Some guaranteed topics and stratagems that yield best sellers:
Write A Roman À Clef. The prerequisite for writing this kind of novel is that you have to be famous or hang around with famous people. And I mean hang out with them. Not just be in a room with them and a thousand other people at an awards dinner. So don’t try writing this from your living room in Nebraska or Wyoming. Everyone will know the work is fantasy—without the virtues of elves, gnomes, or apprentice magicians.
Plagiarize a Famous Author. You will have to be sued, of course, by the Famous Author. You will also need to get the case before a jury (and the media). The trial will include comparisons of your work with the Famous Author’s, so that everyone will realize how much better a writer you are, even if you have only slightly altered the Famous Author’s words. Be advised that even if you’re poor, and the Famous Author will gain nothing in damages, you will still need a pile of money for attorney’s fees and court costs.
Libel a Personality. This is far less risky in terms of litigation, thanks to U. S. Supreme Court cases such as Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell (the Larry Flynt case). Make the conduct ascribed to the Famous Person as outrageous and as repugnant as possible, so that you gain both notoriety and 1st Amendment immunity.
Create Majestically Sordid Lies. This one is so obvious that I am ashamed to include it. Who cares if you’re reviled for writing a mémoire full of merde-oire? You will have sold a mound of books before the denunciations, and a mountain of books thereafter!
Craft Blame-Fests. Somebody messed up our lives, so pick one (and pick on one)! The current President is an ubiquitous subject of vituperation, but well-defined “gangs” will do as well (Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, gun-owners, self-defenseless wimps). Don’t get too obscure (your town mayor) or too vague (the World Bank, the billionaire cabal). Being shockingly inappropriate will offend the feeble but entice the angry. You cannot spare any segments of the population (children, the elderly, the infirm, the poor) because of some spasmodic benevolence that survived childhood trauma and adolescent crisis. Be “nice” and maybe you can sell your book to your mother! Just remember: Hatred has a credit card!
Pen SPW (“Soft-Core Porn for Women”). This was formerly known as SPMW [“Soft-Core Porn for Middle-Aged (or Married) Women”], but the latter acronym has been tracked to a coven of jealous males, who wanted to minimize and dismiss this threat to their dominance. Of course this genre can only be written by women, but since porno was devised almost entirely by and for men, this exclusivity is hardly unjust. The author will find herself pilloried by (mostly male) reviewers, but her answer is, “Write a more popular (or any) book, doof!” Yeah, it ain’t Edith Wharton or Flannery O’Connor, but they never created supravirile male characters, either!
Build Trap Doors. Is there a wormhole available for us to evade corrupt government, multifarious abuse, all-embracing addiction, funereal economic prospects? I dunno. But it’s better to keep people busy with things they can control, like themselves. Tell them we’re all particles of God sprinkled on a juicy slab of earth. Urge them to click on the “Ask the Universe” tab and order what they want. Give them lists: 5 steps to bliss; 8 ways to triple your income; 10 foods to boost brain power; 18 methods for obtaining the ideal job, an uncluttered basement, more enjoyable (or any) sex, a frictionless family life. Does this stuff really work? Maybe. Probly. I dunno. After devoting a lifetime to negativity, misery and cynicism, I can confidently advise against putting your faith in that trinity.
Have an Affair with a High-Ranking Government Official. Even if your book is about the growth cycle of Saintpaulia ionantha, you are guaranteed some (transient) traction. And you know what the topic of your next book will be! This approach is not recommended for married authors with young children.
Just Be a Celebrity! OK, maybe you didn’t spend much time on the tome or suffer much for literature, but you worked your ass off and put up with tons of crap to attain celebrity, right? And you will benefit enormously from the repeatedly voiced blandishment, “I didn’t know she/he wrote!”
Most significantly, DON’T spend twenty years writing it! That’s like adding improvements to your home: you won’t get a dime more on the resale! What about eloquence? Sagacity? Poignancy? Ingenuity? Originality? Blah, blah, blah! Write something people can get through quickly on the train or plane and then shove into their bookshelves or leave to languish on their Kindles or iPads. You know your opus will quickly end its days on the “bargain” table of the local bookstores, be listed on Amazon at a steep discount, or sell for 99¢ per download (but don’t forget that the complete works of Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky are also going for 99¢!). Every sale will put a little coin in your pocket, and you can leave ten copies on the dining room table, flip through one every once in a while, and cheerfully tell yourself, “Damn! Am I good or what?”