What does it mean to be a best selling author? What exactly constitutes a bestseller? Much of this depends on the best selling list you’re referring to. There are many to choose from.
What Does it Mean To Be a Best Selling Author in Canada?
In How to Publish a Book in Canada . . . and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit!, we looked at what constitutes a bestseller in Canada. What has to happen for an author to be recognized as a national bestseller on an official Canadian bestseller list? According to BookNet Canada, our country’s leading organization for creating bestseller lists for most major Canadian publications,
A book doesn’t become a bestseller by reaching a certain sales threshold. Bestseller status isn’t based on cumulative or lifetime sales, and there is no set amount a book has to sell to make it a bestseller. It’s more of a competition or race: whoever sells the most copies in a particular time period (usually a week), wins . . . . We can’t reveal sales numbers, but to give you a very rough idea: when a book is in the “Top 10,” it’s usually sold several thousand copies across Canada in one week. Sales numbers of category bestsellers (lists restricted to a specific genre, like cooking or mystery) can be lower, though.
In Canada, you cannot simply label yourself a “Best Selling Author” just because you’ve sold several thousand copies of a book. You can only label yourself a bestseller once your book has been recognized on an official published bestseller list. The only way to get on one of these lists is for traditional bookstores and retailers to report your book’s sales to BookNet Canada.
Canada has its set of rules. Other territories and publications have theirs.
What Does it Mean To Be a Best Selling Author on Amazon?
In How to Publish a Bestselling Book … and Sell it WORLDWIDE Based on Value, not Price!, we briefly discussed what constitutes a bestseller on ecommerce sites such as Amazon. Amazon’s system for determining who lands at the top of one of their best selling lists is vague. Most algorithms are designed that way (e.g., Google’s algorithm) to keep people from cheating the site’s indexing processes.
There are some differences to Canada’s rules, and there are some similarities. Amazon is different from traditional lists in that its bestsellers are determined by online sales. Amazon itself tracks these sales by computer IP addresses rather than by physical sales. It is similar in the sense that bestsellers are determined by who sold the most books during a certain time period versus who sold the most overall. It’s like a competition. Whoever sold the most books in this allotted time period is the winner, the bestseller, for this time period. So long as your book remains in the top 100 sellers for any given category, it will remain on the best selling list in the category each time Amazon refreshes the list (hourly). You can achieve this status with 10 books or 10,000 books depending on your competition within a category. That much we know for sure.
What Does it Mean To Be a Best Selling Author in The New York Times?
I recently came across an interesting (albeit dated) article by Tucker Max on the Entrepreneur.com website. The title of the article is “How Bestseller Lists Actually Work — And How To Get On Them.” Tucker’s viewpoint of these lists is quite cynical.
Simply put — every bestseller list is a lie because no bestseller list measures the best selling books. Let me repeat that, so you can grasp the gravity of what it means. No bestseller list measures the actual best selling books.
Every single bestseller list either measures a limited number of sales in a few places, or far worse, it’s a curated list and a small group of people are deciding what to put on their list. And they’re picking books based on what they think are important books, not based on what is actually selling.
He makes a good point. It is true that both Canada’s lists and Amazon’s bestseller lists are based on the number of books sold during a certain time period. It was the same thing with the Calgary Herald bestseller list I landed on in December 2013. Apparently, it is much the same with even the most prominent lists in the USA. According to Tucker’s article, The New York Times list only counts book sales from its preferred list of retailers rather than tracking actual total sales of all books in the country.
What Does it Mean To Be a Best Selling Author Period?
It’s great marketing. Being able to label yourself and your book as a bestseller sounds great and somehow brings credibility to your authorship. That’s all it really means to be a best selling author. It doesn’t always mean that you’ve sold significant numbers of books. It’s doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve sold enough books to earn a decent profit. It just means that, for a short period of time, your book sold more than anyone else’s did in a particular bookstore or on a particular ecommerce website.
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