How Do We Create a Bestseller?

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Who hasn’t picked up a New York Times bestselling book and thought, “Why is this book—or this author—a bestseller? If you are a writer your next thought might come out sounding a little whiney, “My book is so much better than that one.” Maybe, but your book only netted 7,000 lifetime sales to the 240,000 copies sold the first week by the bestselling author.

So why does one book take off and another languish?

I could make this the shortest post in the history of our blog by answering with a two-word answer: Nobody knows.

Those of us in the publishing industry are constantly giving writers advice:

  • Write a high concept book.
  • Work hard on promoting your book.
  • Get great endorsements.
  • Choose a compelling subject.
  • Craft an excellent book.
  • Spend time networking through social media.
  • Enlist your friends and readers to talk about the book.
  • Be available to book clubs.
  • Visit bookstores.
  • Sponsor contests.

And it’s not just the author leveraging all his influence to make the book a success, the publishers are busy working like crazy to do the things that make a book sell:

  • Edit and copyedit the book until it is a thing of beauty.
  • Create a breathtaking cover.
  • Write the kind of cover copy that will make readers take the book to the counter or click it into the shopping cart.
  • Get the book into reviewers’ hands.
  • Arrange for media.
  • Do as much with advertising as the budget will allow.
  • Get catalogs featuring the book into the hands of every buyer or decision maker.
  • Contact groups or ministries that may want to buy multiple copies of the book.
  • Work with libraries and special markets.
  • Get the sales team on the road, having them stop into small towns and big cities, hand selling your book to buyers.
  • Take the book to all the trade shows.

We could go on and on. That’s just a small fraction of what is done in support of a book. And guess what? Some good books do well, some good books do moderately well, some good books flounder and some good books utterly fail to find an audience. And once in a while a good book (and sometimes a not-so-good book) will shatter all expectations and become a bestseller.

In an archived New York Times article, “The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller,” (May 15, 2007) William Strachan editor in chief at Carroll & Graf Publishers summed it up like this, “It’s an accidental profession, most of the time,” he said, “If you had the key, you’d be very wealthy. Nobody has the key.”

Think of the last bestselling book you read. How did you hear about it? Why did you buy it? What do you think it was it that made the book a success?

79 Responses

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  1. Lisa says:

    I just finished The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. The character were so vivid, they took up a space of my heart. A friend recommended the book to me.

    I like your short answer nobody knows. I am marking down all your suggestions. When I’m ready I want to check each one off and put my best forward. We can all keep praying God establishing our work.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I read The Kitchen House as well a couple of years back and still recall it. That one makes sense. Lavinia is one of those characters you never forget. You can’t help recommending the book. Word of mouth.

    • Lynn Johnston says:

      When a book is good, it doesn’t take long for the word to get around. Some of us have our favorite authors that we keep buying from. But when a book has a new exciting approach to a topic that hasn’t been overdone, it gets my attention. Combine a compelling topic of popular interest with an audience that likes to talk, and you have a best-seller.

  2. I think James Scott Bell called it a “lottery.” It’s comforting because the flipside is true, too. Just as nobody knows why some books take off, nobody knows why some really good books don’t take off.

    Resting and working in His Providence…

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      So true. I always say that some authors are gifted with wild success– which may either be a blessing or a curse depending on what they do with it. Other authors are gifted with obscurity– which may either be a blessing or a curse depending on what they do with it. Our job is to accept the gift with thanksgiving. Right?

      A wise friend of mine once said, “My job is faith. God’s job is outcomes.”
      (Quote from Bill Giovannetti.)

  3. The last best seller I read was…umm…was Love’s Reckoning a best seller? It should be!!
    That Frantz girl sure can write! I bought it because I had heard so many great reviews that I had to read it. But, I read Courting Morrow Little first, and then LR. One thing that stood out , even before I read either of those books, was the word of mouth. The same with Joanne Bischof’s Be Still My Soul. Word of mouth, online, spurred me to buy that book.
    Both those writers hold tight to their reader’s hearts by the end of page one. Deep colour, deep emotion, heart wrenching choices and extremely well drawn characters and story world.
    For me, the sign of a great storyteller is if I get to “the end” and go right back to page one without putting the book down.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You’re on the right track, Jennifer. When everybody keeps talking about certain authors, like Laura Franz or Joanne Bischof, it’s a sign something is happening. We’re beginning to hear the chatter that comes from repeated word of mouth.

