January 30, 2012


by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

Do you want to be on the Bestseller list? Sure you do! But which list. Yes there are several. We have the Top 150 Bestsellers According to USA Today, Barnes and Noble Top 100, Product Best Seller of the USA, Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller List, Top 100 and of course the New York Times Best Seller List. There are many more that relate to the digital world of books. But this is enough to get your attention. Of course you want to be on a bestseller list no matter which one it is, but how do you do it? How is it determined that a book is a best seller?

The designation “bestseller” is an identity coveted by any author. It designates a book as extremely popular and a top seller. But there are not only many lists but among those lists many categories and subcategories. In our local Sunday paper we see fiction, nonfiction and miscellaneous. These three categories are again broken down into hardback and paperback categories. There are many other subcategories such as children’s books, Christian books, cookbooks and the list goes on and on.

But how many do you need to sell to make it on these lists? Well that is according to where you may be. In the UK it could be anywhere from 4,000 to 25,000 books per week to meet the sales needed to be a bestseller. In Canada 5,000 copies may be what is needed. In the United States it can be determined by number of sales within a specified period of time. It also may be according to who is reporting. can easily determine their count by orders made online. The New York Times list is determined by sales numbers and information from publishers and retailers. Some lists don’t include large chains such as Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, Wal-Mart and the like. A lot of books can be sold and not reported on certain list. These numbers can also be manipulated by getting large groups to place orders on a certain day or as one company did some years ago order 10,000 of their own book to meet the numbers needed to get in the top 10. As a side note it was reported that one list moved Harry Potter books from the fiction list to the children’s book list to free up the number 1, 2 and 3 spot which they had locked up for over a year.

All of this tells us it is not an exact science. In many cases books are there because they are a great read and worthy of being there. Those that stay on the list for weeks, months or longer have indeed proved themselves. No matter how a book gets there two things occur because of this. The first is being noted as a popular top-selling book is a money-making marketing tool. This notoriety alone will drive further sales. The second and probably most important to writers is this not only allows us the opportunity to feed our ego but to be financially able continue with what we love to do, “WRITE”. So no matter the list “Bestseller” is a great place to be. When you get on one your friends at Southern Writers Magazine will be celebrating with you. So let us know!

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