What Makes a Book a Bestseller?

According to Cathy Stucker’s, SellingBooks.com, a “bestseller” is usually determined either by:

  1. 1) Making the New York Times Bestseller list
  2. 2) Having a high Amazon sales ranking
  3. 3) Selling a large number of copies


Though well known, the New York Times bestseller list is rather arbitrary. The numbers don’t include internet sales, sales in department stores like Walmart, or sales in locally owned book stores/gift shops. Instead the numbers come exclusively from bookstores that have an established relationship with the NY Times. Other less known lists exist such as Publishers Weekly.

Amazon has also become a key player in determining a bestseller because it provides a sales rank for each book listed. A high sales ranking, for example, top 100, can also be used to claim bestseller status. According to Brent Sampson, to acquire a ranking of 1-10, a book must sell over 500 copies in a day.

Lastly, and probably the most accurate and profitable for all concerned, to achieve the coveted bestseller status, is simply to tally the total number sold. So just how many books do you need to sell to claim bestseller status? According to self-publishing guru, Dan Poynter, the magic number is 35,000. Since the popularity of a bestseller can be long or short, I think that’s a fair number. A book might come out and make a huge hit and sell a million copies in a year, and then be forgotten. Other books, like “A Tale of Two Cities” or “Pride and Prejudice” never appear on bestseller lists but they continue to sell steadily and have far outsold most books making the bestseller lists simply by their quality, word of mouth, and acceptance as great literature. The bible is a prime example of a bestseller!

In conclusion, your book may never make a bestseller list, but steady wins the race. Over time, you may sell more copies of your book than those books that make the bestseller lists. Authors dream of becoming famous over night, but producing a quality book is the best investment if you’re looking for longevity, and longevity, in my opinion, is the best indication of success.

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