What makes a bestseller?

A P.S. Literary client recently asked ‘what makes a bestseller’?

The answer is: no one knows.

What the industry can predict and learns through experience is noted below. It is the combination of the following factors and the balance of the following factors that makes it hit the charts.

  • Quality Content
  • Timing
  • Publicity
  • Placement
  • Publisher added value/Production value
  • Connection with readers
  • Luck!

You can try to deconstruct it when it happens, but a lot of it the balance between.


St. Martin’s Navy Seals book SEAL TEAM SIX came out (and was rushed to market) after the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s death by the Navy Seals. Issacson’s biography STEVE JOBS came out (and was rushed to market) after Steve lost his battle with cancer. Both saw great success.

Fiction examples are harder to come by. THE NIGHT CIRCUS is one example that using timing. It came out when publishers and readers were looking for something to follow Harry Potter. THE NIGHT CIRCUS is a new adult read for Harry Potter fans. Continue reading What makes a bestseller?