      I know Laura is a Books & Such client and the more we hear the chatter, the more her agent is looping the publisher in to make sure they are all aware and are sensing something may be brewing here.

      I, too, am a Laura fan. I’ve read everything she has and keep needling her to write faster, And I’m so glad for this blog community because when so many mentioned Bischof, I got her book and read it. Loved it. Simply loved it.

  4. Leia Brown says:

    I rarely buy a book. Sorry! I probably shouldn’t admit that on an agency blog, but we are on a tight budget, and that makes that the library my best friend. Once I’ve read most books, I’m done, so I can just return them with no regrets. I’m compelled to buy a book only when I want to refer to it again and again. For me, in fiction, this often means the classics, like anything C.S. Lewis, whose masterpieces make my heart sing and draw me closer to God. In non-fiction, it needs to be something that has truly helped me and I’m convinced will continue to do so, like Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s Love and Respect

    • Larry says:

      As another writer who uses the library, I know it seems a bit hypocritical: how could one ever complain about the industry and the writers’ role in it when we seemingly don’t contribute to a writer getting paid?

      However, I consider that, in my own way, I’m no different than a blogger, book critic, etc. who gets ARCs, etc.

      If I find the book to be worthwhile, I’ll tell others about it, who may go on to purchase the book: just like with any blogger, book critic, etc.

      If I find the book to be something that I find has value in it, such as “re-readability”, then I am willing to buy the book.

      Libraries are also helpful for getting readers to find an author, and purchase their books due to how long it takes them to stock books (or at least with my local libraries!), as a reader might read a book, and see that there is an upcoming book by the author and would rather get it when it is released instead of waiting for the library to stock it.

      Plus, if you really like the authors’ books, let the library know: most have some sort of form on their websites where you can let them know what books you want to see stocked, which equals more sales for the author!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      If you said you didn’t read, I’d be worried but using the library for your books is excellent. Judy Gann, our resident library expert, tells us that libraries replace their books every few readings so library traffic helps an authors sales more than most people realize.

      • Judy Gann says:

        Wendy, it’s probably more than a few circulations before we replace, especially in times of tight budgets. But, remember, no returns!

        In addition, system libraries purchase multiple copies. The books libraries purchase have a far longer shelf life (greater opportunity to be noticed) than those in bookstores.

        A recent Pew Internet Survey showed that nearly 60% of library users go out and purchase books by authors they were introduced to at the library.

  5. Jeanne T says:

    Such a simple truth: nobody really knows. I appreciate your suggestions, and I’m with Lisa. I plan to keep this list and use it when I get to that place of querying and selling my first book.

    Most books I read are recommended to me. I read The Help a year ago because I had heard so much about it. I enjoyed the characters and the author’s writing style. I read Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Dress, and I loved this–the twists she put in the story and her characters. It was truly a beautiful story.

  6. Ultimately, a successful novel must be one that the public is eager to read. Just because the theme is different or well written doesn’t guarantee it’s going to be a bestseller. I don’t buy titles just because the publisher and author promote the books until you’re sick of hearing about them. I also don’t follow bestselling lists, because I’m not into overt sexual themes and right now they seem to be stuck in the top three spots. Please note that these ‘bestsellers’ did not make the top ten list on The New York Times editorial lineup of best reads for 2012.

    I found a few books last year that were fictionalized about real people. ‘The Woman at the Light’ by Johanna Brady and ‘Juliet’ by Anne Fortier are two examples. Both are well written and keep the reader engaged until the last page. I found ‘Juliet’ in my local bookstore and knew I couldn’t leave without it. ‘The Woman at the Light’ was a title I came across during a web search for something I don’t even remember and I ordered it online.

    What I liked about each book, because I’d never heard of the authors and wasn’t familiar with their work, was that the main characters were drawn from actual women of history. Can you tell I’m a history enthusiast?

    When I was an adolescent I read cheap romance paperbacks, a few years later I upgraded to classics like ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and in my early twenties I got hooked on ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’. These days I read any genre that grabs my interest.

    You’re right, Wendy, nobody knows what the public is going to buy and the competition is fierce. Books are expensive to publish an to buy, so agents and publishers must take chances. For me the thrill of finding a novel that is good enough to display on my bookshelf for many years is what keeps me searching for the next good read.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      And the good thing for an author is that once we find a book we love, we usually go back and buy more from that author and begin to wait anxiously for the next book to come out. What this means is that once an author starts trending up, if the quality remains high, we can expect a nice upward trajectory. A bestselling career can be built one book at a time as long as the author is trending up.

