Less and less people are actually reading books, since the social function of the novel has since 1964 been usurped by an increasing amount of other media carriers. This set aside.
The main themes of contemporary best-sellers oscillate since 1965 between spiritual and social issues.
In this figure the results of a detailed, laborious examination of the data of annual themes in American bestselling novels are presented in graphic form by using their Dewey decimal classification numbers . On the axis of are measured, within assigned limits, the possible lengths of cycles in the 152 years of best sellers (1863 – 2015).
We discover very soon that the period between 1863 and 2015 consists of two different subject cycles with a cleavage between 1964 and 1965.
I’m of the opinion that contemporary commercial fiction is meant to entertain and not to provoke thought or leave a particularly lasting impression while literary fiction is thematically deep, challenges conventional notions, leaves us with something to think about, has characters that aren’t cardboard, and basically has aesthetic merit.
I heard people argue that Dickens was a bestseller, so were Balzac and many others. Commercial literature back then still had some thought-provoking thematic elements and those two novels in particular were products of imaginative minds. Sure enough, there was plenty of crap throughout history like those western dime-novels written last century.
The average length of a best seller is 375 pages, set inside the USA and the protagonist is a female lawyer or detective. Romance is an upcoming segment: from 5 % of the sales in 1994 to 40 % on Amazon today and it has been demonstrated that men have a slight preference for a male main protagonist.
3 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a Best-Selling Book.”
There’s a whole industry in divining what readers will buy, and then producing it. I think I’d like it if there was no money in books. Then one would only write for art or passion.
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There are two different approaches to writing. The first category writes what they believe the people want to read and the second category writes what they would like to read by themselves. I’ve overheard once two writers discussing the literary quality of their works and the best selling author pointed out; “Look, you’re writing literature, but I’m writing best sellers”. That was the end of the discussion. It just left me pondering which one of the two was the happiest one.
Very interesting to see the stats! I do think that (regardless of time period) there’s always some really bad stuff out there- otherwise we could never explain the existence of sentimental literature 😉 )
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