WHAT MAKES A BOOK SELL?

What makes a book sell to a publisher, and sell-through to readers? It is NOT how fabulous your website or blog is. It is NOT how many facebook or twitter friends you have, how many publishing links you forward or put on said website, blog, facebook and twitter. It is not how much editors and agents like you, though being a pain in the arse will NOT help you in any way, shape or form.

What sells a book is THE WRITING coupled with an ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT!

You have heard that great writing will rise to the top and find its way. Yet we all know that not all great writing sells. There is marketing and sales to contend with, and over my nearly 10 years of agenting I have had quite a number of books that editors loved and sales and marketing told them that it would sell, but just not enough....and the books are still not published. Breaks my heart. Breaks the editors' hearts. And oh, the author. So very unfair. BUT, publishing is a business and fair is not the leading part of the equation here.

But couple GREAT WRITING with an ORIGINAL AND COMPELLING CONCEPT and you are 75% there. The rest is luck, timing, bizarre unknown factors that none of us understand but we kill ourselves trying to, and kismet. When HARRY POTTER, WIMPY KID, THE HATE YOU GIVE, GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATOO, WHOLE 30, etc. were brought to acquisitions meetings and given the green light, publishers made an educated guess that these books would sell. They make those educated guesses on other books (and in some cases pay big advances and pump marketing dollars into them) that are equally fantastic but for some mysterious reason never find their audience. I worked in marketing for a couple of decades and this is just how it goes. What made the Pet Rock, Silly Bands, Chia Pets, Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bear Soap, etc sell? Don't know.

Is it all word of mouth? Is it superior product--maybe yes in books, but in Pet Rocks?

So let's talk about 'superior product in books'. In my opinion, the ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT outweighs mediocre writing, but the better writer you are (LEARN YOUR CRAFT!) the stronger CAREER you will have as a writer be it traditionally published or self-published


Jill Corcoran is Partner & Senior Agent at the Transatlantic Literary Agency. Writer turned literary agent, Jill opened the West Coast arm of Herman Agency in 2009, launched Jill Corcoran Literary Agency in 2013, and merged JCLA into Transatlantic in 2018. 

After earning an English degree from Stanford University and a Marketing and Finance MBA from the University of Chicago School of Business, Jill marketed everything from Disney toys to Kellogg’s Cereal to sneakers. She worked for Mattel, LA Gear, Leo Burnett Advertising, and her own company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing.
 
Jill created and edited the poetry anthology, DARE TO DREAM, CHANGE THE WORLD (Kane/Miller, 2012), which was honored with the American Library Association’s 2013 Notable Books for a Global Society Award, a California Reading Association’s 2012 Eureka! Silver Honor, and was named a Best Books of 2013 by Bank Street College of Education. 
 
Jill has taught all over the world, from intimate classes of 10 to ballrooms of 1,200 writers and illustrators. She has worked with SCBWI/Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Comic-Con International, Kid-Lit College, Writer's Digest, A Path To Publishing, The Writing Pad, Central Coast Writing Conference, CYA/Children and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference, RWA/Romance Writers of America, and the WOW Nonfiction Retreat, and many more. 

Jill Corcoran is available for workshops, conferences, and in-person and virtual classes.