What Makes a Novel a Bestseller?

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When you ask a writer how successful they want their novel to be, most will answer they want it to be a bestseller. But what makes a book a bestseller? Are there rules that can be followed to increase a book’s chance of becoming a hit?

Not all bestsellers are well written. Not all bestsellers are recommendable.

Many fantastic stories are forgotten, never heard of, or flop when they hit the shelves.

So what makes a bestseller?

The truth is we really don’t know. We can try to identify commonalities between bestsellers, but at the end of the day Paper Towns is very different from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and both those novels are nothing like Fifty Shades of Grey.

But, aren’t there at least a few rules we can glean from bestsellers, even if they are unalike?

“There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are.” – Somerset Maugham

If no one can agree what the rules are, then what can writers do to work toward a bestseller?

Just write. Writing isn’t about perfection. It’s about working hard and having your writing grow with you. When you get an idea, work with it. Flesh it out. People don’t know what will make a bestseller, despite many believing they do.

It would be great if every book published was a bestseller, but thousands of books are published every year. And, guess what? The vast majority of them aren’t bestsellers.

So, besides writing, what can you do?

Write your way. Many times bestsellers are books that offer something new to the literary world, or if the concept isn’t completely new, the view on it is.

Don’t let others tell you that you’re incapable of writing a bestseller. As stated above, no one knows which books will be bestsellers. They can guess, and sometimes they’re right, but they can’t know with one hundred percent certainty.

Work hard. It’s not just about writing. It’s about editing, marketing, and connecting with the literary world and potential readers.

At the end of the day, write the best that you can. Don’t focus on creating a bestseller. Take your idea, expand on it, write your first draft, edit and revise, get others to read and critique it, edit and revise until your work is the best it can be, and then work on the synopsis and query letter if you’re going the traditional publishing route, or if you’re self-publishing, publish and market your novel as if you’re not already working a full-time job.

How do you improve your work?

(Photo courtesy of Maurice.)

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3 thoughts on “What Makes a Novel a Bestseller?

  1. T.D. Donley

    Thank you for your post! I needed to hear this today….. Been spending too much time chasing being published. This just reinforces what I’ve been thinking lately. To write for myself as a reader. Write the story I want to read.

    Reply

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