When you ask most people what makes a book a best-seller their answers tend to be influenced by the big successes of recent time. So, for example, the Harry Potter books are often cited.
In reality the situation is actually quite complicated – some would say misleading.
At any one time there are a number of best-seller lists available which basically record sales for the previous week, or month. A book can appear on such a list briefly and then disappear never to he heard of again. By definition it was a “best-seller”, but it could actually have sold far fewer copies in the long run than another book which never got into the best-seller list but just kept on selling in relatively low numbers year in, year out.
A book selling only a few thousand copies in a year could be in the best-seller list at one particular point – so, in fact, the total sales numbers of “best-sellers” aren’t always as high as some might expect. Although, to be fair, selling thousands of books is a big achievement. Many self-published authors have sold less than twenty copies of a book after five years!
What about the long-term best sellers? In non-fiction these are often popular textbooks or general guides. In the case of fiction they tend to be the “classics”. Here are three titles that tend to rank highly a lot of the time:
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
If a film is made of a classic book then the book can receive a renewed surge of interest. Take, for example, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The 2012 film lifted book sales.
For more examples click on this link.