Steve Berry could be forgiven for asking himself every day what it takes to make a book a global bestseller. Back in 2003, the former lawyer published a novel that placed well-known myths in a conspiracy web to create a page-turning thriller.
Sound familiar? It should, except you’re thinking of Dan Brown and his flagellating priests in the multimillion seller The Da Vinci Code – not Berry’s tale of Nazis hunting Russian treasure in the barely known The Amber Room.
Published in the same year, with a male-female double act tracking down artefacts in a global conspiracy – why would one book sell so many copies and not the other? There is a cryptological tool that might help Berry find an answer: the list of books that have sold more than one million copies since the turn of the century, produced for the Specsavers bestseller awards later this week.
The data collated since 1998 by Nielsen BookScan, which monitors sales through bookshops, supermarkets and online, offers many clues to what makes a bestseller.