This week! Books!
There were two breakout bestsellers in publishing this week that are sure to make fantastic case studies in Harvard Business Review.
Here’s how to make a book a bestseller in the 2020s:
- Have Twitter user “Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood” tweet about your book. After Mr. Dickolas Wolfwood posted this rave, which then went viral, the book in question, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s novella This is How You Lose the Time War, shot up to the top of the Amazon bestseller lists, where as of this writing it is currently #4 overall. It’s that easy, folks! Mind you, this book won Hugo and Nebula Awards a few years back, aka the most prestigious awards in its category, but everyone knows that doesn’t work.
But don’t worry, if getting Bigolas Dickolas’s attention sounds difficult, there’s a second approach that’s surefire guaranteed to blow your book up:
- Convince Taylor Swift fans there’s a Taylor Swift book forthcoming. After Flatiron Books at Macmillan made a mysterious announcement about a forthcoming book by an author to be revealed in July 2023, this idly speculating post in the Taylor Swift subreddit contributed to Swifties propelling “4C Untitled Flatiron Nonfiction Summer 2023 Hardcover” up bestseller lists. Oh, and did I mention that Kate Dwyer at the New York Times recently confirmed the book is actually an oral history of K-pop band BTS?
You too can make your book a bestseller by following these very easy steps!
Oh, and it may also help to win a Pulitzer, one of the major awards that tends to move some copies. Congrats to the winners and finalists for books!
- Fiction (co-winner): Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
- Fiction (co-winner): Trust by Hernan Diaz
- History: Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power by Jefferson Cowie
- Biography: G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage
- Memoir: Stay True by Hua Hsu
- Poetry: Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020 by Carl Phillips
- General nonfiction: His Name is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa
Karen Heller profiled legendary author Dean Koontz, whose 110 books have sold more than 500 million copies. Koontz seems to have two main passions: writing books and crafting extremely nice homes.
In writing advice news, agent Molly Ker Hawn has spoken with quite a few editors who say long word counts are a huge issue due to printing costs, Kathryn Craft has some excellent advice on distinguishing between anecdotes and scenes, and Susan Dennard–always one of my favorite writers on craft–talks about how to level up your settings with physical details. Such an important and underrated skill these days.
And RIP to Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, author of the legendary book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, a comfort to millions going through difficult times since its publication in 1981. I had the honor of working with Rabbi Kushner as a young publishing assistant, and you’ll be unsurprised to learn he was unfailingly kind and gracious. Jane Eisner revisited When Bad Things Happen to Good People forty years after first reading it, and was struck “not only by its enduring wisdom but by its profound demands.”
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. (All links are affiliate links):
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- The 23rd Midnight by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
- Happy Place by Emily Henry
- Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune
- The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
- Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- The Wager by David Grann
- The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama
- Look for Me There by Luke Russert
- Outlive by Peter Attia with Bill Gifford
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Young adult hardcover:
- Solitaire by Alice Oseman
- Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley
- Imogene, Obviously by Becky Albertalli
- Miles Morales Suspended by Jason Reynolds
- Five Survive by Holly Jackson
Middle grade hardcover:
- The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Skandar and the Phantom Rider by A.F. Steadman
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- It’s Not Bragging if it’s True by Zaila Avant-garde
This week on the blog
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
And finally, if you’re at all interested in international politics, soccer, and/or organized crime, this deep dive by Robert F. Worth into the intersection of Serbian politics, soccer hooliganism, and organized crime is a wild read.
Have a great weekend!
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my online classes, my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
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Photo: The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. Follow me on Instagram!