What Makes a Bestseller?

Trendspotting, or a Shamelessly Business-Like Approach to Writing 

A Thoroughly Researched and Scientific Graph

A Thoroughly Researched and Scientific Graph

It’s tempting to think that the democratisation of bookselling through self-publishing and e-publishing means that it’s harder than ever to rise above the noise and get published or more to the point, sell your book. Not at all. The deafening cacophony which once drowned out new authors came from the multiple-bestselling authors who barely ever let anyone else get a look in. There might still be some white noise, but a lot of the din has subsided and it’s anybody’s game now.

So let’s say for the sake of argument that the cream will always rise to the top. That’s all very well if you’re the ground-breaking new voice of a generation. What if you’re just, well, competent? What if you’re the authoring equivalent of a middle manager in an office supply company? What if you just want to make a nice living out of writing the kind of books which will sell nicely even if they end up being entirely forgotten in 40 years?
 
That might sound jaundiced but it seems a far more realistic target than winning literary prizes and supporting yourself financially at the same time. Some of us just want to write down the stories in our heads and get paid for doing so.
 
I can barely go to the toilet without some story intruding on my thoughts. If it was the case that I was never allowed to write any of them down ever again, I would drown in my own brain fluid. A story is like the fizz in a can of drink. (I’m from Co. Clare, so let’s just say for the sake of argument that it’s Lilt.) Once it exists, once shaken up, it can either be released in a controlled and measured fashion, or in some sort of delayed explosion which will embarrass everyone in the vicinity.
 
So, in order to sell your stories and make a living out of it, the idea is to write whatever is in demand. To write some nice books which sell well and leave people wanting more from you. To give the reading public exactly what they want. What the hell is wrong with that notion? Nothing. Not one thing! Unless you can think of something? Go on. Have a go. (Big-ticket literary prize-winners only need apply.)
 
This is where trend analysis comes in. It’s not an exact science any more than trying to predict what is going to come up on your Biology exam in the Leaving Cert. But it can be wonderfully handy.
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  5 comments for “What Makes a Bestseller?

  1. carolannwrites
    July 10, 2013 at 6:15 am

    At last! A writer who knows where I’m coming from… But which part of your graph am I heading to? That’s the scary question! Loved this… a down to earth, no holes barred, blog it as it is, look at the book market!

    Like

  2. Bernadette Kearns
    July 10, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Great blog – loved the sheer gumption, the humour and the “tell-it-like-it-is” approach. The graph made me laugh lots. Really looking forward to the next instalment. Bring it on!

    Like

    • carolannwrites
      July 10, 2013 at 8:53 am

      Totally agree, Bernadette. This was entertaining stuff! With food for thought…

      Like

  3. Joan Brady
    July 10, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I want to be the author equivalent of a middle manager in an office supplies company. If I can’t be Dan Brown of course. I also love Really Useful Information and I love Pie Charts, even though I can’t figure out how to make them myself. So looking forward to next blog Ms Sparling

    Like

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