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CraftyCreations411
09-26-2012, 02:15 AM
I've searched around in a few spots and couldn't find an answer so thought I'd pop in here and ask, knowing full well that somewhere it's been answered a gazillion times.

>Putting on my flame-retardant suit and hiding i a corner.<

What makes a best seller? I've just finished two books that were supposedly written by a best selling author but I swear my grandson could write better.

Candy

Sol Quince
09-26-2012, 02:48 AM
If someone becomes a best seller they are just lucky.

Ones that become classics are the good written ones.

So it's mostly luck really. There are so many novels that could be written better that are best sellers. LUCK ;)

RLTDavis
09-26-2012, 02:48 AM
Million dollar question :) While the majority of books on the bestseller lists deserve to be up there, every once in a while a book becomes popular not because it is good, but because it is like junk food. Junk food that appeals to the masses. Of course, most junk stays junk, so it is probably just cosmic luck that boosted that junk into the spotlight.

Griffin Hayes
09-26-2012, 02:50 AM
Welcome!

Sol Quince
09-26-2012, 02:56 AM
Million dollar question :) While the majority of books on the bestseller lists deserve to be up there, every once in a while a book becomes popular not because it is good, but because it is like junk food. Junk food that appeals to the masses. Of course, most junk stays junk, so it is probably just cosmic luck that boosted that junk into the spotlight.

I wish more readers would stay away from "junk food".

CraftyCreations411
09-26-2012, 04:03 AM
Thanks. I was just curious. I thought maybe it had to do something with numbers. I just couldn't figure out how this guy could be a best selling author because his writing is nothing spectacular.

Candy

Ol' Fashioned Girl
09-26-2012, 04:14 AM
Trouble is... my 'junk food' is someone else's 'best story ever!'... and your worst story ever might be by my favorite writer. One man's trash, etc., etc., etc....

CaoPaux
09-26-2012, 04:38 AM
(Moved from New Members.)

willietheshakes
09-26-2012, 04:54 AM
Thanks. I was just curious. I thought maybe it had to do something with numbers. I just couldn't figure out how this guy could be a best selling author because his writing is nothing spectacular.

Candy

Of course it has to do with numbers.

A top ten bestseller is one of the ten best selling books during a given time period and in the sampled markets. Period.

CraftyCreations411
09-26-2012, 05:04 AM
Sorry. I didn't know where to put this, so thanks for putting it in the right spot.

Candy

James D. Macdonald
09-26-2012, 07:07 AM
A best-selling author is an author who has written a best-seller. The book itself, the one you're holding in your hand, may not have been the best-seller in question. (But the author is still a best-selling author.)

Also: Not all best-seller lists are created equal. The New York Times best seller list is legit. So's USA Today, or one of the other major print media.

If somone boasts that they're an "Amazon best seller" you're entitled to laugh at them. That's so easily gamed that it's meaningless.

Medievalist
09-26-2012, 07:42 AM
Thanks. I was just curious. I thought maybe it had to do something with numbers. I just couldn't figure out how this guy could be a best selling author because his writing is nothing spectacular.

Candy

It has to do with sales.

The "good" best seller lists in AmericaŚNew York Times and USA TodayŚtrack sales all over the U.S. from book stores who are "secretly" selected by the journals, and, depending on the list, they may use neutral third party sources like Nielsen Book Scan.

It has nothing to do with the quality of the book or the writing, or whether the people who bought the book liked it or even read it; it's sales.

That said, if Jane Doe reads a just published book and likes it, and tells her best friend Sue she'd love the book, and Sue goes out and buys a copy at the B & N at the mall, you have a sale made because someone liked a book.

And if a major reviewer in, say, the New York Times likes a book a whole lot, the bookstores will make an effort to stock it on a nice display shelf, and more people will see it and buy it. . .

rwm4768
09-26-2012, 07:53 AM
I have no idea what makes a bestseller. If I did, my life would be a whole lot easier. I think there are a number of factors that go into it. All else equal, a better-written book probably stands a better chance of being a bestseller. But the big thing is story. A lot of unspectacular writers sell well simply because they tell great stories.

