Those books that make it on to the bestseller lists tend to have similarities which allows
for patterns to generally be found among them. Many novels gain fame just because their authors
have written bestsellers before and so people know their name and their work. This can be seen
in the best-selling phenomenons of Stephen King, John Grisham, and Dean Koontz. Other novels
are know as "sleepers" in the publishing world because they do not develop into bestsellers until
some time after they are published. A "sleeper's" popularity is generally the result of pure word
of mouth. Still other novels become bestsellers through their inclusion on high schools' or book
clubs' reading lists, like Oprah's. Apparently there is no clear strategy for authors to follow to
produce a bestseller. However, in "Hollywood Husbands" and other novels, Jackie Collins was
able to find a formula that worked for her and she has her many best-selling works to show for it.
Jackie Collins has attracted a very large number of fans who expect her to follow the same routine
in her subsequent novels and she typically does. The celebrity status of the author, the subject
matter of the novel, and the style of writing will be shown to be the reasons why Collins's
Hollywood Husbands and other novels like this are so successful. It is the combination of these
elements into an easy escapism for readers that has propelled Jackie Collins and many other
authors to the top of the charts.
Hollywood Husbands would be categorized by many as a typical sleazy romance novel
and that is a fairly accurate categorization. This novel tells the story of four men, not all
husbands, living the high life in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. It focuses on these men's sexual
adventures and the numerous women they encounter. There are also several underlying plots
dealing with things like family problems, drug dealing, and serial murder. In almost 550 pages
Jackie Collins is able to touch on just about every slightly relevant social and personal problem
there is, offers no solution, but entertains none the less.
Jackie Collins is a celebrity author, not only due to of her success in writing but also
because of her lifestyle in general. Collins's books have earned her millions of dollars and she has
set herself up among celebrities in California but she has always been rather comfortable in that
environment. In fact her second husband, Oscar Lerman, owned a very successful Los Angeles
nightclub where Collins played hostess and interacted with a multitude of celebrities, gathering
ideas for her books while doing so. Jackie had been exposed to the Hollywood scene much
earlier than this though, not only through her own short stint as an actress but also through her
sister Joan Collins. Joan starred in the 1980s nighttime, soap opera Dynasty and many other
television series and movies. Jackie herself admits to the benefits of having a celebrity sister, "
Having a sister who was a movie star was sensational...to have entree into meeting more or less
anybody, because she knew everybody-"(Haller). The fact that Jackie Collins was already in the
public eye and associated with famous people made the public take a special interest in her
Celebrity authors are often able to sell their books well for several reasons. The first
reason being simple name recognition. A consumer is much more likely to buy a book written by
a well known author like Mary Higgins Clark or Michael Crichton than an author they have never
heard of because people do not like to take risks. People generally buy books for pleasure
reading and when they do so they want to be assured that they will be getting that pleasure. Thus,
they will choose a book by a prominent author because apparently others are reading and
probably enjoying this author's work or it would not have drawn so much attention. Another
reason why celebrity authors do so well is the public's curiosity. The public has an almost
insatiable interest in the lives of celebrities and other people in the public eye as is evidenced by
the high ratings of the TV show Entertainment Tonight, the wide circulation of People Weekly
magazine, and the current success of books like The Rock Says by the pro-wrestler The Rock and
Bodyguard's Story by Trevor Rees-Jones. This was especially true in the glamour focused 1980s
when Jackie Collins was publishing most of her books, as she put it, "People like my books. I am
writing about subjects they find fascinating.."(Reuters, pg. 38). Perhaps the people who read
these books believe that a famous author's writing, even if not an autobiography, will give them a
special insight into that person's life. Celebrity authors particularly have a leg up on other authors
in another way, they often have a fairly large and very devoted group of followers who will buy
their books no matter what. This prevents a celebrity author from having to build a fan base from
the ground up and puts them ahead of the game.
