It should help your understanding of what it takes to write and publish a bestseller if you spend some time looking at the books that readers are buying in any given period. Study the weekly bestseller charts in the newspapers over a number of weeks, or the charts in publishing industry magazines such as the UK’s The Bookseller. The Bookseller Official UK Bestsellers Chart is constructed from a weekly list of the top 5,000 bestselling books in the UK. Gathered by Nielsens BookScan, it captures 90–95 per cent of book sales in the UK from a huge range of outlets, including Amazon, Asda, B&Q, the BBC, Blackwells, ELC, The Eden Project, HMV, The Independent, the Imperial War Museum, Mothercare, art galleries. PC World, Play.com, the Saatchi Gallery, Sainsburys. Tesco, Tesco online, Waterstones and WHSmith. The figures don’t include independent bookshops or digital sales. Since 1998 the charts have reflected actual sales: point-of-sale data is gathered via the barcode on the back of a book. Before 1998, it was a matter of calling up a selection of ‘representative’ booksellers and asking them for their figures. And of course this was open to guestimates, mistakes and favouritism. You can also check the biggest online platform, Amazon’s top 100 chart (which, they say, is updated hourly based on sales) and you’ll see that you can go into separate charts for hardback, paperback and Kindle, where you’ll find a mix of trade-published and selfpublished books. From that page, you can then go into different genres to look at the list toppers for each genre.
analyse a bestseller
If you find studying the charts useful, once you have decided on your idea and the genre you will write in, find a book in a similar genre to yours and unpick it to find out what it gets right, as well as analysing the marketing campaign that got it into the charts. 1 How is the book described? 2 What distinguishes the cover from others in the same genre? 3 What is the author’s backstory? 4 Is it clear from the cover and blurb what genre the book is in? 5 Can you work out the book’s target readership by looking at reviews and recommendation sites such as Goodreads?