The Anatomy of a Best-Selling Book (Infographic)

Posted 22 Dec 2016, by

Brendan Brown

Have you ever wanted to write a best-selling book?

Although there is no magic formula for creating the next blockbuster novel, it turns out there are some commonalities between the most popular books of the past 100 years.

By identifying things like genre popularity, content types and strategies, the best places to publish, and the best mode of publishing, we’ve taken some of the guess work out of creating a novel that will appeal to today’s audience.

We have crunched the numbers on:

  • Average page length
  • Sex of the main protagonist
  • Average number of words per sentence
  • Genre popularity
  • Whether to self publish or get a publishing deal

And we’ve found a few significant common threads between some of the most popular books written over the past century.  The commonalities between these books can give us an idea of what readers in different areas of the world are intrigued by, in which genre you’re likely to find the biggest audience, and lots more tips about how to write a book that will join the ranks of the best-selling books of the last 100 years.

All of these important facts are presented in the following infographic, The Anatomy of a Best-Selling Book.

Have you ever wondered about the common features of some of the best selling books? Although there is no exact formula to writing a best seller, the public’s response to certain types of books can show where there is a demand. The most successful books consist of a female protagonist, though male protagonists are more popular with male readers.

Romance books seem to never go out of style, and in the United States, this genre’s popularity has climbed remarkably in the last few years. It grosses $1.44 billion in the U.S. Between 1994 and 2008, the romance genre made up only 5 to 9 percent of the best sellers, but in 2012, this genre shot up to make up 25 percent of best sellers. Perhaps it is due to modern-day technology and its associated lack of meaningful social connections, that romance novels now make up 40% of the market share on Amazon e-book sales.

A best seller’s average length is 375 pages, but in the last 100 years, the average number of words in a sentence has declined over time, as with the use of the semi-colon. Is this another symptom of a faster-paced world and a decrease in the overall  attention span? Interestingly, the use of the question mark has increased.

If you want in depth analysis of your writing style, try Grammarly, a free online grammar checker.

The romance genre that was popular with the European aristocracy of the 13th century consisted of prose or verse narrative that followed the heroic adventures of a knight, with an emphasis on love and courtly values. The romance novel is a relatively modern concept. The precursor to the modern romance novel is thought to be Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson, published in 1740. The story itself, however, is far from romantic. It is told in the voice of Pamela, a lowly born teenage servant, who recounts her resistance to the attempts of her predatory master to seduce her. Jane Austen later greatly influenced the romance genre, creating Pride and Prejudice in 1813, a widely popular romance novel. Sense and Sensibility was already a best seller in 1811. Jane Austen did not attach her name to her novels until after her death.

Following the lead of romance as the top genre, in the United States, crime and mystery novels are in second place, followed by religious/inspirational books in third place. Science fiction and fantasy are in fourth place, and the genre of horror is dead last. The favorite lead characters are often lawyers or detectives, and the favorite setting is often somewhere in the U.S.A.

Crime and mystery novels are popular with readers because these books often involve strong narratives. There is a safe distance between the reader and the events taking place, but one can still indulge in the danger and excitement of the story. In fact, some people find that reading crime fiction can be therapeutic.

Religious and inspirational books can serve a purpose in society too. For those looking for meaning in their lives, spirituality books can be what they are looking for. In health care, for instance, spirituality can play an important role. Up until modern times, spirituality has always been associated with health care. It is only in modern times that the focus has been squarely placed on the physical. It is easy to see why the fantasy genre and the science fiction genre are both so popular. The fantasy genre provides an escape from modern day realities, while science fiction elevates what currently is available to science to a whole other level of possibilities.

Nowadays, a lot of the popular books combine genres. Genres need not to be divided. In the story, there can be an underlying romance, combined with science fiction or elements of fantasy. Or there could be a crime story taking place in a world set in the future, with a love story woven in. For example, the popular book Twilight is a vampire fantasy centered around a love story. There are many ways to create a best seller, and perhaps the tried and true method will soon grow weary upon readers.

If you are planning to write a best seller, would you simply follow what has been tried and tested to be popular, or would you use the information contained in this infographic to write something entirely daring and fresh that the public could be craving for? Whatever you choose, there are ways to improve your manuscript, from manuscript evaluation, book proofreading, book editing, as well as a combination of author services.

Publishing in the United States could be a good idea. The largest publishing industry is in the United States, which was worth $27.98 billion in 2014. The six largest markets in the world for books are the United States, China, Germany, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom. Whether you choose to find a publisher or to publish on your own, you can always sell your book as an e-book online.

All the best in your endeavours!

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