1. A GREAT cover - It should be not only eye catching and professional, but also consistent with the image expected for that genre.
2. GREAT back cover copy - Tell the reader about your book in a concise, engaging way, leaving hints and unanswered questions to engender curiosity.
3. A GREAT hook - The first few sentences in a book are terribly important. Since attention spans are so short these days, get right into the action immediately. As you go along, you can sprinkle in bits and pieces of how your character got into the situation.
4. A GREAT title - Again, as in the cover, the title should be consistent with the image of the genre, but also something that stands out and intrigues the reader.
5. GREAT grammar, spelling, punctuation - Readers get turned off by grammatical errors. Don't rely completely on your word processor to tell you if you've made mistakes. I've found many grammatical errors in spell check, and also found some instances where spell check was correct. Get an editor or someone in the know to go over your manuscript. Authors tend to see what they want to see and overlook the obvious.
6. A GREAT story line - This is subjective, since readers have various tastes. However, there are certain guidelines an author can follow to help the cause; such as, not making your character too stupid to live, not making the hero or heroine do unheroic things, not giving away solutions along the way, or even the ending, not introducing characters out of the blue just to resolve an issue, and not relying on coincidence. Other than that, I can't say what kind of story anyone should write. That has to come from an author's heart. Remember, though, if you want to follow a current trend, it would help if you're a fast writer, since trends change.
7. GREAT characters - An author needs to get the readers into the characters' heads, hinting through internal dialogue or body language how the characters feel, so the readers can bond with them. It helps to give the heroes and heroines not only some likeable characteristics, but also a few foibles, because no one's perfect. Also, offer a reason or two why or how the villain became twisted. Again, no one's all bad or all good.
8. GREAT dialogue - Dialogue makes a book sparkle. Long, rambling narratives can turn off a reader. Long, rambling dialogue can also. Have the characters say what they need to say to get the plot moving along, yet have them say it in their own way. A teenager should not talk like a Baby Boomer.
9. GREAT description - Readers like to use their imagination, but it doesn't hurt to help them along some. Intersperse various descriptions of physical description, body language, clothes, places, time, weather elements, so the reader doesn't founder along. Imagination can only go so far.
I hope these GREATS will help make your book GREAT!
Can you think of any I've missed? Or, can you think of a book where you were impressed by any of the GREATS I've mentioned?
Morgan Mandel is a past president of Chicago-North RWA,past library liaison for Midwest MWA, belongs to EPIC, and Sisters in Crime.
Find her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/morgan.mandel
Coming soon is her thriller, Forever Young:Blessing or Curse. You can find her romantic suspense,Killer Career,and romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams, on Kindle and Smashwords for 99 cents each.Two Wrongs will soon follow.