Why Most Authors Should Not Try For Bestseller Lists
With all I’ve told you already, you may still want to hang on to your goal of being on a bestseller list. That’s fine. I’m not telling you it can’t be a goal. But before you decide to go for it anyway, you need to be aware of two things — the tradeoffs involved and why it is you are so eager to get on that list.
Why Every Bestseller Listis Always A Lie
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 list is either measuring a limited number of sales in a few places, or far worse, its a curated list and a small group of people are what to put on their list. And theyre picking books based on what they think are important books, not based on what is actually selling.
This is not my opinion. They all admit this.
The most important bestseller list is The New York Times Best Seller List, and they are the worst culprit at this curated elitism. They readily admit that their list is only reflective of books that are selling at a certain number of bookstores and online retailers around the countrybut not an actual best seller list.
You know why they have to admit this publicly? They were sued about it.
For most of the 20th century, they pretended to use a scientific method to count book sales, and claimed their list was authoritative and accurate.
And then William Blatty wrote a novel called The Exorcist . It sold more than enough copies to be high on the list for a long time, but initially did not appear on it.
He lost the case. Why?
Because the New York Times defense was that the list did not purport to be an object compilation of information but instead was an editorial product.
Build A Strong Author Platform
For first-time and lesser-known authors it is especially critical to have a pre-existing audience before attempting New York Times bestseller status.
This is how you can start to build your author platform and audience:
- Be active on social media: it goes without saying, peoplepotential followers, collaborators, industry leaders, publishers, agents, and readersexist in the digital space. Find them, connect with them, and collaborate, if possible.
- Be already building credibility / expertise on your particular niche / topic / passion: write a weekly blog, as an example. This is perfect practice to hone your writing skills, develop your voice and writing styles, conduct research for your eventual book. The goal is to establish trust and credibility.
- Collaborate with others in your particular area for more knowledge and broader exposure: if you want to get in with the Big Wigs you got to know your stuff. Once you have built up some credibility you can leverage this and reach out to important figures in your field. It is a win-win-win for you, the person you are reaching out to and the audience that is set to gain important information from the two of you.
- Engage with your audience: Assess your audiences book pulse: how hungry are they for your words of wisdom, unique insight, creative mind? What questions are you asking them? What have they had to say about your previous blog posts, vlogs, tweets, etc? Are they genuinely impressed, suggesting you write a book perhaps?
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If You Want To Get Published You Should
First start with your idea. What do you have to say that other people care about?
If you have a great idea, outline your idea. Take it, transcribe it, send it to a great editor. Really professional design and cover. A good website, then put it out.
Tucker just launched a process for helping get the right book out of authors. This is really for non-fiction authors who are boosting their existing platform, but for $6000 $10,000 youd get interviewed with leading questions to get the right content, it will be transcribed, edited, youll get a great cover, the best title from idea to finished project. Tucker and his pals will walk you through making the book. Its a great deal they will get the best book out of you. Im saving up to use them for an upcoming non-fiction project.
PS) Ive started noticing there isnt much material about marketing fiction or YA books Im going to cover that soon.
SELL MORE BOOKS .
Get A Traditional Publishing Deal
With the exception of a few fiction genres like romance and horror, The New York Times still wont recognize any book that doesnt come from one of the big New York publishing houses as being fit for their list .
This is why most of the self-published or hybrid published books that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies over the past decade have never appeared on this listthey refuse to recognize them.
Example: James Altuchers book, Choose Yourself. I helped him publish that through my publishing company . Its sold over 500k copies since it came out. It even appeared on the Wall Street Journal Best Seller listbut no appearances on The New York Times Best Seller list, even though it has outsold 99% of the books that have appeared on that list since his came out.
Why? Because its not through a major New York publishing house, so they wont count it.
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The Prerequisites For A Bestseller Campaign
Goals trade off in all aspects of life. You cant have pizza and Mexican food and Italian food for dinner. You have to pick one.
Goals for your book act the same way. You cant get everything you have to focus on one or two goals.
This is especially true for bestseller lists. In order to even have a chance at getting on the New York Times Best Seller list, you must do all of these things:
Requirements: What You Need To Know
First, the most important: variables like what books youre going up against, how well your promos perform etc. are key, but out of your control. Publishing is a probabilities game. By having a good strategy, you increase the probability of a favorable outcome . But there is no surefire, silver bullet method of hitting a list. Which means, like anything else in publishing, even with a great plan, you can fail.
