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Friday Fiction – How Do You Measure Author Success?

Friday Fiction is here and as it’s the first Friday of the month it’s link up time!

Join me by linking up and sharing your own fiction works and book reviews. Have a read of what others are sharing and don’t forget to leave a comment to let them know. All you need to do is click on the blue frog link and follow the instructions. Please link back to this post or grab the badge at the bottom to display in your own post. That way, others can find this link.

I read two books last month. One was by a self-published author and the other a New York Times best seller. I’m going to give a description of each book, along with my thoughts and I’d like you to try and guess which you think is by the self-publisher and which by the NYT author and why. I will tell you at the end of this post, so don’t cheat! Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

So here goes:

The first book is about a young couple who meet one evening in a hotel. The woman is attending a drinks event for a writer’s conference that she is panelling on, whilst the man is drowning his sorrows after catching his fiancé with another man. This man, being so drunk he can hardly walk, stumbles into the woman whilst she waits for the lift and after hearing about his situation, she invites him up to her room. Both feel an immediate connection and end up getting it on, with the man apparently being able to do amazing things despite being off his head.

Within three days or thereabouts, the couple are married after both having a ‘life is too short’ moment. The man (Riley) is the son of a senator and has spent his life doing what his parents expect of him, right down to who he should marry (his ex-fiance was an arrangement sorted out by his mum). Having never been in love before, he suddenly thinks he’s found it with this girl (Noelle) and that she is ‘the one’. Noelle is a widow whose high school sweetheart died on the day of their wedding. Eighteen months later, she hasn’t moved on, not until Riley comes in to her life that is.

The problem is, Riley doesn’t tell Noelle who is parents are as he doesn’t want her to judge him for it and Noelle doesn’t tell Riley that her parents are in prison for murder. Riley’s parents, on finding out about their marriage, deem the couple a match made in hell. His mother tells him he must ditch Noelle and offers to make the whole nasty affair thing go away.

Riley has to make a decision between standing up for the person he loves or doing right by his family’s reputation.

This book is written in dual narrative form, so you get a taste of both Riley and Noelle’s feelings. Both mixed up individuals in their own way, but with very different backgrounds, you can understand their need for love. However, there were certain aspects to the story that didn’t seem believable, for instance, you can perhaps understand their strong attraction for each other, but getting married after only a few days, come one. It says that you can only have a committed relationship with another person if you marry him or her. There was a strong sense of the need to belong to each other, as if marriage was the only way to achieve that. What’s wrong with going out with one another? I found it difficult to believe that both characters, previously sensible individuals, would become that needy that quickly.

The second book is about a young girl (Yasmin) who works as an assistant to an ambitious female entrepreneur (Marie). Whilst at a conference in New York with her boss, Yasmin meets millionaire businessman Daniel Ward, one of the main speakers at the conference. Although initially thinking of him as smug and over confident, there is an obvious attraction between the two of them, which deepens during the stay at the hotel. When it’s time for Yasmin to leave New York to move on to the next destination on her boss’s agenda, Daniel catches up with her and convinces her to ditch her job and stay with him. Yasmin throws caution to the wind and decides to go for it with Daniel. She hates her job and her boss and so feels she has nothing to lose.

Daniel’s wife, Lisa died in a tragic accident in their home a few months previous. Yasmin is aware of this, but it doesn’t stop her from entering in to a relationship with him. Once back in England, though, the enormity of living in Daniel and Lisa’s home and of stepping in to Lisa’s shoes becomes clear. Daniel’s friends don’t approve: Yasmin, a working class girl from London is a world away from all of them. Then there’s Daniel and Lisa’s former gardener, Richard, who seems to believe that Lisa’s death wasn’t an accident after all. Despite the inquest ruling it as such, Richard refuses to believe this and starts an investigation of his own. Being a lonely recluse of a man, the locals put Richard’s insistence down to an obsession with Lisa that he has not been able to let go of. Some are kinder than others towards his questioning: most of them just want to move on from the incident and start to rebuild their lives without their friend.

