Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What’s Your Bestseller Strategy?

Every writer wants to publish a book.  Every author wants his or her published book to become a bestseller.  Only so many books can qualify for bestseller status, so how does one make a list?

The gold standard for bestseller lists has long been – and still is – The New York Times. Hundreds of books each year earn a spot on this vaunted list – out of some 350,000 traditionally published books and perhaps another 500-650,000 self-published titles.  You do the math.  The chances of making the list are tiny, perhaps one in a thousand.

And when you land on the list, chances are you won’t stay there very long. Too much competition knocks you off.  Plus more people are orchestrating campaigns to get on the list – some legitimate – and some with paid-for bulk buys that they hope go undetected.

It’s no secret that one of the ways to get on the list is to prop up pre-orders so the sales can add up to a big debut launch when their book goes on sale.  They are similar to presidential candidates who campaign 18 months before Election Day, hoping to use the big lead up in time to enhance name recognition with voters.

Others look to make the bestseller list by hiring one of a handful of companies that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to manipulate with pre-arranged sales and author buys transacted through a third part to mask what’s going on.

Another way to get on the list is to have a targeted marketing campaign that combines well-timed advertising, public appearances, publicity, and social media solicitations. 

However one tries to get on a list, few will make it. So what lists are worth making?

·         Publishers Weekly
·         Wall Street Journal
·         USA Today
·         Amazon
·         Barnes & Noble

For business books you also have 1-800-CEO-READ and Bloomberg Business Week bestseller lists.

Libraries monitor popular purchases by libraries through Library Journal’s bestseller list.

Independent bookstores rely on one list – The Indie Bestseller list (,

Small presses call upon the Small Press Distribution of Poetry Bestseller List (

There are also local and regional bestseller lists, including The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and Miami Herald.

Audiobook sales are tracked by and the Audio Bestsellers List.  Books of Christian faith are followed by the Christian Booksellers Association’s list at

Why do people want to make these lists?  Certainly these reasons come to mind:

1.      EGO – first and foremost.

2.      More sales – hitting a list inspires others to buy the book.

3.      Rights sales – bestseller status helps with foreign rights deals, movie negotiations, and other format sales such as audiobooks.

4.      Media help – saying you’re a bestselling author helps you get more media exposure.

5.      Speaking gigs – organizations and corporations are likelier to hire bestselling authors to present to their members.

6.      Spokesperson gigs – companies like bestselling authors to back their products or services.

7.      Branding – certainly bestseller status helps with one’s branding and image.

8.      Influencer – you have a bigger stage to speak your views as a bestselling author, providing you with more currency and a chance to impact the lives of others.

9.      Deals – you can command better terms and more money for your next book deal as a bestselling author.

10.  Career – your resume is enhanced with bestseller status, which could help you get a promotion, land a new job, or if you’re in business for yourself, land new clients and raise the fees that you charge.

11.  Product line – bestselling authors may want to launch products such as plush dolls or action figures that highlight a novel’s characters –or maybe the author of a non-fiction book wants to sell a product on QVC, eBay, or elsewhere.

12.  Spin-offs – Authors can take their book and convert it into other things.  For instance, they can design an app based on the book and sell it.  Maybe they’ll launch a newsletter subscription service.  Perhaps they will publish a sequel or a whole new series based on it.  Maybe they’ll take an adult story and issue a children’s version.  Perhaps they’ll take the key points and issue a smaller book or a gift-enhanced packaged book.

You can see why so many people will try to fight their way to the bestseller lists, and that increased size and intensity of competition that makes hitting the list that much harder will feel all the more worthwhile when you do.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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