Completing a novel is one of the most satisfying events of a person’s life. Your blood, sweat and tears have been combined to create what you feel is the Great American Novel. Friends and family sing its praises and you can’t wait until it’s glossy cover is displayed in bookstores all over America.
The reality, however, is that the majority of completed novels never make that coveted transition from manuscript pages to published book. Publishers have become increasingly picky about what they choose to purchase, and landing an agent has never been more difficult.
So how do you know if your novel has a chance in this inflated market of completed manuscripts? It must have commercial appeal.
Publishing houses look at each new manuscript as a gamble. They are assured of success when it comes to publishing novels by Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Anne Rice and Robin Cook, but when a previously unpublished author captures their attention, they can’t be sure that their target market will be equally enthralled.
In order for a novel to sell well, it must have commercial appeal, which means that it is attractive to a wide commercial audience. What types of novels are people reading these days? And will they find this novel exciting and fresh?
Unfortunately, the novels that sell that best are the ones that are carbon copies of everything else on the market. Formulaic writers do best because their readers always know what to expect. When you pick up a Stephen King book, you know that terror and gore will run rampant. When you browse the shelves for Dean Koontz, you’re assured that each volume will contain a love story and suspense.
In many ways, writing books is just like running a business. You must be able to identify your target market and give that demographic exactly what it wants. Each new author must have a niche and must reside in that niche for the rest of his or her career.
A novel with commercial appeal may fit into many different molds, but if you’re a new and aspiring author, look for these qualities in your finished material:
Broad Audience. A novel that appeals to a narrow audience can’t sell well, so you might as well put the project away. In order to have commercial appeal, a novel must find its way into the hands of a diverse audience. Make sure, as you’re writing, that your prose doesn’t lend itself to one set demographic. If it does, you’ll need to find ways to broaden it.
Well-Defined Plot. One of the most common reasons for rejections in today’s publishing industry is poor plotting. If you can’t create a storyline that speaks to the reader – and that holds the reader’s attention – you can’t hope to find a publishing house. A tightly-woven plot with no holes and no margin for question is the key to creating commercial appeal.
Interesting Characters. The world is full of different people; no two of us are exactly alike. Another reason why novels are rejected is because of poor characterization. If your characters don’t have interesting histories, intriguing occupations and realistic habits, your audience is going to reach for the next title on the shelf. Publishers know this. So do yourself a favor and create commercial appeal through characters that charm and mystify the reader.
Relevant Content. Writing a novel to which no one can relate is akin to career suicide for a writer. People watch movies, listen to music and read books because they want to experience something that relates to their own lives. Give your readers what they want by writing a novel to which your readers can relate.
Unfortunately, your novel might not have commercial appeal, in which case you will need to rework it. Look for ways in which you can improve upon the prose as well as the structure and characters. And above all, read as often as you can to get an idea for what the marketplace wants – and lacks.
Laura J. Thompson is a professional editor, ghostwriter and consultant. She provides these services at competitive prices for both businesses and individuals all across the United States. You can learn more about her services by visiting her website (http://www.editingbylaura.com ) or by reading more of her articles. She specializes in fiction ghostwriting and editing, though she also enjoys self-help and other non-fiction articles and books.