What Makes a Best-selling Book?


As writers, we all want to create works that move people, challenge our thinking and make our readers continue to ponder our characters long after they put our books down. How does a writer do that? I asked myself the same question for a long time. I went on a quest last year. I checked out books by all the best-selling authors I could find at my library and got to work researching their style and what made their books so great.

Some of them had the worst grammar. One book I read looked like their editor went on vacation until after the book was published. And of course, when you read some secular books, you get the over indulgent racy scenes and language(Yuck!).

So what was it that lends them top honors? Here’s a list of the most noticeable differences between a best-seller and any other book:

  1. Taking the action up a notch
  2. Deep POV
  3. Creating likable characters that had some form of a hero status
  4. Characters who stay true to their character
  5. Characters with huge personal and public stakes

A lot of times writers don’t want to overstate or over do a scene. Yet, it’s such a necessary step to keep our readers reading. Don’t be afraid to move the action in your story up to the next level.

Deep POV can be so hard to portrait when we’re writing. It’s basically taking the words of emotions and turning them into actions so the reader is experiencing it at the same time as the character.

Sorry to say, but if you don’t write a likable character, it can be the best written book and it won’t win any honors. Readers must be able to relate to our characters.

One thing I hate to see is when a character acts contrary to their personality. You never want your readers to say, “They would never do that,” about your protagonist or secondary characters.

One of the best things you can do for your current WIP is raise the personal and public stakes. In other words, if your protagonist was in an accident, double the stakes by killing off her best friend in that same accident and running into your ma’s favorite cow at the same time. Get my drift?

You may have to make a lot of changes to incorporate these, but it’ll be worth your time and effort. Who knows, these tricks of the trade might make you the next best-seller.

Stay tuned to part two of this post on How Donald Maass’ book Writing the Breakout Novel workbook has changed my writing and can do the same for you.

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