Thursday, July 6, 2023

What Is A Best-Selling Book?


There is no legal designation for what constitutes a best-selling book. Consult a different best-seller list, and you’ll get different answers. So which books have a right to say they are best-sellers?

First, look for a qualifier.  If someone says they are a best-selling author, ask them which list did they make? If they vaguely say Amazon, press for details. Likely it was within a very narrow category classification, such as fiction/thriller/LGBTQ+/Vampire/New England. The lists on Amazon are updated hourly. This book may have only sold a few dozen copies in a short period of time on a narrowly-defined list. But, it was good enough to crack the Top 20, and allowed the author to say that he or she is a best-seller. 

Second, look for their actual ranking on the list - and durability. Did the book rank 20th on a list or No.1? Was the book on a list for an hour, day, week, month, more? Did it hit multiple lists?

Third, inquire how many copies of their book have been sold. Some authors have a great day, hour, or week, hit a list and then fall off. They could have sold 3,500 copies one week, and just 35 the next. See what their total sales are. 

In looking at this past week’s Publishers Weekly best-seller lists, we actually find numerous lists. There are ones based on format (hardcover frontlist fiction), and one’s for genre (children’s books). In any given week, as many as 170 books could fill these lists. But I noticed things that don’t add up. 

For instance, the more expensive hardcover frontlist fiction far outsells mass market frontlist, even though hardcover books can easily cost three and four times what the mass market versions cost. 

On the hardcover frontlist non-fiction list, of 20 bestsellers, only one company imprint showed up twice -Thomas Nelson. It happened three times on the hardcover frontlist fiction (Harper, Grand Central, and Little, Brown).

There is a huge disparity in unit sales even amongst the best-seller lists. For instance, The Little Mermaid: Against The Tide, from Disney Press, with just 2,090 sales last week gets to say it’s a best-seller (children’s frontlist fiction No.25), just as Emily Henry’s Happy Place from Berkeley, with 45+ the sales (94,173), gets to.

Dead authors still sell well. Under children’s picture books, dead Dr. Seus has the No.1 spot and No.12 and No. 13 spots. No.2 is taken up by the deceased Eric Carle. 

Some authors truly compete with themselves. Dav Pulley dominates the children’s frontlist fiction best-seller list with the No.1, 4, and 5 spots.

Two imprints from the same publisher-own the mass market frontlist best-seller list. Of 20 books listed, six came from Love and Inspired Suspense. Both are Harlequin imprints.

Lastly, two genre lists are totally controlled by single authors. The Fantasy Bestseller list shows 10 books -- six coming from Sarah J. Maas. She holds the top 4 spots! Under romance, Colleen Hoover is the shizzle. Her name is in half of the Top 10 list, including the first top two spots. 

What’s a best-selling book? You decide.


Need Book Marketing Help?

Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at  He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand. He has over 30 years of experience in successfully helping thousands of authors in all genres. Let him be your advocate, teacher, and motivator!


Read This!

Are You A Clickable Author?


Should Authors Blame Anyone For Book Marketing Failures?


How Do Authors Reel Readers In?


Do You Really Know Why You Wrote Your Book?


How Do Authors Fix Their Social Media?


How & Why Should Authors Guest-Blog?


A Book Award Authors Should Avoid!


Book Marketer Brian Feinblum Interviewed By Book Shepherd Cathy Fyock


8 Ways to Market Your Book


Can You Sell Books Through Laughter?


12 Habits of Highly Successful Authors


About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.3 million pageviews. With 4,400+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:  



No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.