All Best Selling Book Series Have This In Common

 

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A while back I read Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about best-selling novels. SoI decided to find out what / if, what the best selling book series from the 90s to present day (Jan 2018) have in common. Just because it’s fun and interesting. There might be some ramblings here, it’s basically me just taking you all through the process of my thoughts on the subjects and sharing the what and why behind it.

I started off with this list of best-selling books over on Wiki: Best Sellers.

Went down to book series and changed the settings to first release and picked the ones with the first book in the series published between 1990-present day.

That got me a pretty good list but there were still a few things that needed to be taken into account. Such as origin language, nonfiction, written by multiple authors and such things.

I cut the nonfiction and books first printed in a language than English (there were only a couple).

Wiki has it all sorted into a couple of categories so I’ll go with those too.

More than 100 million copies

Here we end up with

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. Twilight (120M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Harry Potter (510M)
  6. Goosebumps* (350M)

These are in order of most recent publication date, not most sold copies, (those numbers are in the brackets.)

*Here it’s worth noting that while the first 5 series have between 4-12 book, Goosebumps have over 62 books in print. This means that while this is a popular book series, the numbers are somewhat misguiding and therefore it’s in cursive.

Between 50 million and 100 million copies

  1. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  2. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  3. Jack Reacher (60M)
  4. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  5. Alex Cross (81M)
  6. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  7. The Wheel of Time (80M)

Same thing here with the order (most recent release first). Here we also have the Magic Tree House series which is 56 books compared to the others which are between 3-22 books.

Between 30 million and 50 million copies

  1. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  2. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  3. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  4. Harry Bosch (42M)

Here Junie B. Jones stands out with 30 books compared to the rest which have 3, 4 and 15 books in the series respectively.

Between 20 million and 30 million copies

  1. Dork Diaries (25M)
  2. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  3. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  4. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  5. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  6. Captain Underpants (26M)
  7. Outlander (25M)
  8. Maisy (20M)

Here we have Maisy with 23 books compared to the others that are hoovering around 10 books or so.

Between 15 million and 20 million copies

  1. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  2. Bridget Jones (15M)
  3. His Dark Materials (15M)

So not much to say about those, the Ladies’s Detective agency has 9 books but that’s not a upper huge number of books, at least not to merit a note.

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This gives us a master list of 28 books, but if we ignore ones I’m feeling are here mostly because the huge number of books in the series (these are in red), this leaves 24 books.

  1. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. Twilight (120M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Harry Potter (510M)
  6. Goosebumps (350M)
  7. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  8. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  9. Jack Reacher (60M)
  10. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  11. Alex Cross (81M)
  12. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  13. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  14. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  15. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  16. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  17. Harry Bosch (42M)
  18. Dork Diaries (25M)
  19. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  20. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  21. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  22. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  23. Captain Underpants (26M)
  24. Outlander (25M)
  25. Maisy (20M)
  26. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  27. Bridget Jones (15M)
  28. His Dark Materials (15M)

So these 28/24 book series are the ones we might call the best selling book series of the 90s and 00s. Some of the books were published during the 10s such as 50 Shades, part of Twilight and Divergent and some of these series are still ongoing but still, most are 90s and 00s publications. Meaning it normally takes at least a decade to get on this best selling list.

The two I had never heard about when starting this are Dork Diaries and Harry Bosch. The remaining I have heard of. I’ve read about half and watched most of the others in their adapted form (TV/Film).

Let’s see them all in order of most sold books.

  1. Harry Potter (510M) (Book 1 alone has sold 120M copies)
  2. Goosebumps (350M)
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  4. Robert Langdon (200M)
  5. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  6. Twilight (120M)
    • Under 100M books sold
  7. Alex Cross (81M)
  8. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  9. Magic Tree House series (70M)
  10. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  11. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  12. Jack Reacher (60M)
  13. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  14. Junie B. Jones (44M)
  15. Harry Bosch (42M)
  16. Divergent trilogy (35M)
  17. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  18. Dork Diaries (25M)
  19. Captain Underpants (26M)
  20. Outlander (25M)
  21. The Sword of Truth (25M)
  22. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  23. Maisy (20M)
  24. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  25. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  26. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
  27. Bridget Jones (15M)
  28. His Dark Materials (15M)

Here we can note that for example the ten last on the list put together dosen’t even amount to half the Harry Potter sold! The top three book series totals over 100M books sold together but only the top six have sold over 100M copies and 14 bottom (50%) of the list have sold less than 50M books each.

