The best seller formula

To see one’s book among the bestsellers is always a writer’s dream. I too have dreamed of seeing my book in vertical and spiral stacks in the book stalls and people staring at the stacks with unveiled admiration. Once I set out to the world of publishing, I realised that to get past the slush pile is never an easy job. However perfect you think your book would be, there are some formulas that you need to apply, which will make your book acceptable to the publishers, let alone hit the jackpot.
On reading some of the bestsellers, have you ever thought that you could write a better story? Did you ever wonder how a particular book be accepted by the publishers and turned out to be a bestseller? I too had, which made me study the bestsellers. Having a bestseller is not merely about good language, or literary prowess. It is about holding the public eyes. A bestselling author should not be a mere writer but he/she should be a marketing person, psychologist and moreover a good observer. He should know THE BEST SELLER FORMULA. Let’s see the ingredients.

If we observe the bestseller lists, we can easily see that three genres are the most popular. Romance, Thriller and Historical Fiction. Romance and Thriller are mutually inclusive genres. A romance book will have a cliff-hanger in the end while a thriller will have two protagonists who are united in the most unexpected circumstances but still manages to like each other. Historical fiction is a whole new storm which is more or less a misnomer. Mythological fiction would be the right term to name them for the characters are the innumerable Hindu gods and the famous, infamous or invisible persons in the Indian mythology.

‘Goody Two shoes’ protagonist

The protagonists, both male and female should be as perfect and clean as humanly possible. What if he/she takes a little bit weed or a shot or two of drinks or even get sloshed out in parties! They are the best partner each other could get. If it’s a thriller, especially an investigative one, the protagonists should have a dark past, preferably with each other.


How would an Indian author hold the audience without some Hindi swearing words and Hindi sentences, which of course would be translated? Using Hinglish has been cited as mandatory that the readers who doesn’t know Hindi would stop caring what the dialogues meant but still manages to read since it is a bestseller and if they don’t know the story, their friends would think that they are losers.

Making out sequences

Even if the situation doesn’t demand, even if the story doesn’t demand, there should invariably be a making out sequence with graphic details. It is a prerequisite especially on the penultimate chapter before revealing the suspense, so that the readers have to read and boost their adrenalin level which is already high.

Hefty bank balance

If you are a debut author, don’t even think of seeing your book in the bestseller stack unless you have money to burn for the readers these days no longer care about the quality of the book but they are more into telling their friends about whichever book they read. If you need someone to tell their friends about your book, you need to make sure that they see your book wherever they turn. Seeing your book in the spiral or vertical stacks has nothing to do with the sales of your book. You can attain it by simply paying the bookstore chains for the display which in turn would create an illusion of a bestseller which in turn makes your book one.

Apart from these if there are a few sequences where in the protagonists ogle at the women, break the traffic law, pass a few sexist comments, and give unreal surprises, hitting the bestseller list is a cakewalk for you. It would be perfect if you are an IIT, IIM pass out with a senior managerial job and 5-6 digit salary and you ditched the job and went into full time writing thereby denying a chance to a student who genuinely wanted the seat.

There could a lot of criticisms, and complaints about this post but still I chose to write this on behalf of thousands of writers who possess great talent, exemplary language and stories of substance but still did not get a chance to get past the slush pile just because their stories did not have the USP. There are hundreds of writers who have refused the chance to get published by top publishers just because they refused to squeeze in those commercial elements in their writing. Now a days it is a practice of asking the writer to mention their marketing tactics while submitting a proposal which proves that to become a writer you don’t need to have knowledge in literature but you should have extensive knowledge in marketing. I hope the scenario will change and those writers who are true to their hearts and those who write sincere stories would be recognised and provided the deserved acceptance because PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN SWORD.

Rakhi Jayashankar

About Rakhi Jayashankar

Blogger, Holistic Wellness Coach, Social Entrepreneur, Nutritionist, Healer


  1. Of course pen is mightier than sword and it needs to be used with intelligence to make it happen.

  2. I like the satire(and much reality) this post brings out. I agree to every thought here. The first few books I picked to read in 2017 were a great lesson to me. Then I had to be careful.

    Enjoyed reading this post. 🙂

  3. Will keep all this in mind when I will go for my next book

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