What Defines a Bestseller?

While researching literary agents, I've come across something similar on many of their websites. When describing what they're looking for, quite a few mention they would like to find books "at the intersection of literary and commercial"

What does that mean? It sounds like a vague description of a book that reads like literary fiction, but enjoys commercial success. But how does an agent identify which manuscripts will sell well? I guess they guess.

Recently, agent Rachelle Gardner asked readers for questions she could answer on her blog. So I asked, "What are some examples of books that fall into the mysterious literary/commercial intersection?"

Today she answered.

Head over to Gardner's blog to see how she responded. The comments are interesting, with a lively discussion of what some consider to be good examples of this hard-to-define kind of book.

What do you think? Have you read books that seem like good examples of literary and commercial success? And do you think your manuscript would qualify?


  1. Um...not off the top of my head, no. No doubt I've read a few, but I can't think of them right now. Perhaps I'm at that time of year when all the books I've ever read are starting to blur into one big book? hehe

  2. I might list The Book Thief as one, though I'm not sure how much commercial success it had. The Night Circus is on my list, though.




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