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Writers: Mickey Spillane’s Rule for Selling Books


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Mickey Spillane sold a lot of books. Here’s how:

“The first page sells the book,” he said. “The last page sells the next book.”

I was reminded of Spillane’s axiom as I finished the last page of Mr. Monster by Dan Wells. I’m not going to spoil it for you. You’re just going to have to go read it. That book, and his first in the series, I Am Not a Serial Killer, are sometimes harrowing reads. These are books where the author takes risks. John Cleaver is a protagonist you won’t like, but you feel for him, too.

Dan Wells has turned his protagonist, a young sociopath with a dangerous mind, into somebody I’ll follow. I’ll follow the series. Dan Wells is going to sell a lot of books off a character who will make you very uncomfortable.

It was the last line that got me. The really good ones stick with you. The end of Fight Club is a great scene with a neat twist. And William Goldman? He’s the master of the last line that stick a knife between your ribs and gives the blade a half-twist. Goldman’s trick is to make readers comfortable, letting them think they know what will happen next, and then sucker punching them. At the end of Goldman’s The Color of Light I actually threw the book across the room because just when I thought I was safely in the dénouement, he hit me again. 

Lots of writing advice is about baiting the hook on the first page. On the last page, make sure you get the barbs in deep for the next one, too.

Filed under: authors, book reviews, Horror, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses

  1. Yeah I am a big Goldman fan as well, wish he’d write another novel!

    Scott Nicholson

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by D Tenore-Bartilucci. D Tenore-Bartilucci said: Writers: Mickey Spillane's Rule for Selling Books: http://t.co/A9zXTJf […]

  3. Chazz says:

    Thanks for reading, Scott! Yes, William Goldman is still around but his novel-writing typewriter is silent. I think the Color of Light is actually out of print. I can’t believe it! However, anybody out there who wants to read the best novel I’ve ever read can easily track it down via the net.

    You’re right, it would be great to see another novel from him. Lawrence Block said that reading William Goldman is like being drunk while watching a master do card tricks. He has an amazing knack for surprising you just when you think you’ve already got it. He has to be the most underrated American writer. Most people know The Princess Bride (the book and or the movie) but haven’t read the rest of his work. I liked Brothers as a thriller even more than Marathon Man and his non-fiction is alternately instructive and hilarious.

  4. I love this post. I work very hard at starting each of my books with a bang; not an atomic boom, but maybe more like a B-52 Bomber type bang. This is a very confirming post, and I really enjoy your posts on idie publishing. Thanks again Chazz,

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