The Magic Factor

by Janis Patterson

There are many mysteries in this world, and many – as we all know – are in the writing game, not the least of which is the Best Seller. Now a dedicated media campaign, the work of many people, a LOT of money and the backing of a prestigious publisher can create a national best seller out of an unimaginably dull and occasionally pedestrian book. On a smaller, more human scale, in the self-publishing world the same pattern will hold, though with generally less rarified results. A lot of (usually) friends, some dedicated and probably expensive PR, and determined social media presence can elevate a piece of pure dreck to more than respectable sales. Everyone knows that.

What everyone doesn’t know – and what can’t be guaranteed – is the Magic Factor.

That is the unquantifiable something which no one can guarantee, cause or even predict which strikes at random and elevates an ordinary – or even less-than ordinary – book to stellar heights.

I just experienced this phenomenon and no matter how I have tried I simply cannot analyze why it has happened.

The book in question is a romance, a perfectly ordinary romance which was written (in some haste, I might add) for inclusion into an anthology many years ago and republished under my own imprint at least half-a-dozen years ago. Since then it just sort of lay there; I didn’t publicize it other than putting an excerpt on my website (which I do for all my books). It hasn’t sold a single copy in any format in at least two or perhaps three years.

Until about a month ago.

I was surprised but happy when a copy sold – in paperback, no less. When that number jumped to six, still in paperback, I was delighted. When in the course of about three weeks about thirty paperbacks (including a smattering of ebook versions and KU reads) were sold I was astonished. When it was selling more copies than any other of my books I was totally gobsmacked.

Why? And why this book, which while reasonably well-written and originally well-received but is still not one of my best or even favorite stories?

I don’t know. I like the book, but have no idea of why this sales surge is happening. (And it is still happening, believe it or not.) Perhaps a book club discovered it and wanted a shortish, pleasant, clean read? Perhaps some college writing class wanting a good example of how to write a genre novel? Or – horrors! – perhaps how NOT to write a genre novel? I really don’t care – it’s all subjective anyway, and I get my royalties no matter what.

Perhaps the best of all, the surge of interest has sparked an interest in my other (similar) stories, though none of them have taken off like this one has.

That’s what I mean by the Magic Factor. I had nothing to do with it, and the reasons are totally unknown, at least to me. Magic!

Now if we could just figure a way to bottle it…