    • Cynthia, I’m currently reading The Woman at the Light. The author, Joanna Brady, is a lovely woman who I’ve corresponded with because I’m writing a Christian Gothic Romance set in Key West. In fact, I’m in Key West right now researching my novel. I’m so glad you found her book and enjoyed it.

  7. Sarah Thomas says:

    Like Jeanne, my last real bestseller was probably The Help. I liked it, but wasn’t blown away. Sometimes all the hub-bub around a book will actually make me NOT want to read it. But that’s just because my daddy raised me to be a contrarian.

    I kind of like that we haven’t come up with a formula for the bestseller. If we did, where would hope and faith be?

    • Leah E Good says:

      Ha! This makes me think of the Mark Twain quote, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

    • Jeanne T says:

      Love your thoughts, Sarah! You’re so right, if I knew the formula to a best selling book, I’d depend on myself to get it right, and probably write to the formula rather than the story God gave me.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Right. I said that sometimes we look at a bestseller and scratch our heads. I liked The Help very much however. It doesn’t mean that my critical eye didn’t see a few things I would have changed but I could see why folks loved it.

      And, yes. Faith. We can’t orchestrate success. It’s really out of our hands, truth be told.

    • Sarah, sometimes I shy away from reading a book just because everyone else is. When I worked as a book buyer for a used bookstore it was my goal to find more obscure fiction authors who wrote riveting stories. I intentionally passed on many of the Oprah book club recommendations.

  8. I agree with Sarah – glad that there isn’t a formula. That means we all have a chance. Write on!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Isn’t that true? And the ones who are wildly successful are rarely the ones we’d pinpoint for success. (And don’t we love the stories of unlikely success?)

  9. Rick Barry says:

    Long before the book became famous, a retired Marine Corps officer told me about this interesting YA novel he was reading. “It’s a futuristic story about these young people who get sent to a big outdoor arena, and they have to battle each other to the death. The main character is a teenage girl.”

    Not every YA adventure starring a teen girl can capture the attention of a retired Marine. When other people started telling me about the same story, all this word of mouth sparked my interest in Hunger Games.

    For me, it’s often not the sparkling use of language that grabs me, but the concept of totally normal people thrust into totally abnormal circumstances.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Love this! You’ve highlighted another element of successful books– they often appeal widely. Like Harry Potter– written for the YA market. It crossed all demographics in the end.

      And yes, we rarely fall in love with a book because of the skillful use of language. If it is a novel, we love it for the story. If it is nonfiction, because it changed us.

  10. A Best seller, to me, is like the Kentucky Derby…it involves “The Quest!” Whether it’s to win the race, find true love, rescue a sibling, right a wrong, save the ranch, discover the culprit, or gain answers to a personal issue….the story surrounding the pursuit is what compels us to read on.

    And isn’t it marvelous, the “Greatest Story Ever Told” is about the Quest For Love…irresistible!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Interesting observation. If a book (and I’m guessing you’re thinking novel here) answers some of our longing– the quest– it has a better chance of success. I’m going to have to keep this in mind and see if that holds true. It’s an interesting theory for sure.

  11. THE HELP was probably the last one I read, too. For me, a book that should be a best-seller is one in which I don’t want to leave the characters. I want their story to continue. That’s truly the mark of every good book, classic or bestseller, that I’ve ever read. I feel like the characters are REAL and they act in a believable manner (even if it’s sci-fi). I start talking about them on a first-name basis. I’ve heard people who feel the family in the Karen Kingsbury books is real. I truly want to bring that dynamic to my own writing–fully fleshed characters.

    • Jeanne T says:

      Here’s a question for you, Heather. 🙂 Have you ever dreamed about the characters and what would happen next? That’s when I know I’m reading an amazing book. 😉

      • Jeanne–I’ve dreamed about my own characters! Seen them talking–things that happen to them…weird stuff, but it works for me. That hasn’t happened so much w/books I’ve read, tho. What about you?

      • Jeanne T says:

        I’ve had it happen more with books I’ve read, but my own characters pop up time to time in my dreams. The funniest thing that my characters did had an argument–while we were praying in church. 🙂 Yes, I wrote it down and put it in my book. 🙂

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      True, strong characters make a strong book. Although I’ve seen some unforgettable characters, great writing and great story go largely unnoticed.

      But some people would argue and say for them it’s what happens in the story (plot) more than characters.