So just like with wealth (the 8th richest people in the world have more wealth than the 50% poorest) there is a seriously big gap for the really big sellers like Harry Potter, Fifty Shades, Wimpy Kid, Langdon and Twilight that clearly not many ever make the jump to over 100M books sold in a series (much less on one book, like with Rowling’s Philosopher’s Stone which has sold over 100M copies alone).

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So, now comes times for some fun statistics!

How many of these best selling series are:

Middle-grade books?

Young adult novels?

Fantasy novels?

Crime/ mystery novels?

Romance?

Let’s check!

Middle Grade: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dork Diaries, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Artemis Fowl, Captain Underpants, His Dark Materials.

That makes for a total of 8

Wow!

That’s more than I expected, about 1/3 of the total number of the best sellers.

I’m a little iffy about putting Harry Potter here but since Harry is 11 when the book starts and it is read by a lot of kids I’m figuring it still counts. Also, His Dark Materials might also be considered a YA book since it contains some pretty deep stuff. But I think my mother read it to me when I was like 8-9 and I loved it so I’m leaving it here.

Young adult novels: Twilight, The Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent trilogy,

That’s a total of 3.

Huh. I thought the YA category would be more impressive.

Fantasy novels: A Song of Ice and Fire, The Wheel of Time, The Inheritance Cycle, The Sword of Truth

Here we end up with 4 series.

The Inheritance Cycle might also fit into the YA category but I feel it is more fantasy than young adult somehow and that’s why I put it here.

Crime/ Mystery novels; Robert Langdon, Jack Reacher, Harry Bosch, Alex Cross, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,

5 books series here! I kind of expected more from this section too. Don’t know why but I feel like there is a lot of popular crime/mystery novel series out there. A few of the series I cut because they weren’t in English, were mysteries so maybe that’s why?

Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Outlander, Bridget Jones,

4 here too! If you count Fifty Shades of Grey as a romance…maybe it should be in the Crime section 😛 no, I shouldn’t be mean to one of the best selling book series out there. Clearly, something about it made people love it even if I can’t understand it!

The Southern Vampire Mysteries should/ could possibly go in the mystery section but I’ve only read one of those books and from what I remember of it and the TV series True Blood (and it might be more different from the books than I recall, I’m not sure) the love story / personal drama stuff trumped the mystery bit so that’s why I put it in the romance section.

Grouped by my Genre split up + Number of copies sold

  • Middle Grade (8)
  1. Harry Potter (510M)
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M)
  3. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M)
  4. Captain Underpants (26M)
  5. Dork Diaries (25M)
  6. Artemis Fowl (21M)
  7. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M)
  8. His Dark Materials (15M)
    • YA (3)
  9. Twilight (120M)
  10. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M)
  11. Divergent trilogy (35M)
    • Fantasy (4)
  12. The Wheel of Time (80M)
  13. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M)
  14. The Inheritance Cycle (33M)
  15. The Sword of Truth (25M)
    • Mystery (5)
  16. Robert Langdon (200M)
  17. Alex Cross (81M)
  18. Jack Reacher (60M)
  19. Harry Bosch (42M)
  20. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (15M)
    •  Romance (4)
  21. Fifty Shades of Grey (125M)
  22. Outlander (25M)
  23. The Southern Vampire Mysteries (20M)
  24. Bridget Jones (15M)

This is some really interesting statistics don’t you think? I mean Children’s Book series beat all the other categories with double the number of books. Does that mean kids are bigger readers? Parents want their kids to read and buy the books? Kids are easier to hook on a series and will keep on coming back for more?

Also, quite a few of the MG books have male main characters – why?