Jackie Collins's celebrity status has helped her to become a best-selling writer in another,
more specific way. The majority of Jackie's books take place in the clubs, studios, and homes of
Hollywood, places where Jackie herself has spent much of her time and is quite familiar with as
shown above. This has lead many of "her fans [to] believe that she has a pipeline to the secret
lives of Hollywood stars"(The Orange County Register). And Collins does not argue with this,
"the reason my books are so successful is because people know that I know what I'm writing
about. They know I've done that and been there"(The Orange County Register). Jackie Collins
delivers on the public's desire for details about the real lives of the rich and famous. Collins like
other best-selling authors Richard Bach and Judith Krantz appeals to readers because she writes
about what she knows. This makes readers feel like they are getting the real story rather than a
made-up one. The line between fact and fiction is blurred in most of Collins's books including
Hollywood Husbands and this has been a contributing element in her success.
Subject matter is also another important feature of all books, not only bestsellers, and can
often be the determining factor in whether a person will buy a book. Jackie Collins's topic
choices are favorites among popular authors because they can almost assure that the author's
novel will do extremely well. It has already been shown that in writing about Tinseltown's finest
Collins made a wise decision because of the public's intense interest in celebrities. However,
Collins came up with a winning combination when she decided to include plots involving the
romantic and sexual escapades of those celebrities. Romance novels by authors like Jackie
Collins, Danielle Steel, and Judy Devereaux consistently top the bestseller lists and these novelists
often have a number of their books become bestsellers. The books in this genre typically focus on
the love lives of beautiful and intriguing people and also give explicitly detailed accounts of their
numerous erotic adventures. Clearly these books are allowing "normal, every day" people to
imagine themselves in the shoes of these characters and by doing so escape their routine, mundane
lives, if even for just a few moments.
Sex itself is a topic that sells books even when it is not combined with a romantic story
line. Fiction and nonfiction books about sex have been popular and on the bestseller lists ever
since it became appropriate for them to be published in the early sixties. A few examples,
although many more can be found, of bestsellers solely focused on sex are: Everything You
Always Wanted To Know About Sex but Were Afraid To Ask by David Reuben, M.D., The Joy of
Sex and More Joy: A Lovemaking Companion to The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort and Madonna's
Sex. The public's interest in sex is also evidenced by the widespread circulation of magazines
such as Cosmopolitan, whose headlines this month include "The Hottest Thing You Can Do With
a Man When You Only Have Five Minutes" and "Beyond Kama Sutra...Tantric Sex", Glamour,
and Maxim. These examples of sexual literature satisfy those people with a more innocent and
timid curiosity in sex. They are also much more socially acceptable than pornography so people
will not have to suffer embarrassment and ostracization for trying to satisfy a very natural desire.
These reasons explain why literature like Hollywood Husbands tends to sell very well.
Jackie Collins also increased the chances of Hollywood Husbands becoming a bestseller by
including an underlying murder mystery plot. This plot only surfaces about every hundred pages,
written in italics, and seems to be completely unrelated to the rest of the story until it is revealed
in the end that the murderess is one of the main characters. There is little to no evidence that this
a common trend in best-selling novels except in other Jackie Collins bestsellers, like Hollywood
Wives and Lucky. However, pure mystery or suspense novels by authors like Agatha Christie and
Patricia Cornwell can always be found on the bestseller lists. This evidence in accord with the
popularity of horror movies throughout the past century, like the Scream trilogy today and the
timeless Hitchcock movies, proves that people either enjoy being scared or either like to play the
part of detective. Jackie Collins cleverly combines several proven best-selling topics in
Hollywood Husbands and gives the reading public what they want making it a surefire success.