    • Dani Pettrey does a fantastic job with her characters (and everything else too. lol) Her book characters are so real to me that I wish I could visit them in Alaska. I’d go in a heartbeat! 🙂

  12. Lori says:

    Usually if I read or listen to a best selling book it is because of word of mouth or because of recommendations on a blog or on Amazaon. One of my favorite books that I listened to is “The Guensey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”. I first heard about it in a magazine. Then one day I heard women at my local Curves talking about the book and just raving about it since the authors wrote it as a series of letters going back and forth. (84 Charing Cross Road (both movie and book) is a favorite of mine and that was done as a series of letters too) I decided I had to put that book on my list and they were absolutely right when they said it was wonderful.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Oh, Lori, we have similar tastes. We should compare notes. Guernsey Literary had that sense of hope we love– in spite of dire circumstances the human spirit triumphs.

  13. Larry says:

    I tend to use the “Book TV” website to discover books to check out at the library. Since they have interviews with the authors, and occassionally have debates between the author and a critic, it can be quite helpful in finding the best of the best of non-fiction.

    As far as what makes non-fiction best-sellers what they are…..I’d have to say that it is where the best writing is coming from currently.

    As far as what makes fiction best-sellers what they are….

    ……I’m surprised no one has left a link for their books yet! 🙂

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Hmmm. I don’t know that I’d say the best writing in nonfiction makes for a bestseller. I’d argue that it’s the book that satisfies our current appetite or need (in the case of a prescriptive book) or that catches our imagination (in the case of biography, history or even a cookbook). Of course there’s much more to it than that.

      • Larry says:

        I agree Wendy. I was just musing how maybe there are readers who traditionally only go for fiction who are making the switch over to primarily non-fiction, something that I started to ponder after Janets’ previous post where it seemed many were doing that.

        Though, shouldn’t that be what fiction also strives for? To be enduring, but to also speak to the needs of those who are reading it here and now?

        Hmmmmm…..guess I found a blog topic!

        Now I just need to get a blog! 🙂

  14. Leah E Good says:

    Thank you for the tips, Wendy. These are good marketing tips even if the book never hits the bestseller list.

    Would you mind explaining what a high concept book is? I’ve heard several different definitions.

  15. The most recent bestseller I read (in that it was a recent best seller, not that I read it recently) was The Hunger Games. My then 14-year-old son said he wanted to read it, and he never voluntarily reads anything, so I bought it. And read it. And then bought the next two and finished them within a week. Meanwhile, my son got halfway through Catching Fire and gave up. Sigh. So why that series? Word of mouth.

    • Jeanne T says:

      Oh, I read that trilogy too, Robin. It had so many twists and turns that I couldn’t stop reading. My personal opinion was that the writing wasn’t quite my style, but she knows how to keep the tension taut and the story moving at a quick pace. 🙂

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Yep. Word of mouth. And I see so many writers trying to gin it up and it just doesn’t seem to be able to be manufactured. I wonder if anyone has an example of someone who is able to create word of mouth? I think it is an organic thing.

    • I totally forgot about The Hunger Games! Yes, I read all of those!

    • I’m with you, Robin. The trilogy just sucked me right in too. I’ve also recently re-read them again.

      This time I was intentional to pick up the different levels of conflict and tension. She layered it all in there very well. 🙂 I’m working on amping up the volume on my current WIP.

  16. Jan Thompson says:

    Of publishers: “Edit and copyedit the book until it is a thing of beauty.”

    That is the #1 reason traditional publishing is my first choice.

    On Amazon, I can’t always tell whether an eBook is traditionally published or self-published until I start reading the sample pages. The contrast is usually immediate. It’s sad that while self-publishing shows much promise, the market is overrun with shelves of subpar writing. While paid editors are out there, there’s nothing like having a real publisher stand behind a writer’s work. Sort of a stamp that says — this piece of copyrighted work has been vetted, and you can at least read it without feeling embarrassed for your fellow writers.

    Of writers: “Craft an excellent book.”

    In the end, it’s up to the writer, isn’t it? IMO, the writer has the greatest responsibility in this industry. Regardless of how wonderful agents and publishers are, it’s still up to the writer to write books worthy of seeing the light of day.

    Wow. I guess I’d better get back to work. Long road ahead.


