• Alwia

Sensationalist novels are the easiest path to publishing

Updated: Nov 16, 2017

It's official. One of the most frustrating things to see as an unpublished writer is a really trashy published book.

You know the type I'm talking about: badly written, stereotypical characters, and a simplistic plot dotted with irrelevant chunks of sex. Which begs the question: why are these books published? The answer that I understand to this question is that there is, in fact, a market for certain types of 'trashy' books. This makes sense. But what I don't understand is if there's a market for excellent literary books and one for really bad commercial ones, where does this leave all us writers who are stuck somewhere in the middle? Sometimes I feel that the real danger as an unpublished writer is not being not good enough but not being bad enough either. And that's when my overactive imagination begins to wonder what it would be like for me to write a really trashy novel. This is what I came up with.

Forbidden Love

by Alwia Al-Hassan  

An epic tale of the forbidden love between two friends  torn apart by culture.

Fatima comes from a traditional Muslim family living in London. But she has  a secret that could change her life forever. She's in love with her English friend Samantha. Driven by passion and desperation the girls attempt to flee the country in the hopes of escaping the clutches of Fatima's ever-nearing arranged marriage. But  who could have guessed what the future would hold for them...

Forbidden Love has sold 30 million copies worldwide and been translated into 10 languages. It has been banned by several countries and resulted in a fatwa being given to flog its author. Mrs Al-Hassan has recently taken refuge inside the British embassy.  

You get the picture. I like to joke about my fake lesbian novel, but honestly sometimes it feels like sensationalist novels are the easiest path to publishing. Maybe I can do it under a pseudonym?  That was a joke and if you come across Forbidden Love, it wasn't me.

Other times when I imagine discussing anything with an agent. It sort of goes like this:

Agent: Hi, I'm Samantha, the head agent in Hot Books, and unfortunately we are unable to offer you representation. Your novel Unicorns like to have fun is just not trashy enough for us here as we are looking for materials of an exceptional trashy standard.

Me: Oh man. Is there anything I can do to change your mind. I really believe in my manuscript.

Agent: I suppose you can add some sex. That will perk things up.

Me: But... it's a book about unicorns.


Me: *sigh* Fine I'll add the sex.


I know it's a tough industry, but it's really sad to feel that, as a writer, you may have to use sensationalist tactics to attract agents or publishers; or cheapen your manuscript to make it more commercial. I know this is not always the case and I'm probably being a bit too negative here, but this is how things seem to me sometimes. Fortunately, I haven't reached desperation yet, so Forbidden Love will be put on hold.


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