Tuesday, June 5, 2012

So You Want To Be A Bestselling Author: What Should You Write About?

Thousands of people, like myself, have published on Amazon in the last few years and many thousands more are planning to. However, if you’re a first time author, you might be faced with the dilemma of what to write. You know that you want to publish a book, and hopefully become the next bestselling author, another E L James, Amanda Hocking or John Locke, but where do you start?

For any product, whether it is toothpaste or sports cars, many businesses conduct extensive market research first to find out what people want to buy. In the case of books, you could research the market before you write to find out what is selling i.e. what genres are in the top 100 on lists such as Amazon’s, though generally the bestselling genre is romance, partly because romance lovers are voracious readers, but this is not very helpful information for authors that do not want to write romance. Also, there are many other popular genres out there, such as thriller and non-fiction history. In addition, it can be hard to be ‘visible’ and get to the top of a category where you are competing with thousands of other books in the same genre (there are currently over 80,000 romance ebooks available on Amazon.com). You might be better off writing for a less popular category, such as religious fiction, where you would have a greater chance of making it to the top (there are only around 10,000 religious fiction ebooks on Amazon.com at the moment).

Moreover, readers are fickle and what is selling today may not be what is selling by the time you have written your book. Also, people may not know that they want your type of book until you have written it. For example, in the wider world of business, no one knew they wanted potable cassette players that could not even record music until Sony came out with the Walkman in the 1980’s. Similarly, in the world of books, J. K. Rowling was told by her first editor, Barry Cunningham, to keep her day job as there was no money to be made from children’s books. J. K. Rowling’s children’s books have had since made her a billionaire!

Rather than trying to follow a tend, you might be better off writing the book that you want to write, rather than the book you think you should write. Write what you love to read and what you know most about. Bestselling romance author, Judy Powell, has this excellent advice for authors, ‘I would like to encourage authors to write the book of their heart. If there is a particular genre or subject that holds great appeal for you please translate your passion for that idea into a book. Your readers will feel your passion and come to love your book as you do.’ Readers certainly feel this passion in Judy Powell’s writing; her contemporary romance, Hot Summer, is an Amazon bestseller!

For example, if you know a lot about vegan food, write a vegan cookbook, or a novel in which the lead character is a vegan. The author, Alle Wells, is a committed vegan from the South and her first novel, Lame Excuses, is about the current obesity epidemic in the American South. Similarly, the author, Philip Catshill, is a retired British policeman and his murder mystery novels, Who Else Is There? and Suffer Little Children, are acclaimed for their realism of UK police practice and criminal characters, while my romance, The Royal Sheikh, was inspired by my experience of living in the Middle East, though I must admit I have never been seduced by a fabulously wealthy Sheikh!


  1. Write the book you want to read and ignore trends. That's what I think anyway.

    1. Great post! I am currently working on my second novel which is pretty much in the same genre as my first -- thriller/crime drama. I have also begun the first book in an paranormal series, and I have plans to work on my first non-fiction piece. I agree you should write what you would read and/or what is in your heart.

      It is important to me not to be pigeon-holed or backed into a genre. It would feel claustrophobic to me.

    2. You're right, Lahongrais, you should write what's in your heart and that might mean writing in several different genres.

      Would you write in every genre under the same name or use different names?