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What Does It Take To Be A Best Seller?


I figured a good place to start on my journey to becoming a best selling author would be to figure out exactly what it meant to be a best selling author. After all to achieve a goal you need to be able to define it.

In my head a best selling author would be akin to something like reaching J.K. Rowling status. So essentially, I’d have millions of readers, my books would be at the top of ever best seller chart for months, there’d be a series of movies based on my books and Universal would be building another theme park.

So I may have gone a little overboard there because not all best selling authors get that. So I whittled it down again, I needed to start from the beginning. If I want to be a best selling author I need to show up on one of those lists, like The New York Times.

With this in mind I began my research and this is what it boiled down too:

  • The term best seller is really broad which means that almost anyone could say they’re a best seller.
  • If you want to be credible you need to be on a well known list.
  • The major lists are: The New York Times, USA Today, Book Sense, Publishers Weekly and Amazon.
  • All these lists have different qualifications!

List Qualifications:

  • The New York Times– “based upon sales reported by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles”, includes E book sales except for a few categories, there are a few different categories they manage, from what I can tell their rankings reflect Sunday-Saturday sales.
  • USA Today– “ranks the 150 top-selling titles each week based on an analysis of sales from U.S. booksellers.”, reflects sales from the previous Monday-Sunday, E book sales are included in the ranking.
  • BookSense(aka Indie Best Seller List)– based on sales by independent book store sales, reflects sales from previous Monday-Sunday.
  • Publishers Weekly– “reflects nationwide sales of books during the week ended last Saturday”, gathers data from traditional retail venues and non traditional venues, their list is broken down into a variety of topics.
  • Amazon– Amazon has a variety of best seller lists based on category as well as an over arching list. This list is based on Amazon sales. All lists are updated hourly.

So what does all this information boil down too? It means you need to further define your goal if you want to be a best selling author. Do you care what list you end up on? Or will you not be happy unless you end up on The New York Times? Or do you want to be on every list?