Phaeal
09-26-2012, 06:44 PM
A bestseller sells best. I can think it's brilliant. I can think it sucks and is an obvious symptom of the decline of human (if not galactic) civilization. But enough people bought it to put it on that particular list.

What are the inner workings of a bestseller? Some of you -- perhaps too many -- know what I'm going to say. In general, the "blockbuster" tickles the right nerves (or prejudices, or longings conscious and unconscious) in enough people to form a critical word-of-mouth mass. The reader mass grows until it triggers the "everyone's-reading-this-I'd-better-check-it-out" effect. Other factors involved in the process are celebrity of the author going in and how hard the publisher is pushing the product. Still, that nerve/prejudice/longing-tickling quality is what's central to making the true juggernauts, like Harry Potter, Twilight, The DaVinci Code, and Fifty Shades.

seun
09-26-2012, 06:53 PM
If someone becomes a best seller they are just lucky.

Ones that become classics are the good written ones.

So it's mostly luck really. There are so many novels that could be written better that are best sellers. LUCK ;)

Excellent. That means I can stop writing to the best of my abilities and giving a reader the sort of story they'll love and tell their friends about. If it's down to luck, then my effort, determination, talent, and willingness to listen to feedback have got nothing to do with it.

Phew. What a relief to know it's all down to simple luck.

Jamesaritchie
09-26-2012, 08:52 PM
I've searched around in a few spots and couldn't find an answer so thought I'd pop in here and ask, knowing full well that somewhere it's been answered a gazillion times.

>Putting on my flame-retardant suit and hiding i a corner.<

What makes a best seller? I've just finished two books that were supposedly written by a best selling author but I swear my grandson could write better.

Candy

I'd be willing to be a thousand dollars against a dime that your gradson can't write one tenth as well, except in your opinion. Name the bestselling writer, any bestselling writer of any time period, and I can, with no effort at all, find you a hundred readers who will swear that writer can't write at all. They're always wrong.

A bestseller is what it is because enough people love reading it. It is NOT, however, a writing contest. It's a story and charafter and dialogue contest. The writing can't be horrible, and I don't think I've ever seen a case where it was, but it doesn't have to be great, either. All the writing has to be is competent.

But story, character, and dialogue make a bestseller.

And it sure as hell isn't luck. Luck is what those who can't do something call it when someone else can do it. Nor is it a case of the well-written ones becoming classics. Most of the classics were blasted by reviewers and critics of the time period., and are still blasted by many today. Writing style, what we think of as good and bad, changes as often as midwest weather in March.

Story, character, and dialogue make classics, not the writing.

CraftyCreations411
09-26-2012, 09:50 PM
Jamie, if you say so, I'll believe you because I honestly don't know.

Have you ever read any of the 'Dexter' books? That's the author I'm referring to. I love the show but the books - yuck! To me there's no continuity. One minute it's first person, the next it's third. I've never heard or seen so many 'd' adjectives or adverbs in my life. There's very little description and a lot didn't make much sense to me. Including some of the conversations.

That's one of the reasons why I asked what makes a best seller.

Candy

August Talok
09-26-2012, 10:29 PM
Timing sprinkled with a bit of luck.

dangerousbill
09-26-2012, 11:00 PM
What makes a best seller? I've just finished two books that were supposedly written by a best selling author but I swear my grandson could write better.


Sometimes it's self-defined. It's a best-seller because a lot of people buy it. Perhaps it's a really excellent book. Perhaps it comes at a fortunate time, like a novel about biowarfare that comes out just as biowarfare is in the news, for instance.

Sometimes, it's heavily promoted. The publisher chooses a mediocre book and spends a lot of money on advertising, author interviews on TV and radio, and even commercials. They stuff bookstores with copies, perhaps displayed on special stands. How else would you explain 'The DaVinci Code'?