Yasmin befriends Richard and the seeds of doubt begin to sow. Could Daniel have had anything to do with his wife’s death? The more Richard uncovers about Lisa’s life, the deeper the mystery becomes and it’s quite clear that there is someone who doesn’t want him to find out the truth.

As always, the truth eventually outs but not before further tragedy and some soul searching on the part of Daniel, Yasmin and Richard.

Yasmin is a girl trying to make her way in the world. Her job with Marie was the result of a promise made to her mother and although Yasmin hates it, she feels she owes it to her mum to give it a go. Daniel is a twenty something widow, trying to move on after the death of his wife. It’s not easy when you’re a man of his position, constantly in the media spotlight. He sees his relationship with Yasmin as a chance of a normal life: Yasmin is a world away from the glitz and glamour he’s become accustomed to. Whilst in New York, their affair is nothing more than a blossoming holiday romance, where both can ignore the real world and pretend as if theirs is the only one that exists. When reality strikes once back in England, things become more complicated. It’s clear they are never going to be able to move on whilst there is a mystery surrounding Lisa’s death. Both Daniel and Yasmin have a need to be loved, which perhaps drew them to each other. Their naivety over the situation is understandable, given their individual situations.

So there you have it: two books, two very different authors in two very different publishing circles. What makes one a best seller and not the other? Is it that one story strikes a particular cord with a particular audience? Is it that one is self published and the other has the marketing backing of a publishing big boy?

One thing is certain, both authors are doing what they love and that is, of course, writing books. What does it take to be an author? Do you need to have mainstream success to truly achieve? I don’t think so. Just because one story has been read by more people than the other, does that make it a better one? In my opinion, the self-published book is by far the better story. With well-developed characters and a strong solid plot that keeps the reader hooked until the bitter end, this is what writing a great book is all about. So if you can achieve that, it is only right that you should have the success that you deserve is it not?

This is by no means a ‘should you self publish or not’ discussion. I just thought it interesting that sometimes mainstream success can happen regardless of how good your stories are. I’m not saying that the self-published author isn’t successful, because that’s not true. I know that she is working extremely hard and beginning to reap the benefits of that hard work. Marketing your own work takes a lot more time and effort, though. To get your book in front of the right people, you need contacts. Should you consider success by the number of books you sell, or should you be content in the knowledge that you wrote the best story you could possibly write? You tell me…



Ok, so what did you think then? The first book is called ‘Out of Line’ by New York Times best selling author, Jen Mclaughlin. The second book is The Outsider, by author Emily Organ.

Nikki Young Writes
Nikki Young Writes


  1. maddy@writingbubble says

    A really interesting discussion point Nicola! If only we lived in a world where the best books were the best sellers but I think marketing makes a huge difference. The exposure you get makes for more sales. And just because something is a best seller doesn’t even mean it’s well loved (let alone any good) – I read SJ Watson’s ‘Second Life’ – the follow up to ‘Before I go to sleep’ (which I was gripped by) earlier this year – it was terrible! And there were many reviewers who agreed with me but we all read it because we enjoyed the first book and the huge marketing campaign for book number two pulled us in.

    I do find Rachel Abbott’s story inspiring – she became a best selling author after self-publishing. I’ve read (and enjoyed) three of her books – so sometimes talent does speak for itself. I also think genre comes into it especially as a self-published author. You could write a wonderful book that doesn’t easily fit a formula and it would be so much harder to get readers in the first place. Anyway, this comment has become epic so I’ll stop! xx

    • Nicola Young says

      I know, it’s frustrating isn’t it. I think the best thing to do is get your book out there however you can. What is the point in waiting around forever for a publisher and it never be seen? A lot of self-publishers get picked up by doing it themselves first.

