The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass (published by Writers Digest) is about the factors that make a book become a best-seller.
It’s mostly about what characteristics a book or story needs to have to move beyond mediocre or good to really great.
Donald Maass is a well-known agent/editor who has helped several famous authors toward breakout success. He’s seen lots of books and knows what makes them great.
I really enjoyed the chapters in this book that deal with writing help:
How to create characters that matter; Making the impossible seem real; and the role of co-incidence and connections between characters. Mr. Maass used real-world examples of well-known books, some of which he’s edited. To me, this was the most helpful: seeing practical examples of what he’s referring to.
The book also includes practical writing exercises and questions. It is a workbook about how to create a breakout novel. It caused me to consider how my own first novel attempts are fitting into the mold of the breakout novel.
The third section of the book deals with the realities of the publishing industry. Even though some of the information is dated now (copyright 2010), it is still helpful.
An over-riding premise of the book is that authors should worry less about the publishing politics and marketing machinations and focus on producing a great story. More than anything else, a breakout novel is the most important marketing factor.
The Breakout Novelist is highly recommended for any author hoping to write a novel that will be enjoyed by many.