The inclusion of this murder mystery plot was also a very smart stylistic move on Collins's
part. She like many other authors and screenwriters knows that a person must be given a reason
to keep reading or watching and not get bored and give up. They know that you can not give all
the secrets away at the beginning of the story. Often in novels like Hollywood Husbands or
movies you will find that the majority of the plot is taken up with rising action while the climax is
reached very close to the end and very little time is granted for the denouement. William Peter
Blatty's best-selling novel The Exorcist is an excellent example of this style of writing. The book
is 385 pages long, the climax is reached around page 370 and only about 15 pages are used to
bring all the loose ends together and end the story. This suspenseful style of writing is the key to
success for many best-selling authors.
In order to keep their readers' attention many best-selling authors also tend to have
several different plot lines occurring simultaneously involving a number of characters that are
usually associated in minor ways. This enables the writers to make dramatic cut aways into
different plots at key moments (like when there is a commercial right when a person is about to be
grabbed in a t.v. show) and keeps the reader from getting bored with just one story line. Jackie
Collins accomplishes this in Hollywood Husbands by delving into the lives of four different
Hollywood men and also the lives of all the people they interact with. Stephen King is famous for
this type of writing and uses it in almost all of his books. For example in Needful Things, King
offers the reader insights into the lives of almost a whole town of people and each of their
personal encounters with a mysterious store owner. Other best-selling authors such as Anne
Rivers Siddons and Arundhati Roy have also had success employing several different plots in their
Another important characteristic of a lot of bestsellers is that they are typically rather easy
to read and understand. Many readers are looking for a way to relax and enjoy themselves when
they buy a book not to be challenged by intricate language, high literary stylings, and a confusing
plot. Jackie Collins steers clear of such tactics in her writing and sticks to the unambiguous and
simple. She uses common everyday language, short sentences, and directly relays the action to
the reader. A passage from Hollywood Husbands shows how simple Collins's writing style is:
"Mannon had endured more than enough of viewing his ex-wife across a crowded party.
He wanted her so badly he could taste it, and he was in no mood to watch her with the
likes of Chuck Nielson.
He planned to call his lawyer first thing in he morning and hammer out a settlement to
offer Melanie-Shana. He wanted to be fair about it; she was a sweet kid, but not for him.
Things had to be done at once, even if it cost him. Then he would be free to concentrate
on getting Whitney back."(Collins 109).
Collins, Steel, and other authors like them, who attempt to keep their writing uncomplicated, offer
their readers a quick and enjoyable read which will win them over and keep them buying their
It is clear that readers turn to novels such as Jackie Collins's Hollywood Husbands
because of the simple escape from everday life that these stories give them. By reading these
novels they are able to step into the shoes of another person and live out their fantasies. The
books that make it as bestsellers are those that do this very well and their success can depend on a
number of different factors many of which have been explored above. Jackie Collins's writing and
in particular Hollywood Husbands show the importance of writing style, subject matter, and the
author's personal background to a novel's potential on the market. Collins has proven that in
order to become a bestseller a novel must combine these things in a way that will allow readers to
easily access that desired escapism. Jackie Collins, herself, admits this in an interview with The
Calgary Sun in 1999, "People like my books. I am writing about subjects they find fascinating
and writing in away they understand. I am not a literary writer. I am a storyteller."
Bestsellers Database, http://www.engl.virginia.edu/courses/bestsellers/ "Bestsellers lists by
decade", 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s.
Collins, Jackie. "Hollywood Husbands." New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1986.
Haller, Scott. "Scenes from a sisterhood: Joan and Jackie Collins turn sex and passion into a
family plot." People Weekly, November 12, 1984, v. 22. p.55(5).
Koltnow, Barry. "She's in love with that town BOOKS: Best-selling author Jackie Collins wears
the Hollywood mystique that still informs works such as her latest, ?Dangerous Kiss'." The
Orange County Register, morning, June 3, 1999.
New York Times Bestseller Lists, http://aclibrary.org/current/b_seller.html. Accessed on April 28,
Reuters. "Hollywood Chronicler Sure Tales Will Last." The Calgary Sun, June 6, 1999. pg. 38.