Friday, November 11, 2011

What Makes a Bestseller Sell?

Two books might have the same quality, so how does one sell out in every bookstore, whereas another will only generate mediocre sales? Why did Charles Dickens’ books make him a fortune whereas Herman Melville died in obscurity? How does the latest vampire novel keep coming out and topping the bestseller list today?

In short, I started pondering what are the essential elements that make a bestseller today. Granted many external factors contribute, such as fame and promotion, but every decade produces fiction bestsellers that tend to share certain commonalities. It might be a love for certain types of characters, or a preference for a particular genre.

So what would you say are the key elements of bestsellers coming out today? Which are your favorites and why? What in your opinion do book buyers love and what do they ignore?

Also, Happy Veteran’s Day to all those who have served and to their families. 


  1. Hello Mark:
    If we knew the answer to the questions which you pose here, then we should ourselves, along with you, be topping all the charts in all the best seller lists.

    To start to list authors we admire would be akin to copying out the Greater London Telephone Directory!

    Jó hétvégét.

  2. I think it's one portion talent, one portion luck. I say if you like your story others will be drawn to it to. Don't obsess over number, just write what you love and work hard! :)

  3. Being on a reality TV show helps.

  4. I really have no idea, but sometimes I think it has to do with seeing ourselves or someone we know in the characters when we're first introduced to them. There has to be that universality -- followed up with some kick-ass plotting, in my opinion. :)

    But like I said, I really have no idea, and believe luck does play some part.

  5. Wish I knew! Marketing and familiarity seem to have a lot to do with it.

  6. Ah ha, the all-important question today.

    I think familiar ideas wrapped in something new is what people like. Take Harry Potter, for example. Wizards are familiar, boarding schools are familiar, but put them together, and that's an intriguing idea.

  7. Well, Dickens wrote his as serials published weekly. So there's that. And as much as I appreciate symbolism, I would have cut Moby Dick in half as an editor. But, I'm sort of ADD that way.

  8. I'm not sure . . . I think part of it is chance, though, and not the quality of the story as compared to other books. The right marketing at the right time, the right author connections, the right attention.

  9. Jane/Lance – Lol, telephone directory, luv it:)

    J.A. – Def not worth obsessing over I suppose. Let luck and talent do their work;)

    Valerie – Thanks for the tip;)

    L.G. – Kick-ass plotting…I like that, might put it to use:)

    Alex – Indeed, lots and lots of marketing.

    McKenzie – Familiar with a new twist. I think you’ve got it…but now easier said than done:)

    Christa – Yup, I thought about that right after I mentioned Dickens. Moby Dick however is sacred;)

    Eagle – Connections for sure. Like getting a job, it’s who you know more than what you know.

  10. I think its the plot, character and conflict and of course lots of luck.