Sunday, June 4, 2017

What Does It Really Take To Hit A Best-Seller List?

To become a best-selling author you may only have to sell a few thousand copies of your book.  Actually, just a few hundred well-timed sales can land you on a prominent best-seller list.  And yet, you could sell 50,000 copies and not make a best-seller list.  How could this be, you wonder?

There are many best-seller lists today.  The most prominent one is still The New York Times Best-Seller list.  But there are no less than a dozen other worthwhile ones, including those of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Smash Words.  

The key to making a list is the following:

  1. Sell books during certain times when these lists count sales.   For instance, a weekly list may calculate books from a Sunday to Saturday while another might be Wednesday to Tuesday.  Others tabulate sales by the day or hour.
  2. Sell books through certain recorded channels.  Some lists take into consideration sales from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, most indie bookstores and some big box stores like Wal-Mart or Target.  Others will include some registered bulk sales, others not.  Sales processed outside of an established vendor likely won’t count, so if a company buys 500 books directly from an author or publisher, it’s as if the sales never happened.
  3. The total number of book sales in a given time period is what’s used to measure a best-seller but often the pre-sales of a book up to a book’s release date or launch week may all get bundled together. 
  4. The easiest path to get to a best-seller list is online.  With Amazon, depending on your category and sub-category you may hit multiple lists multiple times.  But you only need to do it once to say you wrote a best-seller.  Sales are calculated by the hour.  You may sell as few as 75 books in a specific hour and outsell others in a unique sub-category and earn your best-seller status.  What’s a sub-category?  Take a business non-fiction book.  A smaller category may be personal finance and under that, college funding, and under that, East Coast.  Get my point?
  5. Making’s best-seller list is even easier, simply because they don’t sell as many books as Amazon, so it takes fewer sales to earn a momentary spot on a best-seller list at Barnes and Noble.
  6. Publishers Weekly tabulates best-seller lists in a variety of categories.  They count out the top 25-selling books for hardcover fiction, hardcover non-fiction, mass market books, children’s trade paperback, etc.  For the week of May 8-14 I saw 20% of the slots filled by books with sales under 5,000.  For children’s, 50% of the available slots didn’t break the 5,000 unit barrier.
  7. Though it’s no easy feat to sell 5,000 copies in a week – or even 100 in an hour-it is quite possible to do both.  The best-seller list, though seemingly elusive, is achievable to those who generate enough sales in a strategic manner.

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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 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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