Giacomo Giammatteo, author of the book A Bullet for Carlos, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.
I picked up a book to read the other night. By the second page I was bored. Nothing was happening. There were no hints of exciting things to come, but I kept going. By page ten, it had gotten worse. I found no mystery. No magic. No dead body or threat to destroy the world. Despite that, I trudged on.
By page thirty-two, I was ready to quit. The main character complained too much. I couldn’t relate to her. I didn’t agree with her thoughts, and didn’t believe her actions. I didn’t like her dialogue. The setting was too descriptive. The characters too vivid. Everything was too much. So I put the book down and picked up one of mine to read.
Yes, the first book was from my wife’s shelf. I occasionally do this as a reminder that everyone has different tastes. My wife and I read such different books that they can’t be found in the same bookstore, even the same library. We have to keep them in separate rooms of the house for fear of catastrophic events—like matter and anti-matter coming into contact. Okay, it’s not that bad, but I think you get the point.
Predicting What Will Sell
So how, I might ask, is an agent, or publisher, or anyone supposed to know what will sell and what won’t. As much as the publishing world likes to pretend that they know, history tells us otherwise. If they knew—really knew—there wouldn’t be so many bombs. Every book would be a bestseller.
About the only books that the publishers predict accurately are non-fiction books and books written by celebrities. In other words, ones that have a large following already. Oh, and trends. That is why, when a book becomes a runaway bestseller, like the Da Vinci Code was, or Twilight, or Hunger Games, or more recently, Fifty Shades of Grey, you can bet your last dollar you haven’t seen the end of those types of stories.
Think back on it.
When John Grisham stormed onto the bestseller lists with The Firm, legal thrillers came out of the woodwork. Dan Brown’s, Da Vinci Code, brought a trail of the same. But none may have spurned more spinoffs than Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. After Twilight, you couldn’t stretch your arms out in a bookstore without hitting a vampire or werewolf novel. Then came zombies and other urban fantasies. The Hunger Games started a craze for YA novels, and now, in perhaps what might become the biggest trend, Fifty Shades of Grey has opened the floodgates on erotica.
And it doesn’t seem to matter what readers think of the book. Fifty Shades has almost 5,000, 1-star reviews on Amazon. Five thousand!
I’m curious how a trend happens. It isn’t like these stories haven’t been there before. There were certainly legal thrillers before John Grisham. Historical thrillers preceded Dan Brown, and more than a few vampires and werewolves shed blood, or some substance, on pages of novels before Stephanie Meyer was even born. And erotica? It can be found in the ruins of Pompeii. So what was it about these novels that not only propelled them to bestsellerdom, but kicked off an industry-wide trend in that genre that lasted years?
By all accounts, and by the number of bad reviews, these are not the best, or most well-written, books. Thousands of people have found major faults with the storytelling, writing, characters, plot… You name it and readers have picked it apart. So what is it that makes more and more people buy the books and read them?
Is it controversy?
I don’t remember The Firm having any controversy associated with it, but The Da Vinci Code did with the Catholic church, and Twilight did. And certainly Fifty Shades did.
I personally think that controversy is one of the main drivers. Controversy gets people talking, and talking spurs interest, which drives book sales. The publishing world has known for a long time that word of mouth drives sales; their problem has always been figuring out how to fuel that fire.
So what do you think? What fuels the frenzies that we are seeing in bestselling books today?
About the book:
Detective Connie Giannelli's life has been torn apart several times. First when her mother died and then years later when she found out her Uncle Dominic was in the mob. Her life is about to be shredded again, and this time it could destroy her.
Connie's love of family and her badge are both threatened when an undercover drug bust leaves two cops dead and the drugs missing. Internal Affairs is looking for any excuse to take her badge, but she's not worried about them finding the missing drugs-her secrets could prove to be far worse.
Now Connie's racing against the clock to figure out who killed her partners and took the drugs-dirty cops or Uncle Dominic's friends. And she has to do it before IA pins the whole damn thing on her.
About the author:
Giacomo Giammatteo lives in Texas, where he and his wife run an animal sanctuary and take care of 41 loving rescues. By day, he works as a headhunter in the medical device industry, and at night, he writes.