EP01: Who Buys Bestsellers? | Vics Tranter – Hachette Books

As we begin our epic quest to write and chart a book in one year, we need to discover what kind of person buys bestselling books. We turn to Hachette Book Group consumer insight expert Vics Tranter, who shares her experience and wisdom with us and we discover just who will be reading our book… and it’s a bit of a shock, to be frank.


Click to Tweet: What every author should know… who actually buys bestsellers? #amwriting @bestsellerxp

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Episode Highlights:

  • Vics Tranter – Consumer Insights Manager, Hachette Book Group
  • Who buys bestsellers?
  • What is the Bestseller Experiment?
  • Who are your passionate readers?
  • The different types of people who buy books
  • Who are you writing for?

Books Mentioned

  • Gone Girl
  • Girl on a Train
  • On Writing – Stephen King

Links featured in today’s show:

  • Bestseller Experiment’s Vault of Gold. Sign up to get your free Writer’s ebook
  • Question Mark: Have a question you want answered on the show? Click here.


Vics Tranter has been working at the Orion Publishing Group in the UK for three years and in that time she has been leading the drive to ensure that the voice of the consumer is heard in the publishing process. She conducts surveys, focus groups and looks at consumer and industry data to integrate these insights to all areas of the business from editorial to marketing to sales.

We were both terrified and inspired by Vics’ research. We started by asking her a simple question…

Who buys books?

Four in five people will have bought a book in the last year, which is absolutely huge, they might only be buying one book, or they might be buying lots of books, but four in five have bought a book… Crime and thriller comes out as the genre that people are reading most. About a third say they’ve read a crime and thriller book in the last year.

Titles: keep it simple:

When you’re looking at titles it helps to have one that’s easy to remember. It sounds really simple, but if you want your average Joe consumer to tell their friends about it — which is one of the key ways that people find out about books — you need to be able to remember that title, so Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train, they’re all quite simple, easy to remember titles.

Pioneers and passionate readers:

One of the ways to gain momentum for an author is to start at the core: think of who those key influencers are, those uber passionate people, the book pioneers, the people who are looking for information before you even know what the information is. They’re looking for new books, they’re following and talking about their favourite authors on social media, they’re writing blogs about books, and those influencers are absolutely key because those are the people that are then going to talk to the passionate readers – who haven’t got time to discover the books — but they want a trusted source to get information on the next book to read to add to their list. I think one of the biggest issues as publishers that we have to overcome is how people discover books and still the main way that people find out about books is word of mouth.

“The passionate readers tend to be women aged 35-45.”

People who only read one book a year:

A book is a big investment for a lot of people, so they want to know that it’s going to be a page-turner… that they can take on holiday with them, and it’s those passionate readers that are going to recommend that one book, so you need your book to be that one book that everybody talks about.

On twists and suspense:

If you want to get that word of mouth recommendation, having a twist is a brilliant sell. You don’t have to tell your friends about it, but you have to say “Ah, there’s something in that book that you’ll just love” and it almost doesn’t matter what genre it is.

How to understand your readers:

Talk to them. About issues, what they like to read, getting a real understanding how reading fits into their life would probably give you a good indication of the things they would like to read about.

Bloggers and key influencers are so important in all of this. Talk to them as well, look online, look at what they talk about could be really valuable as well.

In publishing we get so caught up in how well it’s written, but actually the average consumer just wants to whip through it and they want enjoyment, suspense and they want to talk about it afterwards… Don’t dumb it down or make it too basic, but make it accessible.


The key is knowing the consumer. Getting the right product to them… Knowing who you’re writing that book for. Having them in mind the whole way through. So that when you come to publish it, you know what the pitch is, you know who you’re aiming it at and you can do that really easy sell, because you’ve had that customer in your mind while writing the book.

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Mark D

Mark Desvaux (coach, bestselling recording artist, entrepreneur and author) is living the life of his dreams and works with people looking to live to their true potential and make a difference in the world.

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