Perhaps the most common source of best sellers is the cadre of authors whose names are already well known, either to the general public, or elite literary communities. They could publish their used kleenex and have a best seller, through name recognition alone.

Quality of writing isn't always a sure winner. The Stieg Larsson novels, eg 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' are practically first drafts. The author died after writing only three books of an intended ten-book series, and the manuscripts languished for years before being considered for publication. The plot shows signs of having been repaired and pasted crudely together, and the cultural gap between Swedish and Anglo culture is obvious everywhere. Yet the novels are compelling reads, perhaps because of their uniqueness and their strongly drawn characters. Look how many forests died for those three novels.

There are many very good writers out there who will never be published. As an agent told me once, a best-selling book is a combination of craft, imagination, and pure dumb luck, with luck being the most important of these.

Green
09-27-2012, 12:39 AM
I would say, like a few others in this thread, after a certain level of competency in writing, the quality of the book per se doesn't matter in determining a bestseller. What matters beyond quality is that the characters or plot or action completely engross the reader. And since they're so engrossed, they share it with their friends, who in turn share it, and so on until there is a huge following.

The word of mouth buzz that makes bestsellers can also be helped along by TV/movie deals, scandals, or author notoriety. But you have to get that buzz, and the buzz usually isn't "wow that person wrote so well". It's more along the lines of "wow I just can't believe that plot twist" or "wow I am in loooooove with that character."

Sol Quince
09-27-2012, 01:02 AM
Excellent. That means I can stop writing to the best of my abilities and giving a reader the sort of story they'll love and tell their friends about. If it's down to luck, then my effort, determination, talent, and willingness to listen to feedback have got nothing to do with it.

Phew. What a relief to know it's all down to simple luck.

No. You always have to try! Good stories are best sellers too, it's just when something that sucks becomes a best seller, it has to be luck.(but I'm sure it's good in some way)

Buffysquirrel
09-27-2012, 01:18 AM
What makes a best seller?

Lots of sales. How those come about is largely unknown but word of mouth seems to play a significant part.

Bukarella
09-27-2012, 02:28 AM
I think I agree with much respected author and agent Donald Maass: tension on every page and word of mouth make a best-seller. They just do. It's not always about best quality word-choice and magnificent prose, it's the story that people can't put down and just have to talk about to someone, anyone, after they are done with the book.

MoLoLu
09-27-2012, 04:44 PM
I think I agree with much respected author and agent Donald Maass: tension on every page and word of mouth make a best-seller. They just do. It's not always about best quality word-choice and magnificent prose, it's the story that people can't put down and just have to talk about to someone, anyone, after they are done with the book.

Second this.

seun
09-27-2012, 05:01 PM
it's just when something that sucks becomes a best seller, it has to be luck.(but I'm sure it's good in some way)

FWIW, I was being sarcastic. And luck has got nothing to do with it. If a poorly written book becomes a best seller, it's down to enough people finding something in it, word of mouth, people who don't generally read picking up a copy, and the fact that nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.

Phaeal
09-27-2012, 06:17 PM
What seun said. Really, think about it. How could luck alone make a bestseller? There might be luck involved in hitting an agent or editor or market at the right time, but if your book doesn't have "the stuff," it won't matter when you hit them.

Publishing is not an enormous roulette wheel, with books in every slot, with the successful book being the one "luckiest" to tick to a stop in front of a reader the most times. If a book is presented more often than other books, it will be because of marketing and/or media buzz and/or word of mouth, in varying orders and permutations. Again, not luck.

Sol Quince
09-28-2012, 01:06 AM
FWIW, I was being sarcastic. And luck has got nothing to do with it. If a poorly written book becomes a best seller, it's down to enough people finding something in it, word of mouth, people who don't generally read picking up a copy, and the fact that nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.

That makes sense.