What is it about some books that they hurtle onto bestseller lists? Four popular romance authors share
their tips on the writing of a bestseller.
Anna Campbell, Award-winning Regency Historical Romance author:
Hi Breathless gals! Thanks for much for asking me to contribute to this blog about what makes a
bestseller - to which my immediate answer was "I wish I knew". But then I thought a bit harder about
books of mine that have done particularly well and it all came down to hooks that draw in the reader.
So for example, my very popular novella Stranded with the Scottish Earl is pretty much what it says
it is - cabin romance with a handsome Scotsman. Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed is my bestselling
full-length book, and it has a lot of hooks - sexual premise, Beauty and the Beast story, tortured hero,
brave virginal heroine, gothic setting. There's a couple of tried and true hooks that never lose their
appeal. Examples include Cinderella, fish out of water, marriage of convenience, friends to lovers,
enemies to lovers. Even better, if you take one of those beloved tropes and manage to twist it in a
new and exciting way, you're well on your way to a bestseller.
Anne Gracie, Award-winning Regency Historical Romance Author:
How to write a bestseller? Of course a good story is crucial (actually better to have a blow-your-
mind-knockout premise), memorable characters and good writing. But there's also a lot of luck
involved - who first reads it, being 'discovered' and how they spread the word, and whether you're
being built through intense publisher promo, or slower word of mouth. And being prolific certainly
helps, especially in indie publishing. If you're not an instant smash hit, then you need to build a body
of work - when a new reader enjoys a new book, they look for your backlist. That's why all my books
for Berkley are still in print - people keep buying my backlist. But I can never tell which of my books
is going to do well, and often it surprises me. I was worried that my book Autumn Bride would be a
flop, because the romance really begins in the second half of the book. Instead, readers bonded with
the female characters, and the book sold really well.
Kelly Hunter, USA Today Bestselling Author:
Thanks for the opportunity, Enisa! Oh, if only I had the recipe for perpetual bestseller creation.
Because my personal favourites (namely my quieter stories that have often been my award winners)
have never been my USA Today bestsellers. I've analysed the why of it and come to the vague
conclusion that my volume bestsellers all have brand recognition and a strong and unique story
premise. If you can distill that premise down to a you-beaut log line, do it. For example, a pretend
wife inadvertently orders a hit on her new 'husband' while holidaying in Hong Kong. A memorable
title helps (Wife for a Week). So, too, does publisher promo support. Simple! (Not simple.)
Rachael Johns, International Bestselling Author:
I'm a totally organic writer so my tip is to write from your heart, to write something you'd love to
For years I tried to write literary romance because that's what they wanted me to write at university
and after that I tried to write sexy romance for Mills & Boon because I thought surely that had to be
easier than literary fiction. Bahaha! Both are equally as hard in different ways - all writing is hard,
but I strongly believe it should also be fun. And for me writing stopped being fun and I was ready to
give up, so I decided to forget about literary fiction or category romance and just write a book I
would love to read. I decided to try and forget about being published and just find the love again. The
book was Jilted (my first print-published book) - I forgot everything I'd been taught so far and just let
the words pour out of me as they would if I'd spoken them.
Even when I later changed genres and tried my hand at women's fiction (with The Patterson Girls), it
wasn't a conscious decision to write in another genre - the story came to me first and I fell in love
with the premise before I started writing.
I'll admit not every book is a joy and ideas don't always come when I need them to, but the ones that I
have a strong idea about, the ones I'm excited about, do flow easier and I believe that comes across on
My second piece of advice would be to stress less about the so-called rules of writing - following
these rules to the letter can make you sound like every other writer out there. Your voice is your point
of difference, don't let trying to do everything 'right' strip you of your essence!
There you have it, writing a bestseller isn't as simple as it sounds. Watch out for Part Two where four
more beloved romance authors offer their hints for bestseller success.
What, to you, makes a bestseller?
Love to love: romance novels you just can't put down (and I'm so thankful there are many of them!)
Love to laugh: at the crazy antics of animals on YouTube.
Love to learn: about Medieval history. A brutal and yet fascinating time in our past.