And why are all three of the young adult books main characters females? And why are two of them involved in love triangles? And two of them set in dystopian worlds?

For the fantasy books, I thought there would be less of those than there ended up on the list. I’m fans of three of them (never really go into the Wheel of Time) and know those three all have dragons in them. Two of the four have pretty clear bad guys while the others are a little bit more grey (I think?). I think all of them have love stories(but the Sword of Truth is the only one where there is a HEA. Kind of.)

In the mystery category, we have three police / straightforward-ish detective series and two with guys with mad skills (Langdon and Reacher) ending up solving crimes/ troubles in various locations. This isn’t really my genre – I really enjoy the Reacher books and read some of the early Langdon books though, but can’t say much for the police procedurals.

As for the romance section, well I have read the first book in all of those series. None of them are my favorite romance books, even if Outlander does have its cute moments and so does Bridget Jones and so I’m not totally sure why they’re so big.

My suggested explanation is that the romance novels (except Fifty Shades) have been in print for over 15 years and all of them been made into movie/TV adaptions which I believe have helped increase their popularity.

Fifty Shades I can’t explain other than it was the first erotica and kinky book that somehow managed to make it into the mainstream and much like the book it was based on (Twilight) it got really popular because of the ease of which the everyday gal (or guy) could put herself in Anna’s shoes. Because Anna has very little personality, just like Bella!

But let’s go back to the middle grade, young adult and fantasy books. Because those are the genres that I find really interesting. In fact, I’m going to compile a list for just those books! I’m also going to add the number of books in each series.

This leaves us with 15 books.

  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  2. Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  3. Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  4. The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  6. A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (7)
  7. The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  8. Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books
  9. The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  11. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  12. Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  13. The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  14. Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  15. His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

Now I’ve not actually read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dork Diaries or Captain Underpants. Probably because I’m not one of the intended audience. I have seen some TV adaptions of Unfortunate Events and part of the Wimpy kid movie though. I’ll also admit am I not totally up to snuff on The Wheel of Time or Artemis Fowl.

I have however read every book in these series more than once

  1. Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  2. Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  3. The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  4. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  5. The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  6. His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

and still, think they’re good reads (Twilight can be debated but it does have something that pulls you in and keeps you reading.) So I feel I pretty good about analyzing them at least!

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In Order of Most Sold Books 

Now let’s put them in order of most sold books (I’ve also added the date the first book in the series was published since the number of years the book has been in print is interesting).

  1. (1997) Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  2. (2007) Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  3. (2005) Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  4. (1990) The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  5. (1999) A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  6. (2008) The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  7. (1996) A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (intends to write 7)
  8. (2011) Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books
  9. (2002) The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. (1997) Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  11. (1998) The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  12. (2009) Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  13. (2001) Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  14. (2005) Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  15. (1995) His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books

Looking at copies sold Harry Potter with the 510 million books stands out quite a bit compared to the rest of them. Potter is also the first big hit in Children’s books (I’m unsure if His Dark Materials were best sellers back when they first came out. They might have been because they are awesome. But the sales numbers are a whole lot smaller than for Potter, and they’ve been in print for twenty+ years.)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Twilight are pretty impressive in the number of books sold especially since they’re both from the later 00s. Diary of a Wimpy kid has 12 books though, compared to Twilight’s 4  and Potter with 7 but still, well done Wimpy Kid.

The more recent series (started during the 00s) seem to hoover some around 20-60 million copies sold and 3-5 books. I think this might be because around this time the market for MG/ YA books exploded and e-book and self-publishing became a thing. Ebooks are making books cost less to produce (like nothing) and it’s giving people worldwide access to more titles.

It’s probably going to be hard for any book out do Harry Potter and Wimpy Kid for the next few years since it clearly takes a while to build up to such huge sales. But we might se a new “phenomenon” like the Fifty Shades of Grey which has sold 125M in 6 years or the Hunger Games more “modest” 65M in 9 years.