  2. Sara (@mumturnedmom) says

    I had an advantage here as I’ve just started reading The Outsider 🙂 Such an interesting post, and I agree with what Maddy has said. I imagine that the difficulty of getting a traditional publisher in the first place means that a lot of wonderful writers don’t get their work in front of readers. And, sometimes a traditionally published author writes a ‘bad’ book but does well anyway as they have such an advantage before they’ve even started! I admire Emily hugely, seeing how far she has come doing it herself. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt.

  3. sophieblovett says

    Really interesting post! I’d totally pegged the first novel as the self-published one, and was ready to get all judgemental about tacky character names and over-wrought romance. I now want to read ‘The Outsider’ even more – it sounds like it fits very solidly in the whole chick noir genre I’ve enjoyed recently… As someone who is currently trying to break into the traditionally published world it is frustrating how many things seem to be more important than the quality of writing when it comes to a book’s success! X

    • Nicola Young says

      I hope this shows that just because something is traditionally published, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s better. Both have their place and there are books for all tastes out there.

    • Nicola Young says

      It is frustrating because I’m sure many self published authors would rather have the backing of a publisher to help them, but I guess it’s why self publishing has become so popular. So many great stories would never be read if those authors hadn’t have had the guts to go out there and do it themselves.

  4. redpeffer says

    Yes, having just finished Emily’s book last night I recognised the description instantly. It’s such an interesting point you highlight too. I did like the line “with the man apparently being able to do amazing things despite being off his head.” Kind of summed it up for me-the whole ‘just because it’s traditionally published doesn’t actually make it something I’m going to like reading’ thing. I do think it’s a long hard slog, but self publishing is definitely allowing more writers to reach an audience that previously would have eluded them. For me it’s all about good story telling-no matter the genre or how its published.

  5. Marija Smits says

    Well I have to say that I love your chatty style of reviewing! I recognized the books though so I guess that puts me out of the guessing game. Funnily enough we’ve been having an interesting discussion about self-publishing in my writer’s group. Won’t bore everyone with it now though!

  6. Mummy Tries says

    Such an interesting piece Nikki. I have no idea what the rules are to be honest, all I know is that as a self-published author, it is very hard to sell books unless you have an endless marketing budget and tons of time on your hands to do all the hard work *sigh*.

    I think most writers dream of becoming the next big thing, but as Sophie said above, writing a good book isn’t even half of it… and I have no idea what the other half even entails.

    • Nicola Young says

      It should be as simple as writing a good book, but here I think you can see that you don’t always have to do that in order to have a best seller. That is such a shame and goes to show what good marketing and publicity can do.

  7. Emily Organ says

    I’m completely surprised to find my book mentioned here, thank you Nikki! I think you get good and bad quality books published and whether they’re traditionally or self-published these days it doesn’t make a lot of difference! I agree that Rachel Abbot is inspiring and there are a few other authors like her too. I think some books get hyped above their actual merit, you see a craze for everyone liking a certain book. I’d like to think all writers who deserve a big break achieve it one way or another. I had a spell of wanting to be traditionally published but that’s gone again now!

    • Nicola Young says

      I often find that I’m disappointed when I read a best seller that’s been hyped up so much, but at the same time, I’m always tempted to read it because of the hype. It’s a powerful tool.

  8. mummyshambles says

    Five publishers rejected L.M Montgomery’s debut novel, Anne of Green Gables. Two years later she re-submitted it and it went on to sell 50 million copies, of which I have one.
    This wonderful novel might never have seen the light of day had she not believed in herself. The point is that FIVE publishers didn’t feel her story was worthy of publishing..
    I think that self-publishing is a great thing and it means that we get to read some fabulous stories that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day as some people (in the ‘biz’) obviously don’t know a great story when it’s staring them in the face.
    Great post. X

    • Nicola Young says

      Yes it would have been a great shame if we never had Anne in our lives. At least as authors today, we can make the choice to go it alone. Traditional publishing is so difficult to get in to.


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