A blog about writing and self publishing

10 Steps to a Bestselling Novel

By Sierra Delarosa 

Are you aiming for your next book to become a bestseller? Why do some books become more popular than others?

While there’s no surefire way to guarantee that your next book will hit the bestseller lists, Global English Editing looked into the key features shared by some bestselling books––check out the summery below, or head over to their infographic.

1. Readability

A feature that many bestselling novels have in common is readability. By using shorter sentences, simple vocabulary and active narratives, the book is accessible to more readers.

Current everyday language shows a trend of fewer words per sentence, decreased use of the semicolon, and increased use of the question mark.

Can an algorithm predict how well your book will sell? Perhaps. Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers created an algorithm that could predict with 80% accuracy whether a manuscript will be included in the New York Times bestseller’s list. This algorithm uses text-mining techniques to develop a model that can analyze theme, plot, style and character to explain why some books are just more popular with readers than others.

2. The Title

The title is often the very first thing you notice about a book. It sets a tone, and piques interest. It essentially sums up the book. It is therefore no surprise that there are certain titles that can pull more sales than others. Book titles pointing to things or objects tend to appear on bestseller lists. “The” appears to be a very effective way to begin a title. Just think about how many popular titles start with The: The Da Vince Code, The Goldfinch, The Firm.

The words wife and girl are also very popular in bestseller titles. Think Gone Girl, The Paris Wife, A Reliable Wife. According to Toronto Public Library, the latest trend is for books with Liar in the title––something to keep in mind!

3. The protagonist

There is current demand for dark, misplaced female characters, such as Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or Rachel Watson from Girl on the Train. Lead characters in bestsellers are often detectives or lawyers.

4. Focus on one subject

Bestselling authors usually spend 30% of their books on one or two topics only. Any more than that can potentially confuse readers. For example, according to The Bestseller Code, a third of paragraphs written by John Grisham deal solely with the legal system; while 30% of paragraphs written by Danielle Steel deal with domestic life, love and motherhood. Popular books often cover subjects such as marriage, work, death, doctors, schools, and major politicians.

5. Emotional Impact

According to The Bestseller Code, a group of readers was asked to record when the book they were reading triggered a physical reaction––prickles of fear or anxiety; increased heart rate; arousal or laughter. The NYT bestsellers evoked these reactions within just 10 minutes of reading.

6. Location of publication

The best place to sell your book is in the United States. In 2017, the US book publishing industry generated $26.23 billion in net revenue, and 2.7 billion books were sold. Other good places to publish your book are China, Germany, France, Japan, and the UK. These six countries account for more than 60% of book spending in the world.

In the United States, physical books still sell more than electronic books online. 43.2% of online book sales involve print formats, while electronic books make up 27%. Downloaded audio format make up 10.5% , and 3.1% are physical audio or other format.

7. Fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction sells better than non-fiction. Only 5% of bestsellers are based on
true stories. However, non-fiction books are catching on in popularity. Between
2013-2017, non-fiction sales increased 28.4%. This means that 150 million
more adult non-fiction books were sold.

8. Author Gender

When it comes to selling fiction, female and male authors are now equally represented on the bestseller list. Male authors, however, dominate the non-fiction bestseller list.

9. Timing of book launch

When is the best time to launch your book? Not the holidays. During the holiday season, it takes 3 times more sales to make the bestselling list, when very established authors tend to dominate the bestseller lists.

10. Accessible platform

Open your platform to people with disabilities. You can expect at 25% increase in sales just by incorporating wheelchair access in your bookselling venue, improving your website to make it more friendly for people with disabilities, and making social media posts accessible by adding image descriptions.


Check out the infographic here!

3 Responses to “10 Steps to a Bestselling Novel”

  1. Adam David Collings

    Great tip about accessibility. I was once complimented by somebody who spoke English as a second language, that my simple prose was easy for non-native English speakers to read.

    Reply

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