In the future, I think there will be more books/series that end up in the lower end of this spectrum, (10-25M book sold). Mostly because with more readers than ever (because the world population is always growing) there is a constantly expanding audience. But with that being said there is also the expanding pool of material and sub-genres and ability to choose what we want to read individually via the internet /ebooks (instead of relying on what was is stocked by the local bookstore). These are all making it so that more variety of books are sold and hence less chance of one book becoming really big.

Number of Books

Now let’s talk number of books in the series. I added this because that’s a very interesting aspect.  All the ones on my 15 fave list have between 3 and 15 books, seeming to either come in around 3-5 books or 9-15. Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl and Dork Diaries books have the less common but not totally out there 7/8 books.

So why 3-5? Or the higher 9-15?

My hypothesis here is – the series with more books, each book is generally shorter and intended for a young audience. So the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, A Series of Unfortunate Events books and Captain Underpants should all be shorter. Let’s go check number of pages on Amazon!

Wimpy kid – 221 pages.

Unfortunate Events – 162 pages

Underpants -125 pages.

Okay so Wimpy Kid is a bit longer than I expected but the other two are about half the length of a “normal” book. Make sense, since these are for a younger audience who might prefer a shorter book, right?

There are also two fantasy book series, which each are 12 books long and each one of those 12 are a door stopper in of itself. These are long because they are about a larger cast or a larger event such as a full-on war/power struggle etc and because fantasy books “are” long.

So unless you’re writing for kids or writing high fantasy, maybe the 3-5 books is the preferred series length?

Then again, the most successful book on this list has 7 books, so maybe it is the more the merrier? I guess it depends on what kind of story you want to tell.

Order of Release

Let’s re-organize our list of 15 by the date the first book in the series came out. Remember, these books were not always best sellers on the first book so you might be surprised at the age of some.

  1. (1990) The Wheel of Time (80M) – 15 books
  2. (1995) His Dark Materials (15M) – 3 books
  3. (1996) A Song of Ice and Fire (60M) – 5 books (intends to write 7)
  4. (1997) Captain Underpants (26M) – 12 books
  5. (1997) Harry Potter (510M) – 7 books
  6. (1998) The Sword of Truth (25M) – 12 books
  7. (1999) A Series of Unfortunate Events (65M) – 13 books
  8. (2001) Artemis Fowl (21M) – 8 books
  9. (2002) The Inheritance Cycle (33M) – 4 books
  10. (2005) Twilight (120M) – 4 books
  11. (2005) Percy Jackson & the Olympians (20M) – 5 books
  12. (2007) Diary of a Wimpy Kid (194M) – 12 books
  13. (2008) The Hunger Games trilogy (65M) – 3 books
  14. (2009) Dork Diaries (25M) – 9 books
  15. (2011) Divergent trilogy (35M) – 3 books

Here we can clearly see the evolution of the MG/ YA genre, starting with magic in Harry Potter followed by Artemis Fowl, Inheritance Cycle and then Twilight and Percy Jackson. Then we move into dystopia with The Hunger Games and Divergent. In the late 00s we have, for the slightly younger audience, Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries.

Note that all none of the books since about 2000 are adult books (this includes the mystery/romance section up top too (except 50 shades).

I repeat; no new best selling series for adult has “started” since the early 2000 with the exception of 50 Shades (there has of course been new books in these ongoing series during this time.) This is very cool and really seems to mean the place to be (or more accurately; to be writing) is MG and YA.

Even in the fantasy books, characters are often fairly young, such as Eragon who starts out at 15 (I think?) and the Stark kids in the Song of Ice and Fire are all teens and many of them have POVs (Jon, Sansa, Bran, Danny).

So characters around 11 or 16 seem to be really popular in best selling series. The 11-year-olds seem to grow up about 1 year per book while the teens often stay 16-17 throughout the series (this is kind of just from what I remember, pretty sure it’s mostly right though).

World / Setting / Genre

Another thing I find super interesting about these fifteen books is the fact that only 2 of them are set in our “normal” world. The Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which are both humorous lighter books than the rest on the list (excluding Captain Underpants) and set primarily in an ordinary world, with character’s attending middle school. Captain Underpants also fits this starting out, even though we then, via hypnosis get a superhero, it is still primarily our world.

