Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dear Knuckers: Write what SELLS!

Wiki's Best-Seller list from the 2000s, USA

Below is a list of best-selling authors for the first decade of the 21st century.

What's the point of this post? Lemme tell you:

Find your book, your genre, your competitor, in this list.

Who is he? Who is she?

Is your genre represented? Where would your name be located?

The only guys I'd go after would be King and Koontz, and of those, King. I still like the fantasy-horror genre.

That, or a straight-up fiction, though these don't make the best-seller's lists. I'm still looking for the Pulitzer book The Road on that list. Not on there. People do not read Pulitzer books!

Look at the researchers. Brown and Clancy and Crichton. People love to learn new things!

Look at the dreamers. People want to escape reality!

Look at the mystery-suspense writers. People love to read about lies and suffering and murder murder MURDER!

Look at the lack of TALENT. The James Patterson and... books are prime examples of poorly-written plot wrecks. People do not love great writing! See Pulitzer comment from earlier. Heck, I've never seen much of a correlation between writing well and selling well.

Furthermore, let's look at the voice used in these books. By and large, it is a strong third-person POV. Not first person. Not omni. People want to be inside your character's head!

Further-urthermore, most of the books are fast, impatient, and do not deal with deep life issues. Sure, some do, but for the most part, people do not, like, want to read heavy books and stuff, so don't sponge up my aura with your negative energy, man...

Fantasy. Action. Romance. Mystery. Suspense. Strong 3rd POV. No life-or-death issues.

THOSE are your top-sellers.

Now I gotta go change my dang plot on The Gladiator's Son. Again. Still not saleable. I need to wedge in some fantasy, more action, a little romance, a smidge of mystery and a ton of suspense, and really get inside the skull of Mr. Conrad Leroy Buckner.

And more research. Gotta do more research.

- Eric

List of best-sellers in America, 2000-2008


  1. The Brethren by John Grisham
  2. The Mark: The Beast Rules the World by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  3. The Bear and the Dragon by Tom Clancy
  4. The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  5. The Last Precinct (novel) by Patricia Cornwell
  6. Journey by Danielle Steel
  7. The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks
  8. Roses Are Red by James Patterson
  9. Cradle and All by James Patterson
  10. The House on Hope Street by Danielle Steel

[edit] 2001

  1. Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  2. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
  3. A Painted House by John Grisham
  4. Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
  5. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  6. Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub
  7. Last Man Standing by David Baldacci
  8. Valhalla Rising by Clive Cussler
  9. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan
  10. Violets Are Blue by James Patterson
  11. Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

[edit] 2002

  1. The Summons by John Grisham
  2. Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy
  3. The Remnant by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  5. Prey by Michael Crichton
  6. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
  7. The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel
  8. Four Blind Mice by James Patterson
  9. Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales by Stephen King
  10. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

[edit] 2003

  1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  2. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  3. The King of Torts by John Grisham
  4. Bleachers by John Grisham
  5. Armageddon by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  6. The Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy
  7. The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson
  8. Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell
  9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  10. The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

[edit] 2004

  1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  2. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  3. The Last Juror by John Grisham
  4. Glorious Appearing by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  5. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
  6. State of Fear by Michael Crichton
  7. London Bridges by James Patterson
  8. Trace by Patricia Cornwell
  9. The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
  10. The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Collector's Edition by Dan Brown

[edit] 2005

  1. The Broker by John Grisham
  2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  3. Mary, Mary by James Patterson
  4. At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks
  5. Predator by Patricia Cornwell
  6. True Believer by Nicholas Sparks
  7. Light from Heaven by Jan Karon
  8. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  9. The Mermid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
  10. Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich

[edit] 2006

  1. For One More Day by Mitch Albom
  2. Cross by James Patterson
  3. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
  4. Next by Michael Crichton
  5. Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
  6. Lisey's Story by Stephen King
  7. Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich
  8. Cell by Stephen King
  9. Beach Road by James Patterson and Peter De Jonge
  10. The 5th Horseman by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

[edit] 2007[3]

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  2. Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
  3. Double Cross by James Patterson
  4. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
  5. Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
  6. Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich
  7. Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
  8. The Quickie by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  9. The 6th Target by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  10. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

[edit] 2008[4]

  1. The Appeal by John Grisham
  2. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  3. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  4. Cross Country by James Patterson
  5. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
  6. Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
  7. Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck
  8. Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
  9. Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz
  10. Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich


Jai Joshi said...