Good strategies yield favorable results over time. They never guarantee results, however.
These are the basic requirements to hit the list:
One other thing:
Okay, fairly straightforward, right? Lets talk about what I did, then.
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How Bestseller Lists Actually Work
One of the most common questions we get at my publishing company, Book In A Box, is this — “How do I get my book on a bestseller list?”
Our answer — you probably don’t want to be on a bestseller list, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. We encourage our authors not to chase bestseller lists, but instead focus on their business goals for their book. This confuses them initially, but once we explain the process and tradeoffs to them, the overwhelming majority discard the bestseller dream and focus more on the business goals that are far more impactful to them.
This guide covers everything about bestseller lists — how they work, why they’re not what they seem, how they lie, why chasing them is a losing proposition, what to focus on instead, and ultimately, if you insist, how to set yourself up so your book can get on them.
Know What The Nyt List Wants
A Stanford Business School analysis done years ago concluded by saying that the majority of book buyers seem to use the Times list as a signal of whats worth reading.
Knowing what the Times regards as a bestseller is important because it provides a helpful window into this segment of the bestselling publishing world .
It helps to know what is currently passing for a New York Times Bestseller.
Simply start with the category in which you would like to be published: fiction, non-fiction. Beyond that, genre: history, political, fantasy, science-fiction. It helps too to know who the Big Players are.
The Times is known to favor the Big New York publishing houses. Who are these? What are their submission guidelines? Who are some agents known for working with them?
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Get Some Mainstream Press To Validate Your Book
This is not 100% necessary, but the more mainstream mediapress you get, the more the book editors at The New York Times will consider your book to be valid. I was very serious when I said that this is a popularity contest, and to be popular, you have to show up at the right places .
When I say mainstream media I mean any media source centered around New York City or that the coastal media elite read and take seriously. Like I keep telling you, they are elitist snobs. They dont count anything not in their universe, no matter how much it sells.
By the waymainstream press almost never sells books. This is only about getting the editors at The New York Times to take you seriously, not about selling books.
Things I Didnt Do That Wouldve Helped
Note that all these things apply to promos and launches as well: you can ask D2D, for example, about merchandising opportunities for a new release.
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Can You Buy Your Way Onto The Bestseller Lists
Yes. There have been several occasions when authors used their own money to buy thousands of copies of their books. Its an expensive process than can cost $100,000 – $250,000. These self-funded orders are processed through shady third-party companies who covertly place large bulk purchases through bookstores that report to The New York Times. Most people, including myself, consider this practice unethical, because the sales arent based on actual customer orders. Authors who stoop to this low level are sleazy sellouts.
It’s Usually About Status
The people we see who are most obsessed with bestseller lists are the authors who view it as a status marker. They feel if they can make the list, people see them differently, and they’ll feel differently about themselves.
For these authors, striving for a bestseller list is about making them feel important. There is no real business reason. The unstated implication when an author says “I want a bestseller” is usually because they simply want to brag and feel important.
This desire to buy status is why you’ve seen an explosion of “bestselling authors” popping up over the place recently. What really happened was a few scammy marketers figured out how to manipulate the Amazon bestseller rankings. In short, they help people crank out a crappy book, buy their way up these obscure mini-categories, and call themselves bestselling authors.
To show how ridiculous the abuse of this bestseller list has become, one of the most brilliant marketers I know, Brent Underwood, took a picture of his foot, published it as a book, and hit no. 1 in with it. He detailed everything here, called out the whole group of people who sell this, and it’s a great read. It pulls back the curtain on this blatant buying of status.
If you are convinced, then stop reading. If you don’t care and still want to get on a bestseller list, then keep reading.
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How The New York Times Selects Books For Review For 2021
by Scott Lorenz Westwind Communications
How the New York Times Selects Books for Review
As a book publicist, I talk to authors and clients on a daily basis. Many have one goal in common: To become a New York Times bestselling author. One way to do it is to get reviewed by the New York Times Book Review. This is no surprise as the New York Times Book Review is one of the most prominent book review publications out there. Its a weekly paper magazine that comes with the Sunday New York Times, which has a circulation of 1.5 million. A one-fifth page ad in the Book Review will cost a whopping $8,830 for small presses. You can expect to dish out even more if youre a major publisher. Check out the 2020 rate sheet here.
