It has to sell the book. It has to cover the cost of production, make a pro rata contribution to the overheads and make some money for the publisher and the writer so that they can live.
How does it do this? I’ve thought about this in the context of my own recent reading and I’ve concluded:
It must include a good balance of the following ingredients.
1. The right pace – fast, yes, but not so fast that we lose track
2. Human interest
4. Believable characters
5. Characters you bite your nails for
6. Rounded characters
7. An author who understands the setting well
8. The right length
9. Something to make the reader think
10. Something to intrigue the reader
11. Beautifully crafted prose
12. A sense of time
13. A sense of place
14. A huge problem to be solved
15. A satisfactory resolution
16. Some fun
17. Some more serious moments
18. A touch of intrigue – even if the work is not a thriller
19. A touch of mystery - even if the work is not a fantasy
20. And this one must always be there - something to make first the publisher and then the reader fall in love with the book.
Of course, all of these can be quite subjective and this is what makes the writer’s job quite difficult. But worth pursuing?