I see what you're saying.

I prefer to write what I think if good and then let the public decide if it's worth their time. My taste doesn't co-incide with the bestseller's list. It almost never has.

But I do think that some those bestsellers were about deep life issues. A few of them.


Eric W. Trant said...

Jai, Thank you for inspiring me out of what has been a grumpy day! I would love to be one of those few deeper, more meaningful books on the list.

- Eric

Patricia Stoltey said...

Don't forget fast-paced, Eric. Gotta have fast-paced.

Eric W. Trant said...

Yessum, Patricia! Andale! (Spanish for quick)

- Eric

Jemi Fraser said...

Good post - interesting lists. The genre I'm currently writing is getting more popular - and I hope it's on the upswing!

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for sharing these lists. It's hard for me to say I'm going to write what's hot or from the point of view that's selling. It's more accidental the way I do it. But then, I don't have an agent either, so it's something to consider.

Lola Sharp said...

There are a couple of literary gems in those lists.

And, as non-literary as Janet Evanovich's Steph Plum series may be...they are HILARIOUS and a fast fun read. Writing funny fiction isn't that easy, but J.E. does it brilliantly.

I try not to be a genre snob (I'm omnivorous), but what really peeves me is when SLOPPY, plot hole riddled, heinous sentence structure/writing mechanics/cliched characters, typo laden books are constantly on the List.
It does say something about the average reader...*sigh*.

If an (above offending) author is bringing in that much money, you'd think the editors would at least polish them before going to ink/press.

Eric W. Trant said...

Patricia: Yes, fast-paced! ~That~ I can get behind! I much prefer a book that sweeps me into the next chapter as opposed to one that meanders from page to page.

Although, that said, if it's well-written, I'll do some page-drifting.

Jemi: Which genre are you in? Seems YA has been off the chizang since the Potter-wars began. That Percy Jackson book is a blatant copycat who's rocking in right behind JKR.

Theresa: I don't intentionally write for a genre, but then again, I'm don't have an agent either! Although my publisher has asked for some genre-type work out of me, and I said Yes. So, we'll see.

Lola: I try not to be a snob either. I'll read just about anything that's well-written, but ~well-written~ is the key here. I read the Patterson and... book Sail a few months ago.

I knocked out a chunk of my drywall I threw that book so hard. Terrible terrible terrible to see books like this on the hot lists.

- Eric

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

Wow, great post, thanks! I'll be back for more soon!

Raquel Byrnes said...

Great post, Eric. Don't forget conspiracies with old stuff. I swear I saw an alien message in an old Picaso if I could just work in some car crashes and a secret society, I'd be set!

Eric W. Trant said...

Rebel, thanks for stopping by.

Raquel, I didn't forget conspiracies. My latest WIP involves a bigun, with hidden messages in artwork (yes, true), though no secret societies.

- Eric

About Me said...

Eric, I suppose you thought it was funny to delete my name and book from the list. :) Ha!

Nice post. I think more than anything we have to write from within and not be influenced by bestseller lists.

Matthew MacNish said...

Eric, I followed you over from Crimogenic. Oh, there he (she?) is above me.

Anyway great post. You make an interesting point. Now if only I could get published without giving a damn about becoming a best seller. Hmm.

Eric W. Trant said...

Crimey, yeah, I may've deleted your books. I agree that we need to write from within, but it's dern hard when you know goodenwell that want to get something published.

Writing, for me, is a state of constant contradiction.

Matt, I'm not sure what my point is, really... but I'm glad you liked it. Whatever it is.

- Eric