If your book gets reviewed by the New York Times Book Review, youre almost guaranteed an increase in sales and publicity. So, how does the New York Times Book Review select books to review? Good question! Pamela Paul, whos been the New York Times Book Review editor since 2013 sat down with FOX 5 NY to shed some light on this very common question. Check out the terrific story here.
We love the publishing industry and we support what they do, but really we are here for readers.Pamela Paul, Editor, NY Times Book Review
Only 1% of all the books we receive make the cut. Were always on the lookout for new and interesting voices. Since we view books as a form of art, we strive to recognize innovation and diversity, Paul explains.
Writers: How To Get Your Book On The New York Times Best
Ive written about this once before, but today I got another email from an author marketing coach saying:
Whether you’re shooting for the top 100 or top 10, hitting the Amazon bestseller list is extremely important.
No its not.
Sure, you can then say your book is a best seller or an Amazon Best Seller. But the increasingly savvy reader knows this means next to nothing.
What it does mean is that you got all your friends and family and maybe the people on your mailing list to buy a copy of your book on the same day, or that you got a bunch of bloggers to agree to give their list bonuses if they buy the book then.
On that day, if you have enough buyers, your book is in the Amazon top 10 or top 100.
The next day it may be back to 156,981 or 512,934.
Another email from someone claiming to have a new way to get you to the top of the Amazon list states: “Dear Fellow Author, Are you ready to write “Amazon Bestselling Author” after your name? The respect and trust the title #1 Bestseller allows authors to charge double, triple, even quadruple for their products and services. People are happy to pay those prices, too, due to the opportunity to work with an esteemed expert. Owning the coveted “Bestseller” title changes your game completely.”
Didn’t the writer of that blurb have any sense of irony when she referred to “the respect and trust” that you’ll get…from gaming the Amazon system for a day .
Buy a copy of the New York Times.
Get a copy of your book.
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How To Get On The New York Times Bestseller List
Do you want to learn how to get on the New York Times Bestseller list?
If soyou may have the common aspiration to become a bestselling author. The prestige, the title, and the credibility are all super tempting
But theres more to landing on the NYT Bestseller list than just writing and publishing a book and hoping it gets there.
In fact, there are some huge misconceptions around the New York Times Bestselling Author status to begin with, but well get to that later.
These dreams of yours are amazing. Lofty, but right on point. The amount of impact you can have by being a bestselling author is awe-worthy.
For example, our student Anita Oommen not only wrote and published a bestseller, but the impact was immediate on those closest to her: her children, who went on to write and publish theirown books.
If you want to skip right down to these steps, .
Get Your FREE eBook Copy of
PUBLISHED: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author
Learn the exact step-by-step method needed to write, market, and publish your book on Amazon THIS YEAR!
Otherwise, stick around so that you can gain a further understanding of what it actually means and what it truly takes to get on the New York Times Bestseller list.
Because it could impact your path to get there
The Mindset Of A Bestseller
When setting out to write your book, do your best not to think about writing a bestseller. This will put undue pressure on you and likely stifle your creativity.
Instead, focus on creating the best work you possibly can.
Dont think about the many potential readers, the lists you hope to make, your sales, your marketing plan, whats trending, or anything else that will pressure you to write a specific way.
If you have a great idea and are passionate about taking it from idea to edited manuscript, focus on getting the words down.
Yes, you should have a target reader in mind, but focus on just that one reader.
No one can fully write to the masses, because no one can fully please every single person within their target audience.
There is a lot of pressure that comes with writing on a deadline, writing for a specific audience, marketing well, picking the correct date to release your book, making those initial sales, covering your advance costs, making royalties, promoting well but not too much, and all the other aspects that come with launching a book.
Many bestselling writers didnt know they were writing a bestseller until the data came in. They simply sat down, put in their word count every day, edited, and submitted their project.
Readers connect with authentic writing.
Readers can tell if youre trying to write to a trend because you want to try to hit a specific list.
Readers can also tell if you poured your heart and soul into your work just so they could read it.
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