in the first few paragraphs or having a strong first chapter. I truly believe this is the case, for I put down books right away that don’t amaze me in the first few lines. But so many book that have been successful out there have not done this very thing…not been great upon first few chapters: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, or even Harry Potter! In fact, it is rare that i pick up a book and don’t have to read for awhile do I say, “Wow, I can’t put this down!” For which I am glad that I don’t put down…they turn out to be great books! So, please help me out to better justify this criteria that is always put forth.
Have you got any tips for making the opening interesting?
You may find this article helpful: https://writersrelief.com/2010/09/09/novels-and-books-why-your-opening-pages-are-key-to-landing-a-literary-agent-part-one/