How I Became A Famous Novelist – Steve Hely

Five words from the blurb: write, bestseller, succeeds, fame, gleeful

How I Became A Famous Novelist is a satire of the publishing industry. The central character, Pete Tarslaw, decides to become an author in order to impress his ex-girlfriend. He doesn’t have any idea what to write about and so researches the bestseller lists with the aim of creating a book that will appeal to as many people as possible. He comes up with a series of rules for his book and shapes the plot around them – leading to a novel that contains a ridiculous number of themes and plot threads.

Rule 4: Must include a murder
Sixty percent of that week’s bestselling novels involved killings. Glancing around the bookstore, I estimated that fifty thousand fictional characters are murdered each year. Not including a murder in your book is like insisting on playing tennis with a wooden racket. Noble perhaps in some stubborn way, but why handicap yourself?

I normally struggle with satirical novels, but this book had me laughing out loud on several occasions. It is an insightful parody of the current publishing industry and no-one is safe from mockery – I particularly enjoyed reading the sections about bloggers.

The only downside to this book is that everything he writes is true – the title could easily be changed to How to Become a Famous Novelist, and the text taken literally by an aspiring author to create a publishable book.

I flew through this entertaining story, finding several sections so amusing that I made my friends and family read them too.

Writing a novel – actually picking the words and filling in paragraphs – is a tremendous pain in the ass. Now that TV’s so good and the Internet is an endless forest of distraction, it’s damn near impossible. That should be taken into account when ranking the all-time greats. Somebody like Charles Dickens, for example, who had nothing better to do except eat mutton and attend public hangings, should get very little credit.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the publishing industry.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

I can’t see why anyone who likes to read wouldn’t want to check out this hilariously funny, spot-on satire of popular fiction. Life With Books

However, it can feel a bit light and fluffy due to its readability and how neatly everything is squared away at the end. The Literary Omnivore

Part of the fun in reading this story is seeing if you can guess who the real life models might be for those authors that he critiques. At Home With Books

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  1. Beth F says:

    Hummm. Sounds kind of fun — perhaps a good one for vacation. I am hopeless at guessing real-life models, so that part would be lost on me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I’m terrrible at guessing real-life models too, but I suppose the fun is that we can all come up with our own suggestions and they’d all be correct to some extent. I think that is one of the reasons why this book would be a great book club choice :-)

  2. Love the quote about Dickens! I think it’s fun sometimes to read about any subject that can take itself too seriously. This one sounds like a great summer read…I’m adding to my list!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenna, I loved that quote too! The whole book is a great parody of our internet age – I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

  3. Brenna says:

    This sounds really funny!

    1. Jackie says:

      Brenna, I don’t find many books funny, but this one certainly tickled me. :-)

  4. parrish says:

    This sounds like a really good lighthearted fun book, one to take you away from ones normal reading material.

    1. Jackie says:

      parrish, I read a lot of dark books so it was nice to find something lighter that worked for me.

  5. Jenners says:

    Wasn’t this a hoot? I just loved it…so so funny. I plan on reading it again because the various parts just crack me up.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I’m planning to keep it and re-read sections whenever I need a laugh. So funny!

  6. Kathleen says:

    This one sounds like a very fun read!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, it is! I hope you decide to give it a try.

  7. Amused says:

    Oh my goodness this sounds like a hoot!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amused, it is the funniest thing I’ve read in ages. I hope you decide to give it a try.

  8. This was already on my wishlist, and seeing that you enjoyed it means I definitely will read this. I love satire!

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, if you normally enjoy satire then I’m sure you’ll love it. I look forward to seeing what you make of it.

  9. Biblibio says:

    Most of the reviews of this book seem to agree that it’ll be an entertaining poke at publishing. Seeing as half of my free time is spent poking and mocking the current publishing industry, it would appear that this is a good book for me. Just a guess. Who knows? Maybe it’s just super clever marketing winning me over anyways…?

    1. Jackie says:

      Biblibio, it sounds as though this book is the perfect match for you – it will give you many more ideas for you to mock the publishing industry with – and it is great marketing too!

  10. Jeanne says:

    I don’t care that much about publishing, which put me off reading this, but after reading what Jenners and Alyce and now you have to say about it, I think I’m going to have to read it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeanne, if you aren’t interested in the publishing industry then I would be concerned you might not like this. I’ll be interested to see which side of the fence you’ll fall on this one.

  11. sakura says:

    The quotes you’ve highlighted are hilarious and so true. I’ve heard of this title but really want to read it now. I’m curious to read about what he says of bloggers.

    1. Jackie says:

      sakura, I think you can probably guess what he says about bloggers ;-) I hope that you enjoy it if you decide to read it.

  12. Alyce says:

    Your review reminded me of how much I liked this book when I read it (especially the first half).

    1. Jackie says:

      Alyce, Yes – I agree that the first half was better than the second, but it was all very funny. I look forward to seeing what he writes next.


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