Infographic: The Waterstones Best-Seller Formula

waterstones best-sellerDo you know how there’s a formula for choosing the title of your great American novel?

Now there’s a similar formula for how to write a best-seller. Waterstones has crunched the numbers on the ten best-selling titles for each of the past ten years, and they say they’ve identified all the characteristics of a best-selling novel.

They found that 68% of best-sellers were either thrillers or contemporary novels, and that the authors had won an average of four awards and had previously written 13 books. The book should have a male lead (55% of the best-sellers did), be part of a series, (41%), and be set in the US (45%).

And be sure not to verb your title; that’s the kiss of death.

In conclusion, any author who wants to pen a best-seller should read the following infographic and follow its instructions to the letter. Because remember, formulaic homogeneity is the key to financial security.

waterstones best-seller


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Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. fjtorres27 July, 2015

    Tough guy loner protagonist, preferably ex-military with PTSD and a physical injury that “humanizes” him, car chases and shootouts galore, and a ticking clock to some “unspeakable horror”.

    Bonus points if the villain is a decadent billionaire with “perverse” sexual preferences.

    Nothing new there. Formula goes way back to Bond and earlier.
    It even has been spoofed left and right.

    1. fjtorres27 July, 2015

      Note that female characters are optional, though useful if played as sex toys, trophies, or victims. Preferably all three.

  2. dr quark11 June, 2018

    I’m so old I can remember when the formula was

    Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog

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