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Breaking down the elements of best-selling books is akin to analyzing what makes a hit song – or a viral video. A sterile dissection just doesn’t work. That said, analyzing the numbers does give you some indication of what people are reading and what a typical top seller might look like.

This infographic, posted on The I [Heart] Writing Blog, breaks down some core elements in today’s bestsellers. You can see trends change over time: take the average sentence length for example. When Jane Austen wrote Sense and Sensibility in 1811, the average sentence contained more than 23 words. That number dipped to fewer than 10 words per sentence by the time Twilight was published in 2005. Semicolon use also waned, at approximately the same rate that sentences shriveled. Apparently shorter sentences means independent clauses are now being separated by a period; no semicolon needed. Not to mention this. Annoying. Trend.

If you’re considering tapping into the alien/food fetishist/romance genre, you might really blow the market wide open. And don’t save your most important advice in your religious/inspirational text for the end; those books are the least likely to be read through to the last page.

Enjoy the infographic, then ignore it and write like you’re George R.R. Martin, without whom the average page- and sentence-length stat would be even lower than it is.

Best-selling Books Infographic


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6 thoughts on “The Traits and Trends of Best-selling Books [Infographic]

  1. Nancy Riley says:

    Are children’s books analyzed differently? I’m writing in more than one genre for adults, plus starting to write children’s stories. Thanks for all this information. Still working towards getting published.

    1. Erikka Brickey says:

      I would expect the answer to be yes – romance is the #1 genre according to this post and Dr. Seuss sure doesn’t fit. Would LOVE to see comparable analysis for children’s books.

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