Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What makes a Book Star (or how can you be The Hunger Game too)

Tip of the Day: did anyone else keep thinking it was Monday today? Which is why I'm posting a bit late. Let this be a lesson that you should always get your stuff done ahead of time. Now if I could only apply my "tip" to myself, I'd be all set :) 

After watching America's Got Talent this evening (yes, I know I watch way too much TV and reality TV and talk about it on this blog more than any normal person should, but oh well...that's life), Sharon Osbourne made a comment to a 6-year old performer (or more specifically a 3+2 child) that for some reason has stuck with me this evening. It was something to the effect of: "very few people in life have star quality--and you have it."

This got me thinking about books in general and what makes a book a "star." There's so many amazing books out there, but not all of them can have "star" sales like Twilight, The Hunger Games, or even Fifty Shades of Grey :) So what makes these books stars in the public's eyes (and pocket books)?

Obviously a push from the publisher helps. But what else makes a book a star? Here are some of my thoughts:

Neat, literal book star from www.quietfiredesign.com
  • You need a killer title! Enough said. Would The Hunger Games have caught on nearly as much as it did if the title was something as simple as District 12? Maybe, but it doesn't command your attention as much. At least not mine.

  • You need a cool concept. And even more, you need a cool concept that can be summarized in one sentence, or better yet the title. Even though people say there aren't any new concepts, there are still ways to make a story stand out with a simple, yet intriguing concept. 

    All of the above titles I mentioned can be summarized in less then a sentence. Even just "YA vampire love" gets across the concept of Twilight. Though there are many vampire love stories out there now and I'm sure there were several at the time Twilight came out, so I guess we could expand it a bit to just be "teen girl falls in love with a hot, sparkly vampire." Which gets your attention if you like love stories. If you like adventure, then a story about "a televised competition to the death" pretty much makes you sit up and pay attention. And if you like "adult" romances, then you know the book for you. Though I do think Fifty Shades of Grey is a bit vague of a title, however, I'm sure that was probably done on purpose, in this case.

  • Then it needs to sparkle enough with the writing, characters, and plot, so that people start talking about it. And if the above two apply it makes it "very" easy for people to start talking and spreading the word, because they have a simple concept to relay with a unique twist, and a cool title that summarizes it all and makes it easy for the next person to pass the info along in a large game of "book telephone." And then, bam, before you know it the book is mentioned on every single show from The View, Saturday Night Live, and everything in between.

    So basically, also like Sharon mentioned, to be a "star" you obviously need to have some talent, but much of it is being able to move people and get them talking about you, or in this case "the book."

    --Emily, Miss Querylicious


Bonnee Crawford said...

Something all authors should aspire to. Thanks for sharing this. :)

G.M. said...

Thank, Emily, for this post. The most important is the Cool Concept. By the way, there's info on the internet that the concept of The Hunger Games is a ripoff of Battle Royale from Japan.

Kristina Springer said...

I think the unique unexpected twist is a good point. That's what gets people talking. Though with the Hunger Games we sort of saw the plot before when we all had to read the story The Lottery as kids. But she merged it with the Survivor concept to really make it stand out. So maybe that's another key thing to try-- a mashup. Just like on Glee with their mashups-- mash up two ideas. :-)

Emily Marshall said...

Yes, I've heard the Battle Royale comparison as well, though Collins did claim to have never heard of the book. And the concepts seems different enough to me. The other one wasn't nearly as easy to explain in one sentence :) So I think Tina's idea of mashing up is a good one. I think you just need to see what speaks to you and then try to simplify it while also intensifying it (if that makes sense). Easier said then done, I know!

G.M. said...

Even if Suzanne Collins read the Battle Royale and build her book around it, she deserves a lot of credit. First, almost nobody heard about Battle Royale before her book, so they can't claim that she caused financial damage to their sales. Second, she introudced a new theme of the love triangle for Katniss and especially Katniss and Peeta play (or maybe it's real) to be in love to win the game. In an author takes an idea but exctutes it better or differently, then it's as good as being original.