What Makes a Fiction Book Successful?

Photo taken from this site

I have been wondering – like a lot of other people – why some fiction books become successful (I mean primarily science fiction and fantasy genres).

There are three essential elements: the created world, its greatest “attraction” and the plot. If they are presented in a skillful, interesting and balanced way, the author has literary talent. If he/she has a lot of luck, he/she will probably succeed.

I suppose, the second factor is the most important here. It should have the greatest potential to inspire readers` imagination – even beyond the original author`s concept. It should be powerful, profound and with the multiplicity of aspects.

I will give five examples:

J. K. Rowling: the greatest attraction (tga): Hogwart – as the building, institution and community.

P. Pullman: tga: souls as external entities in animal forms – dæmons.

S. Lem: tga: the conscious, living ocean.

P.L. Travers: tga: Mary Poppins.

J.R.R. Tolkien: tga: the temptation of power.

Without these elements of their imaginary worlds, all listed writers might have remained relatively unknown.

I could compare reading a great book to visiting a house – with the author as my guide. He/she might awake my curiosity by presenting his/her splendid architectural concept, rooms, the most attractive, amazing element, and inhabitants – in an intricate, unconventional way. All these factors are important for creating a unique climate of the place. Nevertheless, I would probably pay special attention to the most attractive element (it could be for example: a room, object, inhabitant, or event). And the entire author`s world may become alive also in my imagination for a long time.




2 thoughts on “What Makes a Fiction Book Successful?

  1. Hi Marcin! Some good thoughts! 🙂

    I would extend your house analogy a bit, encouraged by your picture of that rather odd dwelling: Some people will like some books, and some will like others. That house is probably worth millions, but there are probably millions of people who’d just about rather live on the street rather than in it. :> Everyone has their own tastes.

    To some extent I think books often achieve success because they’re (1) being put out by a big publishing house that has decided they’ll make a lot of money and thus invest in promotion and pull strings to get reviews and TV guest interviews etc, and/or (2) because they’ve got two or three in a series already completed and have the promise of another dozen: it’s nice to know that if you buy a book and like it that there’ll be another dozen that you’ll like in the future!



  2. Hi Michael 🙂

    you are right.
    I like this extension 🙂
    The factors you mentioned (good publishing house, proper marketing) could also be described as “luck”.
    I`m lucky to work on my novel with professionals (Montag Press) and in a friendly atmosphere.
    And I`m lucky to have met you. You`ve done an excellent editorial work.


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