So out of 15 books 2 (3) are set in the real world.

Then we have 5 “kind-of” our world; Harry Potter, Twilight, Captain Underpants, Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl are all set in the present day but with a hidden world of magic (or superheroes in the Captain Underpants) but with most people being clueless about it and only the characters and readers being “in” on it (except maybe Potter, where you have this whole hidden community).

Then finally we have the totally different worlds from our own which the renaming 8 fit into.

Out of these 3 are dystopian – A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Hunger Games and Divergent.  These are all magic-less worlds that our world could become. I’m counting A Series of Unfortunate Events here because it’s an odd, dark world even if it is not perhaps a straight up dystopia.

Then there are 4 series set completely in a secondary fantasy world – Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth, Song of Ice and Fire and The Inheritance Cycle.

Last, His Dark Material which straddles the line between a sort of alternate early turn of the century with magic in book 1 and then actually introduces “our” world in book 2, is a sort of mix of alternate history, fantasy and portal fantasy.

Summary: Books about other worlds/ times seem to have a distinct advantage/ interest more readers at least in the MG/ YA and fantasy section. (Most of the mystery/ romance books from the big list are more grounded in reality though).

It seems magic, alternate histories/ futures or straight up magic worlds are really interesting to people and makes for great storytelling.

 

Plot!

So I’m betting you know the plot to most of these books are about, even if you haven’t read them. But just for fun let’s list them and add a quick one-liner to each. (I’ve put them in the most sold order again.)

  1. Harry Potter – A boy wizard destined to fight the dark lord start magic school.
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The tale of a “Wimpy Kid’s” life in middle school.
  3. Twilight – Girl moves to a small town where it always rains and falls in love with a vampire who struggles with wanting to drink her blood / kill her.
  4. The Wheel of Time – Fantasy epic. Lots of battles and stuff. Not really clear on this one.
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events  – Three kids are repeatedly almost killed by their weird uncle who wants their fortune.
  6. The Hunger Games trilogy – In a depressing future USA, a girl fights in a televised death match against 23(?) other teens.
  7. A Song of Ice and Fire  – The war of the roses. With dragons. And sex.
  8. Divergent trilogy – Society tries to put girl in a box. She rebels. Then the whole state kind of rebels.
  9. The Inheritance Cycle – Boy finds a dragon egg. Egg hatches and now the evil overlord wants to kill the boy.
  10. Captain Underpants – Kids turn their principle into a superhero from their favorite cartoon.
  11. The Sword of Truth – A hot magical woman shows up and guy finds out he has magic destiny/ duty to destroy an evil overlord.
  12. Dork Diaries – Girl starts a new private school. Doesn’t fit in.
  13. Artemis Fowl – Overly smart boy captures fairy to ransom her.
  14. Percy Jackson & the Olympians  – Boy finds out he’s a demigod and there is about to be a war unless someone finds Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt.
  15. His Dark Materials – A girl tries to find her kidnapped friend. Lots of really awesome and weird stuff happens while she’s doing that.

What did we learn from this? Well, it’s pretty easy to explain just what the plot for each book is (with maybe the high fantasy books being exceptions since they’re often very long and about great big wars and such.)

Most also have very clear and memorable main characters. 3 of these have the name in the title. Two have Dorky/ Wimpy as a description of the main character. The rest have titles like Hunger Games and Divergent’s that both refer to the main thing in the first book (as does The Sword of Truth), giving us a hint what the main theme is and back when the book was new, made us wonder what these “Hunger Games” might be.

Random side note

I really like the Better Novel Project and think analyzing best sellers is fascinating – if you haven’t checked that site out you totally should.

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Better Novel Project blog = awesome!

So what have we learned from all of this?

In the past two decades or so book series that have become best sellers have between 3-5 books (unless high fantasy or shorter books then 10-15 books in series). They’re set in a world with magic hidden from the “normal” people or a dystopian/alternate history.

Or if they’re fantasy novels – in a secondary world.

Main characters are often preteens or mid to late teens, even in fantasy.

