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Do you believe there is a bestseller gene? - Let’s discuss?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Writer’s_Magic, Jun 1, 2018.

  1. I believe, every author dream to write a bestseller. And I believe, you have already tried to write a book or even published one. But what makes a book to a bestseller? Is there a code of this? Kinda a bestseller gene. Let’s discuss!
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    No I don't think there is a code or a trick to writing a Best Seller.
    Define what Best Seller means to you?
    I have a poet friend that self-pub'd a hardback anthology of 5 years work [embossed leather cover, colour dust jacket, colour illustrations, each book hand numbered and signed; It looked amazing] and sold all 50 copies!!!! She was over the moon. She barely broke even but she was happy.
    I know someone else that was annoyed [to put it mildly] that their book wasn't given a second print run [having sold only 5000 copies in the first run].
    This was going back to when books came on paper. Things may be very different now.
    There is probably marketing and sector analysis that will tell you which types/genres of stories are most profitable or which have the highest chances of a breakout success. Others here may know that.
    I don't even think a book has to be very well written for it to be successful.
    It has to be what someone wants to read at the time they looking for a story. Maybe something new, maybe something comforting.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    The long and short of it, insomuch as there's a formula for success, it's nuanced enough that even the pros screw it up a lot. I mean, if they can spend a hundred million dollars messing up both Superman and Batman, what hope do we have of figuring out a bestseller?

    To be a little less pessimistic, though, there are quite a few things you can do to increase your 1) writing quality, 2) story pacing, and 3) audience appeal, to give yourself the best chance in the wider markets. Let's go through those quickly.

    1) Writing Quality. Once you hit a basic understanding of writing, I would say there are three more advanced aspects that can help a book stand out. Creativity, a deep character voice, and theme. If you can master these things, you can surprise readers, bring them into your character's head, and make them go "Wow!" with your comments on life.

    2) Story Pacing. Get control of basic elements of character arc and structure. This is probably the area where the most jargon and formulas have been developed, everything from the inciting incident to the crisis before the second plot turn. More important, I would say, is your ability to put together a compelling throughline between your scenes.

    3) Audience Appeal. People get this wrong all the time. Your audience isn't a monolithic block but a tiered cake. You want to design your story with characters that appeal to different groups that work together. For example, some kids shows appeal to kids, others to kids and parents, and some to kids plus teenagers. Then there's "family" shows that try to appeal to everyone. (Forgive me the example, I have four children.) When you understand your audience and the ways you can appeal to them, you can begin to give your audience segments what they want from a story, whether that's cute colors, a fun action segment, or a hidden pop culture reference. For books, however, you don't need a wide audience. You don't justify the millions of dollars that go into a movie, for example, just to be successful, giving you a wide range of freedom with the audience you target.

    If you can get a handle on these things, as well as, of course, the grunt work of writing regularly, then you're on your way to a book career.
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I think this is really central. I also think it applies to pretty much anything, and just not books. It has to be what someone wants, and ideally what a lot of people wants. A consequence is that there's a lot more than just the book that matters. Cover, blurb, title, marketing, price, time of release, random unknown factors.

    There are a lot of things you can do to increase the chances your book will become a bestseller, but I doubt there's any guaranteed way to make it happen. One thing I hear is that the best way to promote a book is to write another book. I'm sure this goes for bestsellers too. If you've already got one, and you write another, the chances of that one becoming a bestseller are probably higher than it were for the first one - provided all other things are equal.

    So, the formula for getting a bestseller would be something along the lines of:
    - Write a great book that a lot of people will enjoy.
    - Make sure the people who would enjoy it knows it exists and convince them they want to read it.
    - Repeat until you have a bestseller
  5. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    No. I don't think so. There have been many best sellers that were totally accidental... the most obvious being the Harry Potter series. Rowling had to send it to something like 20 publishers before anyone would even read it. No one knew it would be as big as it was.

    I think a lot of it has to do with hitting the market at exactly the right time, which is about 20% skill and 80% luck. Writing a good book, that sells decently well is about 80% skill and 20% luck.

    If you are writing to be a bestseller, maybe pick another profession. It's not going to happen, lol.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2018
  6. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    Well, if there is, I apparently don't have it :(

    I am not sure that I will ever be writing a best seller, but I know a few who have done well. I think this, like everything else, has the same two keys to success. Persistence and attitude. Apply those and you will have some success. Without them, I am sure your calling will appear from somewhere else. For myself, I don't really hope to be a best seller. Getting published is more of a proving ground than an ambition. It just something I enjoy at times and something I would like to finish. I feel that I will, cause I have too much of a sense of wanting to, to give up before I do.

    If something very fortunate happens, or I complete the work and decide of put my energy into the rest of the industry, I might get it out there. And it would be very nice if I did, but that is not where I am spending my energy at present. Unfortunately, I have one of those days jobs I ought not quit (though ironically, I am thinking of quitting...)

    Believe in yourself, in your story and keep at it. Nothing that never got written became a best seller.
  7. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut." - Stephen King

    I learned the hard way that what Mr King stated is absolutely 100% true. If you want to write a bestseller then you need to read a lot and write a lot. I do both. However, I doubt I will ever write a bestseller - or even something that'll pay the bills - but I will die at the ripe old age of 101 and they'll find a pen in my hand and my completed manuscript next to my corpse.
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    You want a guaranteed best seller? The only way to do that is to get invited to write a book in a franchise like Star Wars. Otherwise, as others have said, right product at the right time. It's why they say don't chase the market.

    Looking for the existence of the bestseller gene is like looking for the baseball player's gene. Too many unquantifiable factors are in play.

    But I do believe in a get rich gene. Just send me $2.99, and I'll tell you what it is. :p
    Taniwha, Miles Lacey and Heliotrope like this.

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