    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Jan, I couldn’t agree more. If I were going to self-pub my book the thing I’d hate the most is that I was clumped together with all kinds of unedited, hokey stuff. I understand that the good thing about self-publishing is that there are no gatekeepers. But the thing that could kill the book industry is the mountain of dreck that has been unleashed on the book buying public because of no gatekeepers. How many terrible books will a reader tolerate before he throws up his hands in frustration and stops buying books?

  17. Most of my book club books are my recent favorites ~ The Help, Guernsey Literary Potato Pie Peel Society, and I loved, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

    Terrific check list, Wendy. I copied it for future use!

    Word of mouth is how I usually pick my books outside of book club and writers groups. This is also how I share in addition to social media.

    Writing and marketing embrace friendship hands that greet and part with a firm business hand shake.

    Final word though, God is in control.

    Wendy, I appreciate you giving us so much more than ~ Who Know?

  18. Mindy says:

    The Hunger Games triology for me. It was the media buzz with the then up-coming movie and my sister mentioning it that piqued my interest. I read the first book in 12 hours flat. I think the concept and characters are key to the success of the series. Though I did not ‘love it’, the story will stay with me for a long time to come because of the emotion it managed to evoke in me.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You mentioned that you chose the book near the time the movie was to come. Hollywood is one thing that does hold sway in bestsellerdom. Normally, unless a book is a huge success it won’t be considered for film. But when a movie releases, it generally breathes new life into book sales.

      • When I worked as a book buyer at a used bookstore, we kept track of upcoming movie releases, because when the movie version of a popular title came out we had customers scrambling for a copy. My guess is that Great Gatsby will have a resurgence of popularity this year, as well as Wizard of Oz.

  19. The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. I first heard of this book from a friend I met at a writers’ conference. She has a poetry blog and she attends the Messianic church in New Jersey where the author serves as pastor.

    The book challenges the reader to consider the prophetic implications of parting from devotion to God in light of our current state of affairs in the U.S. It’s a great discussion starter. It’s well documented and as we look around, we say, “Yes, what he’s putting forth here is plausible. If it’s true, it could save us from ultimate ruin.” Not just a story, but for real! It’s a warning that we want to share with others, so we do and it goes viral.

  20. Sherry Kyle says:

    I purchased The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh at Costco. I was intrigued by the storyline of a young woman who ages out of the foster care system. AMAZING book. I totally understand why it’s a bestseller. The author has a beautiful way with words. I heard there’s going to be a movie made from the book. I’ll be the first in line. In fact, this weekend I’m going to be using the book as an example at a workshop.

    • Marti Pieper says:

      I loved that one, too, Sherry. I’ll join you at the theater. And (from an earlier comment) I also loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

      Both those books had the quality of creating hope, as Wendy noted, but also of taking an experience we haven’t had and somehow making us feel a part of it. IDENTIFICATION. And that’s what I try to do in my nonfiction work, too–evoke identification so my readers care enough to keep reading.

      And if we can only break down (and duplicate) the “somehow,” maybe we can write a bestseller, too.

      • Wendy Lawton says:

        Yeah. That “somehow” is the sticky wicket. If you get it figured out, forget the bestseller, you could make a fortune selling the secret.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I need to read this one. I grew up in a family that cared for foster kids (and didn’t let them age-out– once they were ours, they stayed ours). And we were foster parents in the first several years of our marriage– so I know this is a timely topic. And if you pair it with great storytelling and writing, it’s no wonder.

      *goes to order the ebook*

    • Language of Flowers was one of my book club books and I am currently critiquing a similar novel, same subject, much different approach.
      This was such an emotion read.
      I didn’t know it was coming out in film. Think I’ll suggest our book club go as a group. We did that after reading, The Help.
      Sherry, did you read already know about the language of flowers, the meaning of each flower, before the book came out?

  21. David Todd says:

    The last bestseller I read was Calico Joe by John Grisham. I didn’t buy it; I borrowed it from the library. I did so because I thought $26 for a 196 page book was way too much to pay. The book was a bestseller because it was written by John Grisham, and for no other reason.

    Two items on your lists I don’t understand:
    1) High Concept. I read Rachelle G’s post a couple of years ago about this, and am afraid I still don’t understand what high concept means. Food for thought for future posts.

    2) Endorsements. I know absolutely no one of any fame, except in the civil engineering world and their endorsement will mean little for any novel I write. However, publishers know many potential endorsers. I don’t understand why this is an author function and not a publisher function.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Okay. We’ll hit high concept again in a blog. (I guess it’s not enough to say it’s easier to recognize than it is to devise.)

