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What makes a story a huge success? There are millions of books on Amazon Kindle, and now that i'm a member of the "indie author club" so to speak, I've done my best to read new books from new authors. Some are a little unpolished, some are decent, some are straight up phenomenal. 

So my question is: what's the secret? Obviously it's not as simple as just writing a good book. Or is it?
 

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If anyone knew the answer, they'd start/run the most successful publishing company ever.

Or as Sir Terry Pratchett says in one of his essays in A Slip of the Keyboard:

"People really do ask us: How do you get published? with a strong implication that there must be more to it than, well, writing a decent book and sending it to publishers until one of them gives in."

:)
 

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I think the secret is to write something that resonates with a large number readers. And really, there's just no predicting what that will be. All you can do is write the best story you can and hope it clicks.
 

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First off I think a "successful book" is tricky to define. But if you mean by those words, a book that will be read and enjoyed by more than one reader, ;D I'll go out on a limb and say Character is what makes for a successful book. I don't think anything is as important as characters who are alive on the page. Now, isn't that easy? ??? ???

"If you're going to write, write about human nature. It's the only thing that doesn't date." William Faulkner.
 

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NogDog said:
"People really do ask us: How do you get published? with a strong implication that there must be more to it than, well, writing a decent book and sending it to publishers until one of them gives in."
A Slip of the Keyboard is a fantastic read. I hear a lot of authors say the same thing as Terry Pratchett - there is no secret to success.

If you work hard, read widely, write a lot, persist, hone your craft, take on feedback from people you respect, stay apprised of industry and social developments, keep writing, always be professional, and do what you love, then you maximise your chances of being successful. There are no guarantees, which is why the "do what you love" part is important.

Blinkbox Books had an interesting infographic about famous authors and their breakthrough novels, but it no longer seems to be available online. There's a static version of it here. http://bookpatrol.net/the-publishing-history-of-some-pretty-successful-authors-by-age-infographic/

Best wishes with your books. :)
 

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I can't speak for everyone but I feel when you write something that resonates with everyone there is some theme, idea, or overall flaw in a character or situation that a mass amount of people can relate to. Even if I do not care for a main plot, if a side character is someone I can relate to or understand in some way, the story will hold my attention much better.

If you have multiple well developed characters that are truly their own character with separate motives that intermingle with the overall plot in a believable way that many people can relate to, you might be on the right track.

IMHO. ;)
 

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If success is defined by profitability, the first thing the book should be is marketable, which is basically the same thing others have said. How can you make the book appealing to the largest number of people? There are lots of ways to go about it, and no path is a guaranteed success (obviously), but understanding the formulas that other "successful" books have used to become beloved by a broad group of people is a great first step.
 

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Daniel Harvell said:
If success is defined by profitability, the first thing the book should be is marketable, which is basically the same thing others have said. How can you make the book appealing to the largest number of people? There are lots of ways to go about it, and no path is a guaranteed success (obviously), but understanding the formulas that other "successful" books have used to become beloved by a broad group of people is a great first step.
I think that with this, it is also important to see what others did that DID NOT work as well. Research, research, research, and be prepared that you still may fail... what worked months ago may not work now. ;)
 

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As others have stated, I don't think there's one answer as to what makes a successful book. It's a combination of things: good writing, a good story, effective marketing, the right zeitgeist, etc. When all those things come together, chances are you'll have a hit. 
 

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I'm a first time author of an ebook and new to this forum. I think that if you enjoy writing your book, as I did, then you are successful. I'm not sure, as many other have written here, what brings great numbers of readers and commercial success. However, I'm quite sure that some who have achieved commercial success haven't been happy. If that were true there wouldn't be depression and suicide among those who have achieved wealth and widespread recognition through their writing. Having said all that, I'll take a shot at what might make commercial success from a newbie's perspective.

I read somewhere that Stephen King threw his first novel unfinished in the waste can and his wife made him fish it out. I don't know if the story is true, or not, but in his case it may well be that some ENCOURAGEMENT, and a lot of LUCK, had something to do with it.

Alex submitted hundreds of drafts before his first novel was accepted for publication, so EFFORT certainly has something to do with it.

I read a bumper sticker on the back of a rusty pick-up truck in front of me once that was in worse shape than my well used car that said, "IF YOU'RE SO SMART WHY AIN'T YOU RICH?"

I'm smart, and I am rich, but that doesn't mean that I have monetary wealth or widespread recognition, but you're reading this and somewhere inside you ( despite your dreams of having a best seller) you know what I'm saying is true.

Don't stop writing -don't stop dreaming- just stop looking for a one- size-fits- all answer.

Ken Hollar 
 

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Daniel Harvell said:
If success is defined by profitability, the first thing the book should be is marketable, which is basically the same thing others have said. How can you make the book appealing to the largest number of people? There are lots of ways to go about it, and no path is a guaranteed success (obviously), but understanding the formulas that other "successful" books have used to become beloved by a broad group of people is a great first step.
If there are, as you say, lots of ways to go about it and no guaranteed path to success, how can you be sure that understanding the formulas others have used is a great first step? After all, the implication of the "many paths to success but no guaranteed one" observation might be that imitating what's been done is a bad idea. Of course, this assumes there are concrete formulas to follow in the first place. I mean that a genre like mystery can be reduced to a very abstract formula: a protagonist solves a mystery of some kind, catching the baddie in the end. Beyond that, however, I don't see a lot of formulas unique to successful mystery novels. In spite of the glut of how-to-write-a-bestselling-mystery novel, in other words, I fail to see too many concrete differences between the successful and the unsuccessful mysteries.

ETA: If winners and losers were predictable, the publishing houses would never have put out so many duds.
 

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Defining success is probably the hardest thing there is, as it's such a subjective matter..

But if speaking strictly from the financial point-of-view, I sometimes feel that to be successful, one must be in a way quite mediocre, too. This might sound a little confusing, but to resonate with masses of people, that something needs to pass through many different ways of seeing the world, subjective tastes, and so on. So in some level there needs to be something neutral, and then people who love it and those who hate it to get some discussion and hype going, because if everyone agrees to something, why bother discussing about it? Also, to be at the right time at the right place. A great story that's somehow easy to understand and get into (old story with a new twist, perhaps?), but most of all it needs to create emotions, something to discuss, something to share.

Anyway, if there would be the right answer to this question, we'd all be rich and bored and not writing, because the journey probably wouldn't feel that rewarding anymore  :)
 

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"With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his." Was George Bernard Shaw envious of Shakespeare's success?

There are also many rants against J. K. Rowling and E.L. James, especially from writers.

As for me, I have learned to accept my humble place in the pecking order of our craft.
 
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