There are no doubt plenty of people – but probably not as many as read the book – who simply can’t fathom how EL James can have sold more than 125m copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. Derek Thompson is here to help. The reason, it transpires, is pretty straightforward: a winning combination of social connection, five-star ebook reviews, the fan-fiction community and, finally, marketing. That might sound banal, but in Hit Makers, Thompson does a really fascinating job of explaining how things become popular, drawing on a wide range of cultural phenomena, from Star Wars to the iPhone, Taylor Swift to Game of Thrones. Reading its countless interesting references, it quickly becomes clear that Hit Makers is less a how-to guide – Thomson believes success is often “semichaotic” – and more a how-come? conversation with an engaging popular culture expert. The conclusion? Mere imitation rarely begets a hit, but the elusive combination of familiarity, innovation and marketing stands a better chance.