      About endorsements: don’t worry about them too much pre-pub. If you have well know writers who’ll give you an endorsement that’s great but the kind of endorsers you want have precious little time and usually do a limited number. they do not generally give an endorsement until the publisher is in place. We’ll write more about endorsements in the future. I’m putting it on my list.

  22. Michelle Ule says:

    I remember reading Eat, Pray, Love (which my college daughter tells me was Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week with holidays) and adoring the Italy section. “Eat.” But the rest of the book was awful–the tone changed, playfulness disappeared and it felt like a disappointing waste of time.

    I was angry when I finished it but figured most people loved the first section and never read on–which may have made it a best seller.

    I read Wild last month and for the life of me, can’t figure out what anyone saw in that.

    But I adored The Aviator’s Wife, even as I saw some roughness in the writing. Told in the first person from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s POV, it was an astonishing tour de force. Based on my FB comments, there are many Anne Morrow Lindbergh fans out there–not to mention the Charles Lindbergh fans–which may have contributed to making this one a best seller.

    You may not remember, Wendy, but I wrote a five-part series on best sellers about 18 months ago for the blog. #2 is here:

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Thanks for pointing us to that, Michelle. (Michelle is a voracious reader and observer of the industry.)

      You proved what I said, sometimes we look at the bestsellers and just scratch our heads.

  23. I found An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor by accident. I just read a few blurbs and comments about it (I had not heard anyone I knew talking about this series) and I downloaded it on my Kindle. By the time I finished it, I was looking for whatever had been published so far in the series. The language can be tough, the characters a bit raw and descriptions of medical procedures not for the faint of heart, but wow, I just fell in love with Ballybucklebo, Ireland and the quirky characters.

    And I still do not know anyone else who has read these books, but it was on the NY Times Bestsellers list and he’s touring America. The setting and the characters appealed to me so much and the humor.

    I dunno what makes a book so good that you want stay there in that book with those characters. I’ve been hesitant to talk about Patrick Taylor’s books because no one I know is reading them.

    I like hearing what you all are reading and love it that Books & Such agents put up their current reads in that little box on the right. 🙂

  24. Jill Kemerer says:

    The last best-seller I read was THE HARBINGER by Jonathan Cohn. I read it because I follow Charisma News on Facebook, and I happened to read one of their articles. It sounded interesting. It was!

    I’m used to more traditional fiction–three acts, characterization, balance of dialogue, introspection, and action, and this book didn’t fit the mold. However, the content made it fascinating. I can see why it sold so many copies, even if the format isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

    Based on my own reading habits, I have to agree with you–who really knows what makes one book a best-seller over another? 🙂

  25. I Loved your list of publishing essentials.

    You left out only one thing.

    Maybe the most important thing.

    The P word. Without Passion, I would sleep all day and never write a single word.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      True. But I wonder if the writer being passionate about his or her book affects the bestseller status? I’ve met many passionate author whose book is selling only modestly.

  26. Linda Strawn says:

    Some of the best books I’ve read came from the five dollar bins in the grocery store written by authors I’ve never heard of. Then I look at what’s raking in the bucks these days: books about vampires and zombies. Crazy. Give it a few years and something else will be in vogue.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Good Strategy, Linda. If we try to write to current trends we are outdated before the manuscript even sells, let alone hitting the trend with your published book.

  27. I read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier again recently. The unsettling suspense, and the way the external world reflects the internal emotions of the characters are things I want to weave into my Christian Gothic Romance. That being said, I think this title would be a hard sell at present.The beginning plods along slowly, albeit beautifully. I’m trying to integrate what I read in Jeff Gerke’s book, The First 50 Pages, which encourages writers to immediately immerse readers in the action and leave backstory for later in the manuscript.

  28. I’m not necessarily drawn to purchase the bestsellers. I don’t know how to say this, but some times they seem overly “packaged” to me. Additionally, I’ve read several and scratched my head and said, “THAT’S a best seller?” The only best seller I’ve read and frequently reread is God’s Word! Can I have an “Amen!”
    I am drawn to books that have take away value for my journey in life (biographies of great saints, inspirational titles) and tend to write the same. My favorite part about writing a book is my favorite part of reading one: how much I learn in the process!

  29. Denise Hisey says:

    I wonder the same thing about movies… sometimes it seems like someone famous likes a book or movie, promotes it and that’s all it takes. Doesn’t matter about quality, just star power sometimes.

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