Friday, February 4, 2022

Tips on Writing Bestsellers


A recent WRITER’S DIGEST newsletter offers an interesting article entitled: “How to Create a Bestselling Novel”. Librarian Nancy Pearl is quoted as having a theory she calls the Four Doorways, which states that, for readers, there are four main doorways into fiction. These doorways are story, character, setting, and language. 

Robin Cook claimed to have analyzed the characteristics of numerous bestsellers before writing his own blockbuster COMA.

GalleyCat’s Infographic explored the anatomy of bestsellers. Here are some of their more interesting observations and statistics: 

Bestsellers today generally have active narratives, shorter sentences, and simple vocabularies.

Exclamation marks are a negative!!

Titles should be short and simple, not complex.

 They found the length of the average bestseller to be 375 pages. 

Books with a female protagonist are more likely to be successful.

But men are more likely to read a book with a male protagonist. 

Main characters or protagonists in bestsellers are often lawyers or detectives.

Books set in America are most popular. 

The number one grossing genre in fiction is still Romance.

Second is: Crime/Mystery.

Third is: Inspirational or Religious. 

Fourth is: Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Fifth is: Horror (Stephen King eat your heart out!) 

For a detailed article, check this out: 

 11 Steps to Writing a Bestselling Novel (Infographic) ( 

February is the month for celebrating romance. At the current time, besides mystery novels and short stories, I am reading recent Regency romances, the quality of which is quite good. They provide an escape from depressing modern realities.

 If you are interested in historical romance, I recommend the following authors: Jane Ashford, Anna Bradley and Anna Harrington. I find all three to have written quality Regency romance. Also, I’ll mention my historical romances SINFUL SEDUCTION and HIGHLAND HEART published by Luminosity and available from Amazon, as well as THE KILLING LAND, a Western romance from Five Star/Cengage.

Personally, I would love to write a bestseller, a novel that is widely read and appreciated. However, I would be just as pleased to write a great novel, one that endures the test of time. Yet an article in a June 2016 issue of TIME Magazine observed we can’t really know which books they will be. 

Moby-Dick, Herman Melville’s masterpiece, was not well-received in its day. Melville died poor and depressed. Poe died in poverty as well. Kafka was dead before The Trial was ever published. However, Shakespeare was a very successful and popular dramatist in his own day and has withstood the test of time.

 In But What if We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past, author Chuck Klosterman noted that works which endure are ones future societies find meaningful. Someone who is writing in obscurity today, who we have never heard of, could be the most admired author to future generations.

 I believe the best approach is to write the work that we want to write, that is meaningful to us, and not worry about current trends which ultimately come and go.

 Any thoughts you might have regarding popular fiction vs. great fiction? Can a book be both?



  1. Your books may not have made any "exclusive" lists Jacqueline but they're right up there with the best!

    Good luck and God's blessings

  2. As a reader, I can sense when a book is written according to a formula, and I find that off-putting. I much prefer a story that unfolds naturally, in the voice that the author has chosen, and in the language that serves it best. Yours, Jacqueline, fit those requirements.

  3. Thank you, Saralyn. A problem with publishers is that they prefer to pigeon-hole writing. Formula is acceptable but unfortunately not as creative.

  4. I agree with you, Jacquie. I think we should write books that we're called to write - in our own voice - with little or no regard for current trends.

  5. Hi Pat,

    With that in mind I've been working on an original novel.

  6. Interesting to see the ‘requirements’ listed, but no great surprises.

    What may come as a surprise is why “The White Hart: a happy ghost story, if there can be such a thing!” should be a free download for the Valentine’s Day weekend.

    The main protagonist is male, but it is the females in the tale that take charge.

    I had better not comment on sentence length, vocabularies, exclamation marks or titles, or for that matter the number of pages, as this short little gem has only 87. However, it was described by author D.A. Henneman as “a delight” and by other readers, as can be seen on , and, along with three other novella length tales in The Red Grouse Tales, it won a Literary Titan Book Award.

    No, the main protagonist is not a lawyer, neither is the story set in America – sorry about that, but you might just like little old England?

    However yes, it does contain romance, crime and mystery, and has a nod at philosophy and religion.

    At the end of the day, there is only one way to find out whether it will be a best seller and that is to visit: and download it for FREE on any of 12th, 13th or 14th February, read it and make up your own mind! (exclamation mark).

    Your subsequent comments and review will be most welcome.

  7. Hi Leslie,

    Thanks for writing such a detailed and thoughtful discussion. I so appreciate your response. Although I am a US writer, I do enjoy mysteries and romances set in the UK and other parts of the world. I particularly enjoy romantic suspense which combines elements of mystery, thriller and romance. I read everyday and have reviewed for a number of publications such as PW and LJ. Your novel sounds like a fine read.

  8. Jacquie, I like the theory of the 4 doorways but, alas, it is only one of many on how to write a bestseller. And if any one of them was truly "the one," we'd all be writing bestsellers. Still, such theories do make us think about our own work, so they are useful anyway. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Susan,

    So nice hearing from you. Of course, you're right. There are so many theories on how to write a bestseller. I've just collected some of the information.

  10. Jacquie,

    I couldn’t agree more that we should write what we want to write and not worry about trends. I believe great writing is the result of an author sharing a deeply personal vision of the world rather than trying to fit her writing into a formula. I don’t think we can fully appreciate a writer’s unique vision when it is constrained by a formula. Some bestsellers (not all by any means) seem to me more like an expression of popular culture than art. We all know of the bestselling writers who are forgotten by future generations, while their much less popular contemporaries are revered.

    Thank you, Jacquie, for sharing your unique vision in your many excellent novels that deserve to be bestsellers. I am currently enjoying Witch Wish. I recommend it highly for anyone who likes YA novels and also for those who don’t normally read YA fiction.

  11. Thank you for your perceptive views on writing. I also appreciate the fact that you are reading and enjoying one of my YA novels. One of my professors in library school observed that quality YA fiction is enjoyable for both adults and teenagers.

  12. Jacqueline,

    An interesting piece. I agree. Authors should write want they want to write, not what the "market trends" dictate. If you love the story you're writing, then it is evident in the novel.

  13. Well-said, Daniella. Many bestsellers have been unique and original work that set a trend.

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