Even a best selling series will probably not make it past the 50M books sold, much less the 100M, but they’re still best selling and most of us will know the title and basic premises.

Male main characters seem a bit more common in MG books and female heroines in YA. Love triangle in two of the YA books, but it’s good to note these are all sub-plots and not really the focus of the books (well maybe a bit in Twilight).

But perhaps most interesting and important is that almost all of these books have an easy to remember plot / tell me what it’s about / pitch sort of deal. Even though several take place in alternative worlds from ours, they’re easy to understand and explain to possible readers.

So what makes books best seller?

8 things all best selling ya books have in common

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Does these statistics give us any clues? Will writing a YA book series with 4 books set in a dystopian future or fantasy world with a love triangle be guaranteed to become a best seller? Or should go for a magic school and evil overlord? Vampires? Is there some super change best selling formula?

As much as I would love to say yes, I can’t.

You can surely up your odds by writing series with some of these things. Problem is, if you write a Dystopian and try to have it published today – you’re 5-10 years late to the party. Same with the magic, vampires and such.

Because a big part of why things become best sellers is timing.

Yup.

What becomes populate often has as a lot to do with the world as with the actual book. Timing is important. And usually only one book will hit it real big, only to be followed by others in similar spirit relatively quickly (think back to the number of vampire books back around Twilight’s release, how Divergent’s success partly comes from the fame of the Hunger Games and the dozens of BDSM books that have followed Fifty Shades and done very well for themselves.)

Because best seller are timing as much as a great story and as we’re moving forward all the time a book that might have hit big in the early 00s isn’t going to today. As the world changes, society changes, there are different things that call to readers to certain books.

Can we still learn something from all these Best Selling Statistics I’ve drugged up?

If it’s all timing and luck pretty much, is it all useless?

No.

I find it amazing to be able to compile statics for these best sellers. To know that the MG/ YA genre is historically the one that has the most best sellers. That younger protagonists even in fantasy are common. That magic and alternate worlds are extremely popular. What number of books most series have.

That I can make a list that I (and anyone else that wants) can use as a jumping off point.

Best selling book have…

Title: Contain the main event, character or other important and attention-grabbing thing

Plot:  Easy and clear to explain in a sentence or two.

World: Often a hidden magical one in the present day or a nonmagical dystopian future.

Character: Either young (11) and growing up during the series or 15-17 years old (and stay that way. MD more often boys, YA more often girls.

Romance: Often part of the YA + fantasy stories, but not really focus. Some of the YA have love triangles.

Series length: 3-5 books for YA.

Theme: Something that resonates with the time or mood of the intended audience at the time of release.

Time to Fame: It often takes a long time to actually get on the best selling list on wiki, but often best sellers become popular within a few years of their release. TV shows and movies being made often make people remember or re-discover a book and increase interest in it (duh!).


None of these elements on their own guarantees you a best seller. Nothing can do that. Not being a brilliant writer, having a great story/ premises, or the right aged character or world to set your book, will do that.

But it will help. These stats show you what has been popular in the past; what people enjoy reading.

And while you should be write things you enjoy reading, it’s good to know what others love too.

To read those book, to analyze them and see what made them work. To think about them in the time they came out. To think about the issues of today’s world and how those might effect your future readers. Think about the fun interesting ideas explored with in them – magical schools, dangerous death matches and kinky sex – these concept existed before these books made them big. But we still think of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Gray as the “creators” of these things. Maybe the next big thing is already out there, a amazing topic someone has just been waiting to turn into a brilliant story?

Maybe you can be that person?

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Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others that might interest you.

How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing.

Mary Sue – Who Is She and Why She’s Bad News For Your Story

Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV)

ARC copies + Preorder Time!

Writing Promt 2

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: How J.K. Rowling changed the world! It’s all about timing. | The Plot & Other Problems
  2. Trackback: Inside the head of a boy…(How to write from a guy’s POV) | The Plot & Other Problems
  3. Trackback: Mary Sue – Who Is She and Why She’s Bad News For Your Story | The Plot & Other Problems

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