Top selling authors belong to a rare club and I suppose we all, secretly, in our heart of hearts, want to join! Jeff Bercovici of Forbes has some interesting thoughts to share in his articles on the topic. So what lessons can the rest of us pick up? The most sound seems to be - Write in a genre that has mass commercial appeal.
(FORBES bases its estimates on sales data, published figures and information from industry sources between June 2012 and June 2013.)
Top of the list in 2012 is E L James (aka Erika Leonard, nee Mitchell) who has reputedly earned $95 million (£60 million) for her bondage trilogy. As everyone probably knows, she originally wrote it as fan fiction in the style of Twilight author Stephanie Meyer. The books leapt straight into every bestseller list, which throws an interesting side light on modern culture purely because of the theme running through all three books. However, that is not what interests us in this instance. Instead we should speculate if s the books would have had such success if the electronic reading device – which gave every reader a discreet way to imbibe such spicy stuff - had not been invented. 70 million copies sold between Jan-Aug in the USA. As my good friend Jeffrey once said when he heard I'd taken up writing - “Remember – shagging sells!”
In second place that year was James Patterson, who publishes five or more titles a year with $91 million (£58 million) earned between June 2012 and June 2013.
It seems fantasy fiction for young adults is a good market, especially if it attracts adult readers. No 3 on the list is Suzanne Collins, who published The Hunger Games trilogy. And earned $55 million. If you can manage a hit film of the story, that will really push book sales. You may have heard of Nora Roberts, too. Well, she stands at 8 on the list, having earned $23 million in 2012. You would think, wouldn't you, that they had all earned enough and they would stop writing and let some other author have a chance at the top prizes.
Michael Pietsch, CEO of Hachette Book Group thinks it’s the surprise and originality of some stories that leads to the giant sales. That’s why there are all these delicious stories of the book that was rejected by 96 publishers – because people are looking at what worked in the past. Then suddenly one brave publisher decides to take a risk, and finds a success on his/her hands.
Unhappily, there is no science behind forecasting the next bestseller, but there is a lot of luck.
Read some of the original articles at the links below: