What is a Best Seller?

Have you ever purchased a book because you saw it was on the New York Times Best Seller list? 

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a “best seller?”

The NY Times lists their methodology on their website, but I imagine most people haven’t taken the time to really look at it, so I am going to do my best to explain these methods.

The NY Times bases their bestseller list on the sales of books from independent book stores as well as national, regional, and local chains; they also include online retailers, supermarkets, and more. Ebooks are only included for adult categories of fiction, non-fiction, and advice, as well as all non-picture book children’s stories. What they don’t include, however, are required classroom readings, textbooks, and self-published books, among many other categories. They also differentiate between books that were ordered in bulk and those that are ranked so closely together that you can hardly see a difference in sales. What should be pointed out is that the bestseller list only shows the velocity of sales, not the cumulative number of books sold, as the list is updated weekly. If you want an accurate picture of how many copies a title has sold, I recommend using BookScan (if you have access). BookScan is a great, though expensive, resource to find out the sales figures from books; retailers send in their sales numbers to be computer and publishers use this information to find out how titles are really doing.

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You many now be wondering what this all means. It probably sounds good and informative if you’re reading this for the first time, but now I want to share an article I found discussing a different aspect of the list, in hopes to give an alternate view to the coveted list.

Back in February of 2013, Forbes posted an article on how to buy your way onto the New York Times Best Seller list. Among their steps, they listed getting endorsements from Oprah Winfrey, or a movie deal from Steven Spielberg, but that’s not their most interesting method. Forbes recommended using companies like ResultSource because of their specialty in getting books onto bestseller lists. For enough money, this company will guarantee the No. 1 spot.

While I don’t have any problem with buying bestseller titles, I am glad that I have become well-informed on how these titles make it onto the list. As someone hoping to work in the publishing field in the near future, knowing accurate sales information is always beneficial. Now you are a little more informed as well!

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