What does it mean to be a bestseller? It seems they’re all over the place these days! The reason for this post is to describe to readers and newbie authors just what it means to be a bestseller.
Let’s play a little game of true or false.
True or false: If a book is a bestseller, it must be an amazing read!
Do I really need to explain? How many of you have picked up a book half the world raved about only to find it was mind-numbing, boring, predictable, or cliché? Or a combination?
A bestseller simply means that this particular book sold enough books within a period of time to make it to the bestseller list. It doesn’t even have to be on the list right now. It could have been on the list years ago yet it’s still considered a bestseller. It doesn’t mean the author is making millions. It simply means the book was on a list.
True or false: Since Kirkus is a newbie author and has two bestsellers, that must mean it’s easy.
Maybe for some it is, but not for the most of us. If it was that easy, then why isn’t every writer a bestseller? I’ve spent an average of 60 hours per week writing or promoting for the past year and a half, more during promotional periods. Do I deserve it? Maybe. But maybe not. That’s not for me to decide.
The word “deserve” isn’t even part of the picture. Regardless of “deserve,” I wrote two bestsellers. WOOHOO!!! Thanks to everybody who made it possible.
True or false: The only REAL bestseller list is that of the New York Times.
Answer: It depends on whom you ask.
For elitists, this may be true. I’ve heard readers say they’ll only buy a book if it’s been on the NYT bestseller list. My question for them: Are you crazy! Just look at my book reviews. Even if you may not like the books I’ve read, I personally would have missed some great reads if I’d only picked NYT bestsellers.
Bestseller List Set-Up
Amazon’s lists are set up a little different. On Amazon, we find bestsellers according to either their print sales, or their eBook sales. There is a “paid” bestseller list and a “free” bestseller list. It breaks down further by genre, and then further by sub-genre.
It’s possible that an eBook is the number one bestseller on Amazon yet isn’t on the NYT list (but not likely). Especially if it’s the number one bestseller in a sub-genre.
A Bestseller Not On the Bestseller List?
I’ll use my novel as an example (Sorry I pulled away from the true/false game. I know it was fun).
The highest overall rank for The Fall of Billy Hitchings (I’ll refer to it as TFBH from here on out to save time) before my promotional efforts was around 20k. Out of 1.3 million books, I was certainly happy. How many sales does this account for? A little over one per day is all.
I ran my first free promotion for TFBH in March, and two more shortly after.
TFBH made it to number four overall in Action & Adventure. There are no sub-genres.
TFBH made to number two overall in Mystery & Thrillers. However, there are a few sub-genres. TFBH made it to number one in Thrillers and number one in Suspense, a sub-genre of Mystery.
As of today, there are (I’m rounding) 37k books in the Action & Adventure genre, 63k in Mystery & Thriller, 24k in Thrillers, and 19k in Suspense.
Is it easier to compete with 63k in Mystery & Thriller, or 19k in Suspense? The 19k obviously. However, there is the argument that particular genres and sub-genres have a higher percentage of better writers.
My point is, if a book makes it to one of these genres or sub-genres lists, it’s on Amazon’s bestseller list.
Am I a Bestseller?
At first, my book only made it to the Free Amazon bestseller list, which I was more than happy with. People might argue it’s not the same as a paid bestseller. I was lucky again in that TFBH made it to the paid Suspense bestseller list shortly after my March promotion (It’s not even close these days. Funny how writing instead of promoting can affect sales!). Even though my book was on the paid Suspense bestseller list, my overall ranking on Amazon was around 2k – 3k.
The Fall of Billy Hitchings also made it to the Amazon bestseller lists in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain. Does this make me an international bestseller?
What do you think? Should authors who made it to the “Free” bestseller list be able to call themselves a bestseller? If not, should they be able to call themselves a bestseller if they made it on the “Paid” lists? Or should authors only call themselves a bestseller if they’ve made it on the NYT bestseller list?
Do I have to dress like the guy on the right since I’m a bestselling author now?
I’m interested to hear your observations. But in the end, does any of this really matter beyond promotional reasons? In my mind and as a reader, not really. I pick my books according to reviews, friend suggestions, and a sample of the writing. If it came down to two books and one was a bestseller and the other wasn’t, then it might sway my choice. As a writer, HECK YEAH IT MATTERS! Any bestseller list is a great place to be.