I receive lots and lots of queries and even more face-to-face questions regarding the idea of what makes a good book. People want to know if I’ll accept their book idea for publication. Sometimes I even wonder myself: how do I know what is good or not? How can an author know if they have a good idea or not?
The goal of an author is not much different than the goal of a publisher, a bookstore, a publicity or literary agent, or a reader really. All of us want to take our everyday life and make it somehow larger than life. We want to believe that the way we see the world is unique, yet understandable. We want to feel that our stories hold unexpected surprises in them. We want to feel that when we get to a situation we’re writing about that we examine all the myriad options that could occur and pick, as the great Robert Frost line goes, “the one less traveled by.” We want to be rewarded with praise for how we interpret what can be common experience.
So, what seems to me to make a book good? What makes the start of a good book is deep inside an author. Authors that write with others in mind, or primarily wanting to have their book published than merely enjoying the thrill of writing are at a disadvantage in my mind. There is a deep, and lonely, isolated part of writing that simply can not be avoided. Every writer needs to be fully immersed in the process of creation whether it’s fiction, or nonfiction.
If you, as the author, aren’t seeping with passion as you create then I suspect your book won’t be one others want to read. If you are writing fiction and feel you’re becoming the characters in your novel, you’re on the right track. If you’re doing a nonfiction work and all your thoughts are suddenly tied to your subject, from groceries to taking out the trash, you are on the right path.
A good book like a good life is overcoming fear and doubt. It is knowing that when revealing who you best want to be has happened. When you know that your words ring true you are at perched to move on to the next phase of publishing, but not until then. A good